One year ago, I wrote an article for Brian's web page dealing with small stoves for camping, hiking, and survival. Those stoves included wood burning, pressurized canister, and fire tablet. This past year I've had a ton of fun using a tiny stove that is very popular in the hiking/backpacking world. It's called the "Alcohol Stove". This is a non-pressurized stove that you fill with fuel, light it, allow the stove to "prime" (once the stove heats up it will vaporize the fuel and allow the jets to blossom on the stove), then you're ready for business.
Over this past year, I've purchased several alcohol stoves and created a few home made versions. For informational and picture purposes concerning this article, I'm only going to focus on 2 stoves that I've purchased. For the record, I'm not associated in any way with the makers of these stoves. I've just used them countless times and I know I can depend on them without any reservation.
(Other equipment pictured: ESEE "Izula" knife, Stoic 700ml cup, "Light My fire" fire steel)
Weight - 1.6 ounces
Height - 2.75 "-
Diameter - 2.50"
Fuel capacity - 1 ounce
Height - 2.75 "-
Diameter - 2.50"
Fuel capacity - 1 ounce
The following video shows the operation of the Venom Super Stove:
The RUCAS Stove:
(Other equipment pictured: Gossman "WTK" knife, Stoic 700ml cup, LMF fire steel)
Weight - 1.24 ounces
Height - 2.38"
Diameter - 2.6"
Fuel capacity - 4.0 ounces
Cost - approx. $22.00
The following is a very informative video on the RUCAS stove:
Whether you're doing a month long solo trail hike or spending a few days in the woods camping with family, you don't want to experience any complications or failures with your equipment. This being vitally important concerning your cooking gear. The beauty of the alcohol stove is there are NO moving parts, no hoses, no seals, and no computer chips to malfunction and render the stove useless in the field. Case in point: Roland Mueser, author of, "Long - Distance Hiking: Lessons from the Appalachian Trail", conducted a survey of stoves used by thru-hikers (one who attempts to hike/backpack an entire trail in one uninterrupted journey) and he found that the alcohol stove was the only type with a zero percent failure rate.
This fuel is non-combustible and is safe to light with a match, lighter, or even scraping a fire steel rod with the spine of a knife resulting in the sparks igniting the fuel. Both HEET and Denatured alcohol are readily available in most stores across the country
Tip: The use of rubbing alcohol (70% and 90% Isopropyl) will leave that nasty black soot on everything. But, they can be used as a last resort in an emergency.
While in the woods, if I don't have a windscreen with me, I'll try to use natural objects like rocks, wood, or some other item that will block the wind. For this article, I tried using bricks as a wind screen and they worked just fine at keeping the wind from the stove. In fact, it only took 3 minutes and 45 seconds to bring one cup of water to a rolling boil. The stove went on to burn for 10 minutes before running out of fuel and it was very windy outside (1.5 ounces of fuel was used for this experiment). Note: Before putting the bricks around the stove, the wind actually blew out the flame before the stove had a chance to prime.
My personal "wind screen" preference is to use a small wood burning stove. Just place the alcohol stove down into the wood burning stove which blocks the wind nicely and also provides a larger area for your cup, pot, or pan. The following pictures illustrate this procedure (Note: the wind was howling, the temp was 29F, and the snow was blowing. I used 1.5 ounces of fuel and 2 cups of water. The soup began boiling in no time).
(Other equipment used: Backwoods "KDC" knife (designed by Brian King), MSR Stowaway pot, "LMF" fire steel, Emberlit "EL Mini" wood stove).
Tip: If placing your alcohol stove on the bare ground, always try to use something like aluminum foil underneath the stove which will reduce conduction (heat being sucked into the ground which will make for longer boil times and waste fuel).
One of the major benefits of this kind of stove is how compact it is along with it's ultra light weight. Most alcohol stoves weigh anywhere from less than 1 oz. for a home made cat food can up to almost 4 ounces for the Swedish made Trangia stove. As you can see from the following pictures, you can carry everything you need for a day hike inside a small cup which doesn't take up hardly any space in a backpack.
(Other equipment in picture: Backwoods "Battle Axe" knife, Stoic 700ml cup, LMF fire steel).
As I mentioned earlier, it's incredibly easy to make your own stove. The following link is an instructional video on making your own alcohol stove by using a small cat food can and a hole punch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pajkt594Ruw
With all the positive attributes of the alcohol stove, there are a few issues that need to be addressed when using this style of stove.
- You can't see the flame very well during daylight hours. Never look directly into the stove or place your hand directly on top when trying to see/feel if the stove has successfully been lit.
- Make sure you have a stable area for the stove. You don't want it to tip over while burning. In addition, make sure your cup or pot is sturdy before you begin cooking.
- The alcohol stove doesn't have a simmer control. Some stoves, like the Trangia, have a simmer ring, but generally this style of stove is either on or off.
- This style of stove is not as strong as some of the other stoves on the market, so just use caution when packing them in your backpack or vehicle. So far, I've never had any issue with the 2 above mentioned stoves. They are very strong and sturdy and I've never worried about them in my various backpacks. Note: If you were to crush your stove while in the woods, you can always look around for a soda/beer can and make your own.