Iceland: Fuel and Stoves

White gas (Coleman Fuel) is hard to get in Iceland. Although we did find it, it tends to only come in 5 litre containers. Since we’d run into that exact problem in northern Sweden a couple of years ago, and ended up leaving the hut-shop staff with lots of free fuel for their own trips, we decided that it wasn’t worth using the MSR.

One of the Iceland crew did bring an MSR and we had some fun trying to work out how to get a pump to dispense a very small amount of unleaded fuel into it.

Another factor in my not bringing it was that I had one empty, dry MSR pump pinched by the nice people at Copenhagen airport on the way home once (must remember to wash it with detergent and put it in an OP Sack next time!). So I am rather wary of that happening at the start of a trip. Also, overall MSRs work out heavier than canister stoves.

My one objection to canister stoves was that I used to end up carrying more than one canister because I couldn’t tell when one was close to being exhausted. But with the arrival of kitchen scales it’s easy.

Weigh the canister when new, and write the weight on the bottom. Weigh it when back from a trip and write the weight on the bottom again. The net weight of the actual gas is given on the side so you can tell how much you’ve used for a given trip. From that, you can tell how long the remaining gas will last you.

Having read the excellent Carbon Monoxide related articles on BPL, the bushwalking.org Stove FAQ and the BPL Canister Stove FAQ I decided that since it was very nearly the lightest stove and it had extremely low CO emissions I’d go for the Snow Peak Tifrom a US based ebay shop: Camp Buddy. Though the current weakness of the pound probably means it’s as cheap to buy in the UK now.

All gas canister stoves warn of dire consequences if you use a wind-shield. Cooking without any kind of wind-shield seemed crazy to me but I thought I’d try it. We burned through 54 grams of fuel per 900ml of water (our standard drinks+food requirement).

So I made up a heat reflector and wind shield that fits around the burner. It’s made from the aluminium foil from the best Swedish Ostkaka available in the shops (just about my favourite dessert).I’ve also used a strip of stiff foil as a wind shield around part of the gap between the casing and the pan (not shown in the photo).
It’s more like an MSR set-up than a “normal” wind-shield since it doesn’t reflect heat back on to the gas canister.This is specifically what the manufacturers are warning against since heating a gas canister hotter than you can hold, means it might actually explode (that is the golden rule – if it’s more than “Ouch” hot then you’re in danger).

Ryan Jordan also came up with something similar.

With that in place we consistently only got through 18 grams of fuel per 900ml over the whole summer and in all kinds of conditions. It works as much as a heat reflector as it does as a wind-shield and is worth having regardless of how windy it is.

I found I had to make sure it had plenty of air coming in. Sealing it by running the strip of foil completely around the base of the pan (as Ryan Jordan’s version showed) would almost extinguish the flame. In fact any change in the flame from blue to orange should very likely be avoided. As Chris (one of the Iceland crew) observed, blue is an efficient burn and orange isn’t. Inefficient burning produces CO. CO can produce death!

For sparking up the flame I used my trusty old Spyderco Ladybug (the old model) and the excellent Mini-FireSteel that Ryan Jordan commissioned for the Arctic 1000 walk but that’s now in normal production from Light My Fire.

As for the gas, you can’t take it on a plane so it has to be found in Iceland.

We shared a cab (for six it worked out almost the same as a bus) from the BSI bus station (where you arrive from Keflavik airport) to the Kringlan shopping centre to visit a supermarket for food.

Whilst there we went to a rather large (but rather “high street”) gear shop for the canisters. We’d contacted the shop in advance and had them reserve some for us since we were unsure of whether the demands for gas canisters from six people might exhaust their supply. They certainly wouldn’t have done on that day.

Since we stayed in a hut one more night than planned and we double-dayed the last day we had gas left over. So we just left them with Thor at the Three Sisters Guesthouse as he said people were always happy for some free, half-used canisters. Easy.

3 Replies to “Iceland: Fuel and Stoves”

  1. Great information, only using 18 gms of gas for 900 mls (about a days hot water for me) sounds very good. I will need to try it before I head north in summer. I assume you use a cozy for cooking to further reduce consumption of gas.

  2. Ah – we did use a cosy but this posting was long enough already! I think I’ve mentioned in the half-written posting on the food though…

    We just heated the water to boiling, made tea or soup (breakfast/dinner) and then rehydrated either porridge or freeze dried food in the cosy.

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