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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Stoves > GSI Pinnacle 4 Season Stove > Test Report by joe schaffer

GSI Pinnacle 4-Season Stove

Test Report by Joe Schaffer

INITIAL REPORT - March 25, 2017
FIELD REPORT - June 6, 2017
LONG TERM REPORT - August 6, 2017

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 69
HEIGHT: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME:  Bay Area, California USA

    I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping year-round with a goal to match my age in nights out each year; about 30 solo. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such; and a stove whenever convenient campfire might be in doubt. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.

stove ready
Product: Pinnacle 4-Season Stove

Manufacturer: GSI Outdoors, Inc.


Mfr.  Measures:
(from box)
Weight: 5.8 oz (164 g)

       Output: 7,800-9,820 BTU/h
       Stowed: 2 in x 1.8 in x 3.2 in (51 x 46 x 81 mm)
       1 L (1.06 qt) boil time: 3:55
       Fuel required: 0.52 oz (14.6 g)

Mfr. Description:
(excerpted from website)
Burner optimizes boil times and fuel usage.
    Remote, canister mount, micro control valve provides all-season performance.
    Serrated 138mm/5.4 in diameter pot support arms.
    Compact, folding design.

My Specs: 
       Stove: 5 5/8 oz (161 g)
       Stuff Sack: 1/4 oz (7 g)
   Stowed size: 3 3/4 in H x 2 3/4 in W x 1 3/4 in T  (9.5 x 7 x 4.5 cm)
   Base support: 
2 13/16 in (7.1 cm) from center
   Pot support:  2 3/4 in (7.0 cm) from center
   Height in use: 3.5 in (8.9 cm)
Fuel line length: 14 1/4 in (36.2 cm)
Burner diameter: 1 9/32 in (3.25 cm)
Boil Time, 20 5/8 oz (0.61 L) water: 5:35*
   Fuel consumption: 3/8 oz (10 g)*

$79.95 US

March 22, 2017

My Description:
This remote canister gas stove unpacks to about the same size as many liquid fuel backpacking stoves--even larger than some--yet folds to a package nearly as small as the tiniest on-top canister models. A braided stainless steel fuel line situates the canister away from the stove and swivels at both ends to allow the canister to be inverted when desired. The control valve
wire-loop handle is at the canister connection. A closed-together loop of copper tube appears to route incoming fuel up over the edge of the burner head to heat the fuel and back down to the mixing chamber below the burner head; a concept I'm used to seeing on liquid fuel stoves but have not before seen on canister-exclusive models. The unit sits on three extendable legs each with an extendable pot arm, which then pivot out to form support. Pot stabilizer arms angle slightly downward toward stove center and are held in place by gravity. The stove seems to be mostly stainless steel, with brass fittings and the copper tube. Instructions note that handling the brass fittings which contain lead known to cause cancer in California may kill me eventually if ignoring other numerous operational admonishments fail to do so more immediately. I don't see aluminum or titanium. There is no piezo.

pocket stow
I was shocked upon opening the delivery package to find such a small box inside. It is a bit of Rubik Cube experience to unfold the supports, and I would quibble over the floppy-loose deployed pot arms held in place only by gravity. I will practice the moves before putting myself in a cold-stupid circumstance lest impatience lead to excessive stress. I regard this a remarkably small complaint for a full-size appliance that travels micro-size. The unit also seems to anticipate Type-A behavior with its industrial-strength choice of metals.
    The company website doesn't have a lot of information to wade through, but does offer a one-minute video demonstrating the above. I don't follow the graphic in the owner manual; and of course I prepared the stove without first bothering to locate any instruction as to how. I can't remember instructions. If I read them it is only to serve comment as a tester.
     The stove extends for generous support which easily accommodates any of my pots.
By my measures the stove footprint gives a three-point base extending about 30% farther than the bottom edge of a 7.76 oz (220 g) canister. I'm thinking I probably can more often find stability on three points of contact as opposed to a continuous edge. The stove sitting lower by nearly the height of a canister makes it less likely to tip. Stability might be compromised on snow, but I find on-top canisters don't work well anyway sitting on snow. I've occasionally worried about over-stressing a stove neck with a heavy pot of water, for example. The remote feature completely negates that concern; and breaking the legs or arms of this model would require the determination of a hired mobster.
I don't know what is the integrated wind screen referenced on the website. Since the canister is remote and the stove parts are not aluminum, I think I can safely deploy a regular windscreen.
    in the bag
    In the context of ultra-light backpacking (company's segment claim) the unit is perhaps as much as half-again as heavy as the UL leaders. I crave light, but I forgive the stove's heft for its remote canister advantages and that it has no potentially meltable metals; and of course because it firmly supports a large boiling pot and yet folds up amazingly small. It isn't really light, but I feel it has to be given that relative description for those four reasons.
    I routinely suffer fright in lighting liquid fuel stoves and avoid their use when possible. But snow camping or even just fall camping I've experienced performance diminishment to the extent of failure on canister stoves. I've heard that inverting the canister substantially improves performance and I hope to get cold enough to test that feature. Of course I won't know how much of performance is related to that feature and how much to the heating tube, but I also won't care so long as the stove actually turns snow into boiling water at mild altitudes and temperatures below freezing.
    My experience with piezo suggests that a unit without one is far from fatally disadvantaged.
    I might well lose it, but I think some kind of protective plug/cover for the canister connection would be a good idea. I might prefer the pot stabilizer arms work against just enough resistance that they don't flop when I handle the stove. I would rather they flop than poke holes in my fingers if the rivet gets too tight from heating and cooling, so I'm not sure about this.
    An elite test of nestworthiness for me is if the stove and a 7.76 oz (220 g) canister will fit into my pot, which is about 4 3/4 in (12 cm) in diameter by 5 in (12.7 cm) high. I have only one that will. The Pinnacle also passes this test, which I find particularly remarkable given its unpacked stature.
    *I eyeballed what for me would be a typical hot chocolate mug charge, which measured 20 5/8 oz (0.61 L) of water. I heated it in a 40 oz (1.2 L) blackened aluminum, covered coffee pot 4 3/4 in (12 cm) in diameter with no heat exchanger. Room temperature was windless 65F (18 C); and water was from the cold tap, probably around 55 F (13 C). Fuel canister was probably about 60 F (16 C). I'm thinking these are close to laboratory test conditions that manufacturer's use to develop performance statistics, though certainly I disclaim any notion that my procedures would meet laboratory precision. Stove lit instantly on maiden firing and the adjustment was set to about 1/8th turn, which seemed to be the point at which more did not increase the flame and less lowered it. The water was at full boil in 5:35 and required 3/8 oz (10 g) of fuel. My impression is that the stove heats about as fast as the most efficient stove/pot system I have, but requires more fuel. I remind myself this was a kitchen test and my other canister stoves have suffered or failed in cold. If this stove maintains its performance in cold--or for that matter will even work well enough to boil--then the nits of weight and fuel consumption (should the latter be accurate) will dissipate into the vapor.
     So naturally that thought led me to put the unit connected to the fuel canister into the freezer for 12 hours in probably 10 F (-12 C), as I might expect to encounter in a 4-season camping experience; and the coffee pot with 20 5/8 oz (.061 L) of water into the fridge, probably around 35 F (2 C). I've not done that with any other stove. I already know my liquid fuel stoves would test OK and that my canister models would not. The testing temperature was 55 F (28 C) warmer
than the freezer and I've no guess as to how much that affected results. The test was completed within 9:40 of removal from the freezer and I'm satisfied the results are meaningful if not a precise replication of a cold environment. Instructions for cold temp lighting say to get the stove going for 30 seconds before inverting the canister. The stove would not light with the canister upright. Upon inversion a meek flame appeared immediately, and at 30 seconds it was full but continued to sputter somewhat throughout the test. It took 7:10 to bring the water to boil with the valve about 1/4 turn open, consuming 3/8 oz (11 g) of fuel. I note that fuel consumption was only 10% more--a single gram (1/28th oz)--while heating time was 28% longer. I would expect increased fuel consumption and I don't know if the result otherwise accrues to a testing anomaly. Two tests aren't a mass of evidence on which to base conclusive interpretations, but I am satisfied the stove will work cold and that benefit of the inversion feature is proven.
    I also note that in removing the frozen canister more fuel--though measurably less than a gram (1/28th oz)--escapes compared to the tiny little spit sometimes heard on warm canisters. Cold O-rings evidently need a bit more time to resettle.
    On a perfectly smooth, flat and level surface like a kitchen table, the canister will balance on the valve body. However, there is some interference when trying to turn the flame adjuster. Some ingenuity may be required to support the inverted canister out in the field, and I will definintely fuss over the possibility of getting dirt in the proximity of the connection.
    The stove's main benefits seem to be size and operating range. I've not yet seen a stove that would challenge the Pinnacle's combination of these two metrics.

Field conditions:
    1. 4/20-23/17: Gooseberry, Stanislaus National Forest, California. Snow (heavy slush) camping at 7,200 ft (2,200 m). One camp.
        2. 5/2-4/17: Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California. 955 ft (291 m). Two camps.
        3. 5/14-15/17: Clark Fork, Stanislaus National Forest, California. Car camping at 6,100 ft (1,860 m), dry ground. One camp.
       4. 5/22-26/17: Yosemite, 6,400 ft (1,950 m), warm. Three camps.

       1.  GOOSEBERRY: Valve @ 10:30 position; about 1/4 turn. Upright canister packed in snow; stove on sheet steel. No added wind screen; little air movement.
1 mug, appx. 20 oz (0.6 L) to rolling boil.
        55 F (13 C) 9:00 to bring (probably) air temperature water to rolling boil
        55 F (13 C) 7:30 to melt all snow;  9:30 to bring melt water to
rolling boil = 17:00 mins.
        45 F (7 C)  7:35 to melt all snow; 13:25 to bring melt water to
rolling boil = 21:00 mins.
        38 F (3 C)  8:00 to melt all snow; 15:45 to bring melt water to
rolling boil = 23:45 mins; 3 oz (90 ml) more water.
    Total burn time = 70:45 mins. Total fuel burned =
78 g (2 3/4 oz). Burn rate = 1.10 g (0.04 oz) per min.

    The first test I did by filling the mug to its regular level and then pouring that water into the pot for heating. The first two snow melts yielded the same measure of boiled water into the mug. The third snow melt I put too much snow into the pot and the mug filled to the brim and just a bit more. That 15% extra ration of water to heat would account for some of the 13% additional heating time compared to the previous test; as would the colder temperature. The temperatures were so warm I don't believe packing the canister in snow provided any insulating benefit, and probably did lower the fuel temperature closer to that of snow instead of air. I did not invert the canister. The stove lit immediately each time and never faltered. I have the (highly subjective) impression that the heat output diminished as the air temperature dropped, which might only be a bias in knowing that the heating time increased coincident with those drops. Perhaps in the interest of full scientific disclosure it should be noted that the exact moment of rolling boil could be somewhat subjective; and the number of times removing the lid to see if the water is boiling was not accounted. I think fuel temperature would have remained constant, and assuming the test was somewhat controlled otherwise, the biggest non-constant would be air temperature. If that is true, then it would seem heating time increases rather a lot as temperature decreases. That would seem obvious, but the degree probably merits further testing to confirm. Unfortunately, with the snow rotting as fast as it is, there may not be another snow test.
   2. PT. REYES: Valve @ 10:30 position; about 1/4 turn. Upright canister; windscreen and heat deflector in place. Very little air movement; high humidity. Water temp probably about 60 F (16 C).
    1 mug of water, appx. 20 oz (0.6 L) to rolling boil.
        60 F (16 C) 6:40
        57 F (14 C) 8:20

        48 F (9 C) 10:05

    Total burn time = 25:05 mins. Total fuel burned = 21 g (0.74 oz). Burn rate avg. = 0.84 g (0.03 oz) per min.

CLARK FORK: Valve @ 10:30 position; about 1/4 turn. Upright canister; windscreen and heat deflector in place. It was getting chilly and blustery and sprinkly by the time I got done puttering around to make car camp, having come to the determination I could drive to no snow on which to pull the sled and the gear chosen for it. I had no trouble breaking out the stove and getting it fired up. Each time I use the stove I get better at remembering how to unfold it.
    1 mug of water, appx. 20 oz (0.6 L) to rolling boil; water temp 45 F (7 C).
       49 F (9 C) 9:15
       55 F (13 C) 6:15
    Total burn time = 15:30 mins. Total fuel burned = 16 g (0.56 oz). Burn rate avg. = 0.97 g (0.03 oz) per min.

YOSEMITE: Valve @ 10:30 position; about 1/4 turn. Upright canister; no windscreen or heat deflector, calm conditions.
     1 mug of water, appx. 20 oz (0.6 L) to rolling boil:
       Air, 71 F (22 C); water 65 F (18 C) 7:15
       Air, 76 F (24 C) 5:50
       Air, 65 F (18 C) 5:40
       Air, 64 F (18 C) 7:37
       Air, 50 F (10 C) 4:55 canister exhausted before water boiled.
    Total burn time = 31:17 mins. Total fuel burned = 39 g (1.4 oz). Burn rate avg. = 1.25 g (0.04 oz)

Total test to date burn time = 25:05 + 70:45 + 15:15 + 15:30  + 31:17 = 157:52 mins; total test fuel burned =
(21 + 78 + 21 + 16 + 39)  = 175 g =  1.108 g (0. 04 oz) per min. Avg Field Test time to boil, from snow start:  61:45/3 = 20:35 mins. From water start: 132:16/16 = 8:16 mins.
    Indeed conditions which affect heating times vary substantially, but I'm thinking I don't camp in a laboratory and these results give rough indication of fuel consumption and heating times. For example, melting enough snow to bring 20 oz (0.6 L) to a boiling point requires about 20 1/2 minutes, burning about 22 g (0.75 oz) of fuel; meaning I should be able to do that about 10 times on a mid-size canister; and from a water start about 24 times. (
I don't cook. If somehow there was something in my bear can requiring more attention than hot water, I'd throw it to the ravens and head for Taco Bell.)

    Perhaps a bit of discussion regarding canister vs. liquid fuel may be in order. The freezer test tells me the Pinnacle should work in cold temperatures, though so far the most rigorous outdoor test has been 7,200 ft (2,200 m) at 25 F (-4 C)--pretty mild. Believing it will work--and it is touted as a 4-season unit--the Pinnacle stove saves me about 3/4 lb (340 g) on a 4-day snow-melt excursion vs. a liquid fuel stove; and packs much more tidily. I don't have to worry about fuel leaks or spills or getting any on me assembling and disassembling the unit. There's no pumping and no lighting procedure to follow (which I'm not so often that good at following). I'm less likely to have a flare-up under the fly, stating now very explicitly that lighting under the fly is ALWAYS a no-no. Canister stoves are essentially maintenance free. Liquid fuel stoves have a lot of service parts, and one did fail, being kind enough to do so at home the night before leaving. (I might mention my nasty attitude from being unable to locate the failed part by itself--a piddling little o-ring--and reluctance to be extorted for the whole US$20 maintenance kit.) To be fair, I don't like liquid fuel stoves. But they can be relied upon to crank out heat in the most horrid conditions. I have experienced cold failures with canister stoves when the temp gets in the teenish (-10 C) range--a failure that would be trip-ruining on Shasta or Whitney, for example. Were I out for weeks the efficiency of liquid fuel would dramatically overcome the weight differential. The last time I did the math (which was a lot of years ago), canister stoves cost about 10 times as much to operate. If saving money mattered, I doubt my liquid fuel stoves ever would because of the high purchase and maintenance cost; and that I don't use them enough to capture the difference in fuel economy.

Field conditions: (altitudes at use of stove)
    5. Jun 5-8, 2017: Loon Lake, El Dorado National Forest, California. 10 mi (16 km) backpack, 75-36 F (24-2 C), some calm, some windy; 6,400 ft (1,950 m). Two camps, no fire.
    6. Jun 13-16, 2017: Bergson Lake, Carson Iceberg Wilderness, California. 10 mi (16 km) backpack. 80-45 F (27-7 C), some calm, some breezy; 6,420 ft (1,957 m). Two camps, fire.
    7. Jun 20-23, 2017: Shasta National Forest, California. 8 mi (13 km) backpack. 85-50 F (29-10 C), hot and mostly calm. 5,720-6,360 ft (1,740-1,940 m). Three camps, no fire.
8. July 11-16, 2017: Yosemite Wilderness, California. 18 mi (29 km) backpacking. 70 F (21 C) 5,520 ft (1,680 m).  One camp no fire; two others with fire.
    9. July 22-26, 2017: Willamette National Forest, Waldo Lake, Oregon. 2 mi (3 km) backpacking. Campfire only,
carried but did not use stove.
    10. July 26-29, 2017: Yolla Bolly Wilderness, California. 10 mi (16 km) backpacking. Campfire only,
carried but did not use stove.

new canister, same brand and size as above, gross (full) wt 378 g (13.33 oz); tare (empty) wt assumed 150 g (5.29 oz).       
    5. LOON LAKE: 20 oz (0.6 L) of lake water to boil
        15 times using windscreen and heat deflector
        128 g (4.52 oz) of fuel
8.53 g (0.3 oz) per boil.
        79:11 mins total heating time
        5:16 mins avg, 4:30-6:40 range
        1.62 g (0.06 oz) of fuel per min
        60 F (16 C) avg temp, 43-71 F (6-22 C) range in conditions calm to gusty.
        canister gwt 250 g (8.82 oz)
= 100 g (3.53 oz) fuel remaining

20 oz (0.6 L) of lake water to boil
        3 times using windscreen and heat deflector
        22 g (0.78 oz) of fuel
7.33 g (0.26 oz) per boil
        16:15 mins total heating time
        5:25 mins per heat, 5:09-5:45 range
1.35 g (0.05 oz) of fuel per min
        64 F (18 C) avg. temp, 62-65 F (17-18 C) range, windy
        canister gwt 228 g (8.04 oz) = 78 g (2.75 oz) fuel remaining

    7. SHASTA NF:  20 oz (0.6 L) of lake water to boil
        9 times
, no windscreen or heat deflector
        70 g (2.4 oz) of fuel
        7.78 g (0.27 oz) per boil
        57:10 mins total heating time
        6:35 mins per heat, 4:45-9:10 range
        1.22 g (0.04 oz) of fuel per min
        59 F (15 C) avg. temp, 50-70 (10- 21 C) range in mostly calm
        canister gwt 158 g (5.57 oz) = 8 g (0.28 oz) fuel remaining

Totals for canister with assumed 8 g (0.28 oz) fuel remaining
       27 boils = 4 1/4 gal (16 L) of water brought to boil
       220 g (7.76 oz) fuel
       8.15 g (0.29 oz) per boil
       153 mins heating time
       5:40 mins per heat
       1.44 g (0.05 oz) of fuel per min
       60 F (16 C) avg. air temp
       6,330 ft (1,930 m) avg. altitude
       2/3 of the time with wind screen and heat deflector; 1/3 without.

    8. YOSEMITE: This trip started with a new canister. I used the stove the first night when I was tired and didn't want to bother with a campfire. I heated water to boil twice, estimating 50 oz (1.5 L) for two mugs of chocolate and a noodle dinner. I did not have a windscreen or heat deflector. There was no wind. Fuel consumption measured 20 gm (0.7 oz).

SUMMATION:  I won't routinely tote the Pinnacle on summer outings as it is a bit heavier, confounds me simple mind to unpack it; and I'm thinking not the most fuel efficient setup I have for canister stoves. For cold weather outings, though, I'm feeling powerfully inclined at this point to place it on the gear shelf in front of the liquid fuel stoves. For persons not of a mind to sink their IRAs into multiple stove purchases, I'd be thinking at this moment that the Pinnacle would be top choice.

Quick shots:
a) light
    b) small
    c) works cold
sturdy construction
    e) unfolding & folding requirements
    f) floppy pot supports
Thank you GSI Outdoors and for the opportunity to test this stove. This concludes my test.

Read more reviews of GSI Outdoors gear
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