Q. Why are white gas stoves more versatile than butane, propane, or other canister stoves?
— Chef Robert, Round Rock, Tex.
A. Thanks for the question, Chef. White gas stoves are indeed more versatile than screw-on canister-type stoves. The main reason is they burn reliably in all weather conditions, whereas canister stoves are typically unreliable in winter weather. When temps approach freezing, the pressurized fuel canisters can lose their pressure and become unusable.
Another thing that makes white gas stoves more versatile is that they operate with refillable fuel bottles that you fill at home with exactly as much gas as you expect to use on your trip. With canister stoves it’s impossible to tell how much fuel is left in a partly used canister, so you always have to bring a couple (added weight) and when the canisters are empty you have to pack them out (dead weight clanking around in your backpack).
White gas is cheaper too. Fuel for white gas stoves is up to 10 times less expensive (especially when you buy it in bulk versus purchasing individual fuel canisters).
Now keep in mind, all of the above does not mean that canister-style stoves are a bad option. They are great, too, and I use one myself on lots of trips. In general, canister stoves are more compact, simpler to operate, and there’s never a danger of fuel spilling or leaking in your pack.
But you’re right — white gas is more versatile. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate in versatility, check out a multi-fuel stove which can burn white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline that used for cars, and even jet fuel. Now that’s versatility!