Tips and Tricks for using your stove while traveling by bicycle


stove tips12 Tips and Tricks to use your stove while travelling

1) Clean the jet without the tool: At the burner assembly, the fuel comes out of a tiny hole called in the jet which can get obstructed. The cleaning tool consists of a very thin wire encased in plastic. It is likely that the wire may break and get lost. You may not have realized it, but your brake and derailleur cables are made of the very same wire! Just cut a piece of one thread of a cable and voila! You have your very own cleaning tool!

2) Primer “sponge” broken or lost? Some stoves come with a piece of material that will absorb the fuel you let go before priming. Depending on the model you use, this piece of fabric may eventually break and so may the spare part. A cheap way to replace it is to use a piece of thin fiberglass sheet cut at the same size. It works just as well, does not burn, and will never break.

3) Running your gas cartridge stove in cold temperatures can be tricky. Propane burns much better in subfreezing temperatures than butane. If you don’t try to keep your cartridge warm while you cook, you will end up with only butane in your cartridge and won’t be able to use it. Here are some tricks to keep it warm:

  • Hold it in your hand
  • Use chemical hand-warmers (while you cook and then use them for yourself!)
  • Dip the cartridge in warm water (or urine)
  • Keep it in your jacket to warm it up
  • Sleep with it in your sleeping bag so you can use it for breakfast
  • Place the cartridge close to the stove (be careful not to overheat the cartridge as it might explode). Note: Warning sign of overpressure: cartridges are designed with a concave bottom that will pop outwards before complete cartridge rupture.

4) Use a windscreen to dramatically improve the efficiency of the flame, as well as decrease fuel consumption.

5) What liquid fuel should I use? In gas stations, especially in less developed countries, I always buy the most expensive fuel, hoping it is the cleanest one (I might be wrong!). I prefer unleaded over leaded, for obvious health reasons. White gas is more difficult to find and is more expensive. However, it is cleaner, has less of an unpleasant odor, and produces less fumes, leaving less residue (so easier dish washing!). Kerosene should be your last choice since it is the dirtiest and least efficient fuel. Some stoves claim to work with everything: oil, diesel, etc. (I know someone who used vodka in his MSR XGK!), but those fuels are extremely inefficient and dirty.

6) Cooking in your tent? Every instruction manual highly recommends against cooking in your tent. So do I! I certainly would not recommend cooking inside the inner part of the tent, especially when using liquid fuel. However, some tents have a large vestibule, and many bicycle tourers cook underneath of it. If you decide to do this (at your own risk), make sure you practice many times beforehand, and that you are very familiar with your stove. It is highly recommended to cook near an opening of the tent so the toxic CO and CO2 gases can escape. Be extremely careful with the priming of the liquid fuel stove (the flame is uncontrollable and can set the tent on fire).

7) Saving on weight by choosing a small fuel bottle size: I would recommend you take a small fuel bottle size (1/3 or ½ – liter bottle) unless you are planning to bike through an extremely remote area, stay for a long period of time in an area with no gas station, or plan to use only white gas. We started with a 1L bottle and found it was much bigger than what we needed, and we changed to a 1/3 liter.

8) Repair kit: This can come in very handy. Stoves usually come with a tool that will allow you to clean it and keep it running. A repair kit is used to replace missing, worn, or broken parts, as well as maintain your stove. I would recommend taking one with you if you are going on an extended trip (several months or longer).

9) How to get my stove working at high altitude? By reducing the number of pumping strokes during priming, you will reduce pressure in the fuel line, allowing you to operate the stove more efficiently at high altitudes (the stove won’t function as well at high altitudes due to higher pressure and less oxygen).

10) “Simmering” with a liquid fuel stove? A lot of liquid fuel stoves don’t allow you to simmer (some design fixed that problem). Tip #9 can also be used when lower heat is needed for slow cooking. If the heat is still too high, you can hold your pot or pan 2 or 3 inches higher (not real practical to simmer a stew, but can come in handy when your meal is starting to burn).

11) Use a puncture type canister with a screw-thread canister type stove: Vaude manufacture a convenient adapter allowing you to use puncture type canister with your screw-thread-cartridge stove. Very useful since the puncture type canister are easier to find, plus it is light and compact.

12) Home-made windscreen: A good way to make a homemade windscreen for your stove is to use 22 gage aluminium sheet found at hardware store, you can also use aluminium oven liners, ususally found next to those disposable aluminium pans that our moms use in their ovens when they bake (the liners are better than the pans because they are a bit thicker). Just cut a long rectangular piece so it will fit all around your stove, making sure to leave a 1/4- to 1/2-inch gap between the pot and the windsceen because you still need a bit of airflow. You don’t want to completely block the air (you need O2 to circulate for your stove to be efficient). The gap should not be too big, either, otherwise you will lose too much heat. Also, you might want to cut out a window or 2 at the bottom for the same reason. Some people punch holes all around it at the bottom. You can fold over the edges to make it stiffer and less sharp, and also so it won’t fall apart as quickly. Also, just as with the MSR windscreen, you might want to cut a disk to use as a base for heat reflection.
Also, you can use paper clips to hold the windscreen closed around the stove.

Tip: when you cut your oven liner, add an extra inch or two in order to leave room for error.

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About Stephane Marchiori

Owner of
Bike touring since 2003, including:
a 5-Year Bicycle Journey Around The World!

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