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"You don't save grasshoppers by feeding them when winter comes; you save grasshoppers by turning them into ants." -- Jack Spirko.
"When grasshoppers get hungry they turn into locusts." -- LdMorgan

What stove[s] should I get?

Coleman chasing the darkness

I'll try to present each technology objectively. Pay special attention to the fuel columns.

stove comparison chart

billy can, open fire, wood stove or wood gas stove
Stove Fuel cost of stove weight of stove cost of fuel low-temp performance ease of use best for worst for
"Sportster" style:
Coleman 550B multifuel, 533 dual fuel.
coleman fuel or unleaded, kero on some medium, ~$50 heavy, ~32oz low good requires full attention hiking, BOB, feeding 1-2 people ultralight backpacking, feeding more than 2 people
Euro self-pressurizing:
Svea 123 series vertical stove, Optimus 8R/111 lunchbox stoves.
coleman fuel or unleaded high, ~$80 medium ~19oz low good, but requires priming requires full attention and willingness to perform pleasant rituals camping, feeding 1-2 people. Simplicity and durability. ultralight backpacking, feeding more than 2 people. Parts availability
Skeleton-type liquid fuel:
MSR Whisperlite Intl, Whisperlite, Dragonfly.
coleman fuel high, $80+ medium, 16oz low good requires attention expeditions abusive users, need to simmer
Minimalist screw-on-canister:
MSR Pocket Rocket, Superfly. Brunton Raptor, Talon. Coleman F1.
butane, isobutane, or propane medium, $50 very low, 2-4oz very high poor very easy ultralight packing, minimal cooking campsite or other heavy use cooking
Suitcase stove
Coleman 424 two-burner dual fuel
coleman, unleaded high, $100 very heavy, 160oz (!) low good requires attention family cookouts, campsite cooking, heavy cooking. Permanent cooktop. backpacking
Suitcase stove, propane
Coleman InstaStart PerfectFlow.
propane high, $60 heavy, 160oz medium good very easy tailgating, medium cooking backpacking, heavy cooking
Esbit esbit tablets, triox very low, $4 very light, 3oz high good very easy BOB, survival cooking or water heating windy conditions, anything more than very light cooking
Alcohol stoves:
Trangia basic, minitrangia. Liberty Mountain Westwind. Vargo Triad. Home-made penny, altoids stoves.
ethanol (denatured or everclear), methanol for jetted stoves. 70% Isopropyl not practical. free to low ($20) ultralight 1oz to medium medium-high poor; boiling points 147F (methanol) - 172F (ethanol) easy to use, may require assembly ultralight packing, roadside scavenging, silent cooking, dark cooking (blue flames generally) camping, more than light cooking
traditional fire wood,other combustibles Generally free. Can cook in open, or make billy can none to minimal free good if tended easy to keep going; can be hard for the untrained to start fire. long term situations in wooded areas, soothing to onlookers. windy conditions, treeless or picked-over areas. Areas where you don't want visible flame.
Stove Fuel cost of stove weight of stove cost of fuel low-temp performance ease of use best for worst for

my personal choice

I use liquid fuels: coleman fuel, unleaded, kero.

Why not propane or other compressed gas solutions? Here are my excuses for not going propane ("profane") even though the market is definitely headed that way:

  1. IMO liquid fuels will be easier to source in a disaster scenario. Fuel in your car tank is fuel for your dualfuel gear.
  2. Liquified gas fuels have reduced performance in the cold. Part of this is a relatively high boiling point like 11F for isobutane and 30F for butane; propane is the exception (lights fairly easily down to -40F). The other problem is that gases have reduced pressure when they are cold. And they get colder as you use them because the gas is decompressing.
  3. according to Coleman propane costs 5x as much to run as Coleman fuel and 10x as much as unleaded (for those models that can run the latter, using $2.50/gal unleaded). I don't know how they calculated that.

I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations here. I was surprised to see propane (in the bulk 20# canisters) is pretty cost efficient in a typical suburban scenario. Downside: hard to stockpile as canister deposits are $30-$50. Stockpiling other fuels is not an issue.
BTU per $1 spent for fuel
45,658 - unleaded by the gallon
18,200 - coleman fuel by the gallon 
16,483 - propane in 20# canisters (up to 20,000 with a good fill and aggressive price)
 7,912 - propane in 1# canisters
 4,125 - SLX denatured alcohol (apparently denatured with 50% methanol)
 3,562 - methanol (HEET) 
 2,787 - generic butane canisters, generally 8oz
 1,945 - isobutane canisters (MSR, JetBoil, etc in larger canisters)
   837 - ethanol (everclear)
   722 - hiking butane/isopropane canisters (ie, powermax)
   618 - Coughlin's hexamine (like esbit, just less $$$)
   450 - esbit (yellow flame, sticky, nontoxic)
   337 - triox (tactical blue flame, not sticky, toxic)
and by the pound:
21656 - propane
21165 - butane
18500 - coleman fuel
14220 - isopropyl (~90%, but difficult to use cleanly in stoves)
12926 - esbit / hexamine
12764 - ethanol
 9755 - methanol

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