Gear Review: Coleman Exponent Multi Fuel Stove

We’ve owned our Coleman Exponent Multi Fuel Stove since 2010, and it’s our go-to stove for car camping and backpacking. In this review we explain why we purchased it – not all the reasons were logical, how it’s worked out for us, and we give some hints for using it while camping and backpacking.

When it comes to backpacking and camping stoves, there’s a lot of choice of fuels. Propane Gas, White Gas, Kerosene, Alcohol, Fuel Tablets, and wood.

For some strange reason I love white gas stoves and lanterns. It must be nostalgia for the Tilley lamps and stoves I’ve used when sailing. So when we went shopping for a backpacking stove, I was looking for a white gas pressure stove.

Picture of bacon sizzling on top of a Coleman Exponent stove

Bacon and eggs for Breakfast, cooked on our Coleman Exponent stove

I checked out a load of ultralight stoves on the Internet, but they all required priming, and according to most of the reviews lighting them involved quite large flames, something I didn’t fancy trying near the tent.

Then I found this nifty little Coleman Exponent dual fuel stove. It doesn’t need priming, has an integral gas tank, and a very controllable flame (not all of the burners I looked at were controllable). It’s a tad heavy, but it’s nice and compact, and it has worked like a dream. On our first trip away with it, one tank full of fuel lasted us all weekend including the testing I did at home when the stove first arrived.

We first took this stove backpacking in December 2010. From full, it made our morning coffee for two days, three main meals, I boiled up enough water for a further five mornings’ coffee once we got home, and there was still some fuel left in the stove. Since then we’ve taken it with us backpacking and car camping so far it’s been with us for around fifty night’s camping and it’s still going strong. We sometimes take it on day hikes to prepare something hot for lunch and I have been known to take it out on kayaking trips – yes I have used this stove on a lake in my kayak, not that I recommend doing so.

Coleman Exponent Stove – Heating the water for our morning coffee, Rock Pile Mountain Wilderness, Madison County, Missouri – March 2012

Just for the record, because we didn’t want the hassle of dealing with the TSA and any potential security problems we didn’t take this stove with us to the UK on a tour of Scotland in 2011. I mention this because we bought a MSR Pocket Rocket propane gas stove while there, which we brought back with us. I still prefer to carry the Coleman even though it is bigger and heavier. There’s something about knowing exactly how much fuel you have left.

Using the Coleman Exponent Multi fuel Stove

For best results don’t overfill it. If you do there is insufficient air-gap to pressurize it and you’ll need to pump it more often.

Give it fifty strokes before lighting. Before pumping you have to unlock the pump handle by twisting it. You should also lock the handle again when you’ve finished pumping. You have to keep your thumb over the central vent in the pump handle. It sounds odd, but it’s very easy in practice. To light the stove, turn the control knob onto high and light the venting gas. The stove will produce a large yellow flame for thirty seconds or so until the burner gets hot, after which the yellow flame will change to a nice blue flame. Give it another twenty or so strokes, and it is good to go. If you’re cooking on ‘high’ for a long time it might be necessary to remove your pot and pump it again.

The burner control works very well – I read a review on Amazon complaining that having the control go from off to high and then to low didn’t make sense. I have to disagree, it does make sense. It stops you accidentally turning it off when you are adjusting the flame to simmer. The same reviewer also said that he didn’t like the plastic knob. The plastic knob has worked fine for us. In my opinion a metal loop or knob would get too hot.

To turn off the Exponent stove, turn the knob all the way back past ‘High’ to ‘Off’. The stove takes a few seconds to burn any remaining fuel and the flame burns yellow briefly, but that’s it. Before stowing it, obviously make sure it’s cooled down. If you haven’t already done so, lock the pump by twisting the pump handle clockwise. There’s no need to depressurize the stove before stowing it, and I’ve never worried about which way up I keep it in my pack.

The adjustable feet work very well allowing you to level the stove on surprisingly uneven surfaces. The leveling adjustment ring looks rather flimsy, but it does the job. The built-in wind screen is surprisingly effective, we’ve only bothered screening the stove in very windy conditions.

Ginger, Gary and Lanie cooking lunch on the Coleman Exponent stove  during a day hike on the Sac River Trai

Ginger, Gary and Lanie cooking lunch on the Coleman Exponent stove during a day hike on the Sac River Trail

Coleman Exponent Stove close up of the usage label

March 2012 and the stove’s still going well – Coleman Exponent Stove close up of the usage label

My only complaint? You do have to watch you don’t catch your fingers on the very hot underside of the burner – see the picture above.

Photograph of a GSI Pinnacle 1.5 Liter backpacking pot & Coleman Exponent Stove

March 2012 and the stove’s still going well – GSI Pinnacle 1.5 Liter pot & Coleman Exponent Stove

This is one of those ‘Don’t try this at home‘ pictures. The potential for an accident far outweighs the benefits of a hot meal. I should have gone ashore to cook lunch.

Maintenance

I put a couple of small drops of oil in the pump every few outings. Beyond that it’s not needed any attention. There’s this article from Coleman on dealing with stoves that don’t want to light – not a problem we’ve had to deal with so far.

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