The Tale of Two Stoves

The Tale of Two Stoves

I don’t know what I was thinking. A week earlier I had somehow managed to convince baggage security at Tokyo airport that my Trangia alcohol stove was OK to fly. As such I didn’t have any concerns about getting it back from Sapporo to Tokyo. If it can fly one way, certainly it can fly two.

After two hours of “testing” at Shinchitose airport, security couldn’t decide if there was alcohol in the stove and classified it unsafe to fly. My Trangia was not going to get back on the plane. Security confiscated it, took my details, and suggested that I might get it back.

I had plans to hike the weekend I was getting back from Sapporo. With no other stove options, I looked into how I might be able to improve my cooking kit.

When it comes to cooking on the trail I really only have two requirements:
1. heat water
2. cook oatmeal

Everything else is just a variation on the same two requirements.

While looking for a new stove I considered a few options. Evernew and Vargo both make titanium alcohol stoves. However, neither of them have a screw top like the Trangia, which prevents carrying a “burn in the chamber.” It also makes it hard to conserve unused fuel. I also wasn’t completely convinced that alcohol fuel was the way to go this time around.

In the end I found, and decided to try, a relatively inexpensive gas stove sold under the brand of Soomloom. However, it turned out to be a BRS Ultralight Gas Stove.

Burner_04

The day after my BRS arrived I got a package in the mail. The airline sent me back my Trangia. This gave me an excellent opportunity to test these two items head to head.

Trangia solo vs BRS Ultralight Burner

Round One – Weight

This is a pretty important metric when looking at camping equipment. I wouldn’t call myself an ultralight hiker, but I am conscious of the decisions I make and the weight that I am adding to my pack. In looking at the weight, I added every item that I would need to use the item for cooking. I recognise that there are lighter options that could be swapped out, but this is the gear that I use…

The Trangia set requires the following items when I am cooking with it:
– Trangia solo stove with simmer ring and lid (110g)
– Fuel: 500ml Trangia bottle (513g)
– Wind screen: Vargo Titanium Hexagon (147g)
Total: 770g

Trangia_01

The BRS set doesn’t require a wind screen, so it only consists of the stove and the fuel:
– BRS Ultralight Stove (26g)
– Fuel: Primus IP-110 (210g)
Total: 236g

Burner_01

At an incredibly light 26g the BRS is without a doubt a lighter setup than the Trangia. Even after the fuel is consumed the pack-out weight is in BRS’ favor. However, it should be noted that the Vargo windshield can also be used as a wood fire cage if fuel should run out.

Winner: BRS

Round Two – Boil Test

To test how quickly and efficiently I could boil water I set up a quick test. I would boil two cups of water in the same pot and see how long it took to go from room temperature to a roaring boil. I was using a Vargo titanium 900ml pot for the test.

Vargo_TiPot_900_01

In both cases the water started at 28 degrees celsius. I made sure to cool the pot between tests and used a cooking thermometer to track boiling temperature. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the results, but…

It took the Trangia an underwhelming 7:34 to boil, which I was genuinely surprised by. I thought it would take closer to six minutes.

If the Trangia boil time was surprising, the BSR was shocking at 3:08! Just over three minutes, and to be honest it might have been less. I wasn’t aware of the boil until I heard it roaring.

Winner: Without question the BSR took this round.

Round Three – My Oatmeal

I don’t camp without oatmeal, so if my stove can’t cook me up some oats in the morning then we aren’t meant to be.

In the past, the Trangia has never had any trouble cooking me up a pot of oats. Even without the simmer ring, there has never been enough heat to burn the oats, or to prevent me from stirring. The Trangia excelled, the BSR struggled.

While the pot sits fairly high over the Trangia when on the Vargo Hexagon, the three swing arm design of the BSR has the pot sitting only a few centimetres from the flame. This caused my titanium pot to get very hot. The size of the swing arms are only 3 cm long, which doesn’t create a very stable platform for a larger pot. As a result, I was constantly worried the pot was going to fall off the BSR arms, and whenever I tried to adjust it I was reminded of how hot it was. Even turning the flame down caused a hot spot on the pot that caused my oatmeal to burn.

Winner: Trangia

Round Four – Fuel

The Trangia burns a wide range of alcohol spirits, which makes it convenient for both backpacking and cycling tours. The biggest drawback is that the fuel is heavy, and isn’t very efficient. In Japan fuel costs about 350 yen for 500ml, and is readily available in most drug stores.

The BSR uses threaded gas canisters. These can be much more difficult to get in small communities or while on the road. As a result, you may need to carry more than one (or a large one) when traveling, and you might need to coordinate replacements and disposals. The Primus IP-110 cost me 450 yen.

This is a tough one to judge. The Trangia is easier to get fuel for, and depending on where you are in the world, may be cheaper. The BSR fuel lasts longer and burns stronger.

Winner: Draw

Round Five – Cost

Both the Trangia and the BSR on their own are fairly priced, and relatively inexpensive. The Trangia cost me about ¥2,500. The BSR was only ¥1,500. That’s about $25.00 and $15.00 respectively. However, the extras for the Trangia really start to add up. The Trangia fuel bottle is ¥3,000 and the Vargo Hexagon is ¥6,500. In the US these can be had for $20.00 and $50.00. Regardless of where you are buying, the Trangia, with or without extras, is going to be more expensive than the BSR.

Unless you need more than one BSR…

Winner: BSR

Round Six – Quality and Intangibles

The Trangia is a solid, well built, well designed, and relatively lightweight option. I have used mine for years, and have never doubted the quality. Made of brass, it’s solid. When mine was taken at the airport, I never really doubted that I would get another one. I also like that it burns quietly. I like that it allows me to take in my surroundings and reflect on the day that has passed, or the day that is about to begin, when I cook with it.

The BSR, although extremely light and titanium, feels cheap to the point that I feel anxious anytime I light it up. When it is lit, it burns loud! Disturbingly loud. The swing arms that are moved into place when used lock nicely, but feel like they could snap if too much pressure is applied. The small paper-clip sized dial also feels flimsy, and doesn’t really control the flame beyond cranked and low. Did I mention it was loud.

I have yet to use the BSR without also bringing the Trangia because I am worried the BSR is going to break down. This almost makes it pointless.

Winner: Tangia

Final Thoughts

For those of you keeping score at home, the BSR is up three wins, and a draw, against the Trangia’s two points. That should be a win for BSR, but I absolutely prefer and recommend the Trangia.

I feel that the Trangia is a better quality stove and has much better fuel options. Although the BSR is lighter, I feel the peace of mind that comes from the reliability of the Trangia makes it a much more enjoyable user experience. And it didn’t burn my oatmeal!

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