Gas canisters

Hi. Looking at the different brand and mixtures of gas canisters available are the more expensive canisters more sufficient? Does different mixtures really make such a difference? I.e MSR vs Eiger.

As far as I understand the differences should be minimal. They should all meet the EN standards physically, so have very similar construction and design. Though I don’t know if quality control is included in that.

The difference seems to be in the propane/butane or iso-butane ratio, with the major impact being how well it operates at lower temperatures and higher altitudes. Higher propane ratio mixtures tend to perform better bellow 10c but suffer from more canister fade as they are consumed. The higher quality cannisters seem to use iso-butane which is better at lower temps but more expensive.

I’ve so far had no problem with the Eiger canisters, I use the larger ones and the cheaper cooking ones (Tall ones, way more butane, like 95% but cheap) to refill the small and medium sized canisters for hiking. The Eiger ones claim to be 25% propane, 75% butane, which is the same ratio as the MSR just not using iso-butane. For SA’s general temp range I feel things like your stove, pot and the wind are going to have way more of an impact than the canister. I guess it depends if the worry is efficiency vs safety/quality? Have never had any issues with the cheaper brands, so can’t speak to that.

Adventures in Stoving has got to be the nicest site on this topic. Also he has a great gas usage estimator that has been handy for longer trips.

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Can confirm Jaxz statements above.

Have used a wide variety of cannisters and you really only start to see a difference when the temperatures drop to zero. However, I’ve used the cheaper brands in the Drakensberg at -10 Deg C without issues.

The one thing I would advise you to do, regardless of brand, is to get legs for your cannister. Besides increasing the surface area and making your whole cooking setup more stable (there is few things as bad as tipping over your pot and spilling your water over everything, and then the realization hits you that you now have to trek another 2km’s to get more water!!!), it also lifts the canister off the ground.

Why is this important? Because the ground (or any solid object for that matter) is always colder than the surrounding air, meaning that you will find that you battle to get gas out of the canister when it is resting on a rock or in the sand when it is cold, whereas you should have no such issues when using the stabilising legs. Alternatively you can place the canister on grass if there is some available, just make sure you balance it properly - trust me on this one, I speak from experience :slight_smile:

Enjoy!!!

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I have been using the Cadac canisters for some years now without problems. Using them in the Cederberg in winter and Drakensberg in summer posed no material problems. Good bang for your buck too. Not sure about the propane / butane ratio and will read up on it.

Agree on the canister support legs! I’ve got a orange plastic set from Cape Union make me feel a lot happier with my stove overall. Also giving it a wider distributed base means it is easier to get level on a bad surface.

Thanks for all the input. Basically different mixtures etc only makes a difference in higher altitudes/ cold temperatures with no difference in performance in normal altitude and temps.

All backpacker canister fuels are liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The key difference between them are their vapor pressures as their stored energy is relatively similar. The article posted by Jaxz has a very detailed explanation about this.

Vapour pressure indicates the evaporation rate of the gas (liquid to gas) at a specified temperature. If you have ever shaken a fuel canister, you would have noticed that it contains liquid, the liquid evaporates and supplies the burner with gas. The rate at which the gas is supplied to the burner relates to the vapour pressure of the gas at the operating temperature.

At temperatures above approx 10Deg the vapour pressure is not a concern and all gas mixtures will have very similar performance. At extremely cold temperatures there is a substantial performance reduction of some gas mixtures.

  • N-Butane (Normal Butane)

Has the lowest vapour pressure of all gas canister mixtures. At temperatures below 0deg it stays a liquid and does not evaporate. Hence there is no gas that can be supplied to the burner. At temperatures just above freezing the evaporation rate (supply) will be far less than that required by the stove (demand) and the stove will sputter.

  • Propane

Highest vapour pressure of camping gas mixtures. Only a liquid below -42Deg and will therefore have better performance at lower temperatures. BUT it needs a thicker heavier canister for storage and therefore it is not used in its pure form for these lightweight canisters.

  • Isobutane

Preferred canister fuel. Liquid below -12Deg. Lower canister pressure than Propane and therefore lighter weaker canisters can be used.

Now it should be noted that the boiling temperatures I discussed above are at sea level (0m ASL). However elevation does not influence the performance of gas canisters, with higher elevations comes lower temperatures and therefore reduced performance. Hence the fact that higher elevation influences canister performance due to a drop in atmospheric pressure is a myth.

So now to compare brands:

  • MSR isopro – (80% Isobutane/20% Propane)
  • Jetboil – (Isobutane/Propane)
  • Eiger (75% N-Butane/25% Propane)
  • Cadac (N-butane/Propane)

Isobutane is more expensive that N-butane. Hence the price difference between MSR and eiger for instance. But extreme cold temperatures will influence the performance of the cheaper brands. Therefore for colder temperatures I would advise using fuel with Isobutane rather than N-butane.

As Riaang noted putting a canister on a stand will improve the performance there-off. Another neat little trick is to immerse the canister in water.Gas canisters cool down during use due to some interesting thermodynamic principles. This cooling and the ambient temperature therefore influences the performance. If you immerse the canister in luke warm water during cooking, heat exchange will take place and the canister will remain at a higher temp.

Also buying a stove with a pressure regulator will increase the performance in colder conditions regardless of the fuel mixture.

I use a MSR Windburner with MSR Isopro fuel and I can confidently say that there exist no stove (including JetBoil) on the market that will beat this combo in efficiency and boiling time at sub-zero conditions in the Drakensberg.

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