All cookers can produce very poisonous carbon monoxide, often indicated by them burning with a yellow flame. Do not let this condition continue and only use cookers in well ventilated areas. When tenting, cook outside if at all possible – this also prevents condensing steam saturating your gear. In bad weather, light the cooker outside and then cook in the vestibule, ensuring adequate ventilation.

Shelter the stove from the wind with the supplied heat-shield, perhaps augmented with a wall of rocks, or packs. Never improvise a heat-shield for a cooker that is not designed for one as the fuel tank may catastrophically overheat.

Always refill cookers outside, well away from any naked flame and the cooking bench. Don’t overfill the cooker tank and don’t fill a warm cooker. Petrol vapour and gas spills downwards.

Never, ever operate a cooker with leaky seals, or O-rings. If the stove flares dangerously, smother it with an upturned billy: don’t put out such a flame with water, or dirt.

The following names all refer to Fuelite, commonly (and mistakenly) called ‘white spirits’:

  • BP: Britolite
  • Caltex: Calite
  • Coleman: Coleman fuel
  • Mobil: Pegasol
  • Shell: Shellite, Shell X55

Allow 250ml/hr fuel consumption and four to eight minutes (30ml) to boil one litre of water, though in the wind this can extend to half an hour.


It is usually safe to drink lake, river and tank water in the bush without treating it. Water in farmland should be boiled for at least three minutes before using it.

When using a cooker in a hut, keep it on the cooking bench so that the billy can’t tip and spill into someone’s lap. Keep the lid on the billy to speed bringing it to the boil.

Take great care not to burn your fingers on a hot billy handle. A spare billy-hook is useful to remove a billy from a fire.

Take care when carrying billies of boiling water as spills into boots can badly scald.


This page is a reproduction of the relevant section of FMC’s Safety in the Mountains booklet; first published in 1937, and still in print today, 11 editions later. You can buy your copy from the FMC website, at near giveaway price. More than 130,000 copies of this distilled mountain wisdom have found their way in to packs, huts and collections of generations of outdoors enthusiasts.