A Stove Comparison: Alcohol (Caldera Cone) vs Canister (Jet Boil, Pocket Rocket, Giga Power)

We had a chance on our 8 day backpack to do some comparisons between some stoves, namely my Caldera Cone with a 1.9 L Evernew titanium pot, an MSR Pocket Rocket, a Snow Peak Giga Power, and a JetBoil.  The latter 3 stoves are canister stoves, and the Caldera Cone is an alcohol stove.  Each of these stoves were cooking for 2 people.  It should be noted that all of these stoves are reliable and they all work fine for heating water.  Some are better in certain situations, and this review compares them for use on an 8 day trip fall, each of them cooking for 2 people.

The Caldera Cone:  This is an alcohol stove, with a conical windscreen on which the pot sits.  The stove is directly below the pot, and the fuel efficiency and heating is improved by the stove being shielded from the wind, and the hot air and flame of the stove being forced along the pot sides.  Its main strengths are being totally silent when cooking, stability, immunity from wind problems, reliability and suitability for all seasons, for a variety of cooking situations.  For instance, we cooked pizza from scratch, toasted bagels, made biscuits, and dishes of pasta, couscous, and rice.

stove plus windscreen, in a plastic screw together tube: 5.4 oz

Evernew 1.9 L titanium pot (to compare with the Jetboil, the pot has to be included) 9.7 oz

fuel taken plus container weight:  21 oz (including 3 oz extra for cushion)

Total weight, stove, pot and fuel, at start of trip: 36.1 oz

Total weight, stove pot and fuel, at end of trip: 18.1 oz

Note: we had 3 oz of fuel left over.

The Caldera Cone and the 1.9 L Evernew pot was a great combination for this trip, for cooking for 2 hikers.  It was quiet, hassle free, fool proof, did well in wind, and cooked a variety of foods, including baking pizza from scratch, bisquits, frying bagels for breakfast, and it could cook a few fish, although we didn't use it for that because we I talked my son into bringing a bigger frying pan for cooking fish.  The Caldera has the capability of using wood for fuel, which is a good backup if you run out of fuel.

Compared to the Jetboil, the Caldera was 8 oz heavier at the start of the trip, and 2 oz lighter at the end of the trip, due to the weight of the empty gas canister of the Jetboil.  If a crew took an additional small fuel canister for backup for the JetBoil, the Caldera would be the lighter stove setup.  The Caldera was just a hair lighter than a Pocket Rocket setup if used with the same pot.  The Caldera was definitely slower to boil water, but much more versatile at cooking a variety of foods.  The Jetboil is hard to beat for just boiling water.  The fuel weight shown for the Caldera stove is the fuel to just boil water, so it could be compared straight across with the other stoves.  For a menu that included baking, toasting bagels for breakfast, cooking pasta and rice, we used 27 oz of fuel, with 3 oz left over.

All in all, my preference remains the Caldera stove and windscreen.  The JetBoil is actually lighter for this length of a trip, and boils water faster, but is less flexible for different types of cooking. Like any canister stove, it would work less well in the winter, whereas the Caldera works fine at subzero temperatures.  The canister stoves suffered some problems that would not likely ever be a problem with the Caldera.  We had one canister stove tip over with a full pot of boiling water, an indication of their top heavy nature.  We had one canister stove left with the valve not fully closed, and the canister of fuel drained out.  We had one night when a canister stove was totally inoperable due to wind.  All of these situations are just not a problem for the Caldera.

Jet Boil: this is a stove system with a fuel canister, a stove base, and an insulated pot. 

It is relatively quiet, super fuel efficient, does well in the wind, and for this length of trip was the lightest combination.  It produces a point source of heat under a tall and narrow insulated pot (the model used on this trip anyway), so it is optimized for boiling water.  It would not do well making cobbler, cooking fish, using with an Outback over, or doing anything except boiling water.  Like any canister stove, it would not do well in winter conditions.

weight of stove plus pot: 15.2 oz

wt. of fuel taken plus container weight: 13 oz (one 220 g fuel canister)

Total weight, stove, pot and fuel, at start of trip: 28.2

total weight, stove, pot and empty fuel canister at end of trip: 20.2 oz (weight of empty fuel container = 5.6 oz)

The JetBoil is an efficient and light weight stove, and with one fuel canister was the lightest combination for this length of trip, cooking for two people.  It is a specialist tool, and is great at boiling water, not cooking pasta, cobbler, biscuits, or trout.  It is fairly quiet, and as reliable as any canister stove.  If you are just boiling water, this stove can't be beat for weight and speed.  It is very fuel efficient, which allows it to use the fewest fuel canisters for this length of trip.

Pocket Rocket: this is a canister stove with a tiny and light stove that fits on a standard fuel canister.  We had two Pocket Rockets setups, one using 1 large fuel canister and one small canister of fuel, and one with a single canister of fuel.  A single canister of fuel proved to be insufficient, and one large and one small canister was probably the perfect amount of fuel.  Unfortunately, one of the Pocket Rocket teams had a valve that wasn't fully shut off, and lost a large canister of fuel.  The other Pocket Rocket crew found that one canister of fuel was insufficient, so there was a shortage of fuel toward the end of the trip.  With 4 teams using canister stoves, the canisters could be shifted around to cover the shortages nicely.  A Pocket Rocket tipped over with boiling water.  One has to be careful with these stoves.  There is a 3 legged base for the large canisters that makes any canister stove more stable.  One of the PRs was unable to operate one night due to wind, but that was mainly an experience problem, because a windbreak can usually be found.  The Pocket Rocket is fast to light, and fast to boil water, and not too loud.

The weight for the PR is based on one large and one small canister of fuel, which would probably be ideal for an 8 day trip.  The Evernew 1.9 L pot is used for the weight calculation, to make the weight comparison with the Caldera closer.  The Pocket Rocket setup was right in the ball park with the Caldera as far as weight goes.  With the same pot as the Caldera, the PR was 3 oz lighter at the start of the trip, and 4 oz heavier at the end.  The weights were too close to haggle about.

Wt of stove plus plastic case: 3.9 oz

Evernew 1.9 L titanium pot:  9.7 oz (to compare with the Jetboil, a pot has to be included.  The Evernew was used to make a straight across comparison with the Caldera setup.  Gary's pot was smaller and only weighed 4 oz)

fuel taken plus container weight:  one large and one small canister: 19.5 oz full, 8.6 oz for empty canisters

Total weight, stove, pot and fuel, at start of trip:  33.1 oz

Total weight, stove pot and fuel, at end of trip: 22.2 oz