After winning one of the new Matrix “utility cans” at our year-end Moto banquet, it sparked my curiosity about those new EPA/CARB compliant gas cans I had seen a while back. I went shopping for a new gas can last summer and all I could find was the newer style with the contraption style spouts, although I did not actually buy one, they seemed like a pain in the butt to use. At the time all I really needed was new spouts for my old cracked ones, I got on E-bay and ordered three replacement accordion style spouts for my existing cans. They were not cheap; I paid over $20 for my three pack. After a summer of use, two of them have cracked and can no longer be used, so getting this Matrix model was excellent timing.
What we have here:
I thought it would be beneficial to do a review on the Matrix model as well as check out some of the most popular “compliant” models. There is a third contender out there too. They are sold under different names such as VP and LC and have a tall square form factor and the spout comes out the top. They sell for between $30 and $40, but be aware they often do not include the spout which sells for about $10. That puts them in the price range of the Matrix model. On a mission to find these compliant models, I hit up my local big box stores and came away with two designs that seem to be the most popular, both around $11. The Matrix can retails for $50 (although they can be had online for a bit less).
The first one we will look at is a Briggs and Stratton model. Looks like any other red can out there except for the spout. To get gas flowing one needs to lift the can to the fuel tank with one hand, then with the other hand, rotate the green ring at the base of the spout and push down on the spout towards the can into a groove in that ring (the rotating part is spring loaded), then try to aim the spout into the tank and pour. If you don’t keep the spout firmly pushed in towards the base it springs back up and turns into a locked position again. Whether that sounds simple or not, in practice this is no easy feat to accomplish. I think I am a pretty coordinated guy, but trying to lift a full gas can up to the tank, tilting the can, grabbing the ring, turning and pressing down on the spout, aiming and checking that you don’t overfill is practically impossible. Now when the can is nearly empty there is very little weight to the can and when you push the spout down you have to try to press back against it with the hand that is holding the can up. I give it a big fat zero on the rev rating scale.
Option two uses the “enviroflo” design. OK here’s what you have to do to get this one to work. While pulling back on the safety release catch on the side of the spout base with one hand, you press your thumb against the back of the spout base, all while lifting, guiding and pouring the gas into your tank. If you happen to release the pressure with your thumb the slightest bit, the flow shuts off and you must start over again. This system, like the first, feels super cheap, and even worse, flow from both of these models is greatly reduced compared to our Matrix or even the old style spout. I give this one another big zero on the rev rating scale. They both have the mandatory one way screw cap that has the little ratchets on it, making removing the filler cap a real pain. We all should be concerned about the environment, and I am no exception, but I really have to think with all the gas spilling out from how clumsy these systems perform, and how awkward they are to use, that they would put more gas on the ground and fumes in the air than the old designs did. To sum up, these systems suck! Avoid them at all costs. Even if they are only 11 bucks.
Now on to the Matrix Concepts model. It is the best “fluid container” I have seen yet. It is rectangular and measures 7-1/2″ wide, 11-1/2″ deep, and 20-1/2″ tall at the top of the filler cap. Something I noticed as soon as I lifted it up is that it is well built and a bit heavy, but I think those two traits go hand in hand on an item like this. The can holds 4 ½ gallons of “fluid” which keeps your load a little lighter. If you’re a mixer, and you ordinarily use one bottle of oil to every 5 gallons, this size might be a little inconvenient for you. If, however, you buy your oil in larger quantities to save money, you are already using a Ratio-Rite, so no problems.
The can has a long angled two position top handle that strikes a good compromise between carrying and pouring. The spout exits on an angle (an important design difference from the square jug style, requiring less lift to get fluid flowing), is stiff enough to hold its shape, and the length seems just right at 9” (including end insert). The hose itself is a large 1″ OD diameter clear braided design. These features may seem petty but combined they make lining up the spout to the tank opening super easy. As far as pouring, we received the clear-ish white can and with the clear braided hose you can easily gauge flow. With the white/clear model, you can easily see your gas level, especially if you mix your gas. Matrix does make this can in a bunch of cool colors to match whatever. We recommend white/clear for visibility, just stay out of site of the local gas station attendant. DeCal-Works offers custom graphics for the sides too. Ours came with one of the series sponsor’s logos on it. A great promotional tool for moto dealers, maybe they will sell you one cheap to get their name out there … hint … hint. The bottom of the can has ridges that act as a grab point when pouring. The spout has a black plastic cover with lanyard to cap the end off. The refill spout itself has a wide 3″ opening and a screw in vented plug.
The material the can is made from is way more robust than those five gallon cheapies. Being a rectangular shape, the can wedges easily in with your gear and is less apt to move around than the rounded styles. The Matrix can is heavier, weighing in at 4lbs 10oz when empty. When the can is full however with 4 ½ gallons, it weighs 31lbs 10z. When the 5 gallon one is full, it weighs in at 32lbs 7oz, so it really becomes a non issue.
What we liked:
Spout design facilitates “best in class” pouring angle and ease of use compared to the “safety designs”. Square form factor and robust construction. Top handle and bottom grip design is easy to use.
What we didn’t like:
Have to hide it from prying eyes at the gas station when filling. (I have been caught and yelled at because it’s not red.) It is five times more expensive than the WalMart specials.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (11/1/14):
We are now in our 3rd year of use for this container and things have gone downhill big-time. We must update the rev rating we did in the beginning. Function should now be 2 out of 5 rev’s and value and quality should be 3 out of 5. We started having problems after a few uses and realized it pours way to slow compared (not to the others looked at here but) to the VP style containers. This seems to be either due to the very small orifice in the can itself, the many angles, or just where the “fluid” pours out. That is our biggest gripe…flow. The seals in both the screw top and the pour spout have deteriorated and we noticed last year that we were getting some larger particles in the tank from these seals, so we removed them since they were toast, and put in some o-rings (I know they swell etc, but we were desperate for a quick fix). The plug for the end of the spout also has a tendency to slide down and get in the way. Also those cool decals, are now long gone because just like most decals on gas tanks they have bubbled up and gotten mangled. Our latest and final straw came when the pour spout base broke off and rendered that container useless.
We have just taken delivery of 3 new Scribner 5 gallon containers, these are similar to the VP ones but can be found for as low as $22 online. We will see how things go with the new containers, but being a simpler and proven design we are hoping for much better flow and more durability all around. We will still be filling to 4 gallons which keeps the weight down and center of gravity lower. We felt that because we want to be as honest and informative to our readers as possible that this update was necessary.
Product: M3 Utility Can
Contact: Matrix Concepts / 661-253-1592
Writer: Jon Vandecar