Kovea's Spider Remote Canister Stove
Kovea are a Korean company that specialise in manufacturing outdoor equipment and are predominantly known for their stoves, but they aren't nearly as well known in the West as they should be, at least not directly. Kovea have, for a long time, made stoves and stove components for well known, high-end brands such as MSR in the States and Snow Peak in Japan. So it's very possible, if you've not heard of Kovea, you've already come across their workmanship but under another name. Fortunately, Kovea stoves are now available in the UK and Europe from Kovea's official agent, MercatorGear.
As always, we're looking at the Kovea Spider from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.
Test subject: n/a
Kit Tests: Winter, Summer (upcoming)
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)
|Materials: Brass + Steel||-|
|Pot Support Diameter:||14cm|
|Packed Dimensions (H x W x D):||9.5 x 8.5 x 2.4cm|
|Weight (Stove + Bag = ):||168g + 10g = 178g|
|Manufacturer RRP (Basic Option)||£44.00|
Introduction: What are we talking about?
We're not going to talk here about boil times and lab versus windy outdoor test boils and the like. Mainly because a) the Kovea Spider is perfectly suited for use with a windshield and not using a windshield in mountainous conditions would be foolish, and b) because we're not talking about high frequency trading; I'm happy to lose a few seconds, or even a whole minute when boiling water up in the mountains. There are other reviews of the Spider that go into such details and we link to a couple below. The Spider boils water rapidly enough.
Instead we're going to talk about our experience of using the stove, its build quality, reliability, packability, weight and anecdotally note its efficiency.
Fuel Mix & Conditions
All fuels vaporise at different temperatures: Butane above -0.5°C; Isobutane above -11.6°C; Propane above -41.7°C. So, if it's below -0.5°C, liquid Butane will be left in the canister, while, for example Propane will have been vaporised and fed to the stove.
This is why canister-top stoves are not such a good option in cold conditions and perhaps a lesser option all-round (more on this later). With remote canister stoves, the gas canister can be inverted, feeding liquid fuel to the stove, where it's heated locally via an anti-flare pre-heat tube and vaporised just prior to reaching the burner. According to Adventures in Stoving this provides a 10°C advantage over canister-top stoves.
In the latest 2017 Winter Test, rain, hail and snow (mainly rain) were the issue, much more than the cold - temperatures dropping below zero only at night and in the early mornings.
Normally in Winter I'd use an Isobutane / Propane gas mix. But I wanted to see how the Spider did with fair-weather gas in liquid feed mode, so I took a canister with 280g left of Coleman gas (a 70% Butane / 30% Propane mix). With 280g I felt I wouldn't subconsciously ration myself.
What was impressive was over the seven days with 2 boils a day, one for lunch and one after pitching, with each meal using on average around 800 ml of water (1 or 2 cups @ 300 ml per cup of tea or coffee and about 400ml for food, totalling approx. 1.6L per day), the Spider used 137g of gas in total in chilly conditions. I rarely had the stove on full, yet water boiled quickly enough for me to not feel like I was twiddling my thumbs. In fact by the time I'd prepared the food (emptied out some couscous, chopped some chorizo, poured in some olive oil, spooned out some coffee etc.), it was beginning to boil.
On long treks over multiple days and weeks, far more important than the world record for the fasted boil, is efficiency as this translates to weight (the more efficient the stove, the less gas you need to carry).
If required, the Kovea Spider has plenty of power to boil water very quickly. Although the burner head is relatively small, it pushes the flame outward, preventing hot spots at the base of the pot or pan. Furthermore, the degree of control is impressive, allowing the user to gradually move from a gentle simmer to full-on quick boil mode.
Canister-top stoves are far more popular for some reason than remote canister stoves. I'm not sure why, but my guess is that their tiny size, and especially with the titanium models, their ultra-light weight must seem very appealing. But outside the confines of the studio and the photo-shoot, we soon realise we'll need a few accessories.
So with our 45g stove, we add a 60g windshield and a 25g stabiliser. So now our stove setup weighs 130g and if the temperature drops we're going to need some 4 season gas for sure, as we can't do a liquid feed.
In addition because canister-top stoves are so proximate to the canister, the windshield must provide a fair degree of ventilation and cannot match the completely enclosed windshields of their remote cousins. Thus, a good canister top stove cannot match the efficiency of a good remote canister stove. Which means you'll use more gas per day, which equates to more grams carried. The Kovea Spider (168g) and Scramble's Titanium Windshield (25g) total 193g.
The Kovea Spider inside Scramble's 25g Titanium Spider Windshield (Test Prototype)
So if you use 10g of gas extra per day (which is very possible* see calculation below), over the course of a week, all the perceived weight benefits of the micro 45g stove vanish (130g setup + 70g of extra gas = 200g vs. 193g). Such a system may end up weighing more, in fact will certainly weigh more if the trip extends beyond those 7 days (and we're assuming a very conservative boiling regimen).
I actually do use a canister-top stove (the Kovea Superlite Titanium), but only for day trips or single over-nighters, where I don't have to worry too much about gas usage.
Build Quality & Features
Made of steel and brass, the Kovea Spider could probably be made to be a little lighter (titanium legs?), but I wonder if such weight reductions would impact its stability. There's something reassuringly robust about this superbly engineered stove. The legs swivel round and click into place and there's no wobble once extended. To release them one simply presses down and swivels them back into packed position. The leg design is excellent and makes for a very stable stove (with a 14cm diameter support, and a low centre of gravity, standing 8.5cm off the ground) which can handle much larger pots and pans than any self respecting solo trekker is going to be carrying on their journey.
The coupler rotates making inverting the canister for liquid feed mode very hassle free (no straining / over twisting of the tube).
The final feature of note is the fold-out, wire flame control. This makes adjusting the flame while wearing winter gloves much more manageable than would be the case with a knob control employed by some of the lesser quality stoves.
If you're straying far afield (especially in Winter conditions) you want a stove you can rely on. There are plenty of stories out there of gas stoves failing their users. I'm more than happy to carry a few extra grams for a robust, high quality, reliable stove.
Kovea state that the Spider is "the most compact remote canister stove ever built". I've not come across anything countering this claim, and its packability is certainly a major positive. The Spider will fit into many of the popular solo pots out there including MSR's Titan Kettle and Alpkit's Myti900 pot (pictured below).
We're continuing to test this stove and will update this review if any negatives come to light, but so far it looks like we've found a real keeper in the Kovea Spider.
Conclusion & Rating
Although the Spider is an excellent stove in sub zero conditions, especially when using a good quality Isobutane / Propane gas mix, the Spider is really an all-year round option, and we're looking forward to using the Spider in the forthcoming Summer Kit Test.
A wonderfully designed and well engineered stove, superbly finished in steel and brass, the Kovea Spider is solid and stable, robust and reliable. The Spider's design is very suited to bespoke windshields and our ultralight titanium design is now available in our store. The Spider has very good flame control and flame dispersion and works very well in liquid feed mode, able to melt snow down to -23°C. Which coincidentally is pretty much the comfort limit of our recommended modular sleeping bag extreme option. The Spider is competitively light (when one factors in the accessories required for a canister-top stove) and one of, if not the most compact remote canister stoves on the market. To top it all off, the Kovea Spider (when paired with a closely fitted windshield) has to be one of the most efficient stoves around. It also boasts "the lowest carbon monoxide emissions of any gas camping stove currently available". What's not to like? The Kovea Spider is Scramble's top rated 4 Season Gas Stove, and likely a tough one to dislodge.
Rating (out of 10)
As it's too early for us to make an honest appraisal of the Kovea Spider's durability we've made an educated guess based on its build quality.
* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.
There's an excellent review of the Kovea Spider by someone who knows more about stoves than I ever will over at Adventures In Stoving. So if you want to dig deeper into this little gem, I'd strongly recommend their review of the Kovea Spider.
For details on boil times and a more lab test oriented review, check out the Gear Institute's review here.
* Comparative Gas Efficiency Calculation
Efficiency calculation based on real mountain conditions usage data from MercatorGear's Gas Usage Calculator and the following boiled water consumption:
- Food: 400ml per meal @ 2 hot meals per day = 800ml
- Drinks: 300ml per cuppa @ 2.5 hot drinks per day (assuming some days 3 some days 2 cuppas per day) = 750ml
- Total: 800ml + 750ml = 1550ml (1.55L)
The calculator estimates a 6g difference (Kovea Spider = 16g versus Kovea Titanium Canister Top = 22g) per litre in favour of the remote canister stove. So, 6g x 1.55 = 9.3g, which rounds up to 10g (since we generally boil a little more than we need plus evaporation etc.). So we get a 10g extra gas requirement per day.
Last Updated: 12/07/17