Gear Guy

What stove won't fail in freezing temps?

I was out winter camping last year in minus-40-degree weather with a Primus Yellowstone stove that couldn't light up. So I'm looking for a well-priced liquid-fuel stove for my future expeditions. What do you recommend? Chris Quebec City

A: I don't care if you're talking Celsius or Fahrenheit—minus 40 by whatever calculation is cold! I'm not at all surprised your Yellowstone wouldn't fire up. It's good to around zero degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 Celsius) but marginal once temps hit single Fahrenheit digits and hopeless below zero.

XGK Expedition

The thing is, minus 40 is a life-and-death sort of temperature, so you really need to know your stove is gonna light. So obviously, we're talking liquid fuel—white gas. Then, your stove's gotta be one that's really built to take extreme conditions, meaning an expedition-type stove. In this category, the most proven model is MSR's venerable XGK ($110,, which has been around now for the better part of two decades. Multi-fuel capability, very rugged, extremely hot. Also noisy as hell with basically two burn settings—"off" and "lift-off"—but that's the price you pay.

The other good choice is the Optimus Nova ($149, Optimus, of course, made the stoves that Scott and Amundsen took to the South Pole, so they know a thing or two about stoves and cold. The Nova is a fairly new design, but one built with extremely well-understood principles. Also multi-fuel, very well made.

I'd choose one of those two, period. There are cheaper stoves out there—and they're good stoves—but for the kind of camping you do, these are the ones.

Check out Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide for the very best field-tested stoves.

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