Couldn't decide so I just bought 3 different stoves to try

6:18 p.m. on September 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I've been away from backpacking for quite a few years and have recently gotten back to frequent hikes, we live in a rural area so its pretty easy to strike out along the roads, into the fields, along the rivers, etc.

Not sure what happened to my old OPTIMUS iso-butane canister stove, its probably packed away in a box in one of the garages, down in the crawl space or somewhere else that I can't remember. I found my windscreen, but can't find the old stove! I decided that I needed to get back to backpacking so I started looking at stoves all over again.

Lots of interesting choices these days.

I have NOT tried any of these stoves yet. Honestly I expect the little Snow Peak to run flawlessly. Its basic design has been around a long time, there are lots of people making this type of stove, I can't imagine anything could go wrong with it. The SOTO MUKA is interesting in that it offers some interesting features like the pressure indicator on the pump and the no-prime start up.

Picked up a little SNOW PEAK GigaPower Auto => It looks like every other little canister stove. Neat little package, came with a windscreen and a repair kit, and free shipping from an Ebay seller for $39 even.


Picked up a SOTO MUKA liquid gas stove => I liked the fact that it doesn't require priming, but don't like the fact that it uses a proprietary fuel bottle with a wider mouth. Got this for $90 on Ebay, the fuel bottle came from REI for $26 (including shipping)


And what is a stretch, I picked up a SMOKEEATER 908 "Ring Of Fire" alcohol stove => With this stove I also picked up a pot stand. Price was about $86 with shipping, making it the most expensive alcohol stove that I've ever seen! But it just got my curiosity up enough that I decided to go for it and give it a try.

Here is a YouTube video of the "Ring Of Fire" from the guy who makes it:

One thing I don't like is the fuel nipple being so exposed/unguarded. I may be making some modification to add some sort of guard to protect that nipple. But at 2.5 ounces with a fuel bottle (empty) is a nice tidy weight. The stove is milled out of a piece of solid aluminum on a lathe, no chance it can be crushed under foot.


And everything fits into a ZipLock sandwich size bag, with room to spare: image_zps568d0254.jpg

For those of you who may have any of these 3 stoves, any advice? Words of caution?

Oh, it will probably be a couple weeks before I can get out and compare these things side by side. Going to North Carolina (Wake Forest U.) to visit my daughter next weekend, Got a big shooting event coming up in mid-October, may be able to take them to that event and try them out at the cooking station!

I expect the "Ring Of Fire" to be the slowest to boil, least flexible, but I do appreciate the lack of weight. The Snow Peak GigaPower should be the easiest to get set up and cooking. The Soto Muka may be the most flexible of them all when all the testing is done, but its also the biggest and heaviest.

9:58 a.m. on September 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi melensdad,

Of the three you list I have only used the Gigapower stove, it and the MSR Pocket Rocket are excellent canister top stoves in my opinion. I think you made a solid choice for that type stove.

The only drawback (trade off really) I have found with my Gigapower is that I've had to make or improvise some type of robust windscreen in order to shield the pot from the wind. This seems to be typical for this type of stove.                              A standard foil wind screen that sits on the ground around the stove can be dangerous with a canister top stove because you could also trap heat around the fuel canister - especially if you use a large pot in close proximity to the top of the windscreen

The screen that comes with the stove and sits above the fuel canister helps concentrate heat on the bottom of the pot, but the stove is more efficient if I can shield the sides of the pot too and keep the wind from blowing my heat away.

I have made a tin foil thingy like an upside down bowl bigger than the pot that I can hang down over the pot to shield the sides and that worked okay. I also made one that attaches like the factory screen, but with taller sides.

In the winter I prefer white gas, but sometimes I do carry my Gigapower if I really need to shed weight from my pack. I have found that using a natural windbreak like a big rock or log helps. I also use and really like an idea that Jim Woods came up with a while back called - a kite screen.

Here is the link to his web page:



I do have a few alcohol stoves, two similar to the one you list but made by a different stove maker. Mine have a recessed nipple for the fuel line, but I still keep a spare handy that I ordered along with the stove.

Remote fueled alcohol stoves overcome one of the drawbacks of the traditional single fuel batch stove - refueling while in operation. A remote alcohol fuel system is great for the extended burn times you need if you want to bake or simmer something. My stoves let me control both the burn time and the heat output by refilling or metering the fuel.  

Hope that helps some.




9:16 a.m. on September 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the link to the "Kite" screen, interesting design, I like the use of the Oven Bags as those can take some heat and are light.

What brand alcohol stove do you have? Can you post a link or a photo?

As for the Snow Peak stove, my plan was to buy a Pocket Rocket or MicroRocket from MSR but when I saw the deal on Ebay, with the offer for the Snow Peak Auto stove + Windscreen + Repair Kit for $39 and free shipping then I could simply not pass that up so I bought the Snow Peak.

6:07 p.m. on September 30, 2013 (EDT)
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My remote fueled alcohol stoves were made by "Tinny" at Minibulldesign  I don't have any photos right now but they are similar to the newer versions he has on his website, although I see not all of them have recessed nipples.

I also have a few soda can type stoves by Minibulldesign & Zelph Stoves ( another stove builder) I like all of them pretty well.

I don't yet have anything from Smokeeater but I've been looking.

Here's a couple stoves I have a photo of, these are from Minibulldesign.


Bios 4 on the left & Sketi on the right.

8:46 a.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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That alcohol stove just seems too complicated (and expensive) to me. My Trangia cost me $15. I use a homemade windscreen with it. Because the Trangia has a lid, I don't have to worry about precise measurements of fuel. I can just put the lid on to snuff out the flame and seal it up for the next meal. Although, through use, I know I need exactly .8oz for supper and .5oz for breakfast.

The beauty of an alcohol stove is its simplicity. Virtually nothing can go wrong with it's components, because there are none.

When you start adding plastic tubes and exposed nipples, you add the potential for equipment failure (tube has a hole, tube is clogged, nipple is clogged, nipple is bent or snapped off).

11:08 a.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Provided you can do the math at home, pre-trail, I'm a big fan of canister stoves, and mine packs right into my cookpot.

Only trick is figuring out how far you can stretch a fuel canister.

I like the GigaPower, but be sure to have an alternate way to light it, God forbid the built-in igniter was to fail.

The GP is great for solo cooking, but I'd defer to the Soto for anything more heavy-duty or demanding (especially, say, melting snow for water in the wintertime).

Alcohol stoves are great, too, once you've the process down and know exactly how much fuel it takes to boil water and cook meals. Easier to find fuel for those than anything else, and you can even get a clear bottle from a manufacturer like Vargo that will let you know exactly how much fuel you have, and measurement markings to know how much you're using.

11:27 a.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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As long as we are on the topic of stoves, I note that no one has mentioned tablet stoves (the ones using a solidified alcohol tablet). The most popular of these is the Esbit. These are related to Sterno stoves, the big difference being that Sterno is a gel while Esbit tablets are solid hexamine.

Now the trivia question for the day is, who invented the Esbit stove, and where did the name come from? No fair using Wikipedia. For the next week, PM me your answer. Let's see how many know the answer without the aid of the Web.

Yesterday Barb and I went through the wonderful Austrian Alpine Club exhibit in the Hofberg in Innsbruck (we are both members of the Alpenverein). They have one whole room that has historical climbing gear, including an original ESBIT stove. The stoves and fuel tablets are big sellers in the alpine countries. They have a couple pairs of my old boots (well, not actually mine, but the same maker and model) and the same ice ax I first bought and now have hanging over our fireplace. Alcohol stoves are quite popular in the Alps and in Scandinavia for alpinists and back country skiers, with several commercial models available (Trangia is the only one with any significant distribution in the US, though there are several Asian knockoffs available).

6:53 p.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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G00SE said:

That alcohol stove just seems too complicated (and expensive) to me. My Trangia cost me $15. I use a homemade windscreen with it. Because the Trangia has a lid, I don't have to worry about precise measurements of fuel. I can just put the lid on to snuff out the flame and seal it up for the next meal. Although, through use, I know I need exactly .8oz for supper and .5oz for breakfast.

The beauty of an alcohol stove is its simplicity. Virtually nothing can go wrong with it's components, because there are none.

When you start adding plastic tubes and exposed nipples, you add the potential for equipment failure (tube has a hole, tube is clogged, nipple is clogged, nipple is bent or snapped off).

 It's a suped' up stove for people who enjoy using alcohol but want more fuel & temp control. All the fuel is kept in the fuel bottle and fed to the stove at the rate you desire with no measuring ever needed. 

I agree that the simplicity (reliability) of most alcohol stoves is a large part of what makes them an attractive choice. The Trangia is a good stove I used to carry one, I liked the ability to store fuel in the stove and use it as needed.

I also agree that adding parts increases the risk of problems, even non moving ones - but my remote fueled alcohol stoves have been just as reliable as my canister stoves and do not require the maintenance that my white gas stove does.

I have never had a clog or problem with the hose, mine are high temp silicone and really thick. An exposed nipple could get bent if stepped on but packing it inside a cook pot protects pretty well.

But I do appreciate the simple beauty of my soda can stoves for sure.

7:21 p.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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@ GOOSE ~ regarding the complication/expense of the alcohol stove: Yes, wildly expensive for an alcohol stove but the design had me intrigued. As for complications, from the reviews I found about other remote fuel alcohol stoves that doesn't seem to be an issue. At least not one that people have mentioned.

I do plan to make, and at least play with, a "Fancy Feast" stove. Seems to be the most simplistic of the alcohol designs. That will give me 1 simple and 1 complex alcohol stove to compare.

@ HORNRIM ~ I used to have a canister stove and I love the simplicity of use of these types of stove. I also opened a cigar lounge to occupy my time after I retired so I generally can be found with a lighter or two. So yes, I have an alternate way to light the stove.

@ Bill S ~ When I decided to buy multiple stoves to play with, I really gave a good hard look at the solid fuel Esbit stoves but they just didn't seem to be particularly popular.

11:20 p.m. on October 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I "had" two Snowpeak Gigapower (SG) Autos and got rid of both of them.

The lighter on the SG Auto is very finicky and will probably eventually fail. On my second SG Auto the lighter failed to work right out of the box so it went back to REI.

On my first SG Auto, the lighter worked just fine. I decided to build a foil windscreen, much like Mike described, and was experimenting with it on the patio. In less than two minutes, the plunger you push to light the stove suddenly shot out followed immediately by the spring. Turns out, that plunger is made out of plastic and the heat buildup inside the foil screen caused it to  melt! No more foil windscreens for me... and no more auto-lighters, either.

I now have the Snowpeak Gigapower Manual w/the wind screen that fits on top and really like it. However, I recently used it in the mid-20s at 9,300' and it took almost 10 minutes to boil 2 cups of water. The stainless steel cup I was using was about 3 1/2" in diameter. I actually think that was part of the problem because when I cranked up the heat to hurry things along, the flames come out from under the cup so a lot of heat was lost on the outside of the cup. I think a wider pot would have worked better because the entire flame would have stayed under the pot and the water depth would have been shallower leading to a faster boil time. Then again, maybe 10 minutes is normal for that air temp and at that elevation.

Plus, I like the fact that the SG has four prongs to set your pot on, unlike most others which only have three, leading to greater stability of the pot.

7:13 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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While the Esbit stoves are not as popular in the US among backpackers, they are very popular among climbers and hut-to-hut and day hikers in Europe. There are two big advantages to the Esbit - 1. the folding stove with a few days worth of fuel is very light, lighter than any compressed gas stove or liquid fuel stove (stove plus fuel combined). True, as with any alcohol fuel stove, the heat output is about half that of compressed gas or liquid fuel. 2. unlike liquid fuel and alcohol stoves, spillage just does not happen, and there is not fitting to insert wrong or cross-thread as there is for a compressed gas stove. Another big advantage is the very small size - you can tuck the folding stove version and several days worth of fuel in a pocket, which you can not do with alcohol, liquid fuel, or compressed gas stoves. I should note that there are larger versions of the Esbit than the folder, which are intended to take an alcohol burner (the burner being of far better design than the aluminum can style).

As a bit of disclosure, I do not use our 2 Esbit stoves very often, using my MSR XGK EX on expeditions and winter trips, my MSR Superfly for summer trips, sometimes my Primus MFS when I want the versatility of liquid fuel or compressed gas (e.g., going to a country where the available fuel may be questionable, so I need to be ready for "blanco", kerosene/diesel, or, if lucky, score a compressed gas canister), and on weekend climbing trips, the JetBoil Helios (the inverted canister works pretty well down to 5-10°F). The Esbit gets taken along when there is a good possibility of having to bivy, but I still want to at least melt some snow and have hot tea or bullion to supplement the bars.

You mention avoiding the Esbit because:

they just didn't seem to be particularly popular.

Yet only one of the stoves you chose (the Snowpeak) is very widely available. I have yet to see the Soto in any outdoor shops. So it doesn't fit the "popular" criterion. Going from the YouTube video, it isn't really much different from other "silent burner" stoves, except perhaps building up less soot than other "silent burner" stoves.

The Ring of Fire, as you note, is extremely expensive for a simple alcohol burner. The only alcohol burner I have seen that was (adjusting for inflation) close to as expensive was a Sigg that was only available for a few years that used an "updraft carburetor" burner design. It had several problems and was dropped in a short time, though it burned hotter than any other alcohol stove I have seen. Like most alcohol stoves, it is a "cottage industry" stove, hence unlikely to become very popular. OTOH the Ring of Fire appears to act much like the Sigg "updraft" in having the vents at the bottom that allow air to be pulled in by the rising heated exhaust air of the burner, thus giving a better mix - not a new concept, but looks reasonably well done. Most alcohol stoves, whether commercial like the Trangia or the Sigg I have, have a closed bottom, hence do not mix the air and fuel vapor very well (this applies to the burners that come with fondue pots or sterno stoves as well). Allowing the draw from the bottom up through the center produces more heat.

Anyway, back to the subject - I only mentioned the Esbit because it is so simple and light, expensive, and is widely available (in non-specialty outdoor Big Box stores and "military surplus" stores).

Hmmm --- no stove "trivia" fans thus far??? OK, so the answer is that the original product was named the "Erich Schumms Brennstoff in Tablettenform" which translates to "Erich Schumm's Fuel in Tablets". You don't even have to have a stove - just set the tablet on a rock and light it, then hold a metal cup with the water you want to heat over the flame. The more or less standard size tablet will boil a cup of water in 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the air temperature. It is quite a bit safer than liquid alcohol, liquid fuel, or compressed gas stoves. The tablets have a virtually unlimited storage life, but they do give off a number of noxious and indeed poisonous combustion products.

Still, an alternative to be considered (he says, while heating a liter of water on his XGK-EX to be poured into the Freeze-dry pouch, with enough extra water for a couple cups of cocoa or tea - boil in under 3 minutes).

9:36 p.m. on October 4, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill S. said:

" The Ring of Fire, as you note, is extremely expensive for a simple alcohol burner"

I'm not sure what you mean by simple. I realize stoves like the Trangia have simmer rings and other features.

This stove (Ring of fire), and several other designs by other stove makers have features simple soda can stoves don't.

 It is remote fueled by a squeezable bottle so you can burn just long enough to boil water, or for as long as you have fuel for. Just squeeze the bottle for more fuel and / or to increase the heat output - when the wick wets out (like a zippo) it is fully fueled. You control the amount of fuel in the wick so you can throttle back the heat to a simmer and keep it there if you want.

It uses a carbon felt wick which can be blown out fairly easily when you are done burning. The wick keeps the fuel absorbed / contained so there are no spills even if you tip the stove. By raising or lowering the felt wick in the stove you can increase or decrease the heat output.

The pot stand height can be adjusted in relation to the burner ( with this model and a couple others I've seen).

Many of these stoves are modular with interchangeable burner tops that have more or less exposed carbon felt wick (surface area) so you can use a stove optimized for boiling or for simmering by swapping just the burners.

Anyhow, I see a lot of  design advancement in this type of stove VS. simple soda can stoves - which I also like for making coffee or boiling water in seasons other than winter.

The long burn times with a remote fuel bottle and lower heat output of alcohol is great for baking IMO.





8:57 p.m. on October 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Almost all alcohol stoves, including the Ring of Fire, are very simple in construction and operation. They are constructed the same way as most backpacking stoves were before Lindqvist developed the Primus. Some still are like the fondue pot heaters - just an open cup you fill with alcohol and light. Some are like the cup on the Trangias with its surrounding ring of holes. Some are like the old kerosene and oil lamps - a wick to carry the fuel from the cup up to where it is lit, sometimes with a knurled knob to adjust the height of the wick [this is a form that most portable kerosene and oil stoves used until the Primus with its more complex structure, including the pressurizing pump and either a roarer-type burner (with the spreader plate) or the silent burner (with the screen or waffle plate stack)]. Many of the old stoves going back several centuries used wool felt or cotton felt wicks, with adjustment of the height of the wick controlling the amount of heat (for the stoves) or light (for the lamps), a very simple, basic improvement over the open cup.

The image below is of a stove similar to the Perfection Kerosene stove we had in the cabin on the land my father had homesteaded, except that the stove we had  had 2 burners and the oven. The attachment on the left is where you put the glass bottle with the kerosene in it. The bottle had a spring valve that fed the kerosene to the wicks, providing a constant supply of fuel. The temperature was controlled by the height of the wick.


My father got the stove when he built the cabin in about 1931-2, used. But the Perfection company was producing them into the late 1940s, having started shortly after the Civil War.

The point here is that a lot of what is being put into handcrafted stoves is technology that has been around for a long time, and is simple enough for the backyard constructor. Tweaks like the squeeze bottle are just variations on the glass kerosene fuel bottle of the Perfection and other kerosene stoves, and the adjustable wick is a variation on the old kerosene and oil lamps.

I am not saying that some of the newer stoves are not any different. Rather the technology is pretty much the same, just a slightly different format.

The fuels before kerosene (which became widespread in the early 19th Century) included whale and seal oils. I'm not sure what the ancient Greeks and Romans used in their oil lamps, but some of those used wicks as well.

9:10 a.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Re: Esbit solid fuel stove, curiosity is peaked. Might have to pick one up and compare it to these other 3 stoves. Near as I can tell, they are very inexpensive so if I skip a trip to Starbucks once or twice I've paid for the Esbit folding stove.

1:55 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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melensdad -

Make no mistake - each type of stove has its place. For some uses, a full-on expedition stove like the MSR XGK-EX is indispensable (high altitude, severe conditions, blizzards in the dead of winter storms, ...). For other uses, a very lightweight screw-on stove top like the SnowPeak you got with the tiny canister is perfect. And for other situations (fast and light, where you might have to bivy), the Esbit is the "bees knees". And sometimes, there is nothing like a nice, cosy "Redman's campfire" (if you haven't, you should read BOTH versions of Jack London's "To Light A Fire" - not many people are aware that there are two versions, with drastically different outcomes). That is why I have accumulated a couple dozen stoves during my backpacking "career".

AND - my recommendation to you, Young Man, is to get at least one of each type of stove, so you will have the appropriate one for each outing. That's to go along with your full quiver of packs, tents, and sleeping bags for each type of outing.

Now, if only I could solve the problem of getting my backpacking stoves on commercial airliners when I fly off to Antarctica, South America, or Alaska. Then again, TSA gave my son a big hassle over the half-dozen cables he had for all his electronic widgets last week.

3:00 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill, thanks for the history lesson it was a good read.

I guess I was thinking more in contemporary terms, and how much work went into design & assembly.

Simple - cat food or soda can stoves.

Complex - remote fueled wick stoves.

I have a few of each and when the warm weather rolls around I enjoy using them.

I like the open burner single fuel batch stoves for fixing coffee or boiling water for freeze dried food.

I like the remote fueled wick stoves for actual cooking or baking.

I even have a soda can stove called The Atomic that is filled with carbon felt wick before it is assembled.

As far as the price of todays Cottage industry stoves goes, I don't mind because of my work as a finish carpenter - I can appreciate the amount of work & skill required to handcraft things.


6:56 p.m. on October 10, 2013 (EDT)
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I too prefer the snowpeak manual over the automatic. less parts to fail. I have no difficulty in striking a match. use mine with the factory windscreen, have had no problems, although it is strictly a summer stove. for winter/cold weather cooking I defer to my white gas stoves. the canister stoves are only good to about 40 degrees f.

4:44 p.m. on October 11, 2013 (EDT)
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Just picked up an Esbit stove.

Already don't like it. But it may be the most practical stove for my trip across England because we won't be needing to do a lot of cooking since the path will take us past many pubs.

It claims to be clean burning but seems to leave some sort of soot on the pan. Still, with fuel, its compact and light enough that it would be a decent companion for brewing coffee on the trail.

11:44 p.m. on October 12, 2013 (EDT)
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England has a trail that goes from pub to pub, cool.

8:53 p.m. on October 17, 2013 (EDT)
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You can also carry Esbit tabs on the plane, well at least in your luggage.  It' a light and easy system, but I am not a fan of it either.

I would like to know how the Alcohol stove works for you and or just works.  It looks nice, but the pot holder seems high compared to the stove.  From my experience about 1" to 1 1/2" from pot to burner is plenty to allow the flame to get a good burn and to heat the pot efficiently.

9:57 p.m. on October 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Just got an email from They are selling Trangia Spirit stoves for only $11 until midnight tonight.

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