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IR: Vargo Decagon Stove - Derek Hansen

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  • Derek Hansen
    ... Respectfully submitted, ~derek # # # Vargo Decagon Titanium Stove Test Series by Derek Hansen * Initial Report: 01 Mar 2008 * Field Report: Available by
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 1, 2008
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      Sorry for the delay. Please see the following URL:

      > http://tinyurl.com/24fv4f

      Respectfully submitted,

      ~derek

      # # #

      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

      TESTER INFORMATION

      Name: Derek Hansen
      Age: 32
      Gender: Male
      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

      BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

      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.

      PRODUCT INFORMATION

      Manufacturer: Vargo Outdoors, LLC
      Year of Manufacture: 2007
      Manufacturer’s Website: www.vargooutdoors.com
      MSRP: US$29.95
      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

      Listed Dimensions:
      * Base: 4.25 in (10.8 cm) diameter
      * Height: 1.25 in (3.17 cm)
      * Main Canister: 2.25 in (5.72 cm) diameter

      Measured Dimensions:
      * 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††
      1 oz
      (30 ml)
      16 oz
      (473 ml)
      03:32
      ~18 min
      203 F (95 C)
      19:29
      23:01
      Outdoors
      1 oz
      (30 ml)
      16 oz
      (473 ml)
      03:11
      ~18 min
      203 F (95 C)
      19:59
      23:10
      Indoors
      0.5 oz
      (15 ml)
      8 oz
      (237 ml)
      02:20
      ~9 min
      176 F (80 C)
      13:18
      15:38
      Outdoors
      0.5 oz
      (15 ml)
      8 oz
      (237 ml)
      02:30
      ~9 min
      181 F (83 C)
      10:51
      13:21
      Indoors
      1 oz
      (30 ml)
      16 oz
      (473 ml)
      00:27‡‡
      ~16 min
      200 F (93 C)
      22:37
      23:00
      Indoors
      1 oz
      (30 ml)
      16 oz
      (473 ml)
      00:20‡‡
      ~16 min
      203 F (95 C)
      22:40
      23:00
      Indoors

      * = 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
      extinguished itself.
      ** = 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.

      PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

      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
      in colour.

      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
      container.”

      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).


      INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

      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
      altogether.

      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
      ground.

      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!

      TESTING CONDITIONS

      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
      * Durability
      * Packing and Storing
      * Performance and Cooking

      REMARKS

      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
    • Coy
      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
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 1, 2008
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        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


        --- In backpackgeartesters@yahoogroups.com, Derek Hansen
        <derek.hansen@...> wrote:
        >
        > Sorry for the delay. Please see the following URL:
        >
        > > http://tinyurl.com/24fv4f
        >
        > Respectfully submitted,
        >
        > ~derek
        >
      • Derek Hansen
        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
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 2, 2008
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          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
          getting ready...

          Best,

          ~derek

          --- In backpackgeartesters@yahoogroups.com, "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
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