Pressurised gas has long been a popular for camp cooking being convenient and safe. Backpackers and other lightweight campers, however, have long appreciated the versatility and performance of liquid fuel stoves. These days, 'liquid fuels' usually means non-pressurised meths or pressurised multi-fuel. The fuel tank may be integral to the stove or attached via a fuel line with the fuel bottle being pressurised by a pump. The pressure applied is why manufacturers stress not using any old water bottle as an alternative to the stronger fuel bottles.
Paraffin-only stoves, once the backbone of camp cooking, are now collectable as the new breed of camping stoves can burn unleaded petrol, paraffin, proprietary fuels, diesel and, even, aviation fuel. Such multi-fuel stoves offer a great heat/weight ratio, are not affected by cold, easily available and cheap to run. You do need to pay more attention to the instructions and learn how to maintain and make the most of your stove but that is part of the fun of mastering a range of outdoor skills. By contrast, the meths stoves popularised by the Swedish company Trangia need little care and are so safe that they became the stove of choice for youth groups and schools years ago.
Pressurised petrol and multi-fuel stoves need regular attention paid to their components to ensure safety and best performance:
- Your stove’s instructions and maintenance kit will give you a clear indication of what to clean and what might be a problem.
- On a regular (but not obsessive) basis, clean all parts carefully to maintain efficiency, flame control and to avoid corrosion. Pay particular attention to the pump washers that ensure pressure can be maintained safely
- For cleaning, stoves can just be wiped down with warm water and washing up liquid but take some time to clean the burners and dry thoroughly before storing.
- Whether the fuel tank is integral or separate, drain it completely. Petrol left standing can deteriorate affecting fuel lines and potentially causing a build up reducing fuel flow. If you have nothing in which to store the fuel, burn it off as pouring it away is hardly a considerate way to dispose of toxic waste. Keep fuel as clean as possible by pouring it through a filter funnel.
- If appropriate, oil the pump cup on the stove's plunger with a light oil to help seal the pump against the inside of the compression tube so that it can be pressurised to deliver fuel to the burner. Replace dodgy-looking rubber seals and hose connections.
- Fuel lines, jets and needle valves collect deposits that, sooner or later, will clog your stove. Take care to clean them carefully. A pipe cleaner is a useful accessory to clean and dry awkward places.