Sprinter Van Heater and Stove
This is a van question:) we are building out a 170 sprinter and are trying to decide between propane stove vs the stove/heater you have that connects to the diesel tank. So far how is your stove heater working? Is it easy to maintain? Can you cook decently? Any major drawbacks? It is super pricey but we think it could be worth it for space and convenience purposes. Let me know what you think, thank you for your awesome webpage it is super useful!
Congrats on the van! I have a Wallas heater/stove combo in my van, something that’s pretty unique to Mobius Concepts. We also considered a more typical set up, with a 2 burner propane stove and either a wall-mounted heater, or just a minimalist camping style propane heater. I have friends who have done all of these different options, and all of them really like their choices, so there’s never a single clear piece of advice you get from anyone–just because people have different priorities and use requirements. I think with the heater and stove there are tradeoffs and you have to figure out which elements outweigh the others.
So having used the Wallas for about a year and a half now in my van, I would say the advantages of not having to deal with propane tanks is a huge bonus. You also don’t have to dedicate space for a tank, and you don’t have to sacrifice a wall space for a built-in wall heater (although they are pretty small). The disadvantage of the Wallas is slow start-up time and slow response time while cooking. It takes about 10 minutes to heat up to full strength after you turn it on, and it also has to power down for about 10 minutes when you shut it off–you should not drive while it’s on or in power down mode too, so you have to factor that into your cooking. When cooking, it behaves more like an electric rangetop than a propane stove, which means you don’t get instant response when turning the heat up or down. It also has a feature of having the higher burner on the left and the lower burner on the right, so you will always have one burner hotter than the other–this is fixed, though you can change the heat from low to high. So if you’re a serious cook like me, you do have to adjust to the tool. I don’t really mind it–since I like cooking so much, I actually kind of enjoy adjusting to different stoves, but from a pure cooking perspective, I would always choose a propane stove. From a logistics and travel perspective of not having to monitor and refill the propane tank (which isn’t a huge deal, but is guaranteed to always happen at the most inconvenient time on a trip, in my experience), I would choose the Wallas.
With the van, I also use an auxiliary stove, to take the place of the electric teakettle at home, because we drink gallons of tea in the cold months and don’t want to have to use the stove every time we want tea (i.e. every 5 minutes). I use the MSR Reactor because it boils water almost instantly, while the Wallas takes about 10 minutes to heat up to full strength after you turn it on (and it also takes about 10 minutes to power back down). We’ve also learned to fill two Stanley thermoses when we do boil tea water, so we can get another round without heating water. I’m guessing most van people are not as obsessive about tea, but the point is that everyone has their different little preferences, and it does affect your choices about stoves.
For the heater aspect, I was very skeptical about the need for a heater at all in a van. I’ve lived in vans, trucks and cars for extended periods for years and never had a heater (although I probably would have liked one when living in my truck at Indian Creek and Hueco Tanks in the winter). Since I like rock climbing, I’m generally not hanging out in my van in Alaska or Canada in December and January, so a heater does seem like a little more of a luxury than a necessity to me. Usually if I’m cold I either cook something, boil some water or get in a sleeping bag. It’s such a small space it doesn’t take much to heat it. Many friends who do have wall-style heaters assured me that I would regret it forever if I didn’t get one. So part of the appeal of the Wallas for me was not having to acquire or make space for a heater, but knowing we would have one for when I suddenly discovered that life would be hell without a heater in the van. Honestly, so far, we have not used the heating feature much. With the van being well insulated, and with us mostly spending time in rock climbing friendly climates, it’s just not usually all that cold, and when it is cold, we are making tea and the van heats up inside. For my use, it would probably be fine to have the most simple portable heater that we could tuck away and pull out if we really wanted it. Again, this has a lot to do with your personal preferences and typical territory–if you want to spend the winter ice climbing out of your van, you will definitely need a serious heater!