A good winter camping stove should be stable and have a large pot that you can use to melt snow for drinking. It should be powerful enough that you do not need to spend unnecessary long periods of time waiting of your water to boil.
Heat output is related to a fuel’s energy value, and gas/multi-fuel stoves are the only stoves that truly work in the winter. Gas and kerosene, the latter of which is the most common, are also relatively cheap and can be found anywhere – even in other countries. Gas stoves that use mixtures of propane gas and butane do not perform well in cold temperatures, partly because the two gases separate and the propane gas, which is the more volatile of the two, burns up first. Methanol stoves with alcohol burners have relatively worse heat output and require a lot of fuel, which makes them less suitable for winter use.
How you handle your stove will determine how well it functions, so the two of you should develop a really close relationship. No matter how modern it is, you must understand how it works, what kind of pre-heating it requires, etc. Stoves quickly stop working if they are not handled properly, which can be a matter of life and death on a winter trek. However, if you take good care of your stove and learn how to use it properly, it will offer you excellent reliability in return. Practice at home - take it on a day trip, make coffee for your friends - and take any and all opportunities to become a master at using your stove.
Ventilation is important!
When preparing food, you should always place your stove on a stable surface, for example a sheet of masonite, so the pan does not tip. Make sure there are no flammable items close by – real down jackets, tent walls, sleeping bags, etc. Also, remember not to touch the metal parts of your stove with your bare hands, since this can cause frostbite. If you have to prepare the food inside the tent:
• Start by digging a hole in the snow in the vestibule.
• Make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
• Keep a close eye on the stove, never let it out of your sight.
• Drowsiness is a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. If there are several of you, watch each other carefully. If you are alone, you should avoid using the stove inside the tent if at all possible.
One sign of high carbon monoxide levels is that the flame on the stove will start to pulse and “puff”. If you see this happening, you should immediately turn off the burner and open the tent to air it thoroughly.
Did you know that… Cold food and drinks can cause stomach pain and contribute to hypothermia. The best way to keep drinks and food warm is in a thermos.