When I set out to hike the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail in 2004, I thought I was smarter and more experienced than most people. I didn’t have tons of frivolous, heavy items like bird books, binoculars, or extra shoes. I carried just the essentials and one of those items was a white-gas stove and cook pot. A few hundred miles later I found myself, standing with sore knees, at a Post Office in New Hampshire mailing my stove home. It was too heavy and took up too much space.
A few months later, I found myself at the Post Office again, picking up the same white-gas stove that I had sent home. A person can only take so many cold dinners, sandwiches, and early coffee-less mornings. The stove had found its way back into my pack. What I’m saying is that, in our quest to go fast and light, sometimes we forget just how worth it a cup of coffee is when you’re deep in the forest on a cold morning or staring up from basecamp at your alpine objective. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the best of both worlds?
When Primus contacted DPM asking us to test run their new 2011 Expresslander Stove, I was skeptical. How many improvements can you make on the simple white-gas model I bought a decade earlier? Well, it turns out quite a few.
Firstly, the weight and size of the Expresslander is far superior to my old stove. The weight of the stove itself is 6.2 ounces. That’s about half the weight of my old 11-ounce stove. It’s also the equivalent weight of 3 Snickers bars to put it in perspective. Granted, that doesn’t include the weight of the fuel bottle which certainly adds a bit more. One of the things I like about white-gas stoves is that you can regulate the amount of liquid fuel you take into the backcountry with you. If you’re just going out for one night you can splash a few ounces of fuel in the bottle and stay super light. You don’t have that option with propane or Iso-Butane canisters.
The size of the stove is also pretty remarkable for a white-gas model. It folds up to approximately 4” x 3” x 2”, making it small enough to fit inside even the smallest of cook pots for convenient packing. Ok, so it’s small and light but how does it perform?
The stove is easy to use. In my traditional manner I decided to fire it up before reading the instruction manual. I poured some fuel in the bottle, screwed the pump on tight, popped the fuel line into the pump, pumped a few times, folded out the three stove legs and it was ready to go. It only took a few seconds to prep the whole thing. As with all white-gas stoves, you have to prime it and I particularly like the way this one primes. I opened the valve on the fuel bottle and let a bit of gas drip into a small platform with some wicking material. After turning off the valve, I lit the liquid gas and the hottest part of the flame was directed onto the fuel line. It only took a few seconds to vaporize the fuel, at which time I kicked open the fuel valve and it roared to life. The stove burns at 5200 BTU’s and boils a liter of water in about 4.5 minutes. That means, when it’s time to eat, you’re only about 6 minutes away from a hot pot of beans and minute rice! It also simmers well, which can be a hard task to accomplish with white-gas models.
Another feature I like is the orientation of how the pump and fuel intake enter the bottle. It actually comes in at an angle and the intake pulls fuel from the wall of the bottle. Why is this cool? It gives the bottle and pump two orientations that equate to ‘off and on’. When the bottle is laid in the ‘on’ position, the pump angles upward for ease of pumping and the fuel intake pulls fuel off the bottom of the bottle. When you flip the bottle to ‘off’ the fuel intake starts to pull air and the stove will burn off what’s left in the fuel line. That way, when you disconnect the stove from the bottle, you don’t drip white gas all over your hands, pack, food, etc. Pretty simple but a great idea. (the top photo shows the bottle laid in the 'off' position)
One thing that I can only speculate on is the durability of the product. My initial impression is that the stove is going to last a long time. Again with my old stove… It doesn’t work anymore. Too many plastic parts have broken from being jammed in a pack, car trunk, or closet. This stove is almost entirely metal and I don’t foresee anything breaking in the near future. If anything, I thought the legs of the stove might bend easily. I tried to bend it and, yup, it bent, so I bent it back and it looks brand new. I believe the only maintenance required on the stove will be lubricating the seals in the pump.
I also wanted to make sure that it was easy to clean the jet for maintenance in the field. Nothing is worse than a clogged fuel line or jet when you’re stuck above tree-line and can’t cook your pasta. Conveniently, the fuel line comes off with no tools required. A finger tight attachment where the fuel line enters the wicking platform gains access to the jet. The pump handle is also easily removed with no tools. Those are the important spots but if you had to dig deeper, it appears that the whole thing could be disassembled with a Leatherman type tool.
There are tons of stoves out there these days; white-gas, iso-butane, propane, alchohol, etc, and it makes it hard to decide which one to buy. To me, the white-gas models fill the niche of ‘all-around stove’ and the Expresslander sits at the high end of quality for this niche. It’s light and small enough to haul into the Wyoming backcountry for a week-long expedition to the Cirque of the Towers, and once you’re at base camp; it’s got the firepower to cook fast and in quantity. It’s equally suited for cooking in the parking lot of Miguel’s or bringing to the crag for a cup of hot coffee. If you’re looking to buy a great all-around stove for fast and light ascents or just pasta on the tailgate, consider the Expresslander. More info can be found at the Primus website including purchase info.