No “Liquid Fuel” Stove Works Like Your Kitchen Stove
You have to go through a process to light them, because they don’t actually run on liquid fuel: they boil their liquid fuel, then run on the resulting vapors. That’s because it’s difficult to directly burn a liquid fuel cleanly and efficiently.
But a cold, unlit stove can’t boil any gasoline, so it must be briefly operated directly (and inefficiently) on some sort of liquid fuel (typically its own gasoline) to heat it up to the point where it can boil its fuel and get running normally. The exact procedure varies a great deal from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer.
That only takes about a minute, and Coleman actually came up with one of the best such procedures, but it does still take a minute. You don’t just turn on the gas valve of a cold “liquid fuel” stove and have an instant clean flame ready to go. Worse, it looks strange to the uninitiated, who often tend to worry that the stove is about to cause a conflagration of explosion when in fact it’s just acting normally for a cold start.
This was not a surprise to me, but I figured I’d mention it, just in case some random person unaware of it happens to read this post.
The 425E Is Even Less Like a Kitchen Stove Than a One-Burner White Gas Stove
Not only is there a lighting process to go through, but the burners don’t operate independently of each other. There’s a main burner (whose heat vaporizes the fuel) and an auxiliary one (that piggybacks off the vapor made by the generator and main burner). For flame control, there’s a valve that controls the fuel going to both burners, and one that controls the auxiliary burner only.
If you want only one burner on, that has to be the main burner. If you want one burner on high, and the other on low, it’s the main that must be the one on high. Upshot is you often end up swapping pots around instead of (or in addition to) just adjusting the burner flame level.
All of Coleman’s multi-burner gasoline stoves are like this, not just the 425E. None of the above is a surprise, because I remember how my parents used such a stove decades ago.
It Does Simmer, and It Is Stable
The tippiness and the limited simmering ability of my one-burner Coleman 440 were the main motives for wanting an alternate liquid fuel stove.
No More Annoying Wasteful Canisters
What are the annoyances of propane canisters? Let me count them:
- There is no legal way to refill a canister. You throw the empties away.
- Recyclers typically don’t take the empties. They go in the trash, not the metal recycling bin.
- Don’t want to take a partly-full canister on a trip? Too bad; see point No. 1 above. Either suck it up and take it, or add it to your growing collection of partly-full canisters and take a new full one.
- A canister is a declining source of power. The emptier it gets, the worse its performance gets. Below 1/4 full, performance is seriously impacted if the temperature is below 50°F/10°C. Which of course is precisely when you most want a nice, hot meal.
I’m Still Keeping the Propane Stove
Why? Revisit the first two sections. White gas stoves intimidate many people, particularly when first lit. That’s a minus on group camp-outs, where you want something simple that won’t surprise or startle novice users. The other 95% of the time, however, I’ll be using white gas from now on.
All in All, It Seems to Be a Good Deal
For one quarter the price of a new one-burner MSR Dragonfly, and one-half the price of a used one in unknown condition, I got a reconditioned, known-good, Coleman two-burner stove. The Coleman stove was also approximately one-quarter the price of the necessary hardware (tank, hose, adapter) to run my two-burner propane stove from a refillable tank instead of those annoying and poor-performing canisters.
The only real downside is the vastly greater weight and size of the Coleman stove compared to the Dragonfly. Since I only very seldom backpack, that’s a minor issue, and basically countered by having an extra burner to cook on. I already have two stoves suitable for backpack use, anyhow.