Chapter 52: How to Use an Isobutane/Propane Backpacking Stove

Using an isobutane/propane stove is easy. If you’ve been thinking of buying one, let’s talk about my ultralight favorite, the Litemax Gigapower Titanium Stove from Snowpeak.

It weighs just 1.9 ounces and costs about $60. Snowpeak’s small 110-gram fuel cartridge weighs 6.9 ounces full and 3.1 ounces empty. Fuel cartridges cost about $5.

The stove is 3” high and about 4 ½” in diameter with the pot supports fully extended.

The Litemax comes with a nice little carrying case, but it weighs 3/10 of an ounce, so I find it plenty protective to store the stove in my cooking pot with my matches, spoon, and kitchen towel.

You can save 1/10 of an ounce by leaving the protective cap of the fuel canister home. If you do toss it, just be sure to always keep trail grime away from the canister.

It also comes with a small metal tag that includes the model number and some other writing but has no function. If you’d like to keep it, that’s fine, but you might as well detach if from the stove and keep it with your camping gear.

Spread out the pot supports and extend them fully.

Make sure the small flame control handle is closed. When you fold it closed over the detached stove, it is usually in the partially open position.

Screw the stove onto the fuel canister. Keep the stove and canister upright when threading. Tighten securely, but don’t over tighten which will prematurely wear out the o-ring in the stove.

To light, turn the flame control counter-clockwise a partial turn, then light the stove.

The Litemax has a nice, even, flame pattern, and it functions very well from a full flame right down to a simmer level.

It’s quieter than most of the isobutane/propane stoves.

It functions well at high altitudes. I’ve used it at around the 10,000 foot level. It works well in cold conditions, too.

Cooking times vary by conditions, but the Litemax is fast. The small canister of fuel will last just over ½ hour according to Snowpeak. I’ve never timed it because I never cook on full heat. I’ve found with several of these types of isobutane/propane stoves that I can put the heat control at about half and get a lot more meals from a fuel canister. Cooking at a lower setting seems to add only a couple of minutes to the boiling time.

You can weigh your partially-used fuel cartridges and closely estimate how much fuel is left. A full canister weighs 6.9 ounces and an empty canister weighs 3.1 ounces. Use a permanent marker and write the weight on the canister.

Snowpeak recommends that you use only their fuel canisters, but others will work. That’s good to know, since the canisters can’t be sent by air, and there is a hazardous materials charge just for surface transportation. You often have to take what you can find.
Difficulty in finding fuel canisters makes isobutane/propane stoves difficult to use on the long trails like the Appalachian Trail and especially the Pacific Crest Trail.

Don’t detach the stove and canister while the stove is hot. It will cool down quite quickly, well before you finish your meal. You can re-attach a fuel canister as often as you like.

Snowpeak recommends that you don’t use windscreens because extreme heat can build up around the fuel canister. In windy conditions I’ve tried to keep the stove running at high efficiency by keeping some of the wind away, but making sure I’m not trapping dangerously hot air near the fuel canister. I’ve never had the canister feel hot to the touch.

The Litemax Stove from Snowpeak is ultralight, durable, and easy to use.