Backpacking Stove Safety and Maintenance

When you use your backpacking stove, remember that you are using fire and you should follow the same safety precautions as when burning a camp fire. Additionally, following these simple steps for backpacking stove safety and maintenance will ensure your safety and that of the people and the environment around you.

Never use a stove in a tent. Tents, and the gear inside them, may be flame retardant, but they are not fireproof. Even if your stove seems stable, it will still tip over easily if bumped into. The fire on a stove will not go out if it is tipped over and will easily ignite any flammable surfaces that the burner comes in contact with.

You should always use your stove outdoors, on a flat surface, and on a fireproof base such as stone or dirt. Clear the area of any twigs, leaves or debris, and use a stabilizer, such as the MSR Trillium Stove Base, to level your stove if needed.

Refuel your stove in an area where any fuel spilled will be far away from where you will use your stove. If any fuel leaks, wipe it up immediately and keep fuel soaked rags in a sealed bag, away from any fire sources, until you can wash them.

If using a stove with an integrated fuel tank, like the Coleman Exponent Feather 442, where the fuel source can not be disconnected from the stove and sealed, you need to ensure that you pack the stove upright in you backpack. Even with the fuel turned off, these stoves can still leak if they are turned on their side or upside-down. This can result in all of your gear becoming highly flammable and you not having any fuel left in your stove for cooking.

Most backpacking stoves do not have an electric ignition meaning that you must light them with a match or lighter. It can be dangerous to stick your hand near the gas emitting from the burner to light your stove so you should either use a long-stem lighter like the Coleman Wind Resistant Lighter, or light the end of a small twig that can then be inserted into the gas. Always follow your stove manufacturer's lighting and safety precautions to avoid injury.

Be sure to check you stove for leaks or damage before and after every trip. Stoves take a lot of abuse in the field and it is not uncommon for small parts to get bent or seal leaks to occur. Most problems can be fixed with a maintenance kit from the stove manufacturer. If you encounter any fuel leaks that can not be easily repaired, have a professional repair your stove for you. Backpacking stoves can be very dangerous if not properly maintained and can lead to personal injury, forest fires or worse. Test yours regularly and never use a stove that you think may have a leak or damage.

Performing maintenance on a stove generally requires a maintenance kit from the stove's manufacturer. These typically include replacement o-rings and other small parts that wear out regularly. Most stove manufacturers recommend that you use a maintenance kit annually, but if you are not using your stove regularly or in harsh climate conditions, you may only need one every few years. If your maintenance kit does not come with lubricant, make sure to wipe the o-rings down with petroleum jelly before installing them as this will significantly increase their lifespan and keep them from drying out and cracking. By examining your stove for fuel leaks or damage before every backpacking trip (see above), you should be able to tell if you are in need of a maintenance kit. If you will be on a long trip, always bring a maintenance kit with you, just in case. Most maintenance kits can be applied in the field with simple tools like a Leatherman Multi-Tool. You may also want to consider buying a replacement fuel pump if available. This is the most utilized part on a stove and, if it fails, will leave your stove inoperable.

All pages on this topic:
Stoves | Backpacking Stove Reviews and Comparison - The Top 5 Best | Backpacking Stove Safety and Maintenance | Homemade Backpacking Stoves: The What, Why and How | Stoves vs. Campfires: And The Winner Is...
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