Buying Right: A Stove for Every Fuel

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, April 1995

Buying Right: A Stove for Every Fuel
By Michael Lanza

Your tried and true white-gas stove will reliably follow you many places, but across an ocean isn't one of them: Outside North America, white gas is as rare as an honest government bureaucrat. You'd be better off practicing your wood-fire cooking skills before packing your duffel.

A more expedient and forest-friendly way to prepare your gruel abroad is with a multifuel stove. Multifuel stoves burn as powerfully as white-gas stoves, and they do burn white gas--but they also burn diesel fuel, kerosene, automobile gasoline, aviation fuel, and more. The downside is that they clog more easily, because most alternative fuels have more impurities than white gas--so consider a self-cleaning model and a maintenance kit.

Two of the best multifuel stoves come from one company: Mountain Safety Research. MSR's WhisperLite Internationale 600 (14 ounces; $58) is a lot like its popular white-gas-only WhisperLite, which is to say powerful, light, and somewhat temperamental. The Internationale is fed by a separate 22-fluid-ounce fuel bottle ($7.50); two interchangeable jets let you burn white gas, kerosene, gasoline, or jet fuel. Simmering is a weak point, but the Internationale boils water fast, and a clever, built-in pin cleans the jet with just a shake of the stove. From MSR, 800-877-9677.

The MSR XGK II Shaker Jet (15.5 ounces; $82.50) has all of the virtues and vices of the Internationale--and then some. The most notable difference is that this stove will run on white gas, diesel, kerosene, unleaded gasoline, naphtha, Stoddard solvent, aviation fuel--basically any liquid that will ignite. Like the WhisperLite, the XGK II is loud and works best at full-bore, and it's also self-cleaning and easy to repair in the field.

Coleman makes two fine multifuel models. The Coleman Apex II (18.6 ounces; $67) uses a separate fuel bottle, but it requires no priming and stands alone in its ability to simmer. It puts out a powerful flame that's easily controlled by a wire lever, which also cleans the jet every time you rotate it. The Apex II burns white gas or unleaded gasoline, and with a separate generator ($23.25) it'll also burn kerosene. From Coleman, 800-835-3278.

Coleman's Feather 442 (23.25 ounces; $53) isn't light, but it is compact and very easy to use: pump and ignite. It has an integrated fuel tank, so there's nothing to assemble, and a small footprint means it's always easy to find a flat spot for cooking. The Feather 442's simmering capability lies somewhere between that of the Apex II and the MSR models, but the 442 runs only on white gas or unleaded gasoline. Like the Apex II, it's not easy to repair.

The neatly designed SIGG Fire-Jet (10.75 ounces; $92) is a Swiss-made stove that uses a separate 33-ounce fuel bottle and folds up into a tidy cylinder. A fuel-selector lever lets you switch among white gas, kerosene, and leaded and unleaded gasoline, and the stove's high-output performance is laudable. It's not self-cleaning, however, and the fuel bottle is clumsy to unscrew from the pump. From Outbound Products, 800-663-9262.

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