Canister Stove Performance Test: Boil Time and Efficiency
This is the first in a series of posts where I will be exploring the performance of some canister stoves. I know that there have been a lot of tests of stove performance already and the last thing we need probably is yet another boil time test. But there are some other aspects of performance that I am interested in exploring. For example, how much of a difference does having a micro-regulator really make? What are the limits of performance under varying wind conditions? Is the benefit of a heat-exchanger pot worth the weight?
That said, I am going to start with a simple boil time and efficiency test. I know that boil time has been done to death, but it helps to set a good baseline of data and can sometimes expose areas for further analysis. Personally, I don’t care too much about boil times. When I am cooking my meals in the backcountry, I am in a mode of relaxing and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Do I care if it takes 2 minutes or 3 minutes to boil my water? Not at all. And I usually only boil a cup at time so it often feels like the water is ready before I am. But like I said, boil time will give us some indication of stove performance and efficiency. Also, it is actually a really useful measurement when it comes to fuel planning. If you aren’t sure how to determine the amount of fuel left in your canister, be sure to check out the post “Estimating Remaining Usage in a Canister Stove“.
The stoves I will be testing include:
- MSR Pocket Rocket (Original)
- Optimus Crux
- BRS 3000T
- MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe
- Jetboil Stash
And the pots I will be testing include:
- Toaks 750ml Titanium
- Olicamp XTS
- Jeboil Stash
The environment for the test is indoors with an ambient temperature of 68°F. I will be using water from the tap and will draw fresh water for each test. The water is from a well and measures a consistent 58°F.
For each stove, I will perform three tests. First with the Toaks pot, then the Olicamp, and finally the Jetboil.
For each of the three tests, I will record the weight of the canister w/ stove at the start. I will then add the pot with exactly 16 oz of water and ignite. To ignite, I will first open the valve of the stove until I hear a gas flow, then ignite, and then turn the valve to full open. At this point I will begin a stopwatch to record the time it takes to reach a rolling boil. I will use the covers on the pots, except to periodically check for boil and will remove entirely once there is activity indicating that boil is approaching.
MSR Pocket Rocket (Original)
The MSR Pocket Rocket (PR) is a classic canister stove and a reliable benchmark stove.
Test 1: PR w/ Toaks 750ml
Time to Boil: 2:40s
Fuel Used: 11g
Test 2: PR w/ Olicamp XTS
Time to Boil: 1:30s
Fuel Used: 7g
Test 3: PR w/ JetBoil Stash Pot
Time to Boil: 1:20s
Fuel Used: 8g
The Pocket Rocket performed as expected with the Toaks pot. It has a pretty well established boil time of around 3.5 minutes for 1 liter of water, so not surprising that it would bring 2 cups (shy of 1/2 liter) in 2:40. But clearly the pots with heat exchangers significantly improve both boil times and fuel efficiency.
The Optimus Crux with an innovative design allow for very compact storage. By reputation and manufacturer claim, it has a faster boil time with the Pocket Rocket (3 minutes for 1 liter, per manufacturer).
Test 1: Crux w/ Toaks 750ml
Time to Boil: 2:49
Fuel Used: 8g
Test 2: Crux w/ Olicamp XTS
Time to Boil: 2:15
Fuel Used: 8g
Test 3: Crux w/ JetBoil Stash Pot
Time to Boil: 1:55
Fuel Used: 8g
With the Toaks pot, the Crux did not actually out-perform the Pocket Rocket. It brought 2 cups of water to a boil in 2:49s, so the results were actually pretty close. And while the pots with heat exchangers made a notable difference, it was not as extreme as with the Pocket Rocket. Based on these tests, the Pocket Rocket outperforms the Crux handily.
On interesting note, though is how consistent the Crux was with fuel consumption. Each test used exactly 8 grams of fuel. Given the difference in the length of time the fuel was being consumed, this doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t a full open valve let more fuel escape in 2:49 vs 1:55? I performed Test 1 a second time to validate my results and again came up with similar boil times and exactly 8 grams of fuel used. If fuel release is constant, Test 1 results would suggest consumption at the rate of .047 grams per second (8g/169s). So Test 3 should have been closer to 5.4 grams of fuel used (.047g/s * 115s). There is another variable at play. This will be a topic for further investigation.
Do you have any theories about these results? If so, please comment!
The BRS Stove is a super lightweight, highly compact, and very inexpensive stove. It is very popular for these reasons, though has known design and reliability limitations.
Test 1: BRS w/ Toaks 750ml
Time to Boil: 3:44
Fuel Used: 10g
Test 2: BRS w/ Olicamp XTS
Time to Boil: 2:18
Fuel Used: 6g
Test 3: BRS w/ JetBoil Stash Pot
Time to Boil: 2:25
Fuel Used: 5g
The BRS stove takes a bit more fuel and takes a bit longer to boil than either the PR or the Crux. This is to be expected for such a minimalist stove. Just looking at the head design, you can see that stoves like the Crux and PR have much larger heads and so can potentially release more energy over a larger area than the diminutive BRS.
One very important observation though will lead me to strongly not recommend the combination of the BRS with either the Olicamp XTS or the JetBoil stash pot. It is simply not stable and therefore not safe with these types of pots. In the picture above, compare the diameter of the pot supports. The heat exchanger on pots like the XTS and the Stash are rings that extend below the bottom surface of the pot. Because of this, you must have pot supports that are long enough to safely support the pot.
Note how the BRS barely extends far enough to reach the edge of the heat exchanger in an Olicamp. In my controlled setting, it was difficult to set this up. In the field it would be dangerous to use. The Stash was similar. While you can fit the BRS between the fins well enough to take a photo, in practice, this was highly unstable and creates another hazard if the pot supports stick in the fins, creating an even bigger challenge when you try to unstick a pocket of boiling water from the stove. Again, not at all recommended. Perhaps there is another, smaller, pot out there that would work with the BRS. If there is, please let me know in the comments.
Pocket Rocket Deluxe (PRD)
The PRD is MSRs latest addition to the Pocket Rocket line, which includes the original, the PR2, and now the PRD. It really is an entire re-imagining of the Pocket Rocket with a completely different head design and the addition of a piezo ignitor and a micro-regulator to maintain consistent pressure across the lifespan of the canister and more consistent performance under cold conditions.
Test 1: PRD w/ Toaks 750ml
Time to Boil: 2:05
Fuel Used: 9g
Test 2: PRD w/ Olicamp XTS
Time to Boil: 1:23
Fuel Used: 5g
Test 3: PRD w/ JetBoil Stash Pot
Time to Boil: 1:12
Fuel Used: 8g
The PRD has outstanding boil time performance and as can now be expected, those boil times are only improved with the heat exchanger pots. The best result came from the PRD combined with the Jetboil Stash stove, bringing the 16oz of water to a boil in only 1:12. A bit surprising was the slightly higher fuel consumption for the Stash test, despite the quicker boil time (and thus shorter duration of burn). That may need some additional investigation.
The Jetboil Stash is the new darling on the market. Release by Jetboil in March of 2021, it is the the first real entry by Jetboil into the lightweight market. Shunned traditionally by the ultralighters, the Stash is now getting some attention. Unlike other Jetboil systems, the Stash pot and stove are not fully integrated. They are separable (as should be obvious by these tests) but unfortunately not sold separately. Jetboil has always had a reputation for fuel efficiency, and as the prior tests have already demonstrated, a key to that is the use of heat exchangers on all of their pots.
Test 1: Stash Stove w/ Toaks 750ml
Time to Boil: 5:20
Fuel Used: 8g
Test 2: Stash Stove w/ Olicamp XTS
Time to Boil: 4:00
Fuel Used: 5g
Test 3: Stash Stove w/ JetBoil Stash Pot
Time to Boil: 3:55
Fuel Used: 6g
The first result from the Stash and Toaks combo was very surprising. With an abysmal boil time and a fair, but not spectacular, fuel consumption. The remaining two tests improved results a bit, as would be expected by now, but nowhere near to the types of results that Jetboil claims or that I have seen in tests performed by others.
Knowing the Stash stove does not have a micro-regulator, I suspected that what we may be seeing is poor performance with low fuel in the canister (as fuel is used in the canister and as you use the canister and temperature, the pressure decreases). This was confirmed when redid the last test.
Test 3: Stash Stove w/ JetBoil Stash Pot and New Canister
Time to Boil: 2:12
Fuel Used: 6g
So, while fuel consumption remained the same at 6g, the boil time improved very significant to 2:12. Closer to expected results.
Summary of Results
Time to Boil
The use of a pot with a heat exchanger definitely makes a difference, improving both boil times and fuel efficiency. The best combination for boil time is the Pocket Rocket Deluxe with the Stash pot and the best for fuel efficiency is the Pocket Rocket Deluxe with the Olicamp XTS pot. But is it worth it? The addition of a heat exchanger to the bottom of the pot adds weight. If you only care about boil times, then the extra weight (and bulk) don’t really matter. But as I mentioned earlier, boil times really shouldn’t be that important when you’re actually in the field when you should be relaxing and not stressing over being able to eat 30 seconds sooner. But is the weight worth the fuel efficiency gains?
One way to consider this is to look at how many boils you can get out of a can of fuel. More boils, means less fuel to carry. So an efficient system can potentially save some carry weight over the long term. But how much?
A typical fuel canister, like the ones used in this test, contain 8oz, or 227g of fuel. So, let’s take a look at the amount of boils we would get from each of the various stove and pot combinations:
Look how many more boils you get from the PRD combined with the Olicamp XTS. You will get 45 boils from using the Olicamp XTS compared to only 25 when using the Toaks. That’s quite a difference. So if you assume two boils per day, once for breakfast and once for dinner, the PRD-Toaks combo will need 18g per day. Starting from a full canister (227g) that means you can go 12 days on a single canister. You’ll last 22 days on a single canister with the PRD-Olicamp combo. That sounds pretty good for the PRD Olicamp combination, right? But that Olicamp stove weighs twice as much (202g) as the Toaks (100g).
So let’s look at this another way, in order to stay out for three weeks, 21 days, with the PRD-Toaks combi, you’ll need to take two canisters of fuel. And two canisters of fuel, is heavier than one. So let’s take a look at our starting weights:
Day 0: PRD with Toaks
- Weight of Toaks Pot: 100g
- Weight of Two Canisters: 220g (empty weight)
- Weight of Fuel in Two Canisters: 454g
- Total: 774g
Day 0: PRD with Olicamp XTS
- Weight of XTS Pot: 202g
- Weight of One Canister: 110g (empty weight)
- Weight of Fuel in One Canisters: 227g
- Total: 539g
Despite the heavier pot, the PRD-Olicamp combination starts lighter because there is only a need for one fuel canister. Half the fuel and canister weight. The advantages starts to diminish as the fuel is consumed more rapidly in the PRD-Toaks combination and so mapped, over time, you see the PRD-Toaks starts to converge on the PRD-XTS, but not before the end of our three weeks.
In other words, if you are just looking at efficiency in terms of the weight you are carrying and not considering other factors (like fuel scarcity or costs or other reasons that might motivate you to stretch the fuel) then for trips less than 21 days the Fuel Exchanger is worth while.
But how often are you out for three weeks at a time? What if you are only going to need enough fuel for a week or ten days? Well recall, we have about 12 days of fuel in a single canister with the PRD and Toaks combination, so what if we only took a single fuel canister and constrained ourselves to less than 12 days before a resupply?
Now things look a little differently, don’t they? In this case you are starting out heavier with the Olicamp XTS pot and since the PRD&Toaks is burning fuel more rapidly, it just keeps getting lighter. Again, assuming the only criterion we care about in terms of efficiency is the weight on your back, it doesn’t make sense to carry the Olicamp XTS pot for trips lasting only a week or so.
Ok, so does this same perspective hold up with the JetBoil Stash? It does.
While the difference isn’t as pronounced since the Stash Pot is lighter than the Olicamp XTS, it is still heavier than the Toaks and so the fuel efficiently over the period of a week just doesn’t add up. And it won’t unless you are out for more than 12 days, just like w/ the PRD. The gains just aren’t there unless you have a situation that allows you to get by with a single canister where the Toaks kit requires two. You are better off combining the JetBoil Stash Stove with a Toaks pot!
For completeness, though, let’s look as well at the JetBoil combos using a smaller, 4 oz canister. This is common setup for the long weekend backpacking trip.
Here again, the Stash Stove with the Toaks Pot is the better option in terms of weight optimization.
So, the final analysis, based on just the parameters covered in this test, if you want the best combination of Stove and Pot to minimize the amount of fuel you are consuming (for whatever reason) the Pocket Rocket Deluxe paired with the Olicamp XTS pot would be a very good choice, yielding 45 boils per 8oz fuel canister. If you are going to be more than 12 days before re-supplying, the Pocket Rocket Deluxe and Olicamp XTS combination will again be the most efficient combination. However, if you are optimizing for weight and are less than 12 days between resupplies, the best combination is going to be the Pocket Rocket Deluxe with the Toaks pot.