Alcohol stoves are relatively simple, single burner designs that are most popular with the ultralight, thru-hiking, and DIY crowd. At their most basic, they consist of a small metal fuel chamber or reservoir, which holds the alcohol. The alcohol vapors are burned via burner holes. Commercial models offer a range of more advanced options though, including the ability to simmer, an on/off ability, windscreens for improved fuel efficiency, and the ability to save unused fuel in the stove for your next use.
If you’re a handy DIY-er, you can make your own alcohol stoves from aluminum soda cans (aka a Pepsi, beverage-can, or pop-can stove,) or from a cat food can (such as Fancy Feast), among other materials and designs. Building plans abound on the internet.
Alcohol stoves are best for: solo or duo lightweight backpackers who simply want to boil water in above freezing temps, or as an emergency backup stove.
The best alcohol stoves, reviewed and curated by the Trailspace community. The latest review was added on June 3, 2019. Stores' prices and availability are updated daily.
Recent Alcohol Stove Reviews
Evernew Ti DX Set With Stove
It's light and boils fast. Well made and tough. Fits in a tiny solo kit. Lacks some features that minimalists can do without. As a minimalist, I generally obtain the lightest and simplest gear item available—if that doesn't hold up, I move on to the next lightest. This stove is light, even with its four pieces, and it packs up into a tiny solo pot with room to spare. I've used it about 100 times now, mostly fair weather bicycle touring. It lacks a simmer ring—I can do without a simmer ring. Full review
AntiGravityGear BCS-2 (Tin Man) Stove
This stove boils water, and with a pot cozy, cooks rice or pasta for two. So small and light, with clean fuel, perfect for when you are carrying a stove. I used this stove when I hiked the AT from Sherburne Pass, Vermont, to Monson, Maine, in two sections, with my then 11 (and 12) year old son, and bicycled from Ohio to Massachusetts with my wife, as well as other shorter ventures. It is starting to show signs of aging—a few dents and ripples—but is still fully functional. I have taken care… Full review
Trail Designs Kojin Stove
An excellent alcohol stove and my current favorite paired with my Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri system. The Kojin is sturdy, heats quickly, fuel efficient, and not easy to spill. It heats much faster than any other alcohol stove I have used, and is more fuel efficient than my other options, except one. The Kojin may not perform the same on non-Trail Design systems, is slightly less fuel efficient than the Modified Zelph Starlyte, and can spill if filled too quickly. I highly recommend the Kojin… Full review
Esbit Alchohol Burner
Light, efficient, cheap. A couple/few years ago, when returning to backpacking, I rapidly realized that I needed to both modernize my equipment and lighten my load. This stove was part of that move. So far it has been a success. I was initially moved to try an alcohol stove by a book about equipment used on the Appalachian Trail. The book was done by giving and collecting surveys from hundreds of successful AT hikers. I was astounded to learn that of the hundreds of hikers, no one person with an… Full review
Alocs Mini Alcohol Stove
Easy and cheap. Simplicity of alcohol stoves. Enjoy the lack of technology and parts. I used many different stoves and think the alcohol stove is easy to use, cheap to buy, not a technical piece of equipment, lacks parts that wear out, and works, even in winter. I use an angel food cake mold as a wind screen (car camper nowadays). Just be careful with the invisible daytime flame and be aware it is heating, just not as fast as you would like. Full review
Trangia 25-3 UL
This stove system cooks anything nicely. It is easy to do real cooking with fresh, healthy ingredients. I like this stove best for car camping. In it, you can make anything you can make in your kitchen at home. I have fried hamburgers and chicken, tacos, cooked vegetables, made rice w/o burning it, soups, etc. It is also ideal for pancakes. If you get the uncoated aluminum pans, you can even bake with it. I have baked homemade pizza many times with this burner and an uncoated, foil covered aluminum… Full review
Vargo Triad Alcohol Stove
Enjoy Triad 2.0, but use the old one to store weed. Vargo knows they missed by a mile on the old, flat-top version one of this stove. Pos reviewers: It's not about your mad stove skills. The arms were too wide and the top was too flat. How hard would it have been to make the top ever so slightly concave to hold an economical puddle of primer fuel? Oh, wait. They did that on the redesign. Or to take the curve off the support arm surface, and move the arms ever so closer? Oh, wait. They did that on… Full review
A portable hot pot for morning joe anywhere in the world...and a little oatmeal. Purchased online via Massdrop although have had and used other larger units sold under Kelly Kettle moniker. This one differs as it is extensively anodized, has a wraparound neoprene sleeve for handling and uses a silicone plug to transport water when not heating. Also has base that serves as burning pot and is large enough to hold some alcohol stove units. I used an open Trangia alcohol dish and produced my own… Full review
Trail Designs Caldera Cone System
You cannot beat this for performance. Only a Trangia offers greater stability. Its simplicity is genius. I have many alcohol stoves but this beats them all, though not hands down. Foremost, it out performs a Trangia for a fraction of the weight and for much less cost. Its simplicity in design and use mean it is extremely well suited to extended trips in more remote areas. No moving parts and its simple design mean there is very little to go wrong. It is an extremely stable system that eliminates… Full review
What to consider when choosing an alcohol stove:
How much does it weigh?
Does it have a simmer ring for cooking control?
Does it come with or can you buy or make a windscreen?
Can you turn the stove on and off? Or do you need to burn off all the fuel?
How do you store unused fuel? In the stove or only in a fuel bottle?
Is there a pot stand for stability?
Do you want a stove that also can burn fuel tabs or fuel gels or that works with a solid fuel stove?
Is there a difference between a DIY and a Commercial Alcohol Stove?
"Yes," said Brian Vargo, founder of Vargo Designs, when we asked him.
"There is a big difference between the dependability of a soda can stove versus any of our stoves. A thin aluminum soda can is only so strong and wasn't intended to withstand any accidental pressure from a fall or bumping into something. Reliability is key. Our Decagon stove, for example, has no moving parts and has been run over by a car and still been fully functional."
Alcohol Fuel Options
Alcohol fuels include the following, though not all are recommended for all stoves:
- Ethanol/ethyl alcohol: aka grain alcohol, burns cleanest, but is hard to find as pure ethanol
- Denatured alcohol: ethanol with additives like methanol that make it toxic to drink, it's the most popular and widely available fuel for alcohol stoves; you probably won’t know the percentage of ethanol it contains.
- Methylated spirit: another name for denatured alcohol, depending on what country you’re in
- Methanol/methyl alcohol: aka wood alcohol, methanol is toxic if consumed, as are its fumes, so take care
- Yellow HEET: sold as a gas-line antifreeze and water remover, is primarily methanol with an additive
- Isopropyl alcohol: aka rubbing alcohol, burns dirty with fumes, and is generally not recommended
- Iso-HEET/Red HEET: another gas-line antifreeze and water remover, this one contains isopropyl alcohol
- Sterno: aka canned heat, is made from denatured and jellied alcohol and is burned directly from its can.
Best Alcohol Stoves
Check out the top-rated alcohol stoves above for our members' recommendations. Then review your own stoves and add to that expertise.
Top-Rated Overall: Trangia Spirit Burner
Best Ultralight and Environmentally-Friendly: White Box Stove
Weighs just 1 ounce and are manufactured in Montana using heavy duty, 100-percent recycled aluminum bottles salvaged from landfills and recycling centers.
Moments in Alcohol Stove History
- In the 1850s, British mountaineer Francis Fox Tuckett designed the first alcohol stove for outdoor enthusiasts. It was known as the "Russian furnace" or later the "Rob Roy,” the nickname of canoeist John MacGregor.
- In 1951, Trangia launched the prototype for its first stove system, a compact cooking system that burned alcohol. The Spirit burner is still regarded as a classic.
- In 2003, Vargo produced the Triad, the first alcohol stove made from titanium.