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Gear Guy

Do you know of a camping stove that's not too noisy?

Is there a liquid-fuel stove that gives out good heat, but that is also quiet and compact? The MSR Dragonfly is fine heat wise, but it's incredibly loud. The Optimus 111C is hot and quiet, but it's too bulky. Bruce Oakville, Ontario

A: It's a good thing you're not backpacking circa 1975, when about the only reliable backpacking or climbing stove was the Svea 123 (still around for $70). Get five or six of those things going in the morning and it sounded like a 737 was about to take off from the campsite. Noisy, noisy, noisy. The 111C is similar in design to the Svea, so I'm surprised you think it quiet. By comparison, the Dragonfly ($109) is barely audible.

In any event, I always thought that was why MSR came up with the Whisperlite ($60)—a quiet liquid-fuel stove alternative to the then-dominant 123. And it's pretty compact, except when compared to some of the super-mini canister-fuel stoves. The Optimus Nova ($130) is one of the best liquid-fuel stoves around, if not the best: hot, simmers well, easy to use, pretty quiet, but not especially compact.

But no liquid-fuel stove can be REAL quiet. The fuel must be pressurized and emitted from the burner jet at high velocity, where it explodes into flame—literally a miniature jet engine. So the combustion process can get pretty loud, particularly when compared to canister-fuel stoves, which have a slightly different burn process, so tend to be much quieter. It's a tradeoff—the better cold-temp performance and economy of liquid-fuel stoves versus the ease of use and quieter operation of canister-fuel models.

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