Alcohol stoves, are they really practical

9:46 a.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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Just curious how practical you personally think alcohol stoves are. The advantages I always hear are that they are smaller and lighter, fuel is commonly available especially overseas, you can store fuel in a plastic, which saves some additional weight.

I’m wondering with today’s ultralight butane stoves, if alcohol still has many advantages. My butane stove weighs 2.6 ounces. Most alcohol stoves weigh around 1.5 ounces. Therefore, you save yourself an ounce, maybe 2 when you factor in carrying fuel in a plastic bottle for fuel. Assuming butane is available where you are and you already own a butane stove, do you personally see the need for an alcohol stove I’ve never used an alcohol stove, but I’m wondering with today’s super light butane stoves if alcohol has any advantages. I understand the satisfaction that comes with making your own and I’m thinking I might do it just for the fun, but I’m wondering how practical they really are.

11:09 a.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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Hey WISam,

I would say that alcohol stoves are practical but not ideal for every situation. I like them for 3-4 day lightweight trips, many people who hike the AT use them and carry enough fuel to get them to their next re-supply.

I have several alcohol stoves, some I made, and two that were made by John "tinny" Austin of Minibulldesign

The pepsi, beer, or cat food can stoves weigh close to what the empty can weighs, so that's just a few grams, not ounces.

If you also use a large beer can pot for boiling water and baking, like the pots made from a small Heineken Keg beer can, you are talking less than an ounce for the stove and pot. I have a set up like this, I use it with a titanium spork, and it works great for it's intended uses.

I do not have a butane stove so I can not give you a comparison, I do have a MSR Whisperlite which I use for many trips, and love, but if I'm going ultralight for a few days I take the alcohol stove. Alky stoves are not as hot as white gas, require a good windscreen, don't work good in real low temps, and have a bit of a learning curve. In many cases the lower heat range of an alky stove comes in handy for baking and simmering, but boiling water takes longer than my Whisperlite.

All in all, I like alky stoves, they are fun, very light, & lots of DIY options with them.

My entire stove, pot, lid, and spork weigh about what my MSR fuel bottle does.

Here is a YouTube video from "tinny" at Minibulldesign showing his alcohol stove baking set-up. He makes and sells these through the website at the link I posted above.

The stove in this video is not a beer can stove, but tinny's own design with remote fueling like a white gas stove with fuel bottle.

11:34 a.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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Oh one other thing, I often let one of my buddies carry the alcohol stove even if we are taking a white gas stove. It just gives us more options, you can boil or cook with the white gas stove, and bake with a set up like the one in the video above.

Just bear in mind that an alcohol stove consumes more fuel than a white gas stove, so at some point (few days) the weight differences between each system (stove & fuel) start to even out.

2:42 p.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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I did some research on this topic and I looked at the different options. I ended up getting the Optimus stove.

The one I bought is mint. I don't think it was even used as it had the box, the instructions, and the pump for using kerosene. I run white gas through it and I am very pleased with its performance. That said it is heavy. I was also lucky enough to get it for a song. They are somewhat expensive on Ebay.

2:51 p.m. on January 30, 2010 (EST)
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12:45 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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DrReaper, just a heads up, the Optimus 8R is a white gas ONLY stove. The pump is used to pressurize it shorten the time it takes to come up to peak operation; especially useful in cold weather. Congratulations on getting the stove and pump for a reasonable price. I've seen the pump and cap go for $70+ on eBay.

1:22 a.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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In the video of the Optimus Hunter it seems the guy primed the stove with methanol to get it going.

Glad you got a good buy DrReaper!

2:16 p.m. on January 31, 2010 (EST)
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It is necessary to prime the 8R with meths whether using a pump or not; priming heats the burner itself to a temperature at which the fuel will vaporize, but in very cold conditions this is inadequate to fully pressurize the fuel tank.

June 22, 2018
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