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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Vargo Titanium Decagon Stove > Test Report by Andrew Preece

Vargo Titanium Decagon Stove
Test Series
by
Andrew Preece

Initial Report April 6th  2008
Field Report June 12th  2008
Long Term Report Due August 2008
The Decagon stove
Photo courtesy of Vargo
Contents
Initial Report
Description
Test Plan
My Details
Field Report
Summary
Long Term Report
Personal Details
Name: Andrew Preece
Age: 46
Gender: Male
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight: 188 lb (85 kg)
Email: andrew_at_teamgunnparker_dot_com
City: Perth.
Western Australia.
Australia.
Testing Locations
Bibbulmun Track: Sea level to 1,920 ft (585 m). Within this region I backpack along old forestry roads, sandy tracks, and purpose built walking tracks. The south-west of Western Australia allows for hiking and backpacking from coastal plains to forested ranges. I hike in varying conditions from forestry tracks, to sandy tracks to single purpose walking trails, from rock hopping, to beach walking to completely off-track through open and dense bush country.
Backpacking Background
I have done a lot of hiking over the years but only now carry a tent and all the gear for over night stays of one to two nights. I normally carry approximately 35 lb (16 kg) which includes food and water. My trips are usually between one to three days duration mainly over weekends. I hike all seasons with winter temperatures ranging from 39 F (4 C) to 64 F (18 C) including periods of heavy rain at times to summer conditions with the temperature ranging from 68 F (20 C) to 95 F (35 C) and very dry.
Testing Activities
During the expected test period I will be going on twelve overnight trips and trips ranging from one to two days of backpacking. I will be camping out between eight nights and 20 days between January 2008 and April 2008. Each over night hike of two nights duration would involve approximately 21 mi (35 km) and the day trips would be 7 to 9 mi (12 to 15 km).
Testing Conditions
It is now the start of our winter. Though we are still experiencing some unseasonably warm days, and yet some mornings with lows of 50 F (10 C) and highs of 88 F (31 C). In another few months it will be middle of winter and the cold will set in. Daytime temperatures will range during the testing period, from a minimum of  57 F (14 C) to 79 F (26 C) during April, to 46 F (8 C) to 64 F (18 C) in July 2008. The average rainfall for this time of year is, 1 3/4 in (44 mm) in April to 6 in (175 mm) in July.
 
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Initial Report
April 6th 2008

The Stove that I am testing comes in one size only.
Manufacturer: Vargo
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.vargooutdoors.com
MSRP: US $29.95
 

  Manufacturers Measurements. My Measurements.
Dimensions Bottom plate 4.25 in (108 mm) 4.25 in (108 mm)
Dimensions Height 1.25 in (31 mm) Height 1.25 in (31 mm)
Dimensions Main canister  2.25 in dia (57 mm) Main canister  2.25 in dia (57 mm)
Volume Fuel Capacity: 1.75 fl oz (52 ml) Fuel Capacity: 1.35 fl oz (40 ml), variable
Avg. Weight 1.2 oz (34 g) 1.31 oz (37 g)

 

stove and package rear of card
The stove and the package tag. This photo was taken after the stove was used. Rear of the tag.
Description

This stove is made in China and packaged in the USA, it is made from Titanium.
The stove has basically a large outer base that rests on the ground or a table with a fuel chamber rising up from the base. The base has a series of holes cut into it and another series of ridges pressed into it. This helps to lighten and strengthen the base.
Along the sides of the chamber near the top is a row of holes that are the jets that the flames come out of. At the top of the chamber are three little nubs that rise up from the top and are the pot stands, where my pot will rest while cooking.
In the centre of this chamber is a funnel that fuel (denatured alcohol or in Australia, methylated spirits) is poured. The small hole in the centre is where the fuel enters the stove itself.
 

 


 

stove with lables
The stove after a few uses.
The photo to the right shows the under side of the stove and shows to my surprise the bottom of the fuel bowl. I was wondering where all the fuel was going to go.
The rear of the card that is attached to the stove has a little information about the stove including introduction, features, instructions and a warning.
rear of stove
Introduction:
The Vargo Decagon Titanium stove was designed to be a sturdy alcohol stove that can withstand the abuse of being used everyday while hiking for many months without fear of breaking. There are no movable parts and the large centre hole makes filling the stove a snap. Once primed, simply place your pot directly on top of the stove covering the filling hole. The bottom stability plate keeps the stove stable and prevents your pot from tipping.
Features: The under side of the stove. showing the bottom section of the fuel bowl.
*Easy to fill and empty. *Requires virtually no maintenance.
*15 minutes burn time *Strong durable design.
*Boils 2 cups of water in 5-6 minutes. *Simple to use with reliable performance.  
*Stability plate prevents tipping.  
Instructions:
Carefully pour alcohol into the centre funnel, ignite fuel by placing match at hole opening. Allow the stove to prime about two minutes. Once primed, flames will shoot out of the side holes. Place pot onto the top covering the large hole. To extinguish simply blow out the flames and allow to cool before touching. Drain unused fuel by tilting the stove vertically over fuel container. Air dry before storing in backpack.
Warning:
The stove is designed to burn denatured alcohol ONLY. Attempting to burn other fuels such as white gas, kerosene, unleaded gas, etc. will cause explosion and possible serious injury. Add alcohol only after stove has cooled thoroughly to prevent injury. Never use stove indoors.
   
First impressions:

When I opened the package and first looked at the stove I thought, wow this is light and at 1.31 oz (37 g) it sure is. The base of the stove was slightly bent when I received it and I was able to bend it back into shape just with my hands, but I thought then that the stove is strong. It took quite a bit to bend it so the stove is not flimsy at all.



Use of the stove:

This stove is very straight forward to use. Just pour fuel into the centre funnel and down into the hole that is there, I half fill the funnel area with about 1.35 fl oz (40 ml) and then light the fuel in the funnel. Once the fuel in the funnel area starts to burn and heat up the stove fuel vapour is forced out through the jets and ignites. This takes about two minutes. When this happens I place my pot over the centre hole and onto the pot rests and wait for the contents to heat.

 
Test Plan
My initial testing will begin at home where I have a table set up out on the back veranda and here I can measure fuel volumes, burn times, boil times and so on accurately. I will test the items listed below plus anything else that pops up.
Then I will take the stove out hiking and camping with me, Here I will test actual cooking on the stove. I like to eat dehydrated evening meals and so will rehydrate my meal in camp and then heat it up on the stove. My morning meal is usually porridge with a cup of coffee or two.

My home test bench.
the test bench

 
1. The main part of the stove is 2.25 in (57 mm) in diameter, where my pot is 5.5 in (140 mm) in diameter. Will this mean that the flames will only touch the bottom of my pan and lead to quicker or slower boil times? 2. Will this stove run on less then a full chamber of fuel? How much is a full chamber? Can I half fill the stove and just heat enough water for a coffee and not worry about boiling the water? I do not need to boil water just to make coffee, I cannot drink boiling water after all.
3. How much will wind effect performance of the stove? 4. What is the real burn time out side in camp?
5. How long will it take to heat my meals? 6. Can I pour unused fuel back into my container?
7. How much fuel will I use over a one night, two day hike? 8. Will my pot with the larger diameter be unstable?
I will be also checking anything else that comes up while out in the bush and using this stove.  
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Field Report
Summary of use.

I have now been using this stove for about two months, and during this time I have been out five times on overnight trips. I have had two nights at the Helena Hut along the Bibbulmun track and I have had a three night, four day trip South of Perth near Dwellingup along the Bibbulmun Track. I have also spent many nights on my back verandah at my test bench checking boil times and fuel volumes.

During my trips the weather was quite good with average temperatures in the 41 F (5 C) to 73 F (23 C) range. The weather was mostly dry with only a little rain on the first day of the three night trip. The altitude range was from about 656 ft (200 m)  to 1640 ft (500 m).

I did not want to use a thermometer while checking boil times as I wanted to treat the stove as I would while in camp, so I looked for bubbles rising from the pan and looked for hot water that had reached a rolling boil which would tell me the water was hot enough for a cup of coffee or to make my porridge. Test bench results of my testing at home were a little hit and miss because of the wind. My patio has walls on two side with a tin roof over the top and is open to the elements on the other two sides. This means that any wind that happens to be blowing would blow right into the test area just as it would in camp.

The wind plays such a big part in the performance of this stove, any wind at all affects the flame and thereby the boil times and the results. Shown below are some of the results of my bench testing which was done over many nights in different conditions, just as I would expect out on the trail.

I tested the stove with 1.35 fl oz (40 ml) of fuel and with my round pot with lid. In the future I will be testing with half of that amount of fuel to see if I can boil just one cup of water in half the time.

 

location conditions prime steam small bubbles lots of bubbles rolling boil boiling total burn
outside breezy 1.55 3.40 5.30 11.52 no boil no boil 18.34
inside still 1.52 7.16 8.39 10.30 11.15 16.00 19.30
outside breezy 2.33 8.20 9.00 10.15 11.00 18.35 22.44
outside slight wind 1.50 6.00 7.13 9.00 11.30 15.00 20.14
                 
 Average   1.73 6.19 7.46 10.24 11.15 16.45 20.06

 

My use of the stove over this period is made up of a morning cup of coffee and a zip lock bag of porridge or a cup of coffee followed by a rehydrated can of baked beans and bacon. For the porridge and coffee this involves measuring and boiling two cups of water then pouring my coffee and pouring the balance of the water into the zip lock bag containing the porridge. My evening meals are a rehydrated meal that I have prepared at home. When I get into camp I will add water to a zip lock bag of food, it could be beef stroganoff or any one of a few meals I enjoy out on the trail. Then when it is time to eat I pour the contents of the bag into my pot and heat to a very high temperature on the stove before eating out of the pot. When I have finished using the stove it then packs inside the pot or cup and there is enough room for a lighter and my measuring cup (film canister).
 
 
The stove packed into the cup with headlight, pocket knife and lighter.
packed into cup

 

When I have coffee and porridge the 1.35 fl oz (40 ml) of fuel is a little more than I need to boil two cups of water, and I would normally have fuel left in the stove. The instructions state to blow out the flames then to up turn the stove and pour the remaining fuel back into the fuel bottle. Try as much as I like I always find that any remaining fuel does not come out of the filler hole but out of the jets, much like water from a watering can. So unless I carry a small funnel I am not able to reclaim any left over fuel at all.

I also found that if I am having a cup of coffee and I am reheating some baked beans, I start by boiling one cup of water. Then pouring my coffee, then pouring the rehydrated beans into my pot to heat on the stove. The stove then ran out of fuel before the beans where hot enough to my liking. When this did happen I was forced to use my hiking buddies gas stove and continue to heat my breakfast rather than start over with the stove. One night at a camp called Mt Wells which is an old bush fire lookout hut which has a door and is fully enclosed I started to reheat a rehydrated meal and part way through heating my meal I found the stove just went out. I had to wait for a moment and relight the stove then wait for it to prime again before resuming my cooking. After the relighting of the stove it ran well and was able to heat my meal fully to my liking.
 

Breakfast of coffee and porridge at Chadora hut.
chadora hut
 
On the very first morning of my trip I filled the stove from my fuel bottle which had stood on the table over night and it took quite some time to light the stove and even longer to get to a prime. The temperature could have been about 41 F (5 C) which is what we were expecting and so the fuel could have been very cold and thereby refusing to light easily. Once lit and primed properly the stove performed as it should.

I found my pot with a diameter of 5.5 in (140 mm) was too large for the stove with a diameter of 2.25 in (57 mm) and if I am not careful when placing my pot on the stove it would easily over balance. I did not have the same trouble with my small aluminium cup, both are shown in the photo above. I will have to change my style of cooking so that I can use the smaller cup as it is too much trouble to make sure the larger pot is balanced well.

So far with this stove I like and dislike the following.
Like:
Just how light it is.
How strong it is.

How small it is.
It fits into my small cup.

Dislike:
The low power output of the flame.
The hit and miss reliability, due to wind.

 
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Long Term Report
August 10th 2008
 
Over the last couple of months I have used the stove to cook about four more meals. There is really not much more to add to this report other than to say that this is a very sturdy stove that will always be there ready to cook a meal or boil water. The stove is so light at 1.31 oz (37 g) that there is no reason not to pack this stove. I was a bit put off by what I though was the weight of fuel (denatured alcohol or in Australia, methylated spirits) but after weighing an amount of methylated spirits I find that it is thirty percent lighter than water. This means for me a weekend away cooking one evening meal and one breakfast is only 3.77 oz (107 gm) plus weight of fuel bottle I could not ask for better.

One thing that I feel must be repeated is the need for a good wind shield. I went out North of Perth along the Coastal Plains Trail and when I got into camp it was very windy, so windy in fact that the stove went out about three times while boiling some ramen noodles for tea. I had forgotten my wind shield so I found a couple of pieces of log that I tried to make do with but found it was just no good. After the third time that the stove went out I moved it and my pot into the hut that I camped near and tried to find a wind free corner. Once inside I was able to finish cooking my meal.

My timber wind shield.
wood wind shield


One more test that I did run at home was just how much fuel I would be able to reclaim after the water had boiled. I set up two tests boiling cups of cold tap water and this is the result.
2 cups of water   remaining fuel   0.51 fl oz (15 ml)
1 cup of water   remaining fuel   0.64 fl oz (19 ml)

 

Here I am at Helena Hut waiting for the billy to boil.
waiting for the billy

I used a funnel to collect the fuel poured from the stove into a measuring beaker. After this test I am very tempted to get myself a soft sided light weight funnel to collect unused fuel and I am sure with time and use I can estimate just how little fuel I will need for my trips.
One thing I must add as a warning to anyone reading this review and thinking of saving unused fuel as I did. Be very careful not to get burnt or set fire to a table or the bush. Iíll explain exactly what it is I mean. When the water in my cup had boiled and I removed the cup I then had to blow quite strongly to get the flames to go out. And what happened next was a surprise; the fuel that was left in the bowl blew out across my table cloth and spread flames over the outside of the stove and onto my table. It did not take much to put the flames out but in an outdoor situation the ending could have been different.
 
My cup is almost boiling and noodle lunch is waiting.
boiling billy

So am I going to recommend this stove to my friends? Yes I am but, I am also going to tell them that they need to take their cooking speed down a level. Maybe take a bit of time out to rest while waiting for the water to boil, or enjoy cooking and having to stir the food while chatting to friends. Sure, if it is too windy the stove will blow out, so what. Just relight it and start again.
I would also recommend a good wind shield that wraps all the way around the stove which will help to keep the stove alight.

I must say a big word of thanks to Vargo and Backpackgeartest for the opportunity to test this stove which has become a permanent part of my hiking kit.



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