IR: Vargo Decagon Stove - Derek Hansen
- Sorry for the delay. Please see the following URL:
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Vargo Decagon Titanium Stove
Test Series by Derek Hansen
* Initial Report: 01 Mar 2008
* Field Report: Available by June 2008
* Long Term Report: Available by August 2008
Name: Derek Hansen
Height: 5’ 10” (1.78 m)
Weight: 165 lb (75 kg)
Email Address: derek·dot·hansen·at·mac·dot·com
City, State, Country: Alexandria, Virginia, USA
I've hiked and camped growing up near the Rocky Mountains and
National Parks of Utah. I began serious backpacking in 2005 after
becoming a Scoutmaster for a local Boy Scout troop. Now, I overnight
camp at least once a month with two or three week-long high adventure
treks every year. I am venturing into lightweight backpacking and
keep my base weight under 18 lb (8.2 kg). I use a hammock year-round.
Manufacturer: Vargo Outdoors, LLC
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer’s Website: www.vargooutdoors.com
Country of Origin: China
Listed Weight: 1.2 oz (34.02 g)
Measured Weight: 1.25 oz (35.44 g)
Composition of Titanium: Atomic No. 22; Mean Excitation Energy (eV) 233
* Base: 4.25 in (10.8 cm) diameter
* Height: 1.25 in (3.17 cm)
* Main Canister: 2.25 in (5.72 cm) diameter
* Base: 4.25 in (10.8 cm) diameter
* Height: 1.25 in (3.17 cm)
* Main Canister: 2.25 in (5.72 cm) diameter
* Inside Center Hole: 1.25 in (3.17 cm)
* Jet Holes: 1/16 in (1.59 mm)
* Number of Jet Holes: 24
* Number of Holes in Base: 10
Listed Fuel Capacity: None listed
Measured Fuel Capacity: ~2 oz (59 ml)
Listed Minimum Fuel Capacity: None listed
Measured Minimum Fuel Capacity: 0.5 oz (15 ml)
Fuel Used: Denatured alcohol
Listed Burn Time: 15 minutes
Measured Burn Time
Measuring Conditions: I did some initial trials of the stove to see
how it would perform before attempting to take it out on a hike. For
the following measurements, I used a basic 3 cup (24 fl oz or 710 ml)
non-stick aluminum pot with lid.
FUEL WATER PRIME* BOIL† COOK TIME‡ TOTAL BURN TIME** CONDITIONS††
203 F (95 C)
203 F (95 C)
176 F (80 C)
181 F (83 C)
200 F (93 C)
203 F (95 C)
* = Time from lighting stove until flames came through jet holes.
† = Approximate time to reach the listed temperature. This
temperature was observed as approximately the maximum temperature
observed under these conditions.
‡ = Cook time is the time after stove is primed to when the stove
** = Total burn time from lighting fuel and priming to when the fuel
extinguished itself (see note on left-over fuel).
†† = Indoors: 70 F (21.11 C), no wind; Outdoors: 31 F (-0.55 C),
slight drafts of wind.
‡‡ = In a freak accident, I spilled some denatured alcohol onto the
outside of the stove while filling the center hole. When I lit the
fuel, the spilled fuel ignited around the outside of the stove. I was
amazed at how quickly this externally primed stove flamed up.
The Vargo “Decagon” Titanium Stove (hereafter “Vargo” or “stove”) is
a low-maintenance, single-component stove that burns denatured
alcohol. The stove is round in shape, contains no moving parts, and
is constructed out of molded or pressed titanium parts that have been
welded or otherwise sealed together. The manufacturer states that the
“stove was designed to withstand the abuse of being used everyday
while hiking for many months without fear of breaking.”
The stove features a “stability plate” which is about twice the
diameter of the main stove component that the manufacturer claims
“prevents tipping.” The term “decagon” may come from the fact that
there are ten holes cut out of the round stability plate.
About one inch up from the base on the side of the stove are the
flame jet holes. These 24 small holes are evenly spaced near the rim
of the main stove compartment and are 1/16 in (1.59 mm) in diameter.
Protruding from the top of the stove are three “bumps,” which are
used to raise the pot slightly above the stove flame jet holes (about
0.25 in, 6.35 mm).
The bottom of the stove is concave in shape, creating a “bowl” shape
where the denatured alcohol is stored. Printed on the bottom of the
stove is the “Vargo Titanium” label.
Packaging: The stove arrived strapped to a plain cardboard placard
listing the basic features, instructions and warnings. The package is
printed in black ink on recyclable paper. The stove is dark charcoal
Listed Features: The printed packaging claims the following:
* Easy to fill and empty
* 15 minute burn time
* Boils two cups (16 oz, 473 ml) of water in 5-6 minutes
* Stability plate prevents tipping
* Requires virtually no maintenance
* Strong and durable design
* Simple to use with reliable performance
Instructions: The packaging directs to “carefully pour denatured
alcohol into the center hole being sure not to spill alcohol.” There
is no mention on any specific measurement; that is left to the
consumer. After pouring the alcohol, “ignite the fuel by placing a
match at the hole opening.” The alcohol must heat up and vaporize
before it can ignite flames on the outside jet holes. Once primed,
“place pot on the top of the stove covering the large center hole.”
After using the stove, and presumably before the stove has burned
itself out, extinguish the flames by blowing on the stove. Unused
fuel can be reclaimed “by tilting the stove vertically over fuel
Warnings: Vargo warns to use only denatured alcohol. Other fuels,
such as white gas, kerosene, etc., will explode and cause serious
injury. Also, wait to refill the stove until after it has cooled.
Never use indoors and never overfill.
No mention is made on the fuel capacity of the stove.
Website Impressions: The Vargo website was often offline while I was
completing my initial report. However, once I was able to access it,
I was able to easily find the stove section and find the page listing
the stove. The website does not offer any more information on the
stove that isn’t already on the package. In fact, the website has
less information than what is on the package (as of 01 March 2008).
I have used other alcohol stoves before and I was pleased to handle
the Vargo when it arrived. It feels very solid and is visibly well
constructed. I noticed the stability plate was slightly bent on
arrival, but I was able to easily straighten it so it lay flat. The
stove is very light and lives up to the 1.2 oz (34 g) weight claim.
For me, there are three main limitations of an alcohol stove:
durability, burn time, and simmering. The stove already feels very
strong, and I feel confident this stove will hold up to any rough
treatment I may inflict in the field.
My initial testing has also shown me this stove has a very long burn
time, although I wasn’t able to duplicate the “one to two [minute]”
priming time under normal operating conditions, indoors or out. On
one indoor test, however, I accidentally spilled fuel around the
outside of the stove. This proved fortuitous (though clearly outside
the stated instructions) and shortened the priming time to under 30
seconds! I was able to duplicate this result under very favorable
conditions (indoors), but because there is no real priming ring on
the stability plate, I worry about duplicating this quick priming
method out in the field.
As for simmering, the Vargo seems to do pretty well. Other alcohol
stoves I’ve used require a “simmering ring” or some kind of cap to
cover some of the jet holes to lower the heat output. My theory on
why the Vargo stove burns so long with only 1 oz (30 ml) of fuel is
because the flames burn very low. After the stove primes, the jets
jump out and are very large intially. But after a minute or two, the
jets lower down—looking almost oxygen starved—and remain that way for
the rest of the burn time until they eventually putter and die
So far, I am impressed with how long the stove burns. However, I’ve
noticed that the stove cannot completely burn all the fuel. Even at
low levels (0.5 fl oz, 15 ml), there is about 0.08 fl oz (2.5 ml) of
fuel remaining inside the stove. There was no way I could find to get
the stove to completely “burn out,” so I attempted to reclaim the
fuel and drain it out of the stove as directed in the instructions.
My first attempts to get the fuel out of the stove were messy. With a
little practice, I was able to get a few drops into a wide-mouth
measuring cup, but the alcohol drizzles all over the stove and onto
the ground and pours out of multiple flame jet holes. I wasn’t able
to successfully pour the remaining fuel directly into my fuel bottle
(an 8 fl oz “old” water bottle). Doing this will take some practice
to reclaim fuel in the field, or I may just drain the fuel into the
In my initial tests, it was difficult to fill up the stove with fuel.
While there is a large opening on the top of the stove, the concave
fuel “cup” has a very small hole where the fuel enters the main
cavity of the stove. I could only pour a little bit of fuel at a time
and had to wait for the fuel to “drain” in through the porthole
before I could completely get 1 oz (30 ml) of fuel into the stove. It
will take some time to get used to this, or I may need to use an eye-
dropper instead of a cup for fuel pouring.
I also noticed that this stove produced fuel condensation on the
bottom of my pot while cooking. When I lifted the pot off the stove,
the fuel on the pot ignited in a flash and burned off completely.
This startled me! If I do want to extinguish the stove before the
fuel is completely gone, I will need to remember to check the bottom
of the pot too.
The last thing I observed in my pre-testing was that I could not get
the stove to get water to a real boil. At about three minutes I
noticed small bubbles forming. At five minutes I observed steam, but
even after 20 minutes, the temperature only reached a high of about
203 F (95 C). This is hot enough for many kinds of “backpacking”
recipes, but I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t get a
rolling boil, even with less water.
I am expecting testing conditions to be more difficult on a hike, so
I will plan my meal preparations accordingly. However, with such
long, low-heat cooking times, there are still plenty of meal options,
especially frying pan foods!
All testing will be conducted in Northern Virginia, with elevations
between sea level and about 2,000 ft (610 m). I have a busy schedule
planned with the Boy Scouts over the next few months where I will be
able to test the stove in a range of conditions leading up to Spring
and beyond. I will also add intermittent activities where I can
actually get some rest from the Scouts and enjoy backpacking alone,
and with friends.
I expect temperatures between 20 F (-7 C) and 80 F (27 C) during this
time period, global warming permitting.
I intend to evaluate the product on the following:
* Manufacturer Claims
* Packing and Storing
* Performance and Cooking
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to
this report in approximately two months from the date of this report.
Please check back then for further information.
Thank you to Vargo and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the
opportunity to test this gear.
Updated: Sun, Mar 02, 2008 at 01:17 AM
- Derek, I must say, the delay was worth the wait. I just read your IR
and I am impressed. I really like the drawing you did of the fueling,
lighting/priming and then pot on the stove. How did you do that - draw
it out then scan it? I also thought the thermometer in the water pic
was very well done. In fact all you photos are excelent and show what
you are talking about. I am anchious to get mine out for a trial run
but this weekend's hike was canceld which worked out for the best as a
few family emergencies cropped up that I would have missed.
--- In email@example.com, Derek Hansen
> Sorry for the delay. Please see the following URL:
> > http://tinyurl.com/24fv4f
> Respectfully submitted,
- Thanks, Coy.
My Leave No Trace "train-the-trainer" camp ended a little earlier than expected, so I was
able to get my report done a little earlier. I tried to submit before midnight, but alas, I
wasn't fast enough. Sunday will have to do.
This report series is a bit front-loaded with a lot of benchmarking. I don't think the field
and long term reports will be quite as long as I will be going off my benchmark results.
I'm glad you approve and I hope BGT doesn't fault me too much. :)
As for the drawing, I did that completely in Adobe Illustrator. Well, I did sketch some
ideas, but I didn't scan anything.
Speaking of family matters, we're getting our baby blessed today at church, so I must be
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Coy" <starnescr@...> wrote:
> Derek, I must say, the delay was worth the wait. I just read your IR
> and I am impressed. I really like the drawing you did of the fueling,
> lighting/priming and then pot on the stove. How did you do that - draw
> it out then scan it? I also thought the thermometer in the water pic
> was very well done. In fact all you photos are excelent and show what
> you are talking about. I am anchious to get mine out for a trial run
> but this weekend's hike was canceld which worked out for the best as a
> few family emergencies cropped up that I would have missed.
> Coy Boy