Alcohol stoves – silence please




I started using alcohol stoves when I started hiking with my kids on my back. It left very little room for gear, and I had to carry something lighter and smaller than usual. Alcohol stove was the natural choice. They are really ultralight. But I keep on using it for a different reason...

…It is totally silent.



Another thing I really like about it is that I did it myself! They are great for DIY.

There are very few serious brands, many stoves you'll see are home made or made by small brands. The DIY stoves are just as good, stable and safe to operate as the commercial stoves.

How does it work?

Alcohol camp stoves got few types. I'll concentrate on the most popular.
The explanations here are really in a nutshell.

Open flame type

open-flame
  • Alcohol is held exposed to the free air.*
  • Once you light the alcohol, it simply burns to the free air.
*sometimes, the stove is filled with
fiberglass to prevent spilling.


Open jet

(Double walled ,Trangia-like)

open-jet
  • The alcohol is held in the main chamber and in the double walls.
  • The alcohol in the main chamber is ignited, heating the alcohol in the walls.
  • Once the alcohol in the walls is heated, it is vaporized.
  • The vaporized alcohol is forced through the holes in the top of the walls and it is then starts burning.

Pressurized

(penny stove style)

pressurized
  • First, the stove is preheated by burning alcohol around it or on it.
  • Then, the alcohol in the stove is vaporizing, causing the pressure in the stove to increase. This forces the vaporized alcohol through the jets.
  • Once running through the jets, it is ignited.


pros and cons

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Clean burn, no odor
  • Quiet burning
  • Ultralight (in most cases)
  • Low fuel cost
  • Easy to carry fuel around, no unique container
  • No moving parts, hence reliable.

 

Cons

  • Low heat
  • Few significant brands
  • In case of most DIY versions – somewhat squeezable
  • Careful! In full sunlight the flame might be invisible.

 

 

Available stoves in the market

In the "how it works" section I mentioned the most common types. Here are the different stoves you can get of these types.

As I already mentioned, there are very few serious brands in the alcohol backpacking stoves field.

There is another issue I want to mention here: on many cases, alcohol stoves are sold as a kit. The kit includes a burner, windscreen, pot stand and cookware.
Therefore – many of the stoves should be examined as a full kit rather than a stand alone burner.

Open flame type

Brasslite turbo Brasslite
Caldera cone Caldera Cone™ Stove System

Open jet

Trangia (the one and only, if you can, go get one!)

More on Trangia westwind, a nice alcohol stove that combines a Trangia burner with some potstant build of three metal plates.

Arik (Nebraska) uses the burner only...
trangia
pepsi can stove Pepsi can stove – DIY
White Box stove
white box stove
(image courtesy of White Box)

Pressurized

Vargo Outdoors Triad Vargo Outdoors Triad
Penny alcohol stove Penny alcohol stove

Other

Voodoo compact alcohol burners by minibulldesign Voodoo compact alcohol burners by minibulldesign


Here is the Caldera Cone boiling two cups of water:


Bottom line

If you are a DIY freak – alcohol stove can be perfect for you.
Another reason you should consider it is if you wish to use ultralight backpacking gear.
In case you want to buy one, I'm a a fan of Trangia, so that's what I'd recommend.

Beyond that, these stoves are best in class in two parameters…

…Cost

…Hearing mother nature while you cook