Old 07-24-10, 10:07 AM
  #17  
BigBlueToe
Senior Member
 
BigBlueToe's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Central Coast, CA
Posts: 3,392

Bikes: Surly LHT, Specialized Rockhopper, Nashbar Touring (old), Specialized Stumpjumper (older), Nishiki Tourer (model unknown)

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
My personal opinion is that on any tour longer than a few days the only stove that makes sense is one that can burn unleaded gas. I don't want to try and find butane cannisters out in rural America (or anyplace else where I'm not familiar with what the stores carry,) I don't want to carry a bunch of butane cannisters or more than one gasoline bottle, and I don't want to buy a gallon of Coleman fuel and have to deal with what to do with the leftover after I fill my 1-liter bottle. Unleaded gas is available virtually everywhere, and it's cheap. My average cost to refill my bottle is between 25 and 50 cents, depending on how many days between fillups. It takes about 5 minutes to stop at a gas station, dig out my bottle (I know right where it is) fill it up, wipe it clean, put it back, pay my 32 cents, and get back on my way.

I have experience with two unleaded-burning stoves. I bought a Coleman 442 in 1992. It has a self-contained fuel tank. I also bring a small (1/2 liter) MSR bottle. When the MSR bottle is empty it's time to stop and refill. Recently my students gave me an end-of-the-year teacher present consisting of a nice gift certificate to a mountaineering store. I used it to buy an MSR Whisperlite Internationale. I'd heard good things about it and thought it might be a step up from my Coleman, which was getting pretty old.

Here are my inconclusive results so far:

Weight: I haven't weighed the two rigs to compare (which is one reason why this is inconclusive.) The Coleman definitely weighs more than the Whisperlite, but when you add in the weight of the larger bottle on the Whisperlite, plus the windscreen, I'm not sure. I'll have to get a postal scale and really find out. For now, for my purposes, I think weight is a tossup.

Convenience: The Coleman has a big advantage here. With the Coleman, all you do is pull it out of it's bag, pump it a few times (30?) and light it. Then pump it a few more times and that's it. With the Whisperlite you have to unfold the legs on the stove, insert the pump into the fuel bottle, insert the fuel hose from the stove into the pump, unfold and flatten the windscreen, lock the ends of the windscreen together to close the ends and make it circular, pump a few times (30?), open the valve and let some gas dribble onto the pan at the bottom of the stove, close the valve, light the gas, let it burn (with lots of yucky, toxic-I'm-guessing, black, sooty smoke) for a few seconds to raise the temperature of the "intake manifold", then at the last second before the flames burn out, open the valve to start the stove burning.

When you finish with the Coleman you wait a few minutes while it cools, fold the legs, and put it back in it's bag. When you finish with the Whisperlite you have to pull the fuel hose out of the pump, fold the legs back up (getting soot all over your hands), lock the fuel hose into the folded legs, remove the pump from the bottle, set it aside to dry, unhook the ends of the windscreen, flatten it, fold it, flatten it again, then put everything back into the sack.

The Coleman is MUCH more convenient. It's also much cleaner. I started using paper towels to clean up my Whisperlite before putting it away. I still couldn't seem to do it without getting soot on my hands. Also there's a really thin layer of soot that forms on the underside of the stove. It blows off or falls off and blows around, getting on things you don't want it on - other things on the table, clothes, etc.

So, does the Whisperlite have any advantages? I guess the windscreen makes it work better in a howling wind. I used it in Utah this spring when there were 30 mph sustained winds and gusts over 50. I was able to cook my food with no trouble and I think the windscreen contributed. I never had an issue with wind making the Coleman ineffective in 16 years of use, although I can't remember any windstorms quite as bad. I know there were lots of windy days however. Inconclusive.

I think the Whisperlite simmers a little bit better than the Coleman, though neither of them simmers very well.

Reliability: The Coleman continues to work fine and I've never done a thing to it. Every once in awhile something clogs and it doesn't burn very hot, but with a little shaking it works fine again. The MSR had similar issues during the first week I used it. However, the instructions say to turn it upside down and shake it, and it will clean itself. I did this and it worked. I guess I'll have to use the Whisperlite for another 15 years to have a true comparison.

Conclusion: I don't have a clear conclusion. I'm taking another tour in a week and I'm not sure which stove I'll take. I'm leaning towards the MSR because it's newer and I think a little lighter, but I'd sure like to weigh the two (Whisperlite plus 1-liter bottle vs. Coleman plus 1/2 liter bottle.) Knowing me, I'll probably buy another Coleman 442, just so I can compare it against the year-old Whisperlite. I sure miss the convenience of my old 442.

Final conclusion: Either of these stoves would be a good choice. Again, the ability to buy fuel in any gas station is the trump factor for me.
BigBlueToe is offline