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Monday, October 18, 2010

Alcohol Camping Stoves



Alcohol camping stoves are the perfect choice for the backpacker looking for a small, lightweight, easy-to-use and inexpensive stove.

The alcohol camping stoves are very simple, they have very little moving parts, no jets or orifices to clog and clean. Alcohol is a renewable resource and is a non-petroleum based product. If you have a spill in your backpack, it will evaporate quickly, leaving no tell-tale odor. It's the perfect "green" fuel.

Ok, let's look at the pros and cons for the alcohol camping stoves...

PRO

1. Simple - No Pumping, Pressurizing, Priming or Pre-lighting.
2. Fuel - Renewable, Evaporates quickly, Burns clean (no soot), Not oily or smelly.
3. Lightweight - Can weigh as little as a few ounces.
4. Reliable - They light first time every time, as long as you guard your match against the wind.
5. Safety - Fuel evaporates quickly and will not explode (non-inflammable).
6. Fuel Transport - Easy; can be carried in a plastic bottle. Do not use an untreated aluminum bottle. If you're not sure, don't use it. See the note at the bottom of the page.
7. Fuel Availability - Everywhere; can be found in drug stores to hardware stores.
8. Noise - Very quiet and generally cannot be heard. This can also be a con.


CON

1. Noise - As I said above, being quiet can be a pro or a con. Pro in that it is quiet, but a Con because you sometimes cannot tell if you have a flame or not.
2. Flame - Alcohol burns clear (slightly bluish) and this makes it very difficult to see. Especially in the daylight.
3. Heat Output - Alcohol camping stoves put out about half of the heat per ounce other liquid fuel stoves produce, i.e. white gas, kerosene, Coleman style fuels, and butane or propane.
4. Group Size - A small group of 1 or 2, maybe 3, is best, because of the slower cooking time. This isn't really a con, but it is something to consider.
5. Cooking Time - Is slower because of the reduced heat output, but for 1 or 2 people it is just fine.
6. Safety - NEVER, NEVER fill the stove with more fuel while it is still burning or hot. This actually goes for ALL stove types.
7. Cold - Alcohol camping stoves are not very reliable in freezing weather. As the temperature drops, the evaporation rate of the alcohol drops. This makes them very hard to start. A work-around for this is to pre-heat the stove with a candle.
8. Durability - Since they are so small and lightweight, they can be fragile. They can be bent, crushed or destroyed easily without the proper care.


Do-It-Yourself (DIY): Alcohol camping stoves are perfect for the DIY crowd. The internet is full of instructions on how to make an alcohol camping stove.

FUEL

1. Isopropyl - NOT Recommended. This can be purchased from any drug store, but it will always have too much water mixed with it. It's never just pure alcohol.
2. Denatured - This fuel comes mixed with other poisonous chemicals. Many times the label will say that it is suitable for marine stoves. I would go with that brand. Another way to tell if the denatured that you have will be any good, is to burn some of it in a metal dish and check for any residue left behind. Do not use it if there is any residue.
3. Grain - Alcohol works well, but can be expensive. Stay away from the colored grain alcohols and go for the clear such as the Everclear brand. Keep in mind that you brought it to use in the stove and not to keep your belly warm. P.S. This is the only fuel than can be consumed by humans. ALL the others are poisonous.
4. Methyl - Other names are methanol, wood alcohol, methyl hydrate, liquid fondue fuel, gasoline line antifreeze. This is a highly poisonous fuel. However, methanol evaporates faster than ethanol at all temperatures and you would have a better chance of starting your stove in cold weather. Store this fuel and the stove that uses it from your food and pots.
5. Gelled Alcohol - Such as Sterno, Canned Heat, Jelled Alcohol. This is good for keeping food warm, but not for cooking. Not enough heat output.
6. Diethylene Glycol - Extremely poisonous and is Not Recommended.


Types of Alcohol Camping Stoves

1. Open Flame - This is the simplest of all the alcohol camping stoves. It's basically an open shallow metal container that you pour the alcohol in and you light it. The pot is sitting on a wire frame above the stove. They are simple to build and operate, but are not the most efficient with the fuel to heat ratio. However, they are a very reliable stove.
2. Chimney or Updraft - This style of stove utilizes the updraft created by the heat of the fire, up a chimney, to the top of the stove and heating the pot. It mixes the air with the fuel at the bottom of the stove to get a better controlled flame at the top. The pot sits on a stand above the stove. It has a good heat output and is very reliable.
3. Low Pressure Side Burner - This utilizes the low pressure draft created like the Chimney stove, but the pot sits directly on the stove. Same stove as the Chimney stove, just a different way of using it. It has good heat output and does not need a pot stand.
4. Open Jet - This stove works by vaporizing the fuel and shooting it out little jets. The fuel is poured in through the top center; it is very lightweight and will simmer, but is only good for small pots. You will need to have a pot stand to keep the pot off the stove.
5. Hybrid Side Burner Jet - This is like the Open Jet, but the vents are on the side. The pot sits right on the stove top so a pot stand is not needed.
6. Pressurized Jet - This is like the Open Jet stove, but the center is closed allowing the fuel gasses to build up pressure. It burns hot and does not allow for simmering. You will need a pot stand for this stove.


Points to Consider

1. Consider making an alcohol camping stove for yourself.
2. Are you going to be doing a lot of extreme cold weather cooking?
3. Burner style - You do not have to settle for just one style. You can have a different style depending on weather conditions and/or altitude.
4. Boil time to fuel usage ratio - This ratio is how long does it take to boil 1L of water to how much fuel is used. This is very important when you are determining how much fuel to carry with you.
5. Flame control - Do you want to be able to simmer or not?
6. Size of group - Remember that 1-2 people are best per stove.


Note: Aluminum: "SIGG, one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of reusable aluminum bottles, actually lines their aluminum with an FDA approved coating that prevent toxins from leaching." According to Elizabeth Borelli of Nubius Organics.

For more on this topic go to http://hubpages.com/hub/BPA-Free-Reusable-Water-Bottles-Containers/.

About Me
Hello, I'm Clayton Hay. I have over 50 years of camping, hiking and backpacking experience. Most of it has been through the Boys Scouts of America in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, and New Mexico and the rest with family and friends.

If you want to learn more about backpacking tips, backpacks, tents, stoves, food, nutrition, sleeping bags and travel, then visit me at http://fossilbackpackinggear.com.

2 comments:

kevin said...

Hikers should bring their hiking gears and equipments. I always bring my hiking tent.

John said...

What a great overview. Thanks.
http://www.destinysurvival.com

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