Coleman vs. Jetboil Fuel, any difference

I received a Jetboil stove as a gift this spring. Over the summer, I was impressed at how quickly it got water to boil. With the electronic ignition, the Jetboil had water boiling almost as quickly as I could light and pump the old Coleman Exponent stove.

I took the Jetboil on an airplane trip last week. At my destination, I bought a can, identical to the Jetboil fuel can, of iso-butane, Coleman fuel. With the Coleman fuel, it seemed like it took forever to get a pot of water boiling.

Is there a difference between Jetboil fuel and Coleman fuel? Perhaps the drop off in performance was due to the cooler ambient temperatures of fall. I was running the stove with Coleman fuel in 40 – 50 degree weather vs. Jetboil fuel in the summer’s 70 – 90 degree weather.


I’ve always wondered this too - so far, I’ve stuck to JetBoil fuel. But elevation could be a factor as well - water boils a lot quicker at higher elevation.

I haven’t tried Coleman, but if you want another choice I’ve used Giga cannisters and haven’t noted any difference to Jetboil. They’re a little cheaper.

same here I am wondering if there is a difference between the Coleman fuel and MSR fuel. I have a MSR stove, but burn Coleman fuel, just because it is cheaper.

MSR Superfuel
They don’t call it Superfuel for nothing. It’s ten times more refined than coleman fuel. Essentially what this boils down to (ahem) is a cleaner burning fuel. So it keeps your stove from getting clogged up over time, and keeps it burning more efficiently. You won’t see much difference in boil times right away, but prolonged use of cheap fuel will reduce performance.

sounds like fuel is different
Sounds like there really is a difference in the fuel. Time to boil will be proportional to the number of degrees needed to reach the boiling point, other things being equal. If your summertime starting temp is 80 and it boils in one minute, then the LONGEST it will ever take at cold temps should be 1:22 (starting at 32 degrees or coldest possible water)

212 – 80 = 132 degrees to boiling

212 – 32 = 180 degrees to boiling

180 / 132 = 36% more time heating

60 seconds + 36% = 1:22

3 wks ago

– Last Updated: Oct-06-09 7:47 PM EST –

the jet boil guy was complaining how long it was taking for water to boil , 58 out that day , with a breeze . All I know is I was drinking coffee made on the coleman w/unleaded gasoline . Been usin coleman for yrs. an I spose I will continue cause I know how to use the stove well enough and how much fuel to use an repair in field an such .
Back to the question , I spose it had somethin to do with the cool weather .
Is yer exponent fuel butane ?
What do you folks do w/all them empty cans ?
I'd have to learn all over again how much fuel I'd use working overnights .
As long as you can do what ya want any stove is good

It does get more complicated though

– Last Updated: Oct-06-09 8:24 PM EST –

The math you need to calculate this stuff is in reality pretty complex (more difficult than anything I've ever dealt with, which by itself isn't saying much, but it WOULD get complicated in a hurry). It's one thing to to say it always takes 'X' amount of time to raise the temperature of water by one degree with a stove providing a constant rate of energy output, but what about the fact that the hotter the water gets, the faster it loses heat to its surroundings, meaning the hotter it gets, the slower the rate of temperature increase? What about the fact that this relationship changes with air temperature as well? That's direct heat loss to the air, but then consider radiant heat loss, which also increases with water temperature, but in this case the rate of heat loss goes up exponentially with temperature. What about the fact that at some point as the air temperature drops, all canister stoves will ultimately be less capable of high energy output, since colder fuel has a lower vapor pressure to start with, and it becomes even colder as fuel is removed from the canister as energy taken up by the vaporization process and exits the canister with the fuel (that's why the canister gets cold when the stove operates). There are probably more variables to consider since these are the first ones I thought of and I've never studied thermodynamics. I'm sure that it would be nightmare to account for all the variables. I'm just sayin'.

I would be VERY suspicous of …
… any claim that MSR fuel is “ten times more highly refined”. I know that when it comes to using propane, I’ve never heard of a clogging issue or a benefit to getting the fuel from one supplier versus another. I sort of doubt that iso-butane would be that much different than propane in that regard.

By the way, a lot of Coleman products use propane. I didn’t know some Coleman canisters contained iso-butane, but then, I’m not much into canister stoves so I wouldn’t know.

Its not that complicated

– Last Updated: Oct-06-09 9:13 PM EST –

I believe the issue here is the inherent nature of gas cannister stoves. While they are much better than in the past, the reality still is they are affected quite a bit by air temperature, altitude, and the amount of fuel remaining in the tank. I would seriously doubt there is a large difference in the performance of the different brand cannisters when the lowest temp is around 40F. I would expect there to be big differences in how such stoves performs under different conditions. They vary in this regard more than white gas stoves in my experience.

I don't doubt all the complicated stuff is a factor, but I bet its mostly the difference in air temp and fuel remaining in the tank.

Oh, the answer to the question is yes there is a difference. The JetBoil is a propane/iso-butane blend and the Coleman is a propane/butane blend.
At temps well below freezing, the JetBoil blend should be better in theory.

different brands are a blend
with different proportions of this or that to acheive the desired end

the primus, for example, is designed to burn well at lower temperatures

good points
Good points, especially in regard to the effects of temp on stove efficiency. My calcs assume a constant output from the stove - I did not know that cannister stoves suffered in cold temps, although your explanation about vapor pressure makes sense.

I use an alcohol stove, which isn’t very fast, but which is pretty consistent over a range of outside temps. In fact, the consistency surprised me. It was as a result of trying to explain this consistency that I came up with the above calcs.

I wonder why alcohol would be less affected by cold? Maybe because the unburnt fuel lies adjacent to, and is rapidly warmed by, the burning fuel? When it’s cold, there is so little vapor that you have to touch the surface of the liquid with the flame to get it started. Once it starts though, it warms up pretty quickly.

I had recently decided to replace my alcohol stove with a JetBoil, drawn by the promise of boiling water in one minute. However, if they suffer in the cold, I may have to rethink that.

Slightly “missed the point” here.

– Last Updated: Oct-06-09 9:54 PM EST –

I DID say that air temperature is the most important thing (or at least implied it by listing a number of factors, all related to air temperature). To emphasize that and call it "simple" is fine and I don't disagree with what you said, but what I was actually referring to was the fact that determining *how much* a stove's performance changes with changes in air temperature is not simple.

Interesting info about the different blended fuels, though I can't say it's "clear" what the difference would be between a butane/propane mix and a propane/butane mix. I suppose whichever gas is listed first is present in higher concentration? Also, it "seems" that butane would be a more energy-rich fuel, though I'd have to look that up (it seems that if they behave as ideal gasses, which is normally "pretty true", the butane would contain more energy per molecule). Anyway, none of that has anything to do with the statement I was addressing, which was that MSR fuel is "ten times more highly refined", which I won't believe without some really substantial documentation. Remember the discussion about where 'brand name' and 'off-brand' gasolines come from? Same idea. Would MSR lie about that? I think so. My most recent example of something like that was when I bought windows from _____ (a "big-name company"). The salesman laid out the most bogus line of crap I'd ever seen when actually "demonstrating" the window's ability to block conductive heat loss, but when I pointed out the flaw in his logic he was unable to understand, and it became clear he was spouting the company line using his standard-issue sales kit without knowing anything about what it all meant. He didn't know he was lying, but I'm sure someone at the company he worked for did.

Don’t know much about acohol stoves…
… except that the one guy I paddle with who uses one needs a really LONG time to warm-up anything. I suppose some alcohol stoves are bigger than his!

When it comes to white-gas stoves like I use (when on river trips I use an old Peak 1), I’ve honestly never paid any attention to how long it takes to heat something depending on the weather or anything else. In fact, I really doubt I ever use the same heat setting twice, since on a liquid-fuel stove, the wide-open setting makes far too much flame to make decent use of (there’s no point in having half the flame overshoot the sides of the pot, so I always turn it down from full quite a bit, yet it still seems “about as fast” as other stoves, except for the prep time when lighting).

Good comments
It really isn’t that complex.

Iso-butane means all the butane in the canister is the same isomer. Butane molecules all have the same ratio of carbon/hydrogen atoms, but can be arranged into two different arrangements. Iso-butane evaporates at a lower temperature than butane mixes or n-butane (the other isomer).

Propane can operate at even lower pressures, but has other issues, one of which is that pure propane must be contained in a much heavier canister (by law). Only recently has propane been allowed to be mixed with butane in light weight canisters.

Jetboil canisters are butane/propane mixes, and do indeed operate at lower temps than does iso-butane.

Likely the culprit was simply the lower temperatures experienced.

Other details- often claimed is that these stoves don’t work at altitude. Just the opposite. The higher the altitude, the lower the temperature at which they can operate! Simply easier for the liquid fuel in the canister to go to the gaseous state.

Two things can help performance of all the butane and butane/propane canister stoves in lower temps. One is to keep them warm before lighting. Keep them in a sleeping bag at night, or at least put the canister inside your jacket for several minutes before lighting. Also, at low temps, insulate the dang thing from the ground. Some mountaineers will also have a cup of insulating foam to wrap around the canister after it has been warmed up. But DO NOT put one of those encircling fence type windscreens around them!

As another note, all the manufacturers have a warning about only using their canister with their stove. This is mostly just liability- they have no quality control over other maker’s canisters,and if there someone gets their hands on a goofy brand made who-knows-where, well, you were warned. But the screw thread used on these stoves (the Lindal thread) have been around since the early 60’s, and I have found that all the major brands canisters will work with each other’s stoves.

Great information, thanks all.
The Coleman fuel definately performed more poorly at cool temperature. I may have to go out and buy another can and do a back yard gas-off test, Coleman v Jetboil canisters, time to boil a quart. It’d be fun to know the results across a range of air temperatures.

Meanwhile, next time I’m out, I definately want to take my Coleman Exponent, multi-fuel stove.


I don’t know where you shop
but you might ask at the store. I had a guy at REI explain it all to me. He knew the various blends and characteristics. Not something i really wanted to devote to memory, but nice to know it’s around. Another argument in favor of patronizing businesses where they actually know a thing or two (like my local kayak shop).

MSR Fuel
Hey GuideboatGuy. You’re right!

Superfuel is not 10 ten times more refined than Coleman.

I just talked to the MSR rep.

It’s 11 times more refined.

meaning what?
Did you ask what does “11 times more refined” mean in terms of using it to heat things, like water? Does it deliver 11 times the energy per ounce? Will it bring water to boil in 1/11th the time? I doubt it.

I have found that product salesmen are generally not the best sources for objective, comparable information about competing products.

But WHAT does that mean?

– Last Updated: Oct-07-09 9:20 PM EST –

It could mean almost anything, most likely nothing significant. Remember, most of rural America heats their homes and cooks their food with propane, and you NEVER hear about quality issues regarding the gas itself. Same goes for much of the deep south, where many farms fuel their tractors and pickup trucks on butane, usually purchased from whatever co-op they belong to. If companies that buy railroad carloads of propane or butane at a time aren't worried about "extra refining" and nothing bad happens to the equipment it fuels, why should campers worry about gumming up their stoves with "ordinary" fuel?


Hey wait a minute! I just looked up "MSR Superfuel" online and it doesn't even deserve to be mentioned in this discussion! It's LIQUID fuel! What on earth were you thinking?

Anyway, now that we're on the subject of LIQUID fuel, I have a Coleman two-burner stove that is 50 years old, has been used a LOT over the years, and in the old days it burned nothing but generic white gas (that was back in the days when my dad used the stove and you could buy white gas anywhere). Over the last 30 years, since I've been using it, it has burned nothing but Coleman fuel. It still has all the original parts and works just fine. With THAT kind of reliability record, you can bet I won't be buying any of those over-priced and under-sized MSR fuel cans (4 times the cost) anytime soon.