Flame On


I did most of the cooking, and I can remember reading the manual when we bought our first mountain stoves. They were these little blue, metal boxes, with; a tank, heat shield, needle valve, and small foldable arms to hold the pot in place. I hated those things because they seemed to have only two settings; off and full throttle, and the tank was less than an inch from the flame. It also didn’t help that we often misplaced the heat shield.

We each carried one—Brad and I that is, and we each carried a metal container of white gas—you know, the stuff they talk about on those big highway signs, that you aren’t allowed to have in your car when you're on a ferry, or going into a tunnel, or over a bridge, etc.

Over the years we tried different stoves, none that I really cared for, and anyway there were other more important factors to think about, like weight. Anything with lots of built-in safety, probably weighed a ton.

We never let the “Rangers” use the stoves because of the following instructional information.

In operating a white gas stove there are two possible hazards to understand and avoid.

First, white gas must not be spilled near flame. White gas ignites easily and burns fiercely. Probably three-quarters of all stove accidents result from spillage of fuel. Good to know, I guess.

Second, the fuel tank must not be allowed to overheat. For the stove to run properly, the fuel tank must be warm, even moderately hot, but if it grows too hot to touch, vapor pressure inside will build to dangerous levels. Should the pressure become extreme, it will force open a spring-loaded safety valve in the tank lid and send a stream of vapor into the air. This stream is more than likely to catch fire from the burner, turning your stove into something like a blowtorch. (So why do they call it a “safety valve”? Because without it, the stove will explode; a blowtorch is much easier to handle than a bomb.)