Liquid fuel or Primus style stoves are the best stoves going for extreme cold and altitude. Going to Peru and cooking at 15,000 feet? Get an MSR Whisperlite International. The thing is, very few people are doing that kind of trip. The Whisperlite is neither light nor quiet. It’s overkill, a sooty, hard to master stove that puts out a ton of BTU’s. Think: commuting to work with a tank. You can do it, but it’s hard to parallel park.
Canister stoves, among them the Pocket Rocket and Jet Boil, are fast, easy, light, and efficient. They’re also incredibly wasteful. Here’s in image taken on Everest:
Fuel canisters are hard to dispose of. They’re not refillable. It’s like driving your car to work and throwing out the entire gas tank, gas included, when you get home. Insanity for a touch of convenience.
Biomass stoves work, sort of. They’re slow, hard to master, and rely on dry wood. You can’t use them in forest fire hot spots, or in the desert, or anywhere there are no sticks. They’re big, heavy. Small ones claim to work well, but I’ve used close to a dozen models, and only the big ones work decently.
The answer has been around since 1951. The Swedes invented the Trangia alcohol stove, and it’s been the benchmark lightweight alcohol stove for ages. There are lighter alcohol stoves, but the best I’ve used is the Trangia and its clones. Let’s break it down:
Liquid stoves: Expensive, heavy, very loud, hard to maintain, hard to light, hard to simmer. Boils water fast. If you don’t use white gas, they’re smoky and stinky. Best fuel is only available at camp stores.
Canister stoves: Moderate price, light, wasteful, hard to simmer, loud. Boils water, but impossible to cook on. Fuel only available at camping stores. Containers are not puncture proof or leak proof.
Alcohol stoves. Affordable, light, zero maintenance, silent, easy to simmer, decent but not hyper fast boil time. Can get fuel at a grocery store, hardware store, gas station, pharmacy, liquor store. Fuel can be stored in any water tight container.
Lost your Alcohol stove? You can make a new one out of 2 beer/soda/V8 cans, scissors and some needle nose pliers. I’ve made more than one on a trip after forgetting my stove at home. Bad packing, easy solution. Esbit has been around since the mid ‘30’s, making stoves for the military (bad), rescue workers (good), and tourists (questionable). They became famous for the Esbit solid fuel tablets. I’ve used these, and while they seem like a great idea, they’re relatively low heat, and are mainly good to warm stuff up, not to cook food with. These days, in addition to making the OG Esbit fuel tablet stove, they also make an alcohol stove or 3. We sell two of them. This version uses a Trangia style burner (good, reliable, durable) combined with an anodized aluminum pot, tiny frying pan and wind screen. It all nests in the pot. Ideal size for one hungry bikepacker. Overkill for making just a cup of coffee, but perfect for making pasta, boiling water to dump in a freeze dried meal, or scrambling some eggs up.
The burner is brass, with a simmer ring for more delicate cooking (eggs, heating up a maple waffle), a lid with o-ring that allows you to cap the stove mid burn and save the remaining fuel, and a large fuel reservoir for a long burn time.
Lighting an alcohol stove is easy, way easier than any other stove except something with a piezo lighter. Prep all your stuff. Water, etc. Put the burner in the windscreen, filled within a centimeter of the rim. Take a fire steel, and strike a quick burst of sparks at the open burner top. Boom, ignition. No boom, cause alcohol stoves make no noise.
We like to pair these with the large Munieq windscreen / pot stand, which we also stock. That's a reasonably light combo, and it can support a pot with 1 liter of water, enough for 2 people to cook up most dehydrated meals.
Brass construction. You need a pot stand or pot stand / windscreen combo to use this stove. Burns best with Denatured alcohol, but you can use 90% isopropyl, 70% iso, HEET, or really strong liquor in a pinch. Bacardi 151 or Everclear would work fine, but burn at a bit lower temps. Denatured burns the hottest and cleanest.
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