I’ve been using a canister stove as my primary cook system for the past 3-4 years. I like the fast boil times, and the fact that you can light them and turn them off in seconds. While there have been endless debates about whether canister stoves and fuel canisters are “ultralight” or not, that doesn’t really matter to me. The convenience of the stove trumps gear weight for me and I have a light enough gear list that I can afford to bring a few luxury items.
In all the years of using a canister stove, I’ve never bothered using a wind screen. In fact, I didn’t even realize these existed until last winter when I came across one for my titanium Snowpeak Gigapower stove while browsing the aisles at REI. It’s a chunky plate-like thing thing weighing 2 ounces and made out of stainless steel. That’s ironic when y0u consider that the stove itself weighs 3 ounces. Soto’s Micro Regulator stove windscreen (shown top) is much lighter in comparison, only weighing 0.6 ounces while the stove itself weights 2.4 ounces.
Why wouldn’t you just use a tin foil style windscreen that surrounds the canister and pot, like you do with an alcohol stove?
The stove manufacturers strongly warn against this because the canister can blow up like a hand grenade if the air inside the windscreen were to get too warm. You’re free to disregard this warning, but the potential risk is too great for me. I’m chicken when it comes to shrapnel.
So how well do these canister stove windscreens work and are they even worth using?
I can only share my anecdotal observations here and say yes, at least in the case of the Soto windscreen where the increase in fuel efficiency is probably break even in terms of carrying the extra weight of the windscreen for short trips. I’ve read that this is on the order of 20% fuel savings, but I don’t have the tools available to give you a quantitative breakdown of the fuel efficiency benefits (and I’m not about to engage in laughably pseudo scientific analyses.)
Here’s an anecdotal test of using the Soto windscreen on top of West Bond Mountain (new Hampshire) to make tea. It worked pretty well with 1o mph winds although it is still effected by wind gusts. You can’t really see the flame very well in this video so treat it more like a sound recording and listen to the flame when the wind gusts. When the flame is pushed downwind, it flickers, the heat is vented up the downwind side of the pot, and there is a loss of efficiency.
If you want a fuel efficient canister stove, why wouldn’t you just buy a Jetboil, which already has a fully integrated wind screen.
That’s certainly an option. I prefer using separate components (stove, gas, pot) because I think they’re more flexible that way and because can I use best of breed items rather than get locked into all-in-one system from a specific manufacturer. From what I understand, the Jetboil is a bit heavier than a component based system, particularly for shorter trips where there’s not enough time for any fuel efficiency savings to have any impact on the extra weight you need to carry.
Can’t you make your own canister stove windscreen?
Indeed you can, and it’s something I’ve been experimenting with lately. Furthermore, I like my latest prototype a lot more than the commercial options available.
Weighing 1.6 ounces, I made it cutting up an old aluminum windscreen I had lying around. I like it because it’s a combination windscreen and pot insulator, and doesn’t compromise the amount of oxygen accessible to the stove. It’s held on the pot by notches that fit over the pot handles and a paper clip to keep it from popping open. It also folds up flat making it easy to pack.
Ryan Jordan reports a 100% increase in fuel efficiency using this style of canister stove windscreen for winter use, which is extra relevant because I plan on using the Soto MicroRegulator in cold weather. It’s specially designed to maintain constant gas pressure in cold temperatures, which is where other canister stoves stumble.
What about you? Do you use a canister stove windscreen?
Disclosure: Soto Outdoors provided SectionHiker.com with a complementary MicroRegulator stove and windscreen. SectionHiker owns a Snowpeak Gigapower stove and windscreen and purchased them with his own funds.