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Gear Review: GigaPower Auto Stove (GS-100A)

Reviewed by Rick Booth December, 2001 

"Neee, neee, neee".  Its four AM and the pathetic alarm in the watch has
gone off.  It's cold and dark and it's another alpine start.  A hand
shoots out of the bivy sack.  It grabs a small stove sitting under a pot
of water.  "ClickĂ–.FOOOOOSH", the stove ignites.  The hand goes back into
the bivy bag.  Muttering begins from the bivy bag and the one next to it. 
Familiar?  Probably the alpine start and the bivy bag and certainly the
muttering but a stove that can be started by just squeezing a starter is
new.  The stove?  It's the SnowPeak GigaPower Auto (GS-100A).

During the Triassic era when I started climbing I started with a canister
stove that ran on just butane.  This was an ok stove but it was pretty
cantankerous when it got even remotely cold so I put it on the shelf and
bought a Svea 123 which ran on white gas.  This was a great stove, in
spite of blowing up once, and I used it for years until deciding to use a
MSR Whisperlight.  Now there is a cantankerous stove.  A few years ago I
climbed the Twilight Pillar with Dave Ress and he brought a Gaz stove and
canister.  It worked like a charm and the new propane/butane mix was
supposedly much more robust at lower temperatures.  The Monday I returned
I had a Gaz stove for a whole $18.

The Gaz stove is pretty compact and light but when I saw the GigaPower
stove I had to try one.  Actually, Dee got to try one since she got one
for Christmas.  This stove has three outstanding features.  It is very
light (under 4 ounces including the starter) and ultra compact.  It also
has a piezoelectric starter, which means it can be started by pushing a
button without using matches.  This is how our intrepid alpinists
discussed above got going early in the morning.  This technology is based
on flexing a ceramic element and then releasing it.  When it releases a
large voltage is developed across the crystal and this is turned into a
spark by a little finger of metal near the burner.  Presto, instant

Compared to the Gaz stove it is much more compact and lighter and has the
auto starter.  A version of this stove may be purchased without the
starter but I don't recommend this at all.  There is also a titanium
version available that saves a whole .75 ounces for an extra $35 and
unless you are an engineer or technology aficionado this will probably not
be cost effective.  There are two down sides to the stove.  The first is
the price.  The non-titanium version runs about $64.  The second down side
is this stove cannot be used with the Gaz canister which means it won't be
usable in Europe.

Dee and I have put some mileage on our stove.  It can be used with the
SnowPeak, Markhill, Primus, and MSR canisters.  This gives a lot of
selection.  The SnowPeak canisters come in a small version which is
perfect for one night out for either one or two people.  The only problems
noted so far are it sometimes fails to light with the auto starter on the
first try and the flame is very concentrated due to the small burner. 
This makes making alpine quesadillas more difficult than using a Gaz
stove.  I would recommend bringing some matches just in case the ceramic
crystal breaks.  Not likely but it is an easy back up.

Where do you get one?  They seem to be available about everywhere
including REI, Western Mountaineering and Mountain Gear.  All the local
stores seem to carry one or more of the acceptable canisters.