This is a follow up review to my original review of the Kovea EZ Eco, which I published last year on SectionHiker.com (click for previous review). In that review, I found many things that I liked about the stove but ultimately could not recommend it because it appeared to be having problems with the regulatory mechanism that controls the flow of gas. Kovea contacted me, and about a year later, I got a re-worked version of the stove, which is now available from REI.
This review is of the “domestic” version of the stove. Since it’s made in Korea, that means the Korean version. The version of the stove now for sale in the US has some cosmetic differences (and the instructions are in English), but the internals are the same. It looks like they switched vendors on the pot; the pot now on sale in the US is a little different from the one I received for this review (Kovea makes the stove but contracts out the pot), but again those differences are cosmetic.
A Canisterless Canister Stove
The EZ Eco is the “canisterless” version of the Kovea Alpine Pot. The Alpine Pot is Kovea’s take on a Jetboil type stove.
What do I mean by “canisterless?” Well, if you look at the first photo in this review, you’ll see the stove fully set up – but you don’t see a canister. The stove runs off of an internal tank that one fills before one leaves on a trip.
How to Fill
On the bottom of the stove is a brass fuel port under a rubber cover.
One can either fill from a normal threaded backpacking type gas canister via an adapter – or one can fill directly from a restaurant type 100% butane canister, the type used in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
To fill from a “restaurant” type 100% butane canister, one simply removes the cap from the butane canister, places the built-in nozzle of the canister into the fuel port on the stove, and pushes down. The gas starts immediately flowing into the tank. If you’ve ever filled a refillable butane lighter (like the kind used for cigarettes etc.), you already know how to fill an EZ Eco. Fill until the fuel level in the “window” is level with the “MAX” line. The EZ Eco has a relief valve, making it nearly impossible to overfill.
Why use “Restaurant” type canisters?
Why might one want to fill using restaurant type canisters? Well, they’re cheap. Really cheap. In the US, I’ve seen them for as low as $1.25 each if one buys a four-pack. Even if they were double that price, they’d still be cheap. Restaurant type canisters come in “8 ounce” size (about 227 g). An equivalent sized backpacking type gas canister runs about $6.00 – roughly triple the price of restaurant type gas canisters.
The Downside of Restaurant type canisters
The down side of course is that restaurant type canisters contain just “plain” butane (i.e. n-butane). N-butane is a lousy fuel in cold weather. Now, for a summer hiker, that may matter not at all, but if you’re going to go out in temperatures that are heading toward about 50 F/10 C or lower, you definitely don’t want to bring n-butane as your fuel. Butane doesn’t vaporize well in colder temperatures (and not at all below freezing) which leaves you no pressure to run your stove on. Herein lies the advantage of backpacking type canisters.
Why use Backpacking type canisters?
They figured out years ago that n-butane alone wasn’t much good when temperatures start getting toward 50 F/10 C or lower. So they added propane and in some cases switched from n-butane to isobutane. A blended fuel of some mix of propane, isobutane, and n-butane maintains good operating pressure down into colder temperatures. One can typically get good operating pressure at freezing and even below with a blended gas. Sure, backpacking canisters are more expensive, but n-butane just isn’t going to work in cold weather.
You can use the Kovea purpose-built adapter, shown above on the right, that is ideal for filling the tank – or you can use an adapter of the type used to fill regular butane lighters – such as the Brunton “Fuel Tool” shown above on the left. Screw the adapter onto a typical backpacking canister of gas, and then fill just as you would with a 100% butane restaurant canister. Since the Kovea adapter comes with the stove, I recommend just using it (hey, it’s free, right?), but if you lose it or are somewhere where gas is available but don’t have the Kovea adapter, you could always use an adapter meant for filling regular butane lighters.
The Advantages of Canisterless
Well, there’s the obvious advantage of not having to carry a canister, but other advantages include:
- No half empty canisters. C’mon. Everybody knows about it. You get half empty canisters, and then they sit in the closet. You’re not sure just how much gas is left, so you don’t want to take them out on the trail. With the EZ Eco, there’s a fuel window, and you can see exactly how much you’ve got before you go. If you empty one canister, you fill from the next; your stove’s tank always remains topped off. The amount of fuel in the canisters you draw from is immaterial.
- No trail trash. There’s always the temptation to ditch an unneeded canister in a “less than optimal” fashion. Oh, sure it’s not really littering. But I’ve seen half full canisters left beside the trail so that the next hiker can use them, but sometimes they just rust and become trash. Worse, I’ve found them in bushes and under rocks. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often, but removing the canister removes the temptation.
- Speed, convenience, and durability. Put the pot on and go. No threading, no screwing it down all the way. No worries about cross-threading or stripping the threads. With no threads to wear out, an EZ Eco should last a lifetime.
FEATURES OF THE STOVE
Like a Jetboil, the EZ Eco features a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger consists of a number of aluminum “fins” affixed to the bottom of the pot. The heat from the burner flows over the fins. The fins absorb the heat and conduct the heat to the pot and thus to the contents of the pot. It’s a very efficient way to cook. Whereas a conventional canister gas stove typically takes 7 or 8 g of fuel to boil 500 ml (approximately 2 cups) of water, a stove set up with a heat exchanger takes something on the order of 5 or 6 g per 500 ml boil. While on a day hike, perhaps that won’t make a difference, but on longer hikes, that efficiency means you can either carry one canister instead of two or perhaps prevents you from sizing up to the next larger canister. Whether your trying to save weight or bulk or both, a heat exchanger pot set up can be the way to go.
The controls are interesting. Instead of a valve that rotates around an axis, the EZ Eco has a lever that one moves back and forth. I actually find this method easier than a valve that one has to rotate to open and close. The stove comes with a piezoelectric ignition which is easily employed by pressing a large green button to the left of the valve control.
It’s EZ – A good stove for young users
One advantage of these easy use controls is that younger users have no problem operating them. They’re very simple. Combine the ease of use with the lack of need to hook up a canister (of highly flammable gas), and you’ve got a safer stove system for younger users. I could see a stove like this, with easy controls and no fuel to hook up, being a really good option for Scout troops or families with children.
The lid has a nice stand up tab that stays put when you pop it up. I like that. I don’t like fumbling for the tab to lift the lid when I’m trying to add ingredients. The lid is a reasonably good fit, but I wouldn’t try to turn it upside down while there’s water in the pot.
Update re the lid: On the final version, the version now for sale in the US, there are two sort of stretchy rubber band things to keep the lid on. See photo below. I’m all in favor of it. I hate it if the lid falls off when I’m trying to pour.
Note also that they’ve changed the overall color to yellow instead of green on the final version. Honestly, I think I liked the green better, but this isn’t a fashion contest, now is it?
“Legs” and “Feet”
The stove base comes with legs and feet. The legs rotate out to give the stove stability when in use or rotate in for packing up. The burner has a safety: The fuel won’t flow unless the legs are rotated out and locked into position.
At the tip of the legs is a rubber “foot.” The rubber is a nice, grippy material that would allow one to operate safely on uneven or sloping surfaces. I don’t recommend cooking at the angle shown in the below photo, but with these grippy feet, you could do it.
The pot could hold one liter if you filled it to the brim. Filling the pot to the brim is of course neither practical nor safe. NEVER let a pot boil over onto a gas stove. The boiling hot water could cause a sudden surge in gas pressure that could cause a stove to malfunction. Let’s see. Highly flammable gas near a burning flame and you’re going to suddenly boost the pressure way, way up. Hmm. That just doesn’t sound like a good idea, now does it? NEVER let a pot boil over onto a gas stove.
Kovea adds a “MAX SAFE FILL” line at the half liter mark. I think that’s overly conservative. A careful person could get along fine with 750 ml in the pot, but note that I said a careful person. You want to keep your eye on the stove and not leave the stove alone while it is on.
OK, so how much does this thing weigh? But wait. Remember that there’s no canister. The smallest canisters weigh 100 g/3.5 oz empty. So, for comparison purposes, add 100 g/3.5 oz to any stove you compare the EZ Eco to.
With that in mind, below is a table of weights. The total is 773 g/27.3 oz. Ouch. Even if you deduct 100 g/3.5 oz to make a true comparison (to a stove that you have to take a canister along with), that’s still on the heavy side. But just a couple of painless tweaks drop that down a bit: Leave the little cup and HX cover at home. Those are the obvious things to leave behind. That drops things a few ounces. The bag is a nice bag, but a plastic grocery store bag will keep things together nearly as well. Drop the cup, bag, and HX cover, also deduct 100 g/3.5 oz for the canister that you don’t have to carry, and you’ve dropped to 561 g/19.8 oz, a far more tolerable weight. You could also leave the lid behind and just carry some double folded aluminum foil, but that’s a bit too much hassle for me.
When comparing to other stoves, deduct 100 g/3.5 ounces for the canister you don’t have to carry.
Note: The above weights were measured by me on my scale at home in grams. Weights stated in ounces are based on a conversion factor of 28.349523125. Rounding errors may occur. If any apparent conflict in weights exists, weights measured in grams should be considered the more reliable. The above weights may vary from the manufacturers stated weights, but in this case, the manufacturer’s stated weight of 770 g/27.2 oz is reasonably close to my 773 g/27.3 oz.
Well, you generally don’t buy an integrated canister stove to make gourmet meals. Integrated canister stoves like the EZ Eco are more associated with fast boil times and efficiency than cooking ability. However, I found that I could do more than just boil water. I found that I had good flame control and that I could simmer if I wanted to, without the stove unpredictably blowing out. That’s more than can be said for some other integrated canister stoves.
Fuel Capacity – Is it practical?
The maximum amount of fuel that one can put into the tank is 27 g. The smallest backpacking canisters ever sold in the US were 50 g (for the old Rando 360 stove). The smallest backpacking canister sold today in the US is 100 g (Jetboil brand). A max of 27 g sounds a bit small. Now, the EZ Eco takes about 5 or 6 g per 500 ml (2 cups) boil, so that’s a total of about 5 boils per tank. Kovea claims that there’s enough gas for 6 boils per tank, but that’s under ideal conditions. I think 5 is a much more realistic estimate, and if it’s really windy, 4. Maybe it’s 6, but for the purposes of this article, let us assume 5 boils of 500 ml of water per full internal tank of gas for the EZ Eco.
Solo weekend trip
Now, for a solo person out for a weekend, that number of boils actually might suffice. Most backpacking meals take about 500 ml of boiling water to reconstitute. If a solo person went out Friday night, had a hot supper, had a hot breakfast the following day, had another hot supper in the evening, and finally a hot breakfast on the last day, that’s four boils of about 500 ml each. Four boils might well be sufficient, and remember you’re going to get about five out of a tank, so you could even throw in a cup of coffee or two. Most hikers just eat cold lunches on the go, so this is a realistic and workable amount of fuel for a soloist for a weekend. It’s not generous, but it’s workable if you pay attention to what you’re doing and know the basics of stove fuel economy.
Longer trips, trips with a partner or group
OK, for a soloist for a weekend, it’s reasonably workable.
But for a longer trip? No.
For two or more people? No. Not for a full weekend at least.
Now, for two, it might be OK for a single overnighter (leave Saturday, come back Sunday), but not for a full weekend (leave Friday, come back Sunday).
I would think that the stove really needs at least a fuel capacity of 50 g and preferably 100 g. A 100 g fuel capacity would last a soloist easily for a week, including “extras” like coffee and tea. A 27 g fuel capacity simply will not.
Day use/Short overnighters
I think the best use might be day trips or short overnight trips (like a full-weekend solo trip or a single overnighter trip for two). This is a somewhat limited use for a stove with MSRP of $150 – but see the following two sections before you write it off.
“Hikin’ Jim, you big dummy; the fuel capacity is no problem at all. 90+ percent of my backpacking trips are only for a weekend, and I can just suck it up and carry a canister once in a while for a longer trip.”
Yes, you could do that. That’s a perfectly manageable work-around. You do however have to carry the weight and bulk of both the canister and the stove’s tank. Some people may find this (carrying a canister occasionally) a good way to make this really nice stove system work for them.
The “True” Price
Priced at $150, the MSRP of the Kovea EZ Eco Stove sounds a little high compared to other regulated integrated canister stoves. For example, a Jetboil MiniMo is typically around $135 to $140, and the MSR Windburner is $140. However, if you save $4.00 for every 8 ounces (227 g) of fuel you buy, that price differential quickly evaporates. In other words, the true price of an EZ Eco is actually lower than stoves with a smaller price tag. Over the life of the stove, the EZ Eco is less expensive than other stoves simply because one can save so much on fuel.
Now, of course, this assumes that 8 ounce butane cans are available in your area for $2. Sometimes, I’ve seen them for $3 in which case you’d still be buying gas at half off, but your savings would be reduced. If you do a lot of hiking and camping, you might look into buying a 12 pack of cans. I’ve seen them for as little as $1.65 each when bought in a 12 pack. You could always split the pack with friends, members of an outdoors club, or a Scout troop.
Summary – The Kovea EZ Eco
What’s good about it?
- No canister to hassle with. Safer for younger hikers since they don’t have to hook up a fuel supply.
- Cheap fuel
- Makes use of half empty canisters (or avoids them altogether in the first place)
- Good build quality, well executed
- Easy controls
- Excellent feet, good stability, good grip
- No threads to strip, ever.
What’s not so good about it?
- Limited fuel capacity. One must still carry a canister on longer trips or with partners or groups.
- A bit on the heavy side, but deduct 100 g/3.5 oz for the canister you don’t have to carry.
- Price may be a bit high – but make sure you factor in the cost of fuel before making that determination (you save about $4 for every 8 ounces/227 g of fuel purchased).
- The little drinking cup is of limited capacity and therefore of limited value.
Thanks for joining me on yet another Adventure in Stoving,
Disclosures: The stove in this review was provided at no cost to me by Kovea with the understanding that I would review the stove as I saw fit, in other words, with no restrictions or preconditions. I have reviewed the stove accordingly. Kovea has taken no action to try and sway my opinion in any fashion although I must admit the offer of a lifetime supply of kimchi was mighty tempting. Mmm. Good thing they didn’t offer me Korean BBQ or I’d never write another objective review again, ever. Man! Is that stuff ever good.