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 March 24, 2021. Stores' prices and availability are updated daily.
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.
Warning: To prevent injury or damage, always consult and follow your stove manufacturer’s instructions and fuel recommendations. Use stoves in a safe, well ventilated, outdoor area. Be aware of and adhere to any fire bans, ordinances, and other rules. Practice Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.
Recent Alcohol Stove Reviews
Love its simplicity. No breakdowns, no moving parts to replace. I always do one-pot cooking, starting with a hot drink. The plastic canister is handy for holding extra water. The Cone holds in the fire's heat, making it very efficient. Full review
A great setup, but needs a supplementary windshield; very thirsty! A great little setup for the solo camper, trekker, hiker. Works well in most conditions and in the worst W/P matches help to get a solid burn. A supplementary windshield is a must to get maximum efficiency. Fuel is easy to obtain in most locations unlike white gas or canisters. The only problem is the amount of fuel used compared with other alcohol stoves. This said, boil time are by the fastest of any other stoves of this type. Full review
The bare-bones Trangia—with some benefits and some compromises. I've been contemplating this review all week, on my walks. Would a Mini be a good choice, in today's gale-force wind? Where would I set it up, in this rainy location? Would I use a Mini for my lunch stop, with a friend? The Mini can be seen as a reaction to the soda can stove revolution. Compared to the excellent 25 and 27 sets, this is a minimal rig, which is still safer, more practical and reliable than most home-brewed alternatives. Full review
If I could only have one stove... I've owned and used a Trangia, for more than 40 years. This type is the pre-Teflon coating, pre-hard anodising variety, as beloved by generations of Scandinavian ski tourists and ice fishermen. I haven't done the snow hole bivvy thing, for many years, but in those kind of extreme weather locations, I choose gear that is pretty well impossible to break and almost never malfunctions. I've never seen, or heard of a Trangia stove, that couldn't be made to work. This… Full review
Most fuel efficient alcohol stove I have found so far and absolutely safe in use. I've had this stove for about two years and use it in summer when the country is dry and the fire risk high also on long trips as it is by far the most fuel efficient and that saves weight. Use is simple—pour fuel over the fill and ignite, no waiting time just put your pot on. The burn time is about 25 minutes with a full fuel load and a boil time varies from 4 minutes for 350 ml water to 6/7 for 700 ml. The screw… Full review
The Core PUK Micro Stove is a fuel-efficient alcohol stove with a titanium base for stability and a titanium pot stand for ease of use. Easy to set up and use, this stove offers a two-phase burn (boil and simmer) in a lightweight, compact kit—perfect for solo treks or trips with a friend. It can boil 2 cups of water fairly quickly and then continue burning up to 15-20 minutes on 1 oz/30 ml of fuel. A few months ago, idly browsing the web, I came across a Kickstarter campaign for a new alcohol… Full review
Very light and great, but the HA made my pancakes stick to the pan and make a mess. Buy the non-stick pan. The hard anodised made a mess of pancakes: I purchased a 27 and 25 ultra light hard anodised (UL HA). I had the plain aluminium version for the 25 model and non-stick for the 27 model. I tried to make pancakes using the new HA pan and the pancakes stuck to the pan. Trying to pry them off just made a mess. I used lots of oil and tried lowering the heat, but it still stuck. The HA pots did not… Full review
These stoves are easy to use and maintain. They are incredibly durable and work in all weather conditions. I have been using Trangia stoves in my Duke of Edinburgh programme for over 10 years. The stoves are easy to use and the learning curve is very short for those who are new to camping. All of the parts of the stoves pack down into a nested set consisting of a stand, a wind shield, two pots, and a frying pan. The actual "stove" or burner is basically a brass cup that holds methylated-spirits. … Full review
Bought this to go with my Ohuhu portable wood stove and it works very well with fondue fuel and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. I used this out on a few hikes to make trailside oatmeal on the back 40; other than that it has seen more use as an emergency stove during power outages. So it is versatile and works well; takes some time to boil a kettle of water but not too long I don't think (it is a stove top kettle and bigger than anything I would take on a trail). I have had it for two years now… Full review