Alcohol Stoves

3:08 a.m. on June 6, 2007 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
102 forum posts

After many years of Svea-type stoves, I shifted almost exclusively for seven or eight years to Trangia solo Hunter stove and cookset. About five years ago I shifted to cannisters. I don't mind using cannisters in tent or especially floorless tarp shelters.

Flames from Hunter are TOO unruly for inside a tent. I've never tried Trangia's more deluxe windscreen-supplied models, which probably have very worthy merits and slightly safer..

The Hunter set up is extremely cheap, amazingly simple and light, and relatively SAFE (compared with gasoline) and effective..But carrying alcohol was sometimes as much or maybe more trouble than gasoline.

I used Hunter, like all of my stoves, for up to four nights but mainly 1-2 nights at a time. At the time I took gasoline for winter spates. Now I'd go for cannisters unless things were going to get pretty rough.

Wind has important influence on alcohol's fuel efficiency though I did use Hunter much at beach, and for at least several nights in mild weather lower alpine with no major complaint.

Still I imagine it is much easier to acquire Heet and/or alcohol for roadside resupply than extra cannisters. So the various mini alcohol stoves continue to have many advantages.

12:44 p.m. on June 6, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,272 forum posts

If you look back through the Trailspace archives, you will find extensive discussions of different types of fuels and stoves, with excellent inputs by Jim S, who has done extensive testing of stoves in various conditions. I won't repeat those discussions here, except to note that each fuel (alcohol, "white gas", kerosene, butane, isobutane, propane, wood chips) has its advantages, disadvantages, and areas of applicability. Use in appropriate conditions in the safe manner appropriate to each, and you will be happy. Use inappropriately in unsafe manner and you may end up with a disaster like the Wilcox expedition.

10:35 a.m. on June 7, 2007 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
102 forum posts

Except that butane is obsolete, & I don't think I know of any propane backpacking stoves.

11:47 a.m. on June 7, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
391 forum posts

Coleman makes a simple burner unit that uses a those little green propane bottles they sell bazillions of. A number of guys I know here use these for backpack hunts due to the cold weather reliability factor.

I have an older Coleman "Grasshopper" stove that I have backpacked, but, it is usually in the emerg. box in my vehicle with my Coleman propane lantern, this is not "cool"gear, but, it is utterly reliable in the worst conditions.

I prefer a Brunton Crux canister stove of my Brunton Nova for most backpacking and am working on a candle stove for winter hiking of the type often called a "Yukon Stove".

2:19 p.m. on June 7, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,272 forum posts

Calamity said, "Except that butane is obsolete,..."

Hmmmm.... Have you ever read the compressed gas canisters to find out what is inside them? Apparently not, given that comment.

Compressed gas canisters, whether the old Gaz puncture type, the newer Gaz 270/470, or the industry standard threaded coupling type, contain mixtures of butane, isobutane, and propane in varying proportions. Each of these has qualities that the choice of proportions seeks to utilize. Butane is cheaper and has a good heat yield, but has a vaporization point of about 0C/32F. Isobutane is more expensive, about the same heat yield as butane, and a vaporization point of about 10F. Propane has a better heat yield and a vaporization point of -40(C or F), but by itself requires much higher pressure to liquify, hence a heavier container. But mixed to less than something like 20 percent of the total, helps the cold performance. Mixtures of isobutane and propane with no simple butane work quite well in cold temperatures, but are significantly more expensive.

The canisters currently readily available use butane or isobutane as the primary constituent with 20 percent or less of propane. MSR and Markill are the primary companies selling isobutane/propane mixes with no butane (Snowpeak contracts their canisters). The rest (Primus, Coleman's 5 stove subsidiaries, Optimus, Brunton, etc) use butane as the primary constituent, in some cases with no isobutane.

Sorry, butane is far from "obsolete."

8:11 p.m. on June 7, 2007 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
102 forum posts

My Friend:
You are probably right about these various interesting fuels, yet all I ever see in stores and buy (a lot) in recent years are the isobutane cans. (MSR and Coleman Snow Peak. )

I used ze Fr. Bluet Gaz pure butane brand in mid-1980s a few times cooking for 2-3 people. Without any windscreen and at 30 degrees cooking for three people in slight breeze, it was nightmarishly slow, particularly after moutain hikes ending at 2. a.m....

The isobutane cans are really far better, except for disposal, and can effectively cook for two at nearly zero or perhaps below under a tarp shelter.


-Calamity of '06

------------

10:30 p.m. on June 7, 2007 (EDT)
25 reviewer rep
123 forum posts

Unless its ultra windy or cold alchohol is the way to go IMO. it's so easy get your heet on the way to the trail. light your stove and your cooking! no priming, pumping or canisters and the stoves are weightless. Why use anything else? I use mine under my tarp all the time!


"So the various mini alcohol stoves continue to have many advantages."
Right on Calamity!

12:54 p.m. on June 8, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,272 forum posts

jeffrey,
I agree that alcohol stoves have their place. I use my Trangia (not the tiny one that is only a burner, but the one that has the full windscreen and pot) for day trips and day backcountry ski tours. There are a lot of advantages, one of which is that in case of a spill, alcohol is the only liquid fuel you can extinguish with water (gasoline and kerosene float on water, so dumping water on a gasoline fire just spreads the fire - professional firefighters use a purpose-designed spray nozzle and frequently use foam to separate the flame from the fuel and to cool the flame). But the big disadvantage is low heat output (alcohol burns with about half the heat output of petroleum-derived fuels, which is one of the drawbacks to Ethanol 85 for cars).

2:06 p.m. on June 8, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
77 forum posts

Bill,

I realize that this post is about alcohol stoves but:

I differ with you on using water to extinguish a alcohol fire. Water also will spread a alcohol fire. And with using water to extinguish a fire, a flare up is very likely, if you are lucky enough to smoother the fire with a large amount of water. There are two foams that the fire departments uses today. AFFF (Aqueous film foam) and Polar sovlvent also known as ATC foam. You should never cook inside a tent. Use the vesitalbes if you insist on cooking from your tent. If you do cook in your tent and have a liquid fire, GET OUT OF THE TENT. Dont try to put it out. The time you spend trying to put it out could be the time you need to get out of the tent.

Also I work in the trucking industry and Bio fuels do not burn at half the BTU's of fossil fuels. There is some internet sites and articles out there stating as such. But the reality is there is about .8 to 2 percent difference. We burn Bio diesels in 150 tractors and 300 refrigeration units and had seen NO change in our fuel mileage. Reason would have it that if its half the BTU's the fuel mileage would be somewhere in the 35-50 percent decrease. If you look deeper at some of the articles and internet sites you'll see the other side of the "coin" on how small the BTU's are. Bill, there is NO draw back to E-85 in cars. All cars in several S. America countries are using E-85 without any problems ( E-85 is mandatory in these countries). Starting I believe this year, every new car sold in the US can accept the E-85 fuels without any modifications OR loss of fuel mileage.

2:11 p.m. on June 8, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
77 forum posts

Bill:

My apologies: I had thoght that I had read somewhere that someone was using thier stoves in thier tents. Frank

10:17 a.m. on June 11, 2007 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
102 forum posts

Cannister stoves are better than alcohol for most uses. You really can't spill the fuel, the flames don't shoot all over the place as with alcohol, and cannisters can therefore more safely be used in tent. Controling the heating level is nearly impossible with alcohol and easy with cannister. After about three nights, the extra weight of alcohol fuel becomes heavier than equivalent alcohol set up. Cannister stoves are much hotter. They require less frequent refueling. Extra fuel left inside Alcohol stove is a pain to save. In many years of using a Trangia, I never bothered to take it if cooking for more than solo because if its slowness. But I repeat they have their place and I do believe they are lovely in their simplicity and lightness.

12:12 p.m. on June 11, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,272 forum posts

Chumango, you are the expert on this, IIRC, so hop in here with the answers.

FMD -
Sorry, but alcohol does have less yield than petroleum fuels. Since you said "BTU", here are some values of BTU/lb from the CRC handbook -

Alcohol (fuel or denatured) - 11,620
Gasoline - 20,750
Kerosene - 19,810
Butane - 20,820

Note that all 3 of the petroleum fuels are close to double the yield of alcohol. Biodiesel is a very different beast from alcohol, so your statement that biodiesel is very close to petroleum diesel in yield is no surprise. However, as a fellow I know found out, using biodiesel in your VW and driving it to Yosemite Valley attracts the big furry guys - apparently the "french fry" smell attracted a bear to the car, and he got the window smashed in the Camp 4 parking area. The bear tore up the interior and left a big smelly dump.

As for the extinguishing alcohol fires with water, I got this from several professional fire forensic types. Thing is that alcohol mixes with water readily, so the fuel is diluted and cooled fairly efficiently, whereas gasoline and kerosene float on the water, so there is no cooling or dilution, just spreading to a larger surface area.

But I agree, fire in tents is high risk. No matter what the fuel, get careless with fuel and stoves, and you have trouble. And yes, you did read in these forums that people use stoves in their tents all the time, mostly "safely" ("getting away with it" is more accurate). But spectacular accidents do happen when you do that. That's why I always add my personal disclaimer - "Do not operate stoves in any way other than the manufacturer's recommendations - including no stoves in or near tents, sleeping bags, or other flammable materials, and no fuels other than those specifically ok'ed by the manufacturer".

12:15 p.m. on June 11, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,272 forum posts

Excuse me, calamity, but could you explain this sentence in your last post? - "After about three nights, the extra weight of alcohol fuel becomes heavier than equivalent alcohol set up." How is it that alcohol becomes heavier than alcohol?

2:07 p.m. on June 11, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
239 forum posts

Bill S. - it's not the alcohol but the setup - you know - the tonic water, olives, seltzer - then add in the ice - it gets heavy real fast! The trick is to consume your mixed drinks early in your trek and just keep the Everclear (190 proof grain alcohol) for later consumption.

Actually, everclear could be a multi-use item - you could cook with it, clean wounds with it and get drunk as a skunk with it - heck - you could even sterilize for backcountry surgery AND use it to knock out the patient!

I've never tried the stuff myself - but became familiar with its qualities through a Jack Ingram song titled "Everclear" ...

http://www.beerliquors.com/liquors/grain.htm

8:57 p.m. on June 11, 2007 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
102 forum posts

Could a titanium backpacking still improve thru-hikers' self-sufficienciy for both fuel and drink? Could available grasses and other plants provide carbohydrates? I assume one would carry mostly sugar instead of gasoline etc....

10:36 a.m. on June 12, 2007 (EDT)
25 reviewer rep
123 forum posts

Calamity Quote
"Could a titanium backpacking still improve thru-hikers' self-sufficienciy for both fuel and drink?"

I wonder what kind of trail name you would earn?
I've never met a self sufficiant Thru-hiker
cheers!

10:58 a.m. on June 12, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
239 forum posts

Another Calamity quote -

"Could available grasses and other plants provide carbohydrates?"

In theory, yes. Were it legal to hunt you could forage and hunt your way from Georgia to Maine (or from Maine to Georgia for that matter). Why mention hunting? Simple - animal flesh is the most convenient, concentrated food source available when you're in the wild. I understand that there are alternatives, but you'll find far more small animals to eat than tofu bars while wandering the appalachians.

However, you'd have a very slow thru-hike. It takes quite a bit of time to secure food from nature, it requires a strong understanding of what can and cannot be consumed, how to prepare edible foods (just 'cause they're edible doesn't mean you pull 'em off the plant and pop 'em in your mouth). Much of the preparation involves boiling water to leech toxins out of otherwise edible tubers.

Grass, by the way, would be a lousy choice. Lacking a rumen (the part of a bovines intestine that allows it to digest grasses) you'd gain almost no carbs or calories by grazing.

Seasonal variations in available food sources would mean that you'd be on a multi-year adventure. Legal restrictions would mean you'd be an outlaw and ethical considerations would mean you really shouldn't try.

3:21 p.m. on June 12, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
77 forum posts

Bill: Perhaps I choose my words poorly. E-85 cars do get a somewhat less of a mpg but that the cost of the E- fuels is 30-60 cents less per gallon. You perform less oil changes, less spark plug changes. It is believed that the engines will last longer also, due to less contaminates in the oil. Also, the E-85 is a higher octane so you have more power/torque. There are many advantages to running these cars. My .02 cents is that the pro's far out weigh the cons. We just need more E-plants so the commitment is there for the gas stations to carry the E-fuels for the consumers.


Sorry to hijack this thread.

8:21 p.m. on June 12, 2007 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
102 forum posts

IN theory you could carry sugar for cooking fuel instead of alcohol IF you also carried a superlight mini-still for making alcohol the stuff. Obviously not a viable suggestion, but given the theory, there might be slight weight advantage on long-term trips, and I wonder if you could use trail grasses to extend sugar supplies...If not, you could perhaps dig for roots as ingredient....

1:53 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
2 forum posts

Funny I read this thread right after I got back from Wal-Mart. I'm planning a short trip with my nephew-in-law (8yrs) to Black Rock Mountain in GA. I have a one of the Trangias that I've never used but plan to next week. I was out running errands and bought some denatured alcohol to test it before I leave. We plan on using freeze-dried food and some ramen so I believe it shoudl work great for heating water.

I noticed many checmicals in the same part of the store that sold denatured alcohol and also notice cooking fuel in the camping section. Will this stove burn anything else?

6:16 p.m. on June 13, 2007 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,272 forum posts

Trangias and other purpose-made alcohol stoves are intended to burn alcohol stove fuel, although denatured and rubbing alcohols will work. The denaturing agent is poisonous (to keep people from drinking it). Other alcohols that work fine are vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, cognac, anything over about 80 proof, and most of them smell really nice, too. They are a bit pricey, though.

More seriously, the intended fuel is sold in boating stores as "Marine Stove Fuel". Some outdoor stores like REI and EMS also sell marine stove fuel in small (liter and half-liter) containers, while boating stores like West Marine have gallon bottles available.

August 23, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Freezer bag cooking non-instant foods Newer: Washing the Dishes
All forums: Older: For Sale or Trade - Series 1 Heli Jacket Medium MINT Newer: where can you camping alone