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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Brasslite Turbo I-D > Test Report by David Wilkes

Images courtesy of Brasslite, LCCImages curtsey of Brasslite, LCC

Brasslite Turbo I-D

TEST SERIES BY DAVID WILKES
INITIAL REPORT – 04 July 2008
FIELD REPORT – 09 September 2008
LONG TERM REPORT – 11 November 2008
TESTER INFORMATION
NAME:  David Wilkes 
EMAIL:  amatbrewer_AT_yahoo_DOT_com 
AGE:  42 
LOCATION:  Yakima  Washington USA 
GENDER:  M
Biography:
I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I have usually only managed time for 1-3 trips a year averaging 2-5 days, and as many day hikes as I can. I am currently getting into condition to summit some of the higher peaks in Washington, Oregon, and California. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. My current pack is around 30 lbs (14 kg), not including consumables.

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Brasslite, LLC
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer’s Website: www.brasslite.com
MSRP: US$30.00 (stove) + US$20.00 (stand extension upgrade)

[From the manufacturer’s web site]
Specifications for the Turbo I-D:
Width of chamber and stand: 2 in. (50mm)
Width of Preheat Pan: 2.5 in. (65 mm)
Overall Height: 2.5 in.(64 mm)
Weight: 1.8 US oz. (51 gm) +
Fuel capacity: 1 US fluid oz. (30 ml)

The Brasslite Turbo I-D Alcohol stove is a lightweight backpacking stove made primarily of brass and based upon the open top “Cat can” or chimney stove design (open top and side vents). Based upon my research into alcohol stoves for backpacking, I have found there are two primary styles of alcohol stoves; ones that use an open flame and ones that utilize Jets (low or high pressure). The Turbo I-D is a variation of the open flame design.

Measured Weight (including extensions) : 2.2 oz (63 g) [measured on an digital Escali scale]
All other measurements matched manufacturer's specifications.



INITIAL REPORT


This test has had a bit of a rocky start; due to a mistake on my part the post office delivered the package to the wrong address, but told me it could not be delivered so it should be on its way back to the manufacturer, however they could not confirm this. Aaron at Brasslite worked with me and offered a replacement stove at wholesale cost and not charge me for shipping, and stated that they would refund my money if the original package made it back to them.  I ended up tracking down the original package and Brasslite is going to refund me what I sent them for the replacement kit.

Entire kitThe stove I am testing includes the optional “custom stand extensions” to improve its stability when used with larger diameter pots (more on that later). The web site indicates that ordering the stove with the extensions may increase the delivery time due to the additional shop time necessary to attach them.
My stove arrived along with a wind screen and fuel bottle. According to the Brasslite web page the wind screen and fuel bottle are not standard with the stoves but can be included as separate-order items. The web site also offers various combination sets that include a stove, pot or cup/mug, wind screen, fuel bottle and storage bag.

A description of the stove from the bottom up:
The preheat pan is attached to the bottom of the stove. It is a crimped circular brass plate (similar to a small partially flattened pie pan) attached to the bottom of a brass can (kind of like a cat food can) with 6 round holes (vents) around the bottom and a larger opening in the top (chimney). The ‘can’ makes up the main body of the stove and is constructed with a secondary inner wall to improve its performance. NOTE: the “D” in the nomenclature of this series of stoves annotates this double wall construction.
Wrapped around the can portion of the stove is a brass sleeve with notches on the bottom (matching the holes in the can) and a flat tab that extends out. This sleeve acts as a simmer adjustment. It can be rotated around to cover the vent holes in the sides of the stove and reduce the source of air, thereby reducing the heat of the stove.
Attached to the top of the can is a ring of stainless steel wire mesh to support the pot above the stove. The stand is comprised of three ‘Z’ shaped stainless steel rods slightly larger in diameter than that of the wire mesh. Each extension piece is soldered (by hand according to the manufacturer’s web page) to the bottom of the stove and the top of the wire pot stand. With the addition of these extensions, the overall diameter of the stove becomes 5 in (13 cm). The manufacturer recommends not using the Turbo I-D with pots that have a diameter larger than 5 in (13 cm) without the stand extensions. The manufacturer’s web site provides some very useful information regarding matching up the correct stove and pot size. After reading that the extensions are attached by hand I wondered if they might be uneven. However, after close inspection, I was impressed at how precise the extensions are. All three legs sit flat and my pot sits firmly upon it with no rocking or movement despite the bottom of the pot not being entirely flat (it is a bit misshapen from melting snow).
The stove is clearly well made and appears quite durable. Having only a single moving part, that is not only very simple but also not vital to the basic operation of the stove, suggests to me that short of being crushed there is little that can fail.
The instructions mention possibly needing to adjust the simmer sleeve if it does not rotate easily, and clearly explains how to accomplish this. The simmer sleeve of the stove I received worked fine and did not require any adjustment.
Animation of stove in use
 Brasslite offers a 30 day no explanation needed return policy, as well as a warranty against “structural defects” as long as the original owner owns the stove.

The manufacturer’s web page contains quite a bit of useful information ranging from selecting the right stove for the customers' needs, pot size recommendations, instructions on making pot cozies, as well as other products and links to other sites and DIY instructions (including instructions to make some of the discontinued models of Brasslite stoves). The web site, along with having a link to obtain a copy of the operating instructions, also contains a very descriptive set of images (see animation to left) showing the II-D model (larger version of the I-D that I am testing) in action along with warm and cold weather priming options.

Documentation and Instructions:
The documentation includes the reasonable warnings about how you are playing with fire and should take appropriate precautions, with specific instructions not to over fill the stove or use it with fuels other than what is recommended. Basically the all too necessary “look I told you to be careful & most of this is common sense, so please don’t try to sue me if you do something foolish” sort of stuff. It also strongly recommends not attempting to refill the stove while lit.
The documentation covers information on the use, construction and modification of windscreens, acceptable fuels, as well as stove tips and cleaning instructions. The documentation I received with the stove is the same as what I found available on the Brasslite web site.
The lighting and usage instructions, while mostly obvious, are well worded and easy to follow. They however do include some information on the operation of the simmering sleeve (see below) that unlike most of the other instructions and warnings was not immediately obvious to me, and may have prevented me from accidentally dumping over a burning stove and pot of boiling water. I normally only read the instructions as a last resort, so this is something that I think should be made to stand out more from the other instructions.
To paraphrase the lighting and operating instructions:
1) Put stove on a flat non-flammable surface
2) Add fuel
3) Light
4) Cook
To simmer, after the stove has burned long enough to fully heat up, simply turn the simmering ring so it covers the holes as necessary to set the desired flame height (stove will be hot, so use a tool, or stick, not bare fingers!). The instructions state that the weight of the stove alone may not be enough to easily turn the simmer ring without tipping it over, so it is suggested this be done with the pot held firmly in place on top of the stove. This suggestion about adjusting the simmer ring while using the pot to hold the stove seems like a good safety tip that I am not sure I would have thought of myself.

Fuel
Since I am new to alcohol stoves, I have done a bit of research in preparation for this test. Along with the documentation provided by the manufacturer (with the stove and on their web page) there is quite a bit of information available online. From my research I concluded that I will initially try two sources of fuel for the stove due to their availability in my area and burning properties (little to no soot and high energy to weight ratio). Denatured alcohol (ethanol with a denaturing agent & other chemicals added) and Methyl alcohol (in the form of “HEET” gas line antifreeze).

First use
I had every intention to hold off lighting the stove until I had taken photos of the stove and accessories, but my wife had the camera and I simply could not resist. I put oz of denatured alcohol in the main chamber of the stove and lit it. I saw a bit of flame and then nothing. After a few seconds, I passed my hand over the stove and felt a bit of heat so I placed my 900 ml (30 oz) titanium pot containing 600 ml (20 oz) of water on the stove. After about 20 seconds, I assumed the stove had gone out due to me not priming the stove per the instructions, but when I placed my hand next to it I  could tell it was getting hot. In my excitement I forgot to start my timer so I do not know how long it burned, but by the time the stove ran out of fuel the water had gone from 77 F (25 C) to 175 F (79 C). Something immediately obvious is that the Brasslite stove with the extensions is very stable even with a pot full of water. This cannot be said of my homemade stove, and it seems more stable than my canister stove.
I also placed 1/2 oz (15 ml) of the same fuel in my homemade "Pepsi" stove (low-pressure jet style) and repeated the test. What was plain from this, and some subsequent tries, was that the homemade stove heated the water faster but also used up its fuel faster and required more fuel to bring the same volume of water to a boil.

Preliminary test plan:

Phase I – Controlled Environment Tests

Try out the stove under controlled conditions. Test and document setup & usage and note significant milestones in learning to use the Turbo I-D. Measure boil times in comparison to a White Gas stove and a pressurized canister stove. Evaluate fuel usage and estimate volumes necessary for actual field tests (since I have never used a alcohol stove in the field I want to get an idea of how much fuel I should have with me). Experiment with various cooking methods.
An important part of this phase would be to estimate the safety of using this stove in the field especially when in close quarters with flammable materials. I once came close to having a very bad experience while lighting a white gas stove on a pine needle covered forest floor. Since I try to practice “Leave No Trace”, not burning down the forest is kind of important to me.
Phase II – Initial Field Tests
Use the stove in actual field conditions but with minimal risk. Since I have not utilized this type of stove and expect to be trying new methods of back country cooking I will start by using it for low risk situations such as day hikes and short backpacking trips where a failure of this stove to perform would not be a major problem (such as having an alternate food source or a backup stove). During this phase I would like to compare the performance of this stove against my other stoves is actual field conditions. I will also be looking into packing and transport methods needed to adequately protect the stove when not in use.
Phase III – Field Usage
I will use the stove as my primary (if not only) stove for backcountry cooking. I will be looking for answers to questions such as how well does it perform (in different weather conditions: wind, cold, altitude, etc) and how well it stands up to normal usage/storage, how much fuel does it use, does it soot up the bottoms of my pot, etc.
Finally, the most important question; am I willing to give up my old stoves for this one; in all conditions, or just some? If some, which?


FIELD REPORT

Field usage:

Stove in use

  • Two-day trip to climb Mt Adams Washington (camped at 9000 ft / 2700 m) where I cooked one dinner and one breakfast using rocks in place of the windscreen. I forgot to pack the windscreen! The weather was ideal, sunny, warm and calm.
  • Three-day trip in the Cascade Mountains (5000 ft / 1500 m), where I cooked two dinners & two breakfasts for two people plus hot drinks. Weather was warm with only a slight breeze reaching us through the heavy wood and undergrowth.
  • Two-day solo trip in the Cascade Mountains (6500 ft / 2000 m), where I cooked one dinner, one breakfast and two drinks. Weather was cold (near freezing) with light rain and snow with light swirling winds where I camped.
  • In addition the above, I used aproximately 12 oz (355 ml) of alcohol, trying different lighting and cooking methods, as well as just getting comfortable with the stove. I used denatured alcohol as well as “HEET” fuel line cleaner (methyl alcohol) interchangeably and saw no significant difference in these fuels.

Field report

I have to start out this report by mentioning that I  have never eaten so well while backpacking as I have during the field tests of this stove. I normally stick to commercially prepared dehydrated backpacker meals, instant oatmeal (and similar items for breakfast), and hot tea & cocoa. I have been known to simply skip cooking and eat energy bars and fruit for an entire (short) trip. During these tests, I have discovered the joy of eating REAL oatmeal (more on that later) along with pasta, soup, and my favorite, cheese & spinach tortellini with parmesan cheese sauce! I had no idea what I was missing.
After using the Brasslite stove a few times at home, it was clear that my original plan of comparing the boil times for the various stoves I own would be of no value. This is not a stove I would use if I wanted to boil water quickly. The 15min or so it takes to boil 500 ml (17oz) of water is about double what it takes for my white gas stove, and far longer than the 2min it takes with my pressurized canister stove. However, while doing some research into alcohol stoves, I found some material on the relative energy density of various fuels. According to what I have been able to find, of the three types of fuel used by my stoves, the alcohol has the lowest energy density by weight. So my question became at what point would the weight reduction achieved by the Brasslite be offset by the weight of having to carry more fuel?
To answer this question, I boiled 500 ml (16 oz) of water with each stove, and calculated the weight of fuel expended. To keep things simple I used an assumption of each meal requiring the boiling of 500 ml (16oz) of water. Throughout this report I will use 500 ml (16 oz) of water as a standard serving size when calculating fuel usage.  I was able to calculate that it would take approximately 50 meals before the fuel efficiency of the pressurized canister stove is able to offset the weight savings of the Brasslite. It was obvious from the 1 g (0.04 oz) difference between the fuel used by the Brasslite and my white gas stove that it would take around 100 meals to offset the 100g (3.5 oz) difference between the two stoves. Since there are options available regarding the container for each of the fuels, I did not include weight of the container needed for the fuel in my calculations. There are simply too many variables involved and I did not have any empty canisters at the time. However, I could conclude that the weight of the pressurized canisters needed for 50 meals would likely be greater than what would be needed to carry the alcohol for the same meals.
It was obvious from this test that even on a two-week trip, cooking an average of three servings a day, I would still be carrying less weight with the Brasslite than with any of my other stoves.
During one trip, I realized I miscalculated the number of servings I would be making. I factored in four hot meals a day (cooking for my daughter and myself) but forgot about the hot drinks we brought (tea & cocoa). This mistake helped me realize an advantage of the Brasslite fuel dispenser I received with the stove. Being able to see exactly how much fuel was in the container allowed me to (with surprising accuracy) determine how much I would need to alter our menu (skip hot drinks for two meals) in order to ensure we would have enough fuel for the duration of the trip.

Stove on pan with windscreenLighting the stove

I tried lighting the stove with and without priming. I found that while I was able to reliably light the stove at home using a long kitchen type of lighter, and some success with a wooden match, it was very difficult to impossible to do it with a standard lighter or flint/steel. During my field use I found lighting it with a standard lighter or flint was not reliable without some sort of priming even in warm weather. I found it to be most effective when I used the Cold Weather priming method described in the instructions. However, I did come up with one trick while trying to avoid priming. After filling the stove, I dipped a short stick into the fuel, lit the end of the stick and used it to light the stove. This worked well in warm weather (I have not tried it in cold weather). I found lighting the stove in cold weather (near freezing) to be a bit more challenging. The cold greatly reduced the flame of my lighter and made it hard to keep lit, as a result it took a few tries to get the fuel in the priming dish lit. This surprised me, given how flammable alcohol is at room temperature.
I also found it took a few tries to get used to how long to let the stove warm up before placing the pot on it. I found placing the pot on the stove too soon could cause the stove to go out, and since the stove is so quiet, with the windscreen in place it can be difficult to tell if it is lit or not. I find myself removing the pot from the stove after a minute or so to make sure it is still lit.
While trying out the stove at home it was quite clear that it took a bit of practice to be able to fill the stove from the fuel dispenser without spilling some of it on the stove. While this works nicely for priming, at least once I spilled some of the fuel on the counter I was working on. Since I do most of my hiking in forested areas, where it is not reasonable to rely upon finding a suitable non-flammable surface, this presented a definite concern. I purchased a disposable aluminum pie pan, and cut out a circle of the aluminum slightly larger than the bottom of my pot. I placed this in my cook pot and formed it into a shallow pan matching the contours of my pot, and placed this under the stove before filling. Along with reducing the risk of igniting any flammable materials that may be in the dirt under the stove, this might also provide a slight improvement in fuel efficiency by reflecting heat back up to the pot.

The Windscreen

I pondered long and hard about the windscreen. I ended up wrapping the windscreen around the pot per the instructions, and then by placing two small cuts in the top and bottom edges, formed small tabs that I folded to hold the ends together[see image above]. I cut a larger notch out to accommodate the pot handle [see image of stove in use above], and folded over the corners to avoid leaving any sharp edges. Finally, per the instructions, I punched holes along the bottom of the windscreen on the side opposite the opening for the pot handle. I was not sure how many holes to use so I started with six. So far, this seems to work well. For storage, I fold the windscreen flat and store it with my plate/bowl (which also folds flat).

Simmering

Testing the Brasslite inspired me to experiment. I decided to see if I could take my favorite oatmeal backpacking. I absolutely love good oatmeal. While I can eat the instant stuff, I greatly prefer “real” oatmeal and have a particular favorite that requires (according to the instructions) 10min of simmering to prepare. My first attempt at cooking my favorite oats, while it came out a bit mushy, was promising. I added the oats to the water in my titanium pot, and after it started boiling, allowed the fuel to run out (about 3 minutes), I then wrapped the pot in a towel to sit for 15min. Attempts to simmer the oats in my Titanium pot were a complete failure. Even when I completely closed the vents as soon as the stove heated up, only used 1/4oz (7 ml) of fuel, and stirred the pot a few times, it burnt the oats in the center of the pot every time. The results tasted terrible and I cannot imagine being able to clean that out while in the field. I strongly suspect the combination of the very thin bottom of the pot combined with the very viscous nature of oatmeal is primarily at fault.
Aside from some slight discoloration of the metal from heat, I have found no indications of wear. So far, the stove appears quite durable.

Summary

Overall, I love the stove, and look forward to the next two months of use where I will attempt to expand my backcountry-cooking repertoire. I already wonder why it has taken me so long to discover alcohol stoves, and I am considering purchasing a larger version (Turbo II?) for when I am cooking for more than just one person.
The only down sides I have been able to identify so far are the difficulty in lighting the stove without priming, even in warm weather, and a slightly elevated fire risk due to spilling the fuel while filling, or tipping the stove over. There is also the minor issue of wondering if the stove went out after placing the pot on it due to the almost invisible flame and very quite operation. However, for me these are far outweighed by the advantages this stove offers over my other stoves for most of my backcountry cooking.




LONG TERM REPORT

Continued Use
  • Day hike up Mt Clemons (Central Washington) – 1 lunch
  • Night hike at Chinook Pass in the Washington Cascades – Hot chocolate for two
  • Night work in Central Oregon (two trips) – dinner for 1 on each trip
Lunch on Mt ClemonsSince the Field report, I have not been able to get in any backpacking. Therefore, the only use the stove has seen was to make lunch on a day hike, hot drinks for my daughter and me during a night hike, and twice to make dinner (outside of my vehicle) while working nights in central Oregon. I also took the stove on two other day hikes but did not use it.
On one of my trips to Oregon, I forgot to bring the windscreen but the dehydrated refried beans I was making did not necessarily need to be cooked, so I was not overly concerned. The weather was warm with a slight breeze and the only thing I had to block the wind was my vehicle. I ended up filling the stove with fuel 3 times, and still never got the 16 oz (500 ml) of water to boil.
On my night hike, we ended up making hot chocolate around midnight. It was quite foggy with very light snow, but no wind. The stove was easy to light (I used my flint fire starter) and worked perfectly.
When I made lunch during my hike up Mt Clemons the weather was rather unpleasant – windy and cold. I found a bit of relief from the elements by moving to the leeward side of a small hill and found a relatively level piece of ground that I could clear of flammable materials. I made what has become my ‘go to’ meal, Cheese Tortellini Soup. The windscreen did an excellent job of protecting the stove from much of the wind, and I really enjoyed the hot lunch.
I have never carried a stove during day hikes before. However, the Turbo I-D combined with my Ti pot is so light that I expect to continue bringing it along for some of my spring and fall hikes. I am planning to pick up a small container that I can use to hold enough fuel for 1-2 meals for these short trips.

While compiling this report I examined the stove to see how well it is holding up. The stove shows the discoloration from heat that I expect from brass, as well as a small amount of a white powdery corrosion in a few places on the stove. I was able to wipe most of the corrosion away with my fingers, but there are a few small spots of it inside the stove that I could not reach (if I really wanted to I could probably reach it with a cotton swab or something similar). This small amount of corrosion is normal for brass and does not seem to affect the operation of the stove. When I was in the Navy, I spent far more hours than I care to remember cleaning brass, but this was mostly for aesthetic reasons or for brass that was exposed to salt water. Since I do not really care to make my stove shiny, and I do not expect to expose it to salt water, this small amount of corrosion is of no concern to me. I suspect the primary cause for this corrosion is that I have at times packed the stove back into my pot while the pot was still slightly wet. In the future, I will take more care to avoid exposing the stove to unnecessary moisture.
The simmer sleeve has been difficult to move sometimes. The instructions that come with the stove (and are available on their website) explain how to adjust the simmer ring if necessary. I have not found it necessary to make these adjustments. All I have had to do to get it to move smoothly again is simply work it back and forth a few times.
While examining the stove for this report I noticed a small dent in the pot that I have been using (and storing the stove in). The dent is from the inside of the pot and exactly matches the extensions attached to the stove. For the majority of this test I have stored the stove in the pot wrapped in a cotton bandanna. On my trip to Mt Adams, we encountered a hiker suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. To help cool her down I donated the cloth my stove was wrapped in (the only cotton cloth I had) and so the stove made the rest of the trip down the mountain and all the way home rattling around loose in my pot. I expect this was most likely when the dent occurred. The dent is too small to have any effect on the operation of the pot, but it made me wonder how much damage could the stove have done to a pot with a non-stick lining? After the completion of this test I am considering bending the tip of the extensions back on themselves so that the pointy part of the wires can no longer strike or rub against the inside of my pot. To be perfectly honest, this has more to do with my innate desire to tinker than any real concern about the stove damaging my pot. It might actually make a lot more sense to simply use a strip of something like cardboard or thin foam to protect the pot and stove if I really cared that much. Maybe even something that could have double duty to protect the pot/stove and could be used as a pot cozy.

Summary
For several years I have used a white gas stove that has never let me down, and over the last two years I have been spoiled by a incredibly fast and simple (but relatively heavy) pressurized gas stove. So when I started this test I was unsure if something as simple and light as the Turbo I-D could possibly have a permanent place in my pack. One of the questions I wanted to answer was if this stove could replace one or both of the ones I already use, and if so under what conditions. What I have concluded is that for my warm weather trips where I will be cooking for 1-2 people, the Brasslite Turbo I-D will be my first choice. For solo trips when I want to go as light as possible, I feel the Brassslite is ideal. When I first started investigating alcohol stoves, I was unsure if one could be as reliable as the stoves I had become used to. While it is true that only time will tell, I am very confident that this stove will not let me down. Finally, the most important question: Would I recommend this stove to friends or family? The answer: I already have, and fully intend to continue to do so. I think the Brasslite is a first rate product.



 David Wilkes - Tester BackpackGearTest.org
This concludes my testing of the Brasslite Turbo I-D. I want to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Brasslite’s founder Aaron Rosenbloom for the opportunity to test this fine product, and exposing me to the joy of alcohol stoves.


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