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Esbit vs. Alcohol?
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Mark Rash

Locale: North Texas
Esbit vs. Alcohol? on 11/21/2012 08:36:56 MST Print View

I've never used Esbit, so I wanted to ask when/why you would use it vs an alcohol stove? Is it that Esbit is only .5 oz. per boil as opposed to 1 oz. of alcohol? Can Esbit be found easily on a through hike as opposed to Heet which can be found at many convenience stores? It appears that Esbit is considerably more expensive.

Nate Boyer
(NateB123) - MLife
esbit on 11/21/2012 08:52:40 MST Print View

Great topic. I've been exploring home made alcohol stoves the last few months. I just purchased a $15 esbit stand. Lets discuss this!

All I know is that the solid fuel is going to work much better in cold, or high elevation places.

Don Abernathey
(OldGuysRule) - F

Locale: PNW
Esbit is faster, but less convenient on 11/21/2012 09:01:26 MST Print View

I've timed Esbit and Alky - Esbit is faster. But Esbit is less convenient for the reasons you mentioned.

Esbit is harder to light, but you can just strike and lay a stormproof match alongside the Esbit tab instead of messing around with lighters, etc. when your fingers are cold.

Esbit tends to coat the bottom of cookware, tends to stink, fumes are hazardous, tabs will "evaporate" slowly if not sealed, and can be hard to find fuel tabs.

The original Esbit stove is cheap, bomb-proof, available everywhere, can accommodate different width cups/mugs and packs small.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Esbit vs alcohol on 11/21/2012 09:11:57 MST Print View

Alcohol is easier to obtain, and cheaper on trail, though you might have to buy more than you need (12 oz HEET is a reasonable quantity, but still 12 oz). I like alcohol for weekend trips.

Esbit has more BTU's/oz. I find that a half tab will heat up, but not boil, two cups of water, while a full tab will bring 3 cups of water to a boil in most conditions. I can get by with two tabs (one ounce) of Esbit a day to heat up 4 cups of water for dinner and two for breakfast.

I would have to carry 1.5 oz/day of alcohol to do the same thing.

So, I like Esbit for extended trips where I will be carrying 4-10 days of food, as it minimizes my fuel weight.

For a 3-week AT section hike, I mailed myself Esbit in resupply boxes so that I did not have to worry about finding or buying fuel on trail. This worked well for me, but means I can't tell you how easy it would have been to find it. One box is 12 tabs, which would be enough for 6 days of use for me.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol? on 11/21/2012 09:15:03 MST Print View

Hi Mark,

All you ever wanted to know abut Esbit vs Alcohol and some you didn't. ;-)

Short form:

Expense - Newton said...

"It wasn't a sale, but I did find and purchase a 12 pack of the Bleuet solid fuel tablets at a local Academy Sports and Outdoors. The price was $4.99 / 12. After sales tax I was out the door minus $5.43. So every time I fire up a $.45 solid fuel tablet I can amuse myself by thinking how much cheaper it is to heat up my water this way than using my alcohol stove and Everclear!"

Advantages - Jon said...

"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"


"A good Esbit cooking system will boil 3 cups of water using a 14 gram block of Esbit. An outstanding System will boil 4 cups of water (very rare). A good alcohol system will boil 2 cups of water using 15 ml.

(15 ml)*(.78 s.g.) = 11.7 grams of alcohol to boil 2 cups

11.7 grams (3 cups/ 2cups) = 17.55 grams of alcohol to boil 3 cups of water

14 grams of Esbit / 17.55 grams of alcohol = 0.7977 Therefore Esbit wins."

Disadvantages - Ken said...

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

and Jon said...

"There are negatives like odor, soot and a funky MSDS, but Esbit does have a place in this world."


Put your stove in a dedicated zip lock bag before storing it in your cook pot.

Use a dedicated round bottom stuff sack to store your cook pot and "apply" the stuff sack around the cook pot as if you were rolling up a sock around it. This will keep the soot in a localized area of the stuff sack.

Party On,


esbit on 11/21/2012 10:15:52 MST Print View

Esbit is hard to light, puts gunk on your pot,leaves a messy gunk covered esbit support tray, and is a pain to save the little left over bits (very messy). They also smell, even thru small ziplock.

It could be slightly lighter than alcohol in some cases. Very slightly, mostly due to the lack of need for an alcohol container ~1oz,. I routinely boil 2 cups on 0.4 oz (wt) alcohol.

The drawbacks make it not attractive to me most of the time. I would rather carry an extra 2 ounces than deal with the mess.

However it can be mailed to mail drops (alcohol or cannisters cannot).

It also makes a great fire starter in wet conditions. Weber sells it, or something similiar, as a fire starter for starting charcoal.

Edited by livingontheroad on 11/21/2012 10:19:48 MST.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Don't use esbit brand on 11/21/2012 10:16:03 MST Print View

I've been using Coglahns tabs instead, they are about 1/4th the cost and come smaller than esbit. Esbit sure has done well marketing, but when it comes down to it you are paying for the name.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: esbit on 11/21/2012 11:09:45 MST Print View

Steve C. said,

"You can mail canisters, I have done it (legally). The box must be labeled so that it is ground only transport."

Ken T. said,

"You can mail alcohol also...

Hazardous flammable materials (HAZMAT) require special handling, so please remember that your delivery will take just a little longer than normal deliveries.

In accordance with regulations, all deliveries must be via ground only (air transport is not permitted)."

For informational purposes here is a link to more on the subject of shipping fuel.

Party On,


surcharge on 11/21/2012 11:20:18 MST Print View

Maybe I should have said it doesnt make sense to mail cannisters or alcohol. You can, but the surcharge generally makes it ridiculously expensive for small amounts, and it of course has to go by ground.

Few in their right mind would buy a $5 cannister and then it costs ~ $15 to mail it.

Edited by livingontheroad on 11/21/2012 11:22:36 MST.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Don't use Esbit brand on 11/21/2012 11:28:14 MST Print View

I'll disagree about Esbit brand tabs versus others. I have friends who have used Coghlan's or other brands and my Esbit tabs consistently burn twice as long.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Don't use Esbit brand on 11/21/2012 11:52:28 MST Print View

The info below was gleaned from...

...after scrolling roughly 2/3rds down the page.

One Esbit tab weighs ~14gm (~0.5oz)

Two Coghlan’s tabs weigh ~13gm (0.47oz)

I'm just guessing here, but all things being equal, I'd say that 1 Esbit tab would burn just a little bit longer than 2 Coghlan’s tabs.

@John H,

Do your single Esbit tabs burn twice as long as a single or a pair of Coghlan's tabs?

Party On,


michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 11/21/2012 11:56:33 MST Print View

I can get a rolling boil with 1 Coghlans tab.

It's not even close, your paying for the name.

Edit: This is under ideal conditions, but still I cant justify spending 5x more on something even if it performs slightly better. (which is not proven).

Edited by M.L on 11/21/2012 12:03:44 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Esbit vs. Alcohol? on 11/21/2012 11:57:24 MST Print View

I think that each has their merrits and picking one vs. another dependings on the trip that you are taking.

If you are looking at a short three day weekend trip, then the weight difference between the two is negligible...pick the one that you like best/prefer.

Esbits are going to a little more hassle to deal with vs. the easy of lighting an alcohol stove.

The longer your trip, the more attractive Esbit is going to look because of the weight savings over alcohol.

However, alcohol can have the advantage of cost and availability to be bought just about anywhere.

On my JMT trip last year, we were relying on the ability to buy Esbit at two different resupply points (we had called ahead, before starting the trip and they both assured us that they had plenty in stock) but upon arriving there they had sold out.

Fortunately, we were able to conserve the tablets we had left and made them stretch out to the end of the trip.

Anyway, point of it is that each has their merrits, but like any UL/Lightweight are going to use different tools depending on the conditions that you come across.

Perhaps the availability of being able to buy or ship more of the respective fuel would be the biggest factor in chosing one vs. the other?


John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Coghlan’s tabs availability on 11/21/2012 12:14:41 MST Print View


Do you order the Coghlan’s tabs or pick them up locally.

I've found them online as little as $2.15 but with $9.99 shipping for 24!

I get 12 Bleuet solid fuel tablets at Academy for $5.43 including tax and as far as I can tell are identical in size to Esbit tabs.

Party On,


John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Esbit brand on 11/21/2012 12:20:07 MST Print View

Typically, I will start with one Esbit tab and my friend with one Coghlan tab. After awhile, his tab burns out and he has to use another one. His second one will then usually finish burning and my Esbit will finish a minute or two later. This has happened several times.

I didn't know about the weight difference - this makes the Coghlans tabs seem more attractive for when I only need to boil 1 cup.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 11/21/2012 12:27:19 MST Print View

Newton, I can not remember how much I paid, but I will find out next time I buy them. $2-3 I think...

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Esbit brand vs Coghlans on 11/21/2012 13:38:09 MST Print View

John Harper,

"I didn't know about the weight difference - this makes the Coghlans tabs seem more attractive for when I only need to boil 1 cup."

This is my point exactly and why I asked Michael about the "local" availability of the Coghlans tabs.

Pictured below is my go to 1 cup generic cook pot from Zelph's on my combination pot stand and windscreen.

1 cup cook pot with eyelets and bail on combination windscreen and pot stand

Underneath the cook pot and behind the combo screen / stand is my tray type stove.

Tray stove with partially burned Bleuet fuel tablet

What to do with a partially used tablet was one of my questions during another earlier thread on this same subject.

If I could get consistent 1 cup boils out of the single Coghlans tabs and they were significantly cheaper than Esbit and Bleuet the choice would be simple. My problem is the lack of local availability.

Party On,


Christian Denniston
(cdenniston) - F
Esbit on 11/21/2012 14:20:40 MST Print View

I noticed recently that LiteTrail is selling 4g Esbit tablets in packs of 20. Might be a good choice for smaller boils or even adding to the standard 14g Esbit tab to get a few extra minutes of burn time opposed to adding another 14g tablet and having a bunch leftover.

I have always preferred Esbit over alcohol mainly because of the simplicity. No measuring, no spills, no fuel bottle. For me it's easier to predict my fuel consumption for a trip with Esbit. The smell sucks but I store it in an odor proof bag so it's not much of an issue. Soot doesn't bother me because I primarily use wood as my fuel which is much worse than Esbit in regards to mess.

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
es on 11/21/2012 15:38:19 MST Print View

+1 on esbit for me. I bring a mix of the esbit brand and the small coghlans depending if im doing breakfeast, coffee, dinner or after din hot choc.
Although if I were doing a trip longer than 15-20 days (or thruhiking) I would do alk.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Esbit on 11/21/2012 15:49:38 MST Print View


I have to admit that Lite Trail is much more reasonable with their shipping but it seems to me that I would need 2 of the 4 gram tablets to assure a boil.

Sub-Total: $4.99
Shipping USA - USPS - 3.00oz: $1.95
Total: $6.94

The price is for 20, 4 gram tablets which is quite competitive with my local availability of 14 gram Bleuet at Academy.

Party On,