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#133161 - 05/03/10 05:39 PM Alcohol stoves and altitude
kenp Offline
member

Registered: 09/20/05
Posts: 32
Hey folks. This has likely been discussed here somewhere before. Sorry if it's a previously discussed topic. Wife and I are headed out to do the Colorado Trail this summer. Average elevation is something like 9k so we'll be camping often above tree line. Anoyone have any experience using alcohol stoves at altitude, particularly for two people? Trying to decide between canister and alcohol. Prefer alcohol due to quietness and not having to deal with finding/shipping canisters but could be persuaded if people have had bad luck with them up high. We'll be able to fashion a good wind screen so not that worried about that aspect. Thanks for any thoughts...

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#133162 - 05/03/10 06:19 PM Re: Alcohol stoves and altitude [Re: kenp]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
Altitude is not an issue. Wind and cold ARE. I use a Caldera Cone on the Colorado Trail with good results.

Probably the only place you NEED to camp ubove timberline is on Cataract Ridge. One night, the rest is your choice.
_________________________
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."
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#133163 - 05/03/10 06:38 PM Re: Alcohol stoves and altitude [Re: kenp]
ChrisFol Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 387
Loc: Denver, Colordo
My wife and I have thru-hiked the CT twice, both with alcohol stoves (Cat Can stove). Altitude has zero effect. Depending on the days between your resupply points and amount of fuel you will use between those days, then the lighter option may be a canister stove.

We opted for alcohol stoves over canister because HEET/De-natured fuel is easily found on the CT, fuel canisters can be hard to find in some towns-- this convience to us, outwayed the negilable difference in weight for longer re-supply points.

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#133167 - 05/03/10 08:25 PM Re: Alcohol stoves and altitude [Re: kenp]
dkramalc Offline
member

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 1050
Loc: California
Hi, Ken,

We've used the Penny Stove for two at around 11,000 feet and it seemed to burn even hotter at high altitude (of course, it could just be the lower boiling point). That was during summer, so temps weren't below freezing.
_________________________
dk

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#133179 - 05/04/10 02:28 AM Re: Alcohol stoves and altitude [Re: dkramalc]
CJC Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/04
Posts: 738
Loc: Southern Nevada
Altitude will not have any effect on the alki stove but cold, wind and altitude will have a performance issue on the canister based stove. The degree these issues will have depends on the type of canister stove your carrying. Those canister stoves that you can turn upside down and attach with a hose to your stove will work a better then the traditional type. If you are willing to enclose the canister inside the wind screen and check it frequently to make sure it is not getting to hot then the "normal" canister stoves should work fine as well. this is what I usually do, but you have to be careful NOT let the canister get to hot!!! They can explode! Personally I think this is overrated as I live in the desert and have yet to have a canister explode from getting to hot.

When I did the CT years and years and more years ago I carried my SVEA 123 with a pint of fuel and a pressure pump for it. Heavy, yes; but back in the 70's when I did it canisters were not very common. I wish I had known more about alki stoves as I probably would have at least looked into using one instead of my tried, true and trustworthy SVEA 123. I still have it and use it for winter outings sometimes and sometimes I just fire it up at home to listen to the burner; and boil some water.

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#133185 - 05/04/10 09:26 AM Re: Alcohol stoves and altitude [Re: kenp]
jasonklass Offline
member

Registered: 08/27/05
Posts: 551
Loc: Denver, Colorado
As others have stated, cold and wind are more of a factor. Actually, altitude helps you because the higher you go, the lower the boiling point of water becomes. Here's a chart showing the boiling points of water at various altitudes: Altitude vs. Boiling Point
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Gear Talk There's no such thing as having too many sporks!

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#133199 - 05/04/10 04:16 PM Re: Alcohol stoves and altitude [Re: jasonklass]
OregonMouse Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 5224
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Of course, because the boiling point at high altitude is considerably lower, your water will boil sooner but it will take your food longer to cook or rehydrate.

I've gotten around the canister problem in below freezing weather by putting it under my puffy jacket for 15-20 minutes before trying to start it (it is rather a shock to body temperature, though, for the first few minutes!). I use a small piece of CCF under the canister to insulate it. And I use a windscreen about 3/4 of the way around, which helps keep the canister warm but not too hot. I also had to put my mini-Bic lighter inside my jacket to warm up before it would work!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#133219 - 05/04/10 10:28 PM Re: Alcohol stoves and altitude [Re: OregonMouse]
jasonklass Offline
member

Registered: 08/27/05
Posts: 551
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Originally Posted By: OregonMouse
Of course, because the boiling point at high altitude is considerably lower, your water will boil sooner but it will take your food longer to cook or rehydrate.

I've gotten around the canister problem in below freezing weather by putting it under my puffy jacket for 15-20 minutes before trying to start it (it is rather a shock to body temperature, though, for the first few minutes!). I use a small piece of CCF under the canister to insulate it. And I use a windscreen about 3/4 of the way around, which helps keep the canister warm but not too hot. I also had to put my mini-Bic lighter inside my jacket to warm up before it would work!


Good tip and to add on to your point about food taking longer to rehydrate, I usually put my Mountain House inside my jacket (while I'm wearing it) when winter camping. This not only warms me up but also helps the food rehydrate by acting as a cozy.
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