aluminum vs titanium pots.

Posted by: bobito9

aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 12:58 AM

I've never bought titanium pots, out of frugality, but I had been thinking about it recently. However, the employee at REI told me that titanium transfers heat more poorly than aluminum, so you end up taking longer to reach a boil and use more fuel than with aluminum. To me this seems like a deal-breaker, especially since aluminum recently doesn't seem much heavier. Anyone else ever heard this?
By the way, I do have one titanium pot which I found left behind at a trailhead. Don't know the brand, but it has the INCREDIBLY annoying problem that when it gets hot, it wants to slide like ice right off my stove if it is at all unlevel. Ridiculous and useless!
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 10:31 AM

FWIW, says: "Titanium cookware tends to not evenly distribute the heat from your stove and may create hot spots and burn your food. Hot spots are not a real concern if you are just boiling water."

I have a titanium mug that I use to heat water using an alcohol stove, which isn't the fastest way to heat water, and it works fine for me.

I think that either is fine. But then, my feeling is that once you have something that's at least "pretty good" then unless you're a real stove enthusiast, getting the absolutely most efficient stove setup isn't a good use of time or money.

Caveat: I typically don't bring a stove on trips of less than a few weeks, though I have heated my food on trails many a night in the past using a variety of (mostly alcohol) stoves.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 11:31 AM

Originally Posted By BrianLe
FWIW, says: "Titanium cookware tends to not evenly distribute the heat from your stove and may create hot spots and burn your food. Hot spots are not a real concern if you are just boiling water."

Actually, aluminum does this too. That's why real chefs use heavy copper or iron pots. But those are so great for backpacking.

My wife is a chef, and we use a lovely cheap aluminum pot that we found on the trail one day. Works great. Boils water. Costs nothing. Weighs very little.
Posted by: BZH

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 12:08 PM

Titanium does have a lower thermal conductivity, but heat transfer is proportional to thermal conductivity divided by wall thickness. Titanium pots tend to be thinner than aluminum so it is not clear which one will have better heat transfer. Based on anecdotal evidence from various people my guess is that pot material is pretty negligible in terms of how quickly or efficiently you will boil water. Pot shape, windscreen use and fit, and whether your pot has a heat exchanger play a much bigger role in bringing water to a boil. I would guess even the radiative properties of the pot play a bigger role in how quickly you boil.

If you really want to put some numbers to, you can look up thermal conductivity for various materials on:

I looked up a typical aluminum and found a thermal conductivity of 180 W/m-C and 6.7 W/m-C for Titanium. I couldn't readily find wall thicknesses for various pots. If you can get that info, just divide the thermal conductivity by the thickness and compare.

Your's is the first report I have heard of a titanium pot become more slippery on a stove than an aluminum pot. That is interesting... I have no idea what is causing that. You could try roughening the surface to make it more grippy (it would also improve the radiative performance of the pot!).
Posted by: Rick_D

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 12:52 PM

Science! It's true, Ti pots are so thin there's no difference in efficiency vs. Al pots, provided they're the same size and shape, the lids fit equally tight and the same or no windscreen is used and they're tested on the same stove using the same fuel. If it sounds like I'm claiming there are other, far more important variables to stove efficiency, then guilty as charged. That topic alone can consume many, many threads.

I'll say this much: if you place an empty Ti pot on a running stove (catch it, quick!) it will almost instantly glow orange in the flame pattern. I've never seen an Al pot do this, which is testament to its orders of magnitude better heat transfer. Stainless falls somewhere in between, and it and Ti have a tendency to easily scorch.

I only carry Ti cookware and have learned to live with its quirks to benefit from the very light weight and high strength. Al pots can weigh roughly the same or even be slightly lighter, but they deform and dent easily, plus I find the uncoated ones can be difficult to clean. Ti also never reacts to food.

I always saute/brown using plenty of oil to avoid scorching. I stir when simmering, using a wood spatula for the same reason. Al pots don't seem to require as much fuss, so for anybody looking for the easier path to cooking (not just boiling and reconstituting) then coated Al pans are worth consideration. Otherwise, Ti is definitely worth the investment.

My $0.02.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 04:07 PM

Are you just boiling water or doing actual cooking?

If you're doing actual cooking, aluminum spreads the heat far more evenly. You can cook in titanium but it will take a lot more stirring, fussing, adjusting of heat, changing pan's position on the burner to avoid burning the food in spots while leaving raw spots elsewhere. The Al pot or frying pan is well worth the small extra weight if you're cooking, especially fussy stuff like pancakes or for items like stews that you plan to simmer for a more lengthy period. Not only will the food be better, but washing the pot will be easier.

For just boiling water, Ti works fine. It has its advantage for this task in that as soon as you turn off the stove, you can grab the portion of the pot above the hot water with bare hands without burning. This feature, of course, explains the problem of using Ti for cooking. I have not found any difference in boil times between using Ti and aluminum, assuming the same stove, the same size pot and the same water temp to start. Bobito, that's not the first piece of misinformation I've heard from REI employees. EDIT, LATER: Do note that this is anecdotal information; if anyone with identical Al and Ti pots and a good thermometer wants to test this out, we'd love to hear the results!

Of course if you're using thin Al, like the KMart grease pot (beloved of budget backpackers), both the weight difference and the difference in conductability are very small. The grease pot will last only a couple of years until it's too dented, but you can buy a lot of grease pots before reaching the cost of a Ti pot.

Anodized aluminum is considered the best for real cooking.

I just boil water to rehydrate dehydrated food, so I use a Ti pot. If I'm going to be fishing, I take an aluminum fry pan, leaving the Ti pot lid at home.
Posted by: bobito9

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 11:10 PM

Thanks for all the replies. I typically do cook to a degree, like say, sauteeing a little garlic or a jalapeno or whatever before adding water to boil for couscous or ramen or something. But mostly my meals are just boil water and and make a soup (I hate having to scrub a pot)
I have a cheap 2 quart aluminum pot that works fine enough for shorter trips, but I'm doing the JMT and really need to shrink my weight. Plus I can see that a bigger pot, of any material, is going to take longer to heat up. I'm thinking maybe I need about a 1.3 liter pot (there are 2 of us), and if I'm gonna buy one, I might as well get the optimal one. Sounds like maybe I should go ahead and get a titanium one. Though I notice that some titaniums are a lot thicker and heavier than others.
Yeah, I notice that a lot of REI employees know less than I do. The annoying thing is when they are also good at bs-ing you into THINKING they know more than you do.Some are great, though. Maybe I'll go work for REI when I retire:)
Posted by: Rick_D

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 11:22 PM

Originally Posted By OregonMouse
EDIT, LATER: Do note that this is anecdotal information; if anyone with identical Al and Ti pots and a good thermometer wants to test this out, we'd love to hear the results!

[Raises hand] Have done some pretty detailed comparisons, maybe most notably a Ti pot versus an Al pot with heat-exchanger, and found no meaningful difference in fuel consumption or boil times. (Although the second measure is a canard with any stove having a valve--alcohol stoves are another matter entirely.) I use a remote thermometer to determine when the water hits 212, rather than declare when it's boiling, and make sure the starting temp is consistent.

For anyone concerned about maximizing fuel efficiency, prefer a lower, wider pot, snug lid, efficient windscreen and a stove with ideal pot support height and wide flame.
Posted by: bobito9

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 11:29 PM

??? I thought water couldn't reach 212 at higher elevations, that it would just boil first.
Also, re windscreens, I have always heard that you weren't suppose to use them with butane cannisters, though I always try to cheat a bit by putting it next to a rock to reflect back some heat.
As for a tight fitting lid, that does seem to be a problem of Al pots vs Ti, since they are easier to get bent out of shape and hence may not make as a good a seal.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/07/14 11:40 PM

The "no windscreen with a canister stove" is to prevent ignorant users (the kind corporations' legal departments worry about) from overheating and blowing up the canister, resulting in the usual lawsuits. Common sense and close supervision are needed with any stove. You are, after all, using fire and flammable fuel.

I use a windscreen that goes 3/4 of the way around the canister. I also feel the canister frequently to make sure it isn't getting too warm. With the 3/4 windscreen, the stove is far more efficient, especially when it's windy.

The boiling point of water does depend on the air pressure, which of course decreases with altitude. Boiling Points of Water at Various Elevations. Presumably Rick did his tests (thanks, Rick!) at sea level.
Posted by: Rick_D

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/08/14 12:04 AM

Originally Posted By OregonMouse
Presumably Rick did his tests (thanks, Rick!) at sea level.

As best as I can tell, I'm between 16 and 20' msl (which explains the flood insurance instead of earthquake insurance). We like our air thick, here. smile

Posted by: billstephenson

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/08/14 10:36 AM

Of course if you're using thin Al, like the KMart grease pot (beloved of budget backpackers), both the weight difference and the difference in conductability are very small.

I finally got my hands on one of those at our local Wal-Mart. I chucked the screen that goes inside it and put a small knob on the lid so I could remove it easier. It works pretty darn good with a super cat stove (another beloved of budget backpackers).

I'd be hard pressed to change to a ti pot. I think the only real advantage there is the strength to weight ratio. On a thru hike the ti pot would be less likely to get crumpled, so in that case it might be worth it even if it weighed a little more.
Posted by: bobito9

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/09/14 12:34 AM

Well, in the end I got the GSI Pinnacle soloist. I like the idea of anodized aluminum for cooking and at 1.1 liters, it seemed like the ideal size for the 2 of us. Also, it seems stronger than my old aluminum pot. Also, I really like the way the little plastic cup fits in it AND holds a 220 fuel can and (supposedly) my stove. I've had light kitchen combos before, but never one that nested so well.
On the windscreen issue, I'm very glad to hear that info, Mouse. Maybe I'll bring my Whisperlite windscreen, or maybe better, just make one out of aluminum flashing.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 05/09/14 12:40 AM

Just make sure the windscreen doesn't completely enclose the canister, and keep feeling the canister frequently while you are using the stove.

Completely enclosing the canister will bring its temperature to the danger point.
Posted by: Zuuk

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 09/23/15 10:24 AM

I've got two cooksets, both were inexpensive and bought at Canadian Tire many years ago. One is an aluminum fry pan with a high sided plate that fit together and the handle of the pan wraps around the plate bottom and tightens with a wingnut. Inside is a very low sided pot (1.5in side at most) and a plastic cup. Weighs almost nothing, but I always found it to heat too fast when cooking. The pot really isn't big enough though for boiling a decent amount of water.

The other set is a stainless steel set, similar to an Olicamp Backpacker Cookset, except mine has a plastic coating on the handles and copper plated bottoms. It has a fry pan, 2 pots with lids and 2 plastic cups. It came in a carry bag, but I ripped that years ago using it for something else. The pots are a nice size, the smaller one will boil 3 cups of water, which is nice for me as 2 cups can go into a dehydrated meal and the rest is a nice cup of tea. The larger pot would probably hold 5 cups of water for boiling. Not sure how much it weighs, but it's over a pound for sure. Everything that I've cooked in it though has been good for heat distribution. I haven't seen this cookset anywhere though for many years.

I was thinking titanium, but now after reading about heat distribution, I'm thinking I'll stick with the stainless steel one I have, even with the weight.
Posted by: bob13bob

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 06/09/16 01:51 AM

there is no meaninful difference between tit and alum pots for efficiency. Pot shape and fit to your burner + windguard will be way more efficient. YOu can test yourself with two pots at home and measuring boiling time.

To get around the slippery problem which was hugely annoying, i scraped the bottom pot with sandpaper and even internally dented another of my pots. slippery boiling pots super annoying and dangerous.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 06/09/16 03:07 PM

Information from REI employees is sometimes just hearsay.

I absolutely love my titanium pots. I have used them for more than 10 years and have not squished one yet! They are easy to clean. If you do real cooking, having a stove that simmers is more important than any minor heat transfer properties between aluminum and titanium. I really do not care how fast water boils; I care that I can do real cooking and have easy clean-up. I have the Sno-Peak nesting set. I do not know how other brands perform. Yes, they are expensive, but will last forever if you treat them right.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: aluminum vs titanium pots. - 04/15/17 12:49 AM

If you use identical pans one of titanium and one aluminum and set them on snow and pour the same amount of hot water in each, the titanium pan will melt through faster and the water will cool more quickly. The titanium is really thin, so listen to BZH and divide by thickness.

With a hot blue flame there is little effect of color, but with an orange flame like from a white gas stove, a black pan may heat 10% faster.