Alcohol stoves

Posted by: jeff evans

Alcohol stoves - 05/11/10 09:08 PM

I've purchased a very light (and dirt cheap) alcohol stove, and I want to use it on my backpacking trips this year. It fits perfectly inside my GSI cook pot, and that also saves on bulk. However, I hear that alcohol stoves don't do well at altitude. Is there any truth to that? If so, how high is too high? Granted, I live right at sea level, but my tests showed that 2 cups of water boil in about 6 minutes with this baby, so I figure I wont be underpowered at least.
Posted by: Mike Condron

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/11/10 10:16 PM

If you're into ultra ultra light packing the alcohol stoves are a must. If not then get a stove that will bring you comfort for one pound extra weight.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/11/10 11:40 PM

The issue with alcohol stoves is that the fuel gives off less energy per weight of fuel burned, when compared to Coleman fuel or propane/butane. Therefore you might need more fuel to heat the same amount of water.

But the trade off is that you don't need to carry the heavier propane canister or Coleman fuel stove with the pumping apparatus.

But I use something lighter: The Backpacking Light Firelite Titanium Esbit Wing Stove Heres the link.




I have a 2 cup aluminum cup I use to heat my single dinners, and put it over the stove. On my trip last summer, I blew out the flame after the food was hot and ready to eat. Used 2/3 of a tablet per day.

Add a little aluminum foil for a wind screen. The fuel tablets are 1/2 oz each. Stove plus wind screen plus two days fuel weigh less than the 2-oz cup!
Posted by: Bee

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/12/10 12:07 AM

Putting out approx 6800-7000 Btu, the alcohol stove can heat a litre of water in about 8 min under optimal conditons. It helps if the stove is elevated off the cold surfaces.

Steve, can you elaborate a bit on your set-up, such as what sort of meals you cooked in your 2 cup cup, etc.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/12/10 12:57 AM

I bought the Mountain House freeze dried meals with four servings, and repackaged them into 3 zip loc bags. I found I wanted a little more of those meals than a "single serving".

I would pour the contents of the bag into the cup, add water, and set it on the stove. Some of the meals wouldn't completely fit into the 2 C cup, so I'd add more to the cup after I ate some.

My appetite was good enough that I started eating the gruel as soon as it got warm. So the meal was still heating as I ate. Once everything was hot enough, I'd blow out the flame.

That may sound a bit spartan or crude, since I didn't boil the water first, add the meal, and let it set the required number of minutes. But heck, sitting on a rock out in the middle of nowhere, tired from walking all day long,... It worked for me! grin
Posted by: jeff evans

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/12/10 05:52 PM

Steve, very cool little system there. I'm a big fan of BPL and I'm surprised I haven't seen that yet. In my further reading last night and today, it seems the cold has a lot more to do with trouble and alcohol stoves than altitude. I might need to sleep with the alcohol bottle in my sleeping bag, just to keep it warm for the morning.

Here's my little system for now. I bought this stove from a friend for $15, so I'm not exactly invested in it too deep. I like how it all fits inside the pot, with the exception of the fuel bottle. I'll try it out on lesser trips, like an overnight at Gorgonio coming up. We'll see how she does.

http://picasaweb.google.com/jevanspaper/Outdoors02#
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/12/10 10:41 PM

Jeff, make one of these, and see if it works any better. My son is hiking the PCT this summer, and this is his stove of choice. All the stuff he's read is that all the stores near the PCT crossroads carry the alcohol fuel (Heat). (I think his does not have the fiberglass. Looks like a good modification.)

video: Make a Pepsi can stove

To find plenty more about it, just Google Pepsi can stove.


I see what you mean about the cold being a problem. Even the video shows preheating the can. Need to build up a little more evaporation.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/12/10 10:47 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve C


That may sound a bit spartan or crude, since I didn't boil the water first, add the meal, and let it set the required number of minutes. But heck, sitting on a rock out in the middle of nowhere, tired from walking all day long,... It worked for me! grin


This is pretty funny, Steve. I beelieve that all of our "civilized" mannerisms go out the door on the trail! I can think of countless times when I brought pouched meat (chicken) to add to the heating "meal" and while waiting for the gruel to reach room temp, I would devour the meat long before it made it into the pot!!
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/12/10 11:03 PM

> ...and while waiting for the gruel to reach room temp, I would devour the meat...

"Gruel" I like it. cool Edited my post above to add that word.
Posted by: jeff evans

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/13/10 09:02 PM

I couldn't get that video to play, Steve. But that stove is similar to mine in design. http://speedofultralight.com/speedofultralightgear.aspx
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Alcohol stoves - 05/14/10 01:07 AM

Cool! I didn't know you could actually buy one.

There are plenty of YouTube videos on them -- you could spend hours watching all the versions.
Posted by: John P.

Re: Alcohol stoves - 06/28/10 08:02 AM

This thread inspired me to get into my shop and tinker around with making an alcohol stove. There's alot of plans online but this one seemed the best Mini Zen Alcohol Stove . It works great - on my garage floor and I'm excited about being able to get some weight out of my pack. What are some real-time tips from you experienced users? How much fuel to bring? Setup and use in windy/cold temps/etc, etc?
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Alcohol stoves - 06/28/10 10:40 AM

That mini Zen looks nice.

I can't give you any first-hand experience, since I use the Esbit Wing Stove above. But my son is out on the PCT in Washington, tramping through lots of snow, and using the Pepsi can stove. When I talk to him next, I'll ask how his stove is working.
Posted by: Mike Condron

Re: Alcohol stoves - 06/28/10 02:28 PM

I used one for a while but found it to be a bit of a pain due to a lack of control. Fixed time the thing is burning, fixed flame size thus no simmer or high. It worked OK but for the few extra ounces I prefer a white gas stove or a pocket rocket.

Doing the PCT has so many other discomforts I suppose one more little one won't matter much.
Posted by: John P.

Re: Alcohol stoves - 08/18/10 07:05 AM

An update on the alcohol stove I made ( Mini Zen ). Took it out on its maiden voyage to Red Lake (10,000) and I was surprised at how reliably it worked. Time to boil didn't seem much different than at home (~2600ft) but fuel consumption was much higher IMO. I used Ziplock plastic container inside a cozy to "cook" the food in. I went thru approximately 4oz of alcohol (maybe a tad over 3oz) and cooked a dinner of Top Ramen and instant soup and a breakfast of oatmeal and a very large cup of coffee. With a bit more practice, I'm sure the fuel used will go down but not all that much. Final verdict: it's a great choice for one or two night solo trips but multiple day trips with two or more a canister stove makes more sense (everyone can share the load).