Solid Fuel Stove Techniques
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John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 06:58:50 MDT Print View

I am forever exploring ways to lighten my pack load. Lately I've become curious about solid fuel stoves like the one below.

Esbit Solid Fuel Stove

My concerns are the sooting issues on the cookpot and the residue left over on the stove itself after cooking or boiling water.

Can anyone share their experience and technique in the use of this type of stove "cleanly"?

I believe someone recently mentioned using a small piece of foil in the fuel tab tray to control the fuel tab residue on the stove and a small piece of foil under the stove to reflect heat and catch the fuel residue that might drip down.

Any suggestions would be appreciated especially for keeping the pot clean.

How do you do it? Please include pictures as I am a visual learner. ;-)

Party On,

Newton

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 07:04:01 MDT Print View

The residue wipes off easily if you don't let it cool off and set up. --B.G.-- uses the foil liner in the tray. The under stove piece works as you say.

Greg Pehrson
(GregPehrson) - MLife

Locale: playa del caballo blanco
soap the pot on 09/17/2012 08:10:38 MDT Print View

I don't use solid fuel but when I use a pot over a wood stove or fire, I rub a bar of soap on the bottom and sides of the pot and the soot wipes off easily when I come home. I keep the pot and stove in an old tyvek mailer that I've made into a stuff sack that I don't mind getting dirty inside.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 09:11:50 MDT Print View

@Ken,

"The residue wipes off easily if you don't let it cool off and set up".

From the stove, the pot or both? That little tray seems like it could be a PITA.

@Greg,

Do you have to re-apply the soap between "burns" or is it just a one time application per trip? How long does it last? Did you size the tyvek stuff sack so that it has a wide opening but closes tightly to avoid getting the soot on the higher edges of the cook pot and stuff sack?

@Bob,

It must be too early in the morning out in CA. ;-)

If I go this route I'll definitely be able to fit my "fuel" inside of my cook pot without searching for a properly sized "small" fuel bottle.

Now for some more general questions.

Do any of you portion out your fuel tabs according to burn times and amount of water boiled?

What do you store the unused but opened pieces of fuel tabs in between uses?

Can a burning fuel tab be "snuffed out" and used later if a whole tab isn't needed?

Thanks to all.

Party On,

Newton

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 09:40:31 MDT Print View

There are some differences in how close various solid fuels burn. My memory is that the WetFire Tinder burned the cleanest and were the most expensive. I typically use the classic esbits because it's pretty easy (and reasonably affordable) but buy a bunch at a time (box of 20 i think).

I have found that the residue seems a bit less when the esbit is burned inside something like a caldera cone which helps keep the combustion stabilized... but there is still some reside. Like Bob observed, the residue comes off easily if you don't let it harden. For dinner I burn the esbit to heat dinner, blow it out, and relight to make a mug of tea. Once I have finished drinking my tea II immediate turn the pot/mug over and use the tea bag to wipe off the residue. Tea bags are not very durable, so you can imagine it doesn't take serious scrubbing.

I don't worry as much about the residue on the fuel holder. I just give it a good knock, and fully clean it when I get somewhere that I have running water. I am more attentive to the pot's outside because it travels in my pack without anything covering it... don't want the residue getting on other things. The stove is carried inside the pot with the next esbits I will use in contact with the residue and that combo inside a plastic bag... don't worry about that getting dirty.

As to soaping pot before a wood fire... yes, I used to do that as well. Soap has to be reappeared each time you clean the pot.

As I observed about... it's possible to "snuff out" a tab. I don't bother cutting up the fuel tab and don't typically carry partially burned tabs because one tab is perfect for a meal followed by tea. If I was going to carry something partially burned, it would be inside a small ziplock plastic bag inside my pot.


--Mark

Edited by verber on 09/17/2012 16:22:13 MDT.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 10:08:05 MDT Print View

Thanks Mark

I seem to remember seeing something on a BPL thread about using the "pink" solid fuel tablets as opposed to the normal tabs. If I remember correctly there was some reference to these having less residue and or soot.

Anybody heard of this or have any experience with the pink solid fuel tablets? The brand name Bleuet seems to ring a bell regarding this subject.

Party On,

Newton

Edited by Newton on 09/17/2012 10:11:21 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 10:44:46 MDT Print View

Dangit, I woke up for this?

Seriously, you really want to experiment with this, because you will learn all sorts of subtle details. I have to admit, I used to get alcohol spills in the old days, and that was one of my primary reasons for shifting over to Esbit, but that is just me.

Right now in my equipment storage room, I have three different packages of Esbit fuel, each with a different brand name, and I see different performance, different residue, different blow-out and re-light action, and probably some other things. So far this summer, I have gone through at least three or four boxes of the stuff.

The colder your cook pot is and the colder the water is in it, the more sooty residue you get on the pot. Actually, what I get is a brown/black sticky tar. Once you finish one cooking session, if you immediately drop that sticky pot into a storage bag, now you have sticky crap all over the bag. So, I let the pot cool completely and the residue hardens somewhat. I transport it in a disposable plastic produce bag, so the residue doesn't get all over everything. There must be some things that can be done to adjust the flame space to minimize the residue, or maybe I am keeping the bottom air venting choked.

If you put a soap layer on the pot really good in advance, the soap layer will protect the metal surface from residue, up until the point where you accidentally wipe the soap layer off. Been there. Done that. I'll bet that there is some perfect kind of soap layer that you can use. Must experiment.

I find it best to use a full cube in the fuel tray. Then I boil a cup of water, then I blow the fire out, and there is at least a half cube remaining. Also, that used cube (depending on brand) has little spiky Esbit crystals sticking out from the surface for a tenth of an inch. Maybe 15 minutes later, I relight it easily at the crystal surface and do another boil. Once the meal is finished, if I have a partial cube left, I drop it back into the Esbit packaging (foil and plastic) and carry it to the next camp. When I blow the fire out, I do not want to breathe the smoke or fumes, so I do it quickly.

An alternative method is to take a full cube and cut it in half with a knife. Unfortunately, some brands tend to shatter, so you are pinching up little white flakes from all over. There, you would really need a fuel tray.

If I am cooking something big, I use two Esbit cubes together, placed vertically on the fuel tray. I don't think that is more efficient, but it is quicker. However, most of the time when I backpack with a friend, we use a tiny butane rig instead. To me, Esbit makes best sense in mild conditions and for solo water boiling. Just don't make me go back to Louisiana!

--B.G.--

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 16:09:36 MDT Print View

Bob,

"Just don't make me go back to Louisiana"!

C'mon, brought youself down here an' we'll pass a good time yeah! ;-)

We might even be able to find some of that freeze dried crawfish. L O L

Seriously thanks for all of the good info and experience with Esbit.

I was doing some research and see where each tab weighs 14 gm or .5 oz.

Bob mentioned that he can get 2 boils out of a tab. That's 7 gm or .250 oz of fuel per boil.

My latest alcohol stove gives me a boil using 15 ml or 1/2 fluid oz of alcohol. If I've done my math correctly 15 ml of alcohol weighs .3935 oz.

Esbit can burn at @ 1400 degrees F. Ethanol can burn at temperatures approaching 1652 degrees F. from the info that I have found on the internet.

Each Esbit tab has its own container and associated trash to pack and dispose of. An alcohol fuel bottle is reusable, refillable and doesn't have to end up in the trash bin. Actually an alcohol fuel bottle can be reclaimed from the trash bin.

It seems that the alcohol burns hotter but weighs just a touch more. My alcohol burner weighs 11 grams while the Esbit Ti stove weighs 11.34 grams.

Soot on my cook pot, the odor and fuel residue in my stove for a minimal weight reduction, aside from the point of alcohol spillage, someone tell me why I should make the switch.

Party On,

Newton

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 16:14:31 MDT Print View

"someone tell me why I should make the switch."

Simply because you can.

I made an alcohol burner that was 2 grams. That doesn't mean that I was going to convert over and use it all of the time. I still use white gas stoves on occasion.

You have to get to where you can make a trail beignet with one of them.

--B.G.--

Jon Fong
(jonfong) - F - M

Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR
Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 16:23:03 MDT Print View

1) When you knock you stove over, Esbit won't spill over and create a large fire like alcohol.
2) It is suppose to work at ambient temperatures lower than what DA works at
3) It is suppose to work better at higher elevations than DA
4) it is easier to put out the flame and re-use
5) easy to ship by land
6) it is a "more acceptable" fuel to transport on boats

There are negatives like odor, soot and a funky MSDS, but Esbit does have a place in this world. My 2 cents - Jon

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 16:24:15 MDT Print View

Bob,

S.E. Louisiana has gone upscale lately. We now have a local Panera Bread eatery in our area. So I'm going to have to come up with a recipe for a trail scone.;-)

Party On,

Newton

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 16:37:37 MDT Print View

Hi Jon,

Thanks for the email about the videos.

1 thru 6 are just the kind of points that I was looking for to make my choice.

@ Bob,

I still have a canister stove, multiple alcohol stoves and a wood burning stove in addition to my interest in Esbit stoves.

Esbit interested me because I thought that I would see a sizable weight reduction.

I have recently spent a great deal of time testing and experimenting with alcohol stoves and will be "weighing" my options carefully. ;-)

Party On,

Newton

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 17:27:42 MDT Print View

"Esbit interested me because I thought that I would see a sizable weight reduction."

I'm not sure that the weight difference will be sizable. Esbit is more for simplicity. I think I use it because it seems more foolproof. Jon made some good points.

Once you've done white gas, butane, alcohol, and Esbit... then where do you go?

I've tried wood twigs and candle wax. I've tried dried yak dung as a fuel. It's hard to find good yak dung in Louisiana.

You shouldn't need to get so far out into the weeds unless you have an unusual situation. A couple of years ago I was going to my camp all the way by air. Pilots get a little picky about fuels on the aircraft.

--B.G.--

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Solid Fuel Stove Techniques on 09/17/2012 18:30:05 MDT Print View

I have used Esbit on a couple trips.

I did nothing to deal with the residue except put my pot in a plastic bag before putting it in my pack. Cleaned it off at home. Left it on the stove forever.

For me, one tab cooked one dinner (boiled about a pint, basically) just fine, so I never had to use more or less than a tab. I have experimented at home using two tabs to boil a quart, which worked fine, but never did that on the trail, as I only took it on solo trips.

It might be slightly lighter or slightly heavier than an alky stove depending on your stove, but at that point they are both so light that who cares? I prefer it to alky because I can see the flame and I know it is burning or not, and if I knock it over I don't have a flaming liquid running around. plus I like ths ease of use - don't have to measure anything, just use a tab - and the fact that I can't have a leaky fuel bottle.

But mostly I use my canister stove because it is so easy and so convenient if I want just a little more hot water for tea or cocoa.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 18:43:18 MDT Print View

For me Esbit allows the use of dinky stove kits. Can't get much lighter. The residue gets hard if you let your pot dry before putting it in a sack. The black from a fire is a real mess. In the desert I don't worry about a dirty beer can pot because the residue dries, I am not going to waste precious water to clean it, and scrubbing with sand or something else is going to ding up/flex my beer can. Using wood in the desert is a no-no. And I usually take the kit into the mountains on most trips.

I normally buy the Esbit brand in bulk. Much better than the trioxane I used when Bob G was a mere lad.

I suppose the beer can pot is now heavier than when new though.

27 Fosters Can

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 18:56:55 MDT Print View

"I normally buy the Esbit brand in bulk. Much better than the trioxane I used when Bob G was a mere lad."

Nick, where do you buy it in bulk? I don't think that Esbit goes stale as long as it is air-sealed.

I was using military trioxane in 1970, but you may have been a mere lad then as well. By the way, who is the old guy in the photo?

--B.G.--

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 21:22:01 MDT Print View

Bulk was not the correct word. Case is more exact. Esbit brand when on sale.

I don't see any old people :)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 21:31:24 MDT Print View

"Case is more exact."

I'm unfamiliar with Esbit in any size package other than a dozen cubes.

--B.G.--

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
This stuff goes stale? on 09/17/2012 22:43:13 MDT Print View

Hey, wait a minute? This stuff goes stale?

I have had tubes and tubes and tubes of old surplus Hexamine for years, but haven't used any in more than 20 -- it's e-fuel for me. Now the last time I used the stuff, it lit and boiled a Sierra Cup just fine. I don't really think of the tubes as "sealed" but the open one surely isn't and remains in my pack to this day. Is it compromise or "dried out" ?

Shucks, I gave away many tubes, because the three I've got seemed pretty much like a lifetime supply. I'd hate to think I handed out duds, though.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Esbit? on 09/17/2012 23:06:45 MDT Print View

The display case used in many stores contains 12 boxes of the 12 packs. When it is on sale, ask the manager for an additional 10% off if you buy a case.

:)