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Etowah Outfitters Etowah II Alcohol Stove REVIEW

Product performance review of the Etowah Outfitters Etowah II Alcohol Stove, a lightweight alcohol stove for backpacking.

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by Doug Johnson | 2005-04-06 03:00:00-06

Overview

Etowah II Alcohol Stove - 1
The Etowah II alcohol stove features large, stable pot supports (right) and a simmering burner (left). When used, the simmering burner is placed inside the main burner, and the main burner is used to pre-heat (prime) it for ignition.

The Etowah Outfitters Etowah II alcohol stove is a tough stove that can handle large or small pots, boils water very quickly, and includes an "economizer burner" that, when inserted into the main burner, simmers better than most alcohol stoves. At 4.5 ounces (126 grams) for the complete kit, the Etowah II is not as light as many alcohol stoves on the market; but you gain serious toughness, excellent stability, and usable simmering (and you can leave the simmer burner at home if you won't need it.) At $20 for the kit, the Etowah II is an amazing value that will outlive any other item in your pack.

Specifications

• Stove ID

Etowah Outfitters Etowah II

• Stove Type

Open flame main burner and closed jet simmer burner

• Components Reviewed

Main burner with heavy aluminum pot stand, simmering burner, fuel bottle, carry sack

• Dimensions, Weight

Component Dimensions: height x diameter in (mm) Backpacking Light measured weight oz (g) Manufacturer claimed weight oz (g)
Burner/Windscreen 1.8 x 3.1 (46 x 79) 1.3 (37) -
Pot supports (2) - 1.4 (40) -
Minimum Stove Setup (burner/windscreen + pot supports) 2.4 x 5.0 (61 x 127) 2.7 (77) 0.9 (26)
Economizer Burner (for simmering) - 0.9 (26) -
Fuel bottle - 0.4 (11) -
Stuff sack - 0.5 (14) -
Full Stove Setup (all included items) - 4.5 (126) 4.5 (126)

• MSRP

$20.00 Manufacturer's suggested retail price

• Manufacturer Contact Information

Etowah Outfitters

Usable Features

Etowah II Alcohol Stove - 2
The Etowah II easily handles 2-liter pots in the field. It even supported a 10-quart home spaghetti pot full of water with no problems.

The Etowah Outfitters Etowah II alcohol stove has a 3-inch open flame burner with 5-inch wide aluminum cross supports. A closed jet "economizer" (simmer) burner sits inside the main burner. The main burner can be used on its own (simply fill and light) or as a pre-heater for the simmer burner. When using the simmer burner, you fill the smaller burner and put one teaspoon of fuel into the main burner. Large vent openings in the main burner allow for easy lighting from the side.

At 4.5 ounces for the complete setup, the Etowah II is heavy by alcohol stove standards. However, by leaving the simmer burner and stuff sack at home, you can lower the weight of the stove to 3.1 ounces - not ultralight, but not bad for a stove that can handle very large pots with ease. In fact, the pot support, which consists of two thick aluminum slats that lock into the heavy gauge steel burner, was so strong that it easily supported a 10-quart cookpot full of water. This is a seriously strong stove!

When it comes to cooking, the Etowah II is a stove with two personalities. While the directions say to use the economizer (simmer) burner all the time and to only remove it when using rubbing alcohol, I found this set-up to be frustrating when trying to boil water. When using the stove without the simmer insert, it boils water quickly, is reasonably efficient, and is much easier to use. (See Cooking Performance for further detail.)

The Etowah II stove offers some limited wind protection, especially when using the economizer insert. However, it requires the use of a windscreen for reasonable performance in windy conditions; I used one made from heavy-duty aluminum foil and improved stove performance a great deal.

Ease of Use

Etowah II Alcohol Stove - 3
The "economizer burner" has two cotton pads on the inside to slow fuel consumption. Rusting occurred following field use in wet conditions, but did not affect the function of the burner.

In my first 2 weeks of field use I was quite frustrated with the Etowah Outfitters Etowah II alcohol stove. The directions called for using the economizer insert all the time and using the outer burner only for warming up the inner burner (or using rubbing alcohol). When following this method, the stove starts out hot but as the fuel in the outer burner burns out (you're only supposed to use one teaspoonful), the inner burner cools down and emits a small simmering flame. Further, the economizer burner is so economical that the flame never seems to go out - great for simmering but horrible when you're waiting for the fuel to burn out so you can add more fuel to get your full pot of water to boil. To be honest, this caused me to absolutely HATE the stove...until I found a better way.

It was the term "economizer burner" on the Etowah Outfitters website that got me thinking... I wasn't looking for economy, I wanted a quick boil time. So I tried it without the simmer stove and voila, the stove boiled water much more quickly! In fact, once I got rid of the inner stove, this became the fastest boiling alcohol stove I've ever used, especially with larger pots. I highly recommend that you skip the directions and leave out the economizer burner. That is, unless you want to simmer. If you're interested in simmering, this stove does a great job of that with the inner burner in use; it kept soups warm and did a decent job with pancakes as well.

When using the simmer burner, the manufacturer recommends leaving the cotton inside the burner to increase economy. Tests at home confirmed that the cotton did slow down the burn rate. Lighting the stove (in either setup) simply requires holding a match close to a side air intake.

Etowah II Alcohol Stove - 4
When used without the economizer burner, the Etowah II produces a strong, hot flame that boils water quickly.

Cooking Performance

Without the simmer burner, cooking with the Etowah II is very straightforward. Simply attach the pot supports, pour fuel into the main cup, light through a side vent, and watch your water boil quickly. The stove has no tendency to blow out and its base never gets hot enough to burn paper or other flammable materials. That said, watch out for the aluminum pot supports; they stay very hot long after cooking is finished and the rest of the stove has cooled.

Like other alcohol stoves, the Etowah II is highly affected by wind. The effect of wind was shown in Backpacking Light lab tests as boil times increased 64% and fuel consumption increased a whopping 114%. In other words, you must protect the Etowah II from wind in order to get good performance.

When using the economizer burner for simmering, fill the inner burner and put 1 teaspoon of fuel in the outer burner, then light it as you would for normal use. The inner burner ignites in about 1 minute and the fuel in the outer burner burns out in about 2 minutes. After this, you have a nice, mellow flame that is perfect for simmering. This is the best simmering alcohol stove I've ever used (I own five different alcohol stoves).

The Etowah II is large compared to soda can-type alcohol stoves. The burner fits into an MSR Titanium Kettle, but the pot supports stick out about 1.5 inches.

Heating Efficiency

The Etowah Outfitters Etowah II alcohol stove is one of the fastest boiling alcohol stoves, although our lab tests (shown below) indicate otherwise. This is because all lab tests were done according to manufacturer suggestions, which indicated that the economizer burner should be used. When using the Etowah II without the economizer burner, this stove consistently outperforms both the Brookside Crafts and AntiGravityGear Tin Man stoves, especially when using a larger 2-liter pot. When using the economizer burner, fuel will last seemingly forever. I often watched the stove burn for well over 20 minutes when using moderate fuel levels in the burner.

See performance results for all the stoves we tested in Performance Comparison Testing of Lightweight Alcohol Stoves.

Table 1: Boil Time and Fuel Consumption for Optimal and Windy Conditions
  Optimum Conditions Boil Time for 1 pint of water (minutes:seconds) Optimum Conditions Fuel Consumption (g) Windy Conditions Boil Time for 1 pint of water (minutes:seconds) Windy Conditions Fuel Consumption (g)
Etowah II 6:33 14.7 10:10 31.4
Average of All Stoves Reviewed 6:09 15.7 8:20 32.8

Durability

Etowah II Alcohol Stove - 5
The super-tough Etowah II may outlive everything else in your pack.

This stove is really tough and there's zero complexity or moving parts. If I had to rely on one stove to save my butt, this is it. Besides some rust on the inside of the economizer burner, this stove showed no wear after weeks of hard use in the field.

The included fuel bottle doesn't leak, but it is too small for extended trips.

Value

At $20 for the complete kit, the Etowah Outfitters Etowah II alcohol stove is an exceptional value. It works well, is bombproof, and will seemingly last forever. Sure it would be lighter in titanium, but that would miss the point. This is an inexpensive stove that will last long enough for your grandkids to use it.

Tips and Tricks

Ignore the directions - only use the economizer burner if you want to simmer. Watch those pot supports after cooking, they will get wicked hot! Always use a windscreen but make sure it doesn't cut airflow from getting to the base of the stove; small holes at the bottom or lifting it above the ground with sticks or small rocks will do.

Recommendations for Improvement

I would change nothing on this stove in its current form - it's tough, reasonably lightweight, and offers options for quick boils and good simmering. However, I recommend changing the directions to indicate more clearly how to use the stove when you aren't interested in simmering. I also recommend making a lighter version available, perhaps with lighter aluminum pot supports - not everyone needs a stove strong enough to hold a 10-quart pot.


Citation

"Etowah Outfitters Etowah II Alcohol Stove REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/etowah_2_alcohol_stove_review.html, 2005-04-06 03:00:00-06.

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