Friday, January 13, 2012

First impressions: Fire-Maple 116T

Fire-Maple 116T

Jakob from approached Nordic Lightpacking in October 2011 to test the Fire-Maple 116T gas stove. I took on the task and have been able to use it on some dayhikes since, enough to be able to share my first impressions and thoughts about it, including those of Helen who´s been trying it out too.

It is worth noting that the 116T has been reviewed by several people already, and is available under other brand names, for instance the Montauk Gnat (tested by Hendrik) and the Vango Ultralite.

Is it still relevant?
With the appearance of the Jetboil Sol Ti some people might argue that stoves like the 116T are not relevant anymore. The Sol Ti is such a polished package, offering low total weight, speed and very good fuel efficiency which means it´s now a viable option on longer hikes. Phil demonstrated this on his TGO challenge this year, only using a single 100 gram canister for the whole trek. It is not perfect though; nothing is, and that´s what makes stoves so interesting in my view (yes, I´m a collector, there I´ve said it). So, what has the 116T got to offer? In my view it is simplicity, flexibility, affordability, simmering capability and a wide flame pattern.

The 116T is cut to the bone in terms of functionality to get the weight down. It is advertised as weighing 48 grams; on my scale it clocked in at 47. It doesn´t have piezo ignition which might have been nice, but from what I´ve read they tend to stop working after a while anyway. There is not much that can go wrong with it. The adjuster is the only sensitive part in my view; it looks like it could bend or break if pressure is applied to it from the wrong angle.

It is obvious, but still worth mentioning: this stove can be used with a multitude of pots compared to something like the Sol Ti. The pot supports are quite wide and so is the flame pattern. It will easily accomodate something like the wide Evernew 900 (the pot supports almost reach the edge of the pot).

If you get the Vango version it is 21 pounds when bought from their website (postage unknown), and I found it as low as 15.29+2.99 postage on the UK ebay site. The price on is 350 SEK + postage.

Paired with something like the Alpkit MytiMug (currently sold out) for 25 pounds, you´ve got quite an affordable UL cooking setup. A windscreen is also needed, but it is an easy MYOG project. Helen and me recommend getting the MSR Titan kettle though if you can afford it. It is such a sweet pot.

The 116T has fine control over simmering so you´re less likely to burn that porridge you´re craving for breakfast. A stove like the Sol Ti in effect only has one setting and that is full blast. To be fair it can be adjusted a bit, but not to the point of being able to simmer effectively.

Wide flame pattern
The flame pattern of the 116 is quite wide so you´re less prone to getting burned spots like with a Primus Micron or a MSR Pocket Rocket which both have a focused and narrow flame.

So what´s bad then?.

Like most top mounted gas stoves it is quite sensitive to wind so you need to use a windscreen, and even with a windscreen it won´t be totally undisturbed. A windscreen adds weight. The one I got with the stove (not normally delivered with stove) weighs in at 85 grams. To be fair a MYOG one would weigh a lot less, but might not be as durable.

Fuel economy
I have not done any measurements myself, but from I´ve read it won´t be able to compete with the likes of the Sol Ti with its heat exchanger and throttled output. This means you may have to carry two canisters instead of one on a longer trip, and then there might be better options in terms of weight carried over time.

Loose pot supports
This doesn´t really affect function, I just don´t like that they are so loose. I noticed it right away and though it made it seem a bit flimsy.

Use in cold weather
To be able to use this in cold weather you need take some measures to keep the canister warm enough for effective operation, for instance by having it in your pocket until use and placing it in a bowl of water when in use. Still there is a limit to how low you can go.

I´ve also mentioned the flame adjuster looking more vulnerable than the one on the Primus. I have no experience to back that up with though, and it´s quite similar to other popular stoves like the Optimus Crux.

All in all I like this stove and wouldn´t hesitate to recommend it. However, if you´re only going to boil water and you can afford it, I would look long and hard at the Jetboil Sol Ti as it seems to be a very good option for a lot of people.

Helen´s opinion:
On first sight the stove is small, light, reasonably well made, a back to basics but lighter version of the cartridge stove most of us have used at some point during our hill walking or backpacking 'career'. 
The stove was easily assembled, the cartridge screwed in easily and it was easy to use the wire adjuster to open up the gas and to close it off (though for a numpty like me, having 'on' and 'off' written somewhere would be good! You soon find out which is which though...). 
Boil time seemed decent enough, it does all the things you would expect of a basic cartridge stove. What I like about this is that for daywalkers or people getting into backpacking, especially into lightening their packs, they could use one of these to make a good weight saving compared to more conventional cartridge stoves (like my Coleman F1) but without having to shell out huge wads of cash. It seems to be a no brainer to me to buy this rather than something like a Jet Boil Sol Ti, or a Back Country Boiler, or any one of the other, "approaching £100 mark" stoves, for what benefit? Spend less on a decent little lightweight stove like this, and use the rest of the money to get to the hills or to lighten up other areas of the pack!
Jacob from has told me that readers of this post will be able to buy the stove for 250 kr (normal price is 350). Just use the coupon code "glighter".