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Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove???
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Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/27/2009 17:53:26 MST Print View

A friend of mine built me a Caldera Cone clone for my MSR Titan Kettle and I am pretty excited to use it.

I have never used an Esbit or Alcohol stove before.

My meals are dehyradted food that I make at home and I soak in my kettle for 30 to 40 minutes before putting it on a stove.

I currently use a MSR Pocket Rocket for making hot water for oatmeal in the morning, hot drinks morning and night, and for heating up my dinners don't need boiling water, but the ability to simmer or slowly heat up the food is needed to aid in the rehydration process.

Any suggestions on which one I should use?

The Esbits seems easier in that you light the tablet and just sit back and wait, but have the negative of putting a oiling film on the bottom of the pot.

An alcohol stove seems like there is more fiddle factor in getting it setup and lite and the weight of liquid fuel seems like a disadvantage.

Appreciate your thoughts on the merrits and disadvantages of either one.


Edited by Valshar on 02/27/2009 17:57:37 MST.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/27/2009 18:21:44 MST Print View

I'll go ahead and state the obvious. Esbit is a lighter option on trips more than a few days, but it isn't always widely available and different Esbit manufactures may make them in different sizes and of different quality. The Caldera Cone is amazingly efficient though either way. I had always heard that alcohol burned hotter which may require less overall fuel, but I'd be interested in getting clarification on that.

Edited by regultr on 02/27/2009 18:43:45 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Esbit vs Alcohol on 02/27/2009 18:34:31 MST Print View

On a long trip where you need to re-supply, Smalltown USA is probably might not have any fuel you need except alcohol.

ben wood

Locale: flatlands of MO
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/27/2009 19:38:18 MST Print View

the alcohol stove will need a simmer ring of some sort in order to simmer. i just recieved my caldera cone and haven't used it on the trail yet. nut i will tell you that with the alcohol stove, it burns hot and fast. think jetboil style. its not really a simmering type of stove. if you want you could probably get a trangia burner cheap, they come with a simmer ring that works pretty well. i have never used esbit before so unfortunately i can't help you there. but alcohol is so easy to use, quiet, safe, and cheap.

just my thoughts

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/27/2009 19:54:26 MST Print View

When I used to use an esbit stove, (I loved it, by the way) I had to use two cubes most of the time. The thing with the esbit stove is that the flame starts high and gets smaller and smaller until it goes out.

We had an army surplus store that carried esbit cubes but they went out of business. Now I would have to order them from the Internet if I want them. Before they went out of business they had some other kind of cubes. They were blue and did not work as well.

An alcohol stove seems to have the same flame until the fuel runs out. It might get a little lower towards the end, but not like the esbit fuel. It is a pain to add more fuel if you need to. It is hard to tell if the stove is still going and you have to wait for it to cool to add more alcohol (if there's a lid or something to remove.)

I never found simmering to be necessary. If I want to "simmer" I just remove the food from flame and wait a while. Some people will make a little pot cozy from an old foam pad and put the pot in there to "simmer." It continues to cook off the flame.

The simmer-necessary foods I eat tend to be noodles.

Robert Richey
(BobR) - M

Locale: San Luis Obispo
I love Esbits on 02/27/2009 21:20:24 MST Print View

I have been an Esbit enthusiast for many years, but with the Caldera Cone the wonder cube utility is enhanced. If you have drop boxes instead of relying on a local store you can send Esbits through the mail which cannot be done with other fuels. They are relatively safer than other fuels and you can take exactly what you need and no more. Using a Gram Cracker and Caldera Cone the Esbit capacity to boil is much greater. I have boiled two cups with only a little over half of a single cube's burn time, which runs to 17 minutes using the most efficient Gram Cracker arrangement. With this set-up the cube burns much hotter and the nasty residues do not form on the bottom of your pot.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove on 02/28/2009 01:40:35 MST Print View

Tony, I have used both and have obtained good results with both. Esbit, if used with a windscreen, will easily boil 2 cups of water and is light, compact, and won't leak out all over stuff in your pack. Alcohol is less messy (when burning) and very effecient when used with a Caldera cone, so if you carefully apportion out the amount you'll need for a trip then weight can be saved, though it will still be heavier than Esbit. Last summer I used Esbit exclusively because I bought a B--- load when it was on sale at BPL; when it runs out I'll undoubtedly start using my Caldera more.

As pointed out, using a cozy can eliminate the need to simmer over a flame. You can buy one from Sarah Kirkconnel or MYOG. I made mine out of neoprene beer can insulators that are often given away as promotions...sewed two of them together and seems to work ok. Happy trails!

Edited by TarasBulba on 02/28/2009 01:49:01 MST.

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/28/2009 02:33:54 MST Print View


I have used both with my Caldera Cone, lately when the temperatures have hovered around 0 C (32 F). As others have summarised they both work well with caldera and once you can measure the exact amount of alcohol needed for a boil then the weights become very close.

Reports of my recent stove use can be found here

What would I use well it probably depends on the trip but if I am flying taking Esbit saves the hassles of looking for fuel on arrival, especially if the bus to the trail head leaves soon after your arrival, which I have had to do once or twice.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/28/2009 04:52:03 MST Print View

Robert & Roger,

What is ideal distance between the the bottom of the pot and the esbit stove?

I have been reading about the Gram Cracker Solid Fuel Stove that is supposed to be perfect for use with the Caldera Cone.

Since mine is a home made clone, I don't have an idea of what that optimum distance is between the two.


Ed Engel
(Doorknob) - F

Locale: West of what you think is west
Esbit & Bears on 02/28/2009 10:00:34 MST Print View

If backpacking in the Sierras do you need to put the Esbits in your bear cannister at night? Will bears consume these?

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Esbit & Bears on 02/28/2009 11:03:33 MST Print View

If they do, is it proper etiquette to toss a roll of Tums in the general direction of the bear?

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/28/2009 11:07:42 MST Print View

Tony, I'm using a Ti-Tri/Caldera and regularly boil a pint on 12-15ml of fuel--great efficiency, which might counter a weight difference w/esbit. I've been using a Featherfire in my Ti-Tri, think it's a bit more fuel efficient (still playing), and does offer some degree of heat control or simmering-ish regulation...

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/28/2009 11:42:02 MST Print View


Thanks for pointing out the Featherfire....forgot about that stove.

Question: is the "adjustment cable" for controlling the flame/heat output long enough to be adjusted outside the Cone or do you "set it and forget it" and let the Cone do the rest?

Also, considering that you are using the Caldera Cone, why not use the Packafeather XL vs. the Featherfire, as a pot stand is not not needed.


Edited by Valshar on 02/28/2009 11:46:39 MST.

Robert Richey
(BobR) - M

Locale: San Luis Obispo
Esbit bear food on 02/28/2009 13:48:08 MST Print View

Ed, I have never had a bear eat my Esbit tabs at night, but two years ago one chowed down on my Spark-lite fire starter tinders, so from now on the Esbits go in the can.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol Stove??? on 02/28/2009 14:19:11 MST Print View

Tony, I'm getting to be an old man now and sometimes use the wrong words ;) I do use the Packafeather XL. The cable's plenty long to adjust outside the cone. There's a little fidget factor given that the stove itself is so light and skitters about easily, but w/careful adjustment I've had no mishaps. I've been letting it heat up at full tilt, then just adjusting it down and letting 'er go. Some improvement w/efficiency by switching from my Titan kettle to a 0.9L Evernew w/wider base. Cheers!

Tim F
(kneebyter) - MLife

Locale: the depths of Hiking Hell (Iowa)
re: Caldera & Esbit on 02/28/2009 15:00:20 MST Print View


I've got some answers and some questions for you.

I have two Caldera Cones and both the older style Esbit stand (just a U-shaped piece made from a thicker hardware cloth-type wire with smaller holes) and the Gram Cracker. Both of the Esbit stands put the top of the tablet about 1.5" from the bottom of the pot. I have consistently brought 2 cups to a boil in my SP600 with less than 9g of fuel using the Gram Cracker. Unlike what someone mentioned earlier, I find the Gram Cracker makes the tablet burn slower and cooler, but more efficiently. I achieve faster boils times without the sides on the GC, but use more of the tablet (the only brand I've used is Esbit). With a Titan kettle's wider bottom you might use even less. It is excellent for heating water, but would not work well for simmering.

Which leads to my quesion: are you sure you need to simmer? If you have already soaked it for 30 minutes, would it work to just bring it to a boil for a minute and, as others have suggested, put it into a cozy to finish? A Reflectix cozy is very easy to make and cheap. And while most of the soot left by Esbit on the bottom of the pan easily wipes off with leaves, dirt or sand, storing it in the cozy in your pack takes care of any worries about getting other gear dirty.

I would suggest you experiment with just bringing to a boil, then immediately put in a jacket or something else to keep warm. If you find this works for your meals, Esbit might be a good option. I highly recommend the Gram Cracker, well worth the $12 (IIRC). If this doesn't work for your meals then maybe an alcohol stove with a simmer adjustment would work better.

Remember, figuring these things out is half the fun! Good luck.

Rand Lindsly
(randlindsly) - MLife

Locale: Yosemite
Caldera + Esbit + Simmer on 02/28/2009 18:56:28 MST Print View

For the Gram Cracker users in the crowd who might like to try a trick one of our customers pointed out.....try putting the Esbit tablet *UNDER* the Gram Cracker stand for simmering. Similar concept with the wings, except that putting it under the stand covers everything but the ends! We don't have a lot of experience with this approach, but it makes sense. If you try it out, let me know!

Rand :-)

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Caldera + Esbit + Simmer on 03/01/2009 01:39:04 MST Print View

Tim, Rand, and everyone else who has been generous enough to take the time to respond:

Thank you both for your suggestions and observations.

Rand...the Gram Cracker Esbit Stove sounds like a winner and the weight and price are very nice...sure it will be on my list of future purchases shortly.

I did a little test this afternoon by soaking some dehydrated food that I had made a while back in 8 oz of water in my kettle.

I let it soak for 30 minutes and then lit up an esbit, which was put on an inverted Vienna Sausage Can for a tablet stand.

The water came to a boil in 4 minutes or a little less.

No burning of the food at all, like my Pocket Rocket can do if I don't pay attention to it.

Food came out great.

So based on this one test, I am not sure that I need to simmer at all.

But back to the original question...should I use an Esbit or Alcohol Stove???

What I am hearing is that an alcohol stove is great in that the fuel is generally available anywhere you go and might be best when you can resupply your alcohol every 3 or 4 on the AT. The longer the trip, the less weight advantage.

Esbit, light, but messy is that you can mail these ahead of time to resupply yourself. Disadvantage is that they may not be easily bought in the towns you might come across on a long trek....might need more weight per meal vs. alcohol???

So neither is better than the other, but is merely a the right tool for the job based on the number of days on the trail and the availability of either one to be found along the way going from town to town.

Does this sound right?


Edited by Valshar on 03/01/2009 01:42:08 MST.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Re: Caldera + Esbit + Simmer on 03/01/2009 06:06:14 MST Print View

Yes, Tony, you are correct.

I use either esbit or alcohol, depending on my mood for short trips.

Experiment and go with what you enjoy. It's fun to play with both!


Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Re: Caldera + Esbit + Simmer on 03/01/2009 07:18:33 MST Print View

>So neither is better than the other, but is merely a the right tool for the job based on the number of days on the trail and the availability of either one to be found along the way going from town to town<

I agree with your summary Tony, my experience is that even in cold conditions both work very well in the Caldera. Given the weight of the gram cracker packing it along with the meths burner provides very little weight penalty and allows you to buy fuel in town as well as have Esbit posted. The best of both worlds in my view as well the Ti Tri adds a further dimension.

Edited by rogerb on 03/01/2009 07:19:19 MST.