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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Brasslite Turbo I-D > Test Report by Peter Spiller

Brasslite Turbo I D

With Custom Stand Extensions

A Test Series by: Peter Spiller

Intial Report June 23, 2008:  Tester Information
Field Report September 3, 2008 Product Information
Long Term Report (November 11, 2008)



Tester Information:

Name: Peter Spiller Backpacking Background: I have been camping and hiking avidly since childhood.  In the last several years my passion for backpacking and kayaking has grown.  I am a Chapter Outing Leader for the Sierra-Club, I have trained in Wilderness First Aid, and am a staff member for a Wilderness-Basics course.  I enjoy solo backpacking and group trips.  I have an adaptable style that is fueled by my interest in backpacking gear.  I pack as light as possible when the situation dictates, but I am not against hauling creature comforts. I average 1-hike a week, and 1-backpack a month year-round.
Age: 38
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83m)
Weight: 190 lb (86 kg)
Email address: phspiller@cox.net
City, State, Country: La Mesa, CA U.S.
Personal Website: www.outsidesd.com


Product Information:


Manufacturer: Brasslite Braaslite Turbi I-D
Manufacturers Website: http://www.brasslite.com/
Model: Turbo I-D with Custom Stand Extensions
Measurments
With Custom Stand
Extensions
(Manufacturers):
Overall Height: 2.5 in (64 mm)
Overall Diameter (without extensions): 2.5 in (64 mm)
Overall Diameter (with Exensions): Not listed
Weight: 2.2 oz (62 g)
Fuel Capacity: 1fl oz (30 ml)
Measurments (as delivered): Height 2.7 in (69 mm) (with pot extensions)
Diameter: 5 in (127 mm) (with pot extensions
Weight: 2.25 oz
Model Year: 2008
MSRP: $ 50.00 (with custom stand extensions)
Manufacturers Description:
From Website: The Turbo I-D (1.9 oz, 51gm) is an adjustable, minimalist solo stove suitable for one person. It's designed to be used with cook pots having a maximum base diameter of 5 inches (12.5 cm) and a maximum capacity of 1 liter.



Initial Report:

June 23, 2008

Product Description


Turbo I-D StoveThe Brasslite Turbo I-D (also referred to as the stove) is a small, elegant, lightweight alcohol fueled stove constructed out of brass and stainless steel.  The stove consists of two concentric brass cylinders attached to a flared scalloped base. The external cylinder is perforated with holes near the base, and has a cover attached to the top with a larger hole cut in the center.  The inner cylinder is solid, and attached to the base but stops before the top of the external cylinder leaving a small gap.  There is also a thin brass sleeve surrounding the external cylinder with a small crimped handle, and triangle shaped notches cut along the bottom that corresponds with the small holes in the external cylinder.  By sliding the sleeve, I am able to manipulate the size of the holes, and the amount of air that passes through these holes. 

The top of the stove has a piece of stainless steel mesh attached to the top of the external cylinder and extending above the stove body.  There are also three stainless steel wires bent in a "Z" formation attached to the base of the stove body as well as to the top of the stainless steel mesh.  These wires are distributed evenly around diameter of the stove body and in conjunction with the mesh form what appears to be a stable pot stand.

The stove is capable of using several different types of alcohol including pure methonol (HEET brand auto gas-line de-icer), ethonol/methonol mixture (also known as denatured alcohol) and pure ethonol.  Isopropol alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and white gas are not acceptable fuels and should not be used.  For the puropse of initial testing, I purchased a can of denatured alcohol from my local hardware store.

In addition to the stove, the package delivered to me included a fuel bottle with graduated measuring marks, and a chamber to accurately dispense up to 1/2 oz (15 ml) at a time.  There was also a package containing an aluminum foil strip with instructions for converting it into a windscreen.
 

Initial Impressions


Top of StoveThe Brasslite Turbo I-D is a beautifully handcrafted stove.  I have a great appreciation for handmade objects, and the care that was put into the design and execution of this stove is evident throughout.  The stove is very close to the one pictured on the Brasslite website.  The components of the stove appear to be very durable, and I have confidence that this stove will continue to function forever.  The absence of any mechanical parts, and only one elegantly designed sliding part make this stove appear to be impervious to mechanical failure. The only minor quibbles I have with the stove are its weight, which is slightly heavier that I imagined, although consistent with the listed weight on the website.  I also found it interesting that the ends of the custom stand extensions were not finished after being cut.  The ends that extend out from the top still have the jagged cut from the clippers.  A few strokes of a file would smooth them right up.


Initial Use


Stove in UseI burned three 1 oz portions of denatured alcohol during the initial use of the stove at my home. For each of the burns I included 1/2 qt (500 ml) of water in two different pots set directly on the top of stove.  

For the first use of the stove, I measured two 1/2 oz (15 ml) portions of alcohol, and poured them in the top center hole of the stove.  I had some problem getting the alcohol in the stove without splattering a small portion on the outside, as the pot supports do not allow you to get close to the opening.  The splatter served to prime the outside for lighting (as indicated by the directions), and I lit the fuel.  There really was no sign of the stove functioning, as it is completely silent.  I was pleasantly surprised by the silence and was skeptical that is was burning.  I passed my hand over the stove, feeling the heat radiate from it, assuring me that it was operating normally.  A short while later I noticed that the alcohol in the stove began to boil.  It was at this time that I put the pot with the water on the stove.  During this burn I was not using a windscreen and there was an extremely mild but perceptible breeze.  The stove ran out of alcohol and ceased burning 14 minutes after I initially lit it. The water was just beginning to show bubbles on the bottom of the pan, and was very hot. I admit I forgot to put the lid on the pot until several minutes after I started heating the water, and it did not get as hot as I thought it could have.

I let the stove cool, and refilled the inner chamber with another 1 oz (30 ml) of alcohol.  I lit the stove and set 1/2 qt (500 ml) of water in a shallower pan on the stove, placing the lid on immediately.  The alcohol lasted for 14 minutes and 6 seconds, and the water was just starting to boil as the stove burned the last of the fuel.

The third test of the stove came after crafting the windscreen with the included aluminum material.  There are a set of instructions indicating that the windscreen does not come completed because of the labor requirements and the customization each person should do to fit it to the cookware they will be using.  It was not difficult to customize the windscreen to my stove and cookware, and only required a pair of scissors and a hole punch.  I added 1 oz (30 ml) of alcohol and poured it into the stove, avoiding much of the splatter by tipping the dispenser more carefully into the opening. I added a small amount of alcohol to the top and positioned the windscreen around it.  I lit the stove, making sure it was lit and placed the water on the stove.  During this burn the breeze was still mild, but stronger than the previous two burns.  The water came to a rolling boil at about the 10-minute mark, and the 1 oz (30 ml) portion of alcohol burned for 12 minutes.


Test Plan


The Brasslite Turbo I-D stove is the first alcohol stove I have ever owned or operated.  I have camped with individuals who use alcohol stoves and I am aware of their effectiveness. Previous to being selected to this test, I had a keen interest in trying alcohol stoves, and had researched methods of constructing my own.  I had some hesitancy about my ability to use an alcohol stove in the backcountry, but this is rapidly disappearing as I become successful at using this stove, and gain experience in its operation.

During the initial use of the stove, I timed the length of the operation of the stove using the maximum quantity of fuel suggested.  I also indicated the amount of time it took to boil water.  During testing I will not be timing the operation of the stove again.  These numbers are entirely subjective depending on a whole host of external factors of which I cannot control.  Instead I will concentrate my reports of my experiences with this stove as a novice user, and how it fits into and changes my backpacking style.



Field Report

September 4, 2008


I have used the Brasslite Turbo ID stove for 5-days over four different outings thus far.  All but one of the of the trips were at an altitude above 6000 ft (1800 m) and over 10,000 ft (3000 m) during one trip.  The weather has been consistently mild, with little rain, and typical warm summer temperatures.

Field Locations:


Silver Lake- June Lake loop Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California- 8 days June/July 2008

Elevation: 6772 ft (2064 m)
High Temperature: 90.2 F (32.3 C)
Low Temperature: 41.6 F (5.3 C)
Precipitation: 0.02 in (0.5 mm)

I used the Brasslight Turbo ID to boil multiple liters of water on two evenings for general camp chores while base camping at Silver Lake.
 
Twin Lakes- Mammoth Lakes, CA -5 days July 2008

Elevation: 8202 ft (2499 m)
High Temperature: 83.0 C (28.3 C)
Low Temperature: 44 F (6.7 C)
Precipitation: 0 in (0 mm) (while no precipitation was recorded, the location we camped received several seasonal thunder storms that dropped more than a trace amount of precipitation.

The Brasslite served to boil multiple liters of water one evening at Twin Lakes.
 


Heart Lake- Little Lakes Valley, CA- overnight July 2008 1-day

Elevation: 10,300 ft (2064 m) at trailhead
High Temperature (approximate): 80 F (32.3 C)
Low Temperature (approximate): 40 F (5.3 C)
Precipitation: trace amount (a short evening thunderstorm dropped rain for about 30 minutes)

The Brasslite stove was the solitary cooking stove during an overnight trip with three adults and one young child. The stove provided all of the hot water to hydrate meals and provide hot beverages for dinner and breakfast.

Three Sisters Falls- San Diego County, CA July 2008 1-Day

Elevation: 2800 ft (853 m) at trailhead
High Temperature (approximate): 90 F (32 C)
Low Temperature (approximate): 55 F (13 C)
Precipitation: 0 in (0 mm)


The Brasslite Turbo ID served as the only stove for two backpackers; providing hot water for dinners, evening tea and morning beverages.


Field Observations


brasslite in the fieldThe Brasslite Turbo ID alcohol stove has proven to be a reliable well made cooking instrument, that has worked admirably during field testing.  Once I set up the windscreen, and practiced a few times with all of the components in place, I was able to bring water to a boil every time I used the stove.   There has been no maintenance required during field testing, and the once shiny brass has taken on a nice patina with use.

As of this point I have relied solely on denatured alcohol as a fuel, and its performance has been reliable.  Boil time for 500 ml (16 fl oz) has been steady at about the 10-minute mark,  and a little less than 1 fl oz (30 ml) has been needed to bring  it to a boil.  Initial testing has shown the simmer ring works to change the size of the flame, although I have yet to try to use the stove to simmer a meal, as this is beyond my current interests as a backcountry chef. 

The Brasslite stove, like most ultralight equipment has a learning curve to make it an effective tool while backpacking.  It took me a half dozen trial uses before I began to get the feel for just how much alcohol it takes to typically bring a 500 ml  (16 fl oz) of water to a boil.  This is important, because if too much or too little alcohol is added to the reservoir, the water will not boil, or it will continue to burn for a long period after the water has boiled.  The stove cannot be refilled immediately after the flame goes out  (it must cool) and I found no effective way of extinguishing the flame other than letting it burn away all the excess fuel.  The real advantage to the Brasslite stove is its weight savings.  I have accomplished this through the simplicity of the stove combined with my ability to calculate fuel consumption precisely. The trade-off is the extra time in learning how to maximize the use of the stove and fuel and calculating fuel consumption.

My use of an alcohol stove represents a bit of a paradigm shift.  Gone is the blustery hiss and 3-minute boils of the mechanically complex canister and white gas stoves; enter a zen like silence and relaxed 10-minute boils of the alcohol stove. A canister stove is ready to go at a moments notice, an alcohol stove requires some forethought in preparation as to how much alcohol you will consume, and how to prime the stove. I am not at this point convinced that one is superior to the other.  While the noisy gas stoves certainly divorce one from the sounds of nature, the short time until the water is ready to be consumed allows one more time away from the tasks of cooking, and immersed in ones surroundings.  On the other hand, there is something slightly primal about cooking with an alcohol stove.  I sit with a barely harnessed invisible flame licking the edges of my pot, knowing that in 10-minutes I will be pouring boiling water. 

During the first use of the stove I learned a good lesson about the previously mentioned invisible flame.  There is a fiery chaos roiling under the pot, despite the silence and lack of visibility.  I failed to properly clear the organic debris under the inside perimeter of the windscreen, and began to smell wisps of burning leaves after a minute.  Looking below the pot, I noticed that the debris was beginning to burn despite being several inches from the stove.  I was more careful of clearing the area before lighting it on any subsequent use.  It was not until I fired up the stove in the dark that I discovered how much larger the flame is under the pot than appears in the daylight. 

I have used the Brasslite Turbo ID for as many as four people on an overnight trip.  This stove is designed as a solo-cooking instrument, and I found using it for more than one person is possible, but is pushing it.  Four campers required a lot of patience, and a lot of fuel.  At this juncture, I would hesitate to bring it if I knew I was cooking for more than two people.

I have not had any malfunctions related to the stove that were not due to my learning curve as a new alcohol stove user.  With this said, there are a few items that I feel could be improved.  First, I found the stove is very hard to fill without spilling at least a small amount of fuel around the stove. While priming the outside is part of the lighting sequence, I often do this unintentionally during filling. I think it is important to have more control of this. There may be a reliable method of cleanly filling it, but I have not found it, and I speculate that  widening the gap in the stainless screen may aid in this process.  The pot support stands are very useful in the stability of the stove.  I only wish it could be designed in a manner that would allow me to collapse them or to fold them into a more compact unit for transport.

Summary


I have been impressed with the Brasslite Turbo ID.  I am a new alcohol stove user, and I found the combination of simplicity and versatility of the Brasslite stove has worked well in introducing me to the nuances of this light weight alternative to the more typical canister and white gas stoves.  The Brasslite has held up superbly during field testing, and has yet to provide me any unfounded grief.

It has been a pleasure carrying this stove during the last two-months, and I look forward to continuing the test for two more months.


Long Term Report

November 11, 2008


The Brasslite Turbo I-D stove has been my cooking instrument for an additional three days of camping since my field report. In total I have used the Brasslite stove for a total of 8 days of camping during the test period.  The stove has performed in dry heat and extremely windy moist conditions.   The stove has primarily been used as a tool to boil water to rehydrate freeze-dried foods, and to make hot coffee, tea and hot cocoa. 

Field Locations:


Julian Starfest, Julian, California
2-Days August 2008
Elevation: 4200 ft (1280 m)
High Temperature: 1102 C (39 C)
Low Temperature: 57 F (14C)

The stove was primarily relegated to hot beverage making during this 2-night camping trip. There was a large group, and we cooked as a group.  The Brasslite was perfect for boiling a small amount of water to brew coffee and tea.


Indian Hill- Anza-Borrego Desert, CA
Overnight November 2008
Elevation: 2000 ft (610 m)
High Temperature: 73 C (23 C)
Low Temperature: 50 F (10 C)

Precipitation: Trace amounts (while no precipitation was recorded the strong winds were blowing moisture onto us from the storms in the mountains.  We were hiking in full sunlight, while being lightly rained upon.

The Brasslite served as a primary cooking instrument for two campers during this overnight trip in very windy, slightly stormy conditions.


Field Performance:



The Brasslite stove continues to perform admirably in the field. I have consistently been able to boil water in a variety of conditions.  I have been able to more accurately anticipate the burn time of the stove, and have adjusted the amount of alcohol down to about oz (22 ml) to boil L (16 oz) of water.  Using slightly less alcohol allows the stove to burn itself out quickly after boiling water, and cool for continued use or being packed away.  This adjustment has also allowed me to carry less alcohol.  I still struggle to fill the fuel reservoir without spilling alcohol on the outside of the stove.  While this allows for priming, I will experiment with other fuel bottles after the test to see if it helps my accuracy.

I used the stove in fairly adverse conditions during a trip to the Anza-Borrego Desert region near San Diego, California.  There was a rainstorm raging on the western slope of the mountains,  resulting in strong winds gusting up to 50 mph (81 kph) and residual moisture blowing down on us.   I set up the stove in the most sheltered area I could find.  Initially I could not keep the windscreen from blowing away.   The addition of several more rocks securing the windscreen solved this problem and I commenced cooking.  The stove worked well despite the strong wind, and I soon had hot miso soup to enjoy for lunch.  I have found over the last four months that the windscreen is critical to efficient transfer of heat form the stove to the water.  

After writing the field report for this stove I came to the conclusion that I was lax in not at least testing the simmer feature.  I waited until the sun began to set, and lit the stove without the windscreen.  After about a minute the stove burned off the fuel I used for priming and the flame became the cone shape that indicates it is functioning normally.  During this time the damper was set to expose all of the air holes.  I used a small stick (as per the instructions) to slide the damper to cover all of the air holes and within 30 seconds the flame became significantly smaller.

Brasslite simmering

Summary:


The “zen like silence” as I described it in the field report has grown on me more and more when I am hiking or backpacking alone or in tandem.  The simple elegance of the design and operation of this stove really compliments the solitude that I am seeking when I am in the back-country.  The stove is not an efficient tool for groups larger than two (nor is it designed to be). This stove has proven itself to be very reliable in diverse weather and diverse situations, and I speculate that it will meet my needs as a solo-backpacking stove for many years to come.

This is the first alcohol stove I have owned or operated, and it has turned me onto the possibilities, and have shown some of the limitations that this class of stove can bring to backpacking.  While I will not completely abandoned other styles of stoves, I foresee using an alcohol stove in many situations where I would have formerly carried a much heavier cooking system.  
 

Pros

•    Very well made
•    Light weight
•    Easy to use after initial learning curve
•    Silent operation

Cons

•    The optional pot supports do not collapse down to a more compact unit
•    Hard to cleanly fill with fuel



This concludes my report. Thank You Brasslite and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this fine stove. 

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