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Embarrassing noob alky stove question...
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Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Embarrassing noob alky stove question... on 11/29/2012 07:39:42 MST Print View

So I took my new caldera cone set up on a 4-nighter last weekend. First of was certainly fun to play with. I tried the wood burning and the alcohol set ups and they were both quite easy.


How in the heck do you light the 12-10 stove?? I pour the alcohol in the big hole in the middle, but I can't reach the alcohol inside with my mini bic without burning myself. I felt like such an idiot! There has to be an easier way, so I'm subjecting myself to the deserved ridicule....

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
Stove on 11/29/2012 07:46:10 MST Print View

If you pour alcohol in the ring around the bottom it will prime then catch the middle. Good luck!

Chris Peichel

Locale: Eureka
lighting alky stove on 11/29/2012 07:47:14 MST Print View

Just dribble a small amount of alcohol across the top of the stove and let some run down the side to the base of the stove. Light the alcohol on the side/base of the stove, the flame will find its way and doing so helps to prime the stove. The heat generated on the outside of the stove primes the stove(starts to vaporize the alcohol inside the stove) and help it get going faster.

Jon Fong

Lighting an alcohol stove on 11/29/2012 08:14:51 MST Print View

I use a fire starter like the Light My Fire Swedish Fire Steel. When used correctly, it will produce a shower of sparks that will fall down inside your stove. Plus, it keeps your hands away from the flame and I think it is way more reliable than a Bic Lighter. My 2 cents - Jon.

Eric Moe
(EricMoe) - F

Locale: Washington
FireSteel on 11/29/2012 08:16:44 MST Print View

I use the LMF too. 1 strike and WHOOF.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Lighting alcohol stove on 11/29/2012 08:18:14 MST Print View

I agree with the above posters. Sometimes, especially when its cold, its just hard to light anyway. I have heard some use their body to warm their alcohol before lighting. I have had success dipping a leaf stem or twig in my alcohol, lighting the twig, and then placing the twig into the alcohol. It keeps the flame off your fingers a little better.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Thanks!! on 11/29/2012 08:30:57 MST Print View

Exactly what I was looking for ;)

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
noob on 11/29/2012 08:36:14 MST Print View

And I think you can tell, Jennifer, that we've all been there!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
We are all noobs once... on 11/29/2012 08:55:04 MST Print View

I played around with it in my kitchen to see how much fuel if would take (roughly...) to boil different amounts of water, and I had no trouble lighting it. But I was using a nice heavy loooong lighter that I use for my grill and for candles, and it was certainly much warmer in my house than it was in the woods ;)

Field conditions were a tad different!!!

I'm terribly intrigued by the fire steels I must say....those things look dangerously awesome

maria nobles
(hilltackler) - F

Locale: the valley
another approach... on 11/29/2012 08:56:02 MST Print View

you can also, dip a very thin twig or leaf stem in the alcohol and then light the stick on fire and put it near your works too.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Lighting an alky stove on 11/29/2012 09:07:21 MST Print View

Dribbling external fuel on the 12-10 stove to "prime it" is wasteful, except for winter conditions where there's too little vapor coming off the fuel to light it directly. Even then, priming doesn't do much to actually heat the fuel because of the double wall design, so it's inefficient. This stove doesn't normally require priming like some other pop can designs do, so it's more efficient and safer to light the fuel inside and let things heat up that way if it's too cold to start cooking right away.

So how to light the fuel inside the stove? Grab the nearest sprig, twig, grass blade or pine needle and dunk the tip in the fuel. Then light the twig and use it as a match to light the stove. As long as it's not too windy, this works excellently.

If it is windy, any lighting method is tricky and you'll have to work inside the confines of the windscreen or get out of the wind (best).

"I'm terribly intrigued by the fire steels I must say....those things look dangerously awesome."
They are very cool - a great backup fire source for sure. If you use one with an alcohol stove just make sure you are using it correctly. Pull the fire steel away from the stove, don't run the sparker down the firesteel towards the stove, or you'll inevitably hit the stove and spill fuel everywhere.

Also be aware that a fire steel stops being an effectively alcohol lighting method when the temps get cool. From about 20-40F using a lighter and twig works fine, but a firesteel starts to perform poorly below 40F in my experience as there is less vapor coming off the fuel for the sparks to ignite.

It does depend on what fuel you're using too. Ethanol lights easier than methanol at cold temps (due to flash point, vapor pressure etc). Ethanol is also about 20% more fuel efficient. Some 'green' denatured spirits (95% ethanol, 5% methanol) is usually the best way to go in America.

Edited by dandydan on 11/29/2012 09:14:26 MST.

Jon Fong

Lighting an alcohol stove in cold weather on 11/29/2012 09:33:17 MST Print View

Most common trick is to keep the fuel warm (warm the fuel bottle up with your hands, put it in your pocket). You can also warm up the stove the same way. BTW, some people leave their fuel in their tent to keep it warmer, but I am not a big fan of that idea. Another trick is that after you put your fuel in your stove; swirl the fuel to “wet” more of the surfaces and that will increase your vaporization rate. Just looking at the “numbers”, methanol has a lower boiling point that ethanol so using HEET (in the yellow bottle) should be easier to light than S-L-X. This is just a theory and has not been tested. Below freezing, I may have had to strike my firesteel more than once, but I have always been able to get it lit. Best regards - Jon

Richard Cullip
(RichardCullip) - M

Locale: San Diego County
What's wrong with a match? on 11/29/2012 09:35:06 MST Print View

I use a match to light my alcohol stove. I'v e got a mini Bic lighter as backup fire starter but I like the simplicity of a match. One per meal isn't much of a weight burden.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
lighting your stove on 11/29/2012 09:36:51 MST Print View

I'm a real wuss when it comes to fire. Holding my lighter near the primer pan makes the flame aim dangerously close to my fingers. Hiking in the PNW, twigs and stuff are often wet and hard to light. I keep a couple of birthday candles in my cooking kit, use the lighter to light the candle, then use the candle to light the fuel in the primer pan. That way, I also have some tinder/fire starter for emergency fire lighting as well.

Doesn't using a fire wheel that scatters sparks everywhere make it risky to light in dry conditions? The whole spark thing just sounds really uncontrolled. I guess if folks are being diligent and clear a sufficient area of ground of duff and litter, it would be ok, but I'm not confident in most of the public's care in camping--have seen way too many idiots in the woods. Present company excepted, of course.

Jon Fong

Re: matches to light an alcohol stove on 11/29/2012 09:50:37 MST Print View

Safety. To light an alcohol stove, you ignite the vapors and not the liquid. At room temperatures, the vaporization rate can be pretty high. When lighting an alcohol stove, you can create a pretty good ball of flame (short duration, but pretty good sized). Anyone every fill and light a stove while the body of the stove was still hot? You’ll make one big fireball. Fire steel keeps your hands away from the flame and reduces the chance that you’ll burn the hairs off the back of your hand. Additionally, when an alcohol stove is lit, a lot of people tend to jerk their hand away (the pop of the rapid ignition, the heat from the flame). With a lighter or match, you have a greater chance of tipping over your stove.

In term of excess sparks landing on the ground, the area around your stove is supposed to be clear of debris and flammable material. Additionally, I recommend and use an aluminum heat shield to protect the ground from spills and sparks.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Alcohol on 11/29/2012 12:11:58 MST Print View

"Just looking at the “numbers”, methanol has a lower boiling point that ethanol so using HEET (in the yellow bottle) should be easier to light than S-L-X."

You're right. My mistake. Methanol (C1H3OH) is easier to light in cold temps than ethanol (C2H5OH), although I still quite prefer the latter for it's significantly better energy density.

As a digression, as you increase the number of carbons (ie. C3H7OH for isopropanol) the energy density goes up (since carbon is a larger portion of total weight), but so does the flash point making them harder to light. Isopropanol is a poor choice because it smokes, but Butanol (C4H9OH) is super energy dense and supposedly burns quite cleanly (youtube). Beyond that, the flash points start to get pretty high (ie. Pentanol C5H10OH is 49 C, while ethanol is 13C and butanol is 29C) so my hopes are on butanol for significantly reducing carried fuel weight.

I can't test out butanol since no one ships to Canada, but someone in the USA should grab a bottle for $20. I've been preaching this for a year now.

"Hiking in the PNW, twigs and stuff are often wet and hard to light."
If dipped in alcohol for 2 seconds, even a wet twig will easily light.

Edited by dandydan on 11/29/2012 12:15:07 MST.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Lighting the 12-10 stove on 11/29/2012 12:18:01 MST Print View

I'm not impressed so far with my firesteel and the effort it takes to get a fire going with it, so I typically either dribble a couple of drops on the outside of the stove and light those drops with my lighter or just simply drop a lit match into the stove.

I carry my denatured alcohol in repurposed contact solution bottles (small travel size for 1-3 night trips, next size up for longer trips, etc.). This makes it really easy to dribble a couple of drops on the outside of the stove in a controlled manner. Also makes it easy to aim a good stream of fuel into the stove if you need to refill mid-boil.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Lighting the 12-10 stove on 11/29/2012 12:23:37 MST Print View

"Also makes it easy to aim a good stream of fuel into the stove if you need to refill mid-boil."

I want to see the video....

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Embarrassing noob alky stove question on 11/29/2012 15:11:34 MST Print View

"Also makes it easy to aim a good stream of fuel into the stove if you need to refill mid-boil."
NEVER attempt to do that.

Here is what I do.
I put way more fuel than I need so that the level is high enough to light with my Bic .
When done (IE the water is hot enough or I have a boil) I snuff the flame with a snuffer made from al foil.
(just shape a thick foil, or double a thinner type, over the stove)
Then I let the stove cool down, only takes a minute, turn the snuffer upside down and return the excess fuel into the fuel container.
This way I don't have to start the stove twice so I don't waste fuel.
In low temps I use a thin strand from my cotton ball Vaseline impregnated fire starter I put that at the edge of the stove , light it and then drop that in the stove.
It works every time.

Paul Ashton
(PDA123) - F

Locale: Eastern Mass
butanol on 11/29/2012 17:25:43 MST Print View

Would be a really bad choice for almost all alcohol burners used by hikers. It would be even more smokey than Isopropanol, which is only effective in stoves specifically designed to use isopropanol. The problem is that the longer the carbon chain (butanol 4, methanol 1) the greater the amount of oxygen needed per gram of fuel burned to get complete combustion (blue flame, no soot). With Butanol you are approaching the proerties of white gas, and needs similar burners to make use of it (e.g. Primus, SVEA, MSR Whisperlite) . Such stoves vapourise the fuel before ignition, and induce massive turbulence at the point of ignition to ensure mixing with sufficient air to get a clean burn. "trangia" type stoves cannot do this.BTW, white gas or kerosene will be a lot less expensive than Butanol, as well as being more readily available.

Jon Fong

Re: butanol and white gas on 11/29/2012 17:36:07 MST Print View

BTW, I have built a passive white gas stove that burns without soot. It didn’t generate soot but smelled awful. The prototype had a long time to boil but I am sure that it could be sped up. The problem is 1) white gas is not as safe as DA and 2) it is hard to pick up small quantities while on the trail: I don’t think that an 8 to 12 ounce bottle of white gas exists. Stick with alcohol. My 2 cents -Jon

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Butanol on 11/29/2012 20:16:58 MST Print View

"[butanol] would be a really bad choice for almost all alcohol burners used by hikers. It would be even more smokey than Isopropanol..."

Have you actually tried burning butanol? From what I've read, there are additional reasons why isopropanol happens to be abnormally smokey and butanol can actually burn cleaner than ethanol while being less corrosive and 20% more energy dense (36 MG/gram vs 30.5 MJ/g). Obviously you'd need more oxygen, but butanol also seems to have a built in inhibition against forming carbon monoxide and other noxious fumes. This isn't really backpacking stoves, but a car running on pure butanol will have far lower carbon monoxide and noxious emissions versus a car running on pure ethanol.

I've spoken with the Chief Technical Officer for Green Biologics ltd (company R&D'ing bio-butanol) and he said that if you put butanol in a dish and light it, it burns really cleanly just like that. I might be able to get a hold of some butanol at the chemistry lab at my university.

Edited by dandydan on 11/29/2012 20:21:20 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Embarrassing noob alky stove question on 11/29/2012 20:42:27 MST Print View

"This isn't really backpacking stoves'
So why introduce the idea here and make something that is REALLY simple so complicated.
At home, Australia, I go to the supermarket buy 1L of Ethanol and off I go...
Over there (that is the US) I went to REI (I think some are familiar with those shops) bought some SLX and off I went.
No I did not die of gas poisoning burning that stuff but at times I felt a bit odd from car fumes at the traffic lights, same at the airports waiting for take off.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Embarrassing noob alky stove question... on 11/29/2012 22:26:39 MST Print View

I do want to respond to Jennifer's subject line. There is no such thing as a stupid/embarrassing question. The only stupid questions are those you don't ask!

I do own an alcohol stove, but somehow every time I pack for a trip, I always grab my canister stove instead. At least for me, it's much more convenient. Definitely a YMMV thing!