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Vargo Decagon

rated 3.5 of 5 stars
photo: Vargo Decagon alcohol stove

Simple, reliable and lightweight, this is an excellent choice for lightweight backpacking if all you want to do is boil water.


  • No moving parts
  • Lightweight
  • Simple to use
  • Reliable


  • No lid to store unused alcohol
  • Not the most efficient in its class
  • Much less efficient in windy conditions

I've noticed there are a few reviews on this stove and they are quite mixed in their opinions. However, unless the guidance on the Vargo website is followed then it will not perform as well as it could. The two most common mistakes people make when using it is to under fill it. You HAVE to fill it up for it to come to a bloom efficiently. The second is using the wrong fuel. Not all meths, alcohol, ethanol, whatever you want to call it, is the same. Use the best you can get it, it is more cost effective in the long run.

I've also done several comparisons in the comfort of my kitchen where it is warm and there is no wind, but there is no substitute for using it in the field to find out what it's really made of. I've used one extensively and it has always performed as it should. I use it in conjunction with an MSR Titan as it sits inside the kettle nicely. There's room for an MSR Titanium handle, a Vargo folding spoon, and a sparker stowed inside a Tread-Lite Cuben Fiber bag. This makes for a lightweight setup that is guaranteed to produced a flame again and again and again.

To protect it from wind I also carry a cheap titanium windscreen which also reflects the flame onto the side of the pot to aid efficiency. No moving parts, no fuss, and I don't mind waiting a little longer for the kettle to come to a boil. In fact it's worth it for the silence alone.

To prime it I fill the reservoir and spill some additional fuel onto the rim—as instructed by Vargo. Once I am done, I simply pour unused fuel back into the bottle using the base of the Decagon as a drip feeder. Again, this is clearly demonstrated on the Vargo instructional film. My MSR Titan usually comes to a rolling boil in 7-8 minutes. 

Like most other alcohol burners this will not work as well in the wind so a sheltered spot is better. Also, as I have already mentioned, it is picky when it comes to which fuel you put in it. I also noticed the MSR pot is a little unstable as the Decagon is quite a small diameter. In colder weather I kept the fuel close to my body core as it does not like getting cold, but that would be true of any alcohol burner. Other than that, there's little to fault it. 

In summary, this is an excellent lightweight alcohol stove that works well in conjunction with an MSR Titan. As there are no moving parts the only reason it may not work would be entirely down to user error e.g. treading on it. Follow the Vargo instructions for priming and emptying it and you have a great stove for boiling reasonable amounts of water. 


Used extensively on walks, trails, and mountain trips in the UK in conjunction with an MSR Titan.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: £35

I really, really wanted this to work as I am constantly striving to cut weight and things that possibly could break but this stove failed in repeated tests in my basement laboratory under what should have been ideal conditions (no wind, moderate room temperature, and warmish tap water).

I did not have trouble lighting it and on the first attempt filled it just to the top of the fill hole in the center of the stove. It burned for approximately seven minutes and two cups of water didn't even come close to boiling - there were only small bubbles on the sides and bottom of a titanium pot).

So, back to the drawing boards; I filled it all the way to the top and relit. After nine minutes and thirty seconds it ran out of fuel and once again the water (two cups the typical requirement for freeze dried meals) had not even approached a boil. This is a product that I definitely will return to REI.

Hopefully they'll pull it off the shelves and quit selling it. One tester at REI said he got his to boil water in five minutes and thiry seconds. He must have been using rocket fuel; I used what the instructions required which is denatured alcohol and my results were less than dismal.

It's back to my titanium Snowpeak Gigapower in the summer and my MSR Dragonfly in the winter. The Dragonfly will melt a pot of snow in half the time this stove required to bring water to a lukewarm temperature.

Price Paid: $29

I have about 300 trail miles hiking on the PCT, and about 300 miles of bicycle touring while using this stove. My thoughts are as follows:

1) The stove must be filled completely with fuel, and a bit of fuel needs to be spilled on the sides for it to prime properly. It must also be relatively level.

2) You must use quality methanol or ethanol fuel. HEET in the red bottle or isopropyl alcohol will not work. I even had a bad batch of generic HEET in the yellow bottle once. Use name brand fuel.

3) You must have a lid on your pot and a windscreen. I made a simple aluminum windscreen that fits inside my MSR Titan Kettle (along with the stove; it fits inside a Titan perfectly).

4) Be patient. It's not a white gas or butane stove. It will boil water if you give it time. It also won't leave you stranded like a malfunctioning gas stove has left me, at the CA/OR border on the PCT with rain and drizzle and 30 miles to the next resupply. Believe me, cold, hard Liptons aren't very tasty.

5) This is optional and NOT recommended, but it worked for me: I drilled out the bottom hole 3/16" to allow easier and faster filling. I also slightly enlarged the jets all the way around. Now, I have faster boils and a more consistent flame pattern. Modify at your own risk!

Price Paid: $30

If you read the other reviews, they all say it worked great in my garage/basement. The people who tried it in the field are not so sure. This happened to me. I tried it indoors and it performed OK. Full up with fuel, 2 cups, boiled (just).

On a PCT section hike from Canada to Snoqualmie Pass recently, I wished over and over again that I had tested further. It barely gets 2 cups to boiling outdoors. Foil windbreak used. After the first burn I had to wait for it to cool then put in extra fuel to get a full boil or to heat any two-stage meal (eg. boil noodles, then add tuna etc).

My old Pepsi can stove is a much better performer. Lasts longer, less sputtering. The selling point that got me was indestructibility, but the Pepsi can stove fits perfectly in a cup so it doesn't really get exposed to crushing in your pack.

Price Paid: $25

I have heard people say they have had trouble getting a good boil going with this stove. I took mine straight to the 40 degree garage and got consistent 5 minute boil times for 2 cups of water. This was with no wind screen and 3 successful attempts with 3 different pots. 5 minutes each time.

We are supposed to get down to low 20's this weekend, I am curious to test the performance then. I believe that with a wind screen adding reflected heat, the time may get even better. Yes, it can be slow to prime if you just light the top, but external priming takes care of that.

I have experimented with many home made stoves and decided that the durability of titanium would be worth the price. I like this stove becauese of its consistency.

Update 9/27/14:

It's now September 2014 and the stove is still going strong. I love it. I now own both the old and the new style and I admit I like the old style better, as it primes easier. The new model is faster to fill. But you need to be more aggressive priming it and you need the reflective heat of a wind screen for both of these to work at their peak.  

I just bought the Triad and its test boil went great. Between the two, I  slightly lean toward the Triad for its smaller size and the pots seem more stable on them. Remember, windscreens are key to performance. 

Price Paid: $26

A great stove for boiling water! I used the Pinnacle Soloist pan with it and the wind screen recommended on the Vargo website. It boiled 2 cups in about 6 minutes, using cold tap water.

To get this stove to operate correctly it is pivotal to fill it correctly! If the stove is not filled to the top it will not achieve maximum output.

Good luck to all who buy it. It's worth it.

Price Paid: $32.99

I bought a Vargo Decagon stove on a whim while browsing at REI. It looked like a very cool design. Then I started seeing posts about how inefficient titanium stoves were compared to aluminum soda pop can designs. So I have been doing some testing.

I live at 6,400 feet elev. and there’s lots of snow at Lake Tahoe. I can bring 2 cups of cold tap water to a rolling boil at right around 5 min. 30 secs. every time. (Our tap water comes from the lake and it’s cold, probably 50 deg.) It doesn’t seem to matter if I’m outdoors or in. Then I can refill my aluminum pot and get it hot enough to get bubbles on the bottom before the flame goes out. (If I were smart, I’d get a 32 oz. pot.) An ounce of alcohol lasts about 14 minutes.

The secret to getting it primed fast is to spill a little alcohol on the outside of the stove then it comes out of the jets in about 20 secs. Otherwise it takes about 45. The stove is sensitive to wind and I can blow it out. I recover unused alcohol easily with a paper funnel. It has a wide base and feels very solid.

I haven’t used it on a trek yet, but am anxious to. I think I’ll be very happy with it.

Price Paid: $29.95

It looked tough, but it wasn't up to the task.


  • light
  • tough
  • not that expensive


  • uses too much fuel
  • to boil time too long

I've read the other reviews and agree the key to getting this thing to work is over filling and spilling a little fuel down the sides. It also helps to have a large dimension pot to keep the flames directed to the bottom rather than up the sides of the pot.

But I have been very disappointed with the burn time to get a boil going. In fact at high altitude it hasn't boiled. So I'll continue to use my Soto stove and canister fuel.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $30 at REI

I have one of these and did a controlled test after reading the mixed reviews here. I found that 2 cups of water in a 2 QT Open Country pot was boiling the water with the fuel only half gone. This was in a 60 degree garage using my very cold well water.

I think the differences between reviewers is due to windscreen usage. Windscreens are very important for alcohol stoves. I have a homemade, full wraparound aluminum windscreen made from a piece of flashing. It leaves about a quarter to half inch gap around the entire pot and has a number of holes along the bottom. This creates the proper convection, air for combustion, gets/keeps the stove hot so the alcohol vapizes well, and directs the heat into the pot. I made it using directions on the Vargo website.

I had better results than the previous reviewer. I used this stove with a JetBoil 1.5 liter FluxRing pot - 2 cups boiled in just under 5 minutes, and Lipton southwestern style rice and beans cooking time was similar to my Svea 123R.

It's lighter, burns greener and stinks less than the Svea too!

I have to say - this stove is vitually goof proof. Pour the fuel into the center cup, light it and the fuel is drawn into the burner area as the stove "primes". Voila - you get a well distributed flame. We used local rocks as a wind screen, and I think I prefer this stove to the Svea - although I'm not sure how it will hold up over time.

Price Paid: $25

Just got the stove, looked like a cool design. I have many other alcohol stove. The best of which is the Trangia Westwind. Tried this stove in my garage. Filled it. Lit it. It primed fast, (spilled a little fuel around the edge.) I placed my titanium pot on top with .5 liters of water, room temp. the stove burned but the water never boiled. Only small bubbles formed. Finally after about 12-14 minutes the stove sputtered out. I am glad I did not rely on this stove in the field.

While I like the design I will stick to my Westwind. Far more reliable and always brings water to a rolling boil without burning out and does it in about 7 minutes.

Price Paid: $24.95

On the plus side, it's very light (1.3oz on my scale) and pretty rugged. The base gives it some stability. However, it's not a great performer. Boil time for two cups is 7-8 minutes, using not-very-cold tap water and absolutely no wind. I tried a Snow Peak titanium pan (2.5c capacity), a 1-qt thin stainless steel pan, and a 1.3-liter titanium pan, with similar results. I've only tried this stove at home so far.

Where weight is the primary concern, and no more than 2 cups of water are needed, it's probably OK. A windscreen of some kind would definitely be required, as you can blow out the flame easily.

Price Paid: $29.95

Soldier approved.


  • Very strong
  • Stable base
  • Lightweight


  • Fuel not always available

This stove is nearly indestructible. I have taken it on two military deployments and it has survived with no damage.

I have also used it indoors on my stove top during power outages, even though it's not recommended, alcohol is a very clean burning fuel. Very happy with this stove.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $30

This stove is slow if you want to boil water. Takes about 1 to 2 minutes to prime. Boil time was slow for 16 oz water at 46 degree inside building. Took 10 minutes to reach rolling boil. Burn time was at 16 minutes on 1.2 oz alcohol.

Next test I added a wick at base to prime stove. Stove preheated in 30 seconds but no improvement in boil time. Stove is light and durable. You can handle stove about 30 second after flame is out. When filling with fuel at slowly.

Price Paid: 30 dollars

Pickup at a REI Crash&Dent sale

Perfect for day hike, 3 day trips or emergencies.
Used a 7"aluminum cake pan( dollar store) as a wind screen for a Evernew Ti 1.3 pot, 1 liter of water in 11mins (bubbles forming) Stove/pot is 6.5 oz ( same weight w/Snowpeak 700).

Try it with the Primus Eta express Pot,the vanes on the base overlapped the burn holes and stove flamed out. used plumbers cloth to lift the pot 1/4" higher, 1L rolling boils in 9 mins.

Price Paid: $8.83

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Price MSRP: $29.95
Current Retail: $34.95
Historic Range: $20.96-$34.95
Reviewers Paid: $8.83-$32.99
Weight 1.2 oz / 34 g
Stability plate diameter 4.25 in / 107 mm
Height 1.25 in / 32 mm
Burner diameter 2.25 in / 57 mm
Fuel capacity 2 oz / 59 ml
Burn time ~20 minutes
Product Details from Vargo »

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