How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles
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Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 04/27/2013 17:47:37 MDT Print View

After a decade or more of using mostly canister stoves, I have been messing around with switching to alcohol, so I'm still a bit of a noob in this area. I pretty much have my new stove system pegged now except for one last detail - seemingly the most trivial one - the fuel bottle. I bought a couple of Packafeather caps, the ones with the flip-top opening, a piece of tubing and a gasket. The gasket solves the issue of leaks from the outer screw seal provided contact is made, and I have had no problems sanding down the ends of particular bottles that are a bit too long. The tube also works fine for me in both output and input mode provided the bottle can be squeezed.

The problem lies, at least from my perspective, in that most of the flip tops I have seem to leak through through the closed flip-top opening when put under a slight pressure - this includes both the packafeather ones I just ordered. To be clear, they are leaking through the valve, the outer seal on the screw top is fine. The flip-top valves don't seem to me to be designed very well against this eventuality, which in retrospect seems obvious. Perhaps for them to work requires too high a manufacturing tolerance for these cheap items, and only some will fully seal. I have also tried Sriracha sauce tops (a la Mike Clelland) as I use a ton of that stuff and therefore have a good source of the tops. Those leak as well, though they seem a bit better. I just checked one of the smaller nalgene flip-tops and it seemed fine - I have carried bottles with these smaller ones on them for weeks on trip in the past and they never leaked. Did I just randomly get two crap tops from packafeather that were crappy in exactly the same way (too loose flip-tops)? Or is it something elseI'm not getting?

Frankly I was skeptical of the flip-tops since they pretty much seem designed for bottles that will sit upright all the time. So it seems, at least with these kinds of cheap DIY adapted tops fluid in contact with the "valve" plus a small amount of pressure often equals leaks. In real life the pressure could be caused for a small external shift of things in the pack, or lying the pack on the ground, as well as changes in elevation, though the "leaks" in the last case might actually equalize the pressure quicker than it would change while going up a mountain.

Of course I would always have the fuel bottle in a ziplock, but I'm a bit worried now about major loss of fuel and/or major leaks, not just using the bag as a stopgap against a rare problem with the closure.

How do people deal with this? Are there caps that reliably do not leak under pressure, or am I just going to have to buy a bunch of them and bin them?

Also,It feels like the alternative of switching out the top from a cap to a flip-top every time you want to squirt or suck fuels would partially defeat the purpose. Do any of you folks have the same leakage issue, but just somehow avoid the pressurized situation? I know some people have written about testing them at the store. I couldn't do that with the caps from packafeather, and both were epic fails - the both flip-tops felt way too loose even before I actually checked for leaks.

Perhaps a more interesting question: it would seem there should be some sort of flexible sealant that could be applied to the valves joint, such as something from the plumbing domain, that would create better seals, provided it was not alcohol soluble. Any ideas how the valves could be "fixed" that way?

Edited by millonas on 04/27/2013 17:55:28 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 04/27/2013 18:15:18 MDT Print View

I don't see the need for a flip top.
Because I use a "snuffer" I don't need to measure nor be careful about the amount of fuel I put into my burner.
When I get the water temperature I want (hot for coffee or boiling for a meal) I put the snuffer cap on the burner, then transfer the fuel leftover back into my fuel container.
Burner and snuffer

snuffing and recovering

Edited by Franco on 04/27/2013 18:18:53 MDT.

Chad Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
Re: How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 04/27/2013 18:25:46 MDT Print View

I have been using the little 4 oz bottles with the little flip top the last couple of years and they have been just fine. No leaks that I can report on, however, just to be safe, I do store it inside a small snack size Ziploc bag, then store it in either my side pack pocket, or the front pack pocket, and in the upright position. Never had an issue doing this. The great thing about these too are that if I accidentally knock the bottle over with the top flipped up, it still won't hardly leak out at all like a regular bottle with a larger mouth. They are actually great little bottles.

Lawson is selling out his remaining stock on them for $0.50 each.

http://lawsonequipment.com/Alcohol-Fuel-Bottle-4oz-p917.html

I have also used the bottles from Trail Designs. These come with a little tiny rubber gasket that is necessary to use in the lid to prevent it from leaking. To be honest, I have not been a fan of these bottles though. They will leak if the gasket is not placed properly, and removing the squirt top from the bottle to refill is a bit of a pain. But, being that these are 5.5 oz capacity, I have been know to carry these at times, and of course I am sure to keep it in a Ziploc bag, and upright when stored in my pack.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Re: How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 04/27/2013 18:36:48 MDT Print View

I've used the flip bottles for years and never a leak. Looked who made mine. Rose Plastics. Originally had postage machine fluid in it.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
An update on 04/27/2013 18:38:24 MDT Print View

"I don't see the need for a flip top."

I knew I was gonna get at least one "I-don't-see-why-you-care-and-I-do-it-different" response :-)

Yes, I use a snuffer too, and no, I feel like perhaps I can waste less of the volatile alcohol using the tube - less exposure to wind and the elements through two separate pourings of the alcohol through the wind and the elements the way you are referring to. Come on, the whole exercise of collecting the unused fuel is an anal retentive one. I'm just being a tiny bit more anal retentive than you. LOL


I do have an update. I pulled the tubes out all the way and cleaned both the tubes and the valves *very* thoroughly. This seems to have fixed the issue!!! Previously I only pulled the tubes out part way to make sure nothing was actually sticking into the closing area. I'm guessing there was some smutz in there that interfered with the seal - even thought they we brand new. I bet if I clean the Sriracha sauce caps with hot water and a lot more soap than I used before this may fix the problem there as well.

Now I'm wondering if the proverbial "bad" caps people try to separate out at REI actually just have some dirt or particles of some kind left over from manufacturing, and that most/all of them could be made to work if they could be gotten squeaky clean. However, the scientist in me says this may be inferring too much from just two caps, even though it worked with %100 of my samples.

Yeah, have a few of the smaller nalgene ones, and they do work. Carried rubbing alcohol and mouthwash in them on dozen of trips and no leaks! Guess I will go check all my valves. I do know the the Sriracha sauce does not have an internal seal, so the closed valves (before being used) must work fine all through shipping. May be on to something here. Still, it would be great if you could spray something on them to make them even more sticky-slealy - would thrill my anal retentive soul!

Edited by millonas on 04/27/2013 18:50:36 MDT.

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
don't use them anymore on 04/28/2013 11:05:21 MDT Print View

I gave up on the fliptops, they don't seem to be as good quality as they used to be. I use a little 1 oz measuring device now that's marked with ml amounts, so I don't need to guess or pour out what's left, that seems to have resolved the issues. Seems like every time I would squirt stuff out it would leak out on my hands when I righted the bottle, or leak at random intervals. Using a full sized fuel bottle, on longer trips, with a small bottle for daily more readily controlled pouring seems to be a fine solution. TAP plastics, in the bay area, has a full range of fairly sturdy bottles that are very cheap, 40 cents for a 2 oz, 35 for a small 1oz with a narrow mouth, they have sizes from .5 to 16 oz with screw tops, and they sell squirt tops separately if you want to experiment. Methanol should not be in contact with your skin, it's toxic, so those drips and possible leaks are worth a thought. And slx is 50% roughly methanol, plus whatever other crud they decide to put in it,

All my fliptops seemed to start leaking and being unreliable, the mechanism is very poor in my opinion, and you initially nailed it, they are really designed not for backpacking but for storing upright. I don't remember this ever being different now that I think of it.

A solid lid is more reliable and a measuring cup is more accurate.

If you want something that will give a smaller stream when you pour, pick up one of those corner liquor store mini alcohol bottles, they are heavy, relatively, but let you pour reasonably well. But with a measuring cup (those small sample plastic cups, or sauce containers) none of this is needed I find, and they weigh basically nothing. The 1 oz tap plastic screw top bottles are also fairly narrow mouthed and are lighter than the liquor store bottles.

KEN LARSON
(KENLARSON) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
Trail Designs Fuel Bottle Kit on 04/28/2013 11:25:30 MDT Print View

Have you considered this?

Min Weight:

20 grams (5.5oz full kit)

27 grams (8oz full kit)


http://www.traildesigns.com/accessories/fuel-bottle-kit

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 05/01/2013 10:06:58 MDT Print View

I love flip tops. One bottle- I’ve been using constantly for 6 years. They allow me to control very nicely the dispensing of alcohol without a need for an extra item (measuring cup). +1 on the Lawson bottles mentioned above.

“Of course I would always have the fuel bottle in a ziplock, ”

I would stay away from the ziploc tactic. This usually forces leaks when doing 1000’ altitude changes. I keep my bottles in the outside mesh pocket and they don’t leak; even sideways or upside down.

Also after filling the bottle, screw the lid on with the flip-top open. Then push the flip-top down. That will keep the pressure relieved from trying to push alcy out the top.

That’s one of the nice things about alcohol; In the rare event it ever spills in your backpack, the backpack gets a natural cleaning; it won’t ‘melt’, disintegrate, or turn to mush like other fuels cause.

-Barry

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Two Caps on 05/01/2013 12:42:13 MDT Print View

The simplest solution is just two caps. One for storage, flip top for pouring. If you want only one cap, you're going to have to compromise.

Then again I've not had any flip top caps leak on me personally so your issues may not be universal.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Caps on 05/01/2013 13:24:48 MDT Print View

I am in the "who needs flip tops?" camp. If they work for you I won't knock that though. I much prefer to just use the bottles that Heet comes in. My alcohol stove use has been way more often for bicycle touring, where I might buy a bottle of Heet several times over a month long or multi month tour.

On the question about dealing with rare alcohol leakage into the zipoc the bottle is in... I have managed to pour the alcohol into the stove, or even the bottle, from the bag with only the fairly minimal loss of the portion that was left after pouring. That leakage has only happened to my bottle when I lost the paper disk from the cap, but I would like to have a nice cap with a better seal than the original HEET bottle. Maybe all that means is the original cap with a better seal than the paper disk?

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Caps on 05/01/2013 13:50:13 MDT Print View

“… I would like to have a nice cap with a better seal than the original HEET bottle. Maybe all that means is the original cap with a better seal than the paper disk?”

That sounds very convenient. Zelph’s cap might work: http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/heet-dispensing-cap.php
And I wonder if it works on the Walmart Heet knockoff bottle ‘Super Tech’?

-Barry

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Caps on 05/01/2013 14:35:42 MDT Print View

If you want a better seal, pull out a silicone gasket from the top of a water/soda bottle. Should be same size as the paper gasket (or get a gatorade one and trim it to size). They're stiffer so they'll stay in the cap better and have a stickier seal to boot.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 05/01/2013 14:44:58 MDT Print View

Maybe find a good bottle and add a 1mL dropper to your kit?: fills a stove, recovers unused fuel, useful as a eye dropper, measure klearwater/aqua mira/bleach, etc.

Some droppers have threaded collars to mate with bottles. In nineteen eighty seven, I was leading an international expedition to the summit of the highest peak in Iowa, and we all forgot our spoons at base camp. Luckily we brought lots of soup and had an dropper in our kit. We originally brought it for hot sauce, but the lesson still applies. Less prepared folks would have slurped their soup from the pot like savages, but we has a dropper. That extra bit of civilization saved the morale of the group and allowed us to see the earth, in all it's glory, from 500m.

-G.B.-

Edited by redmonk on 05/01/2013 14:53:28 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
soda pop bottle on 05/02/2013 00:00:24 MDT Print View

A small (12 oz) plastic soda bottle works fine, never leaks. Or if you need a lot of fuel then --- step up to a 16 oz soda pop bottle! :-)

I do like to keep it in a ziplock in outer mesh of my pack, but this works just fine, never a problem. If you want somewhat precise control of fuel used, a very small plastic measuring cup unit weighs very little.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 05/02/2013 00:09:08 MDT Print View

I see there is an identity thief amongst us.

--B.G.--

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: soda pop bottle on 05/02/2013 05:40:20 MDT Print View

"A small (12 oz) plastic soda bottle works fine, never leaks. Or if you need a lot of fuel then --- step up to a 16 oz soda pop bottle! :-)

I do like to keep it in a ziplock in outer mesh of my pack, but this works just fine, never a problem. If you want somewhat precise control of fuel used, a very small plastic measuring cup unit weighs very little."

I would add a second top with a piece of vinal tubing for pouring. It is a lot easier to use for the 1/4-1/3oz weight. It works for WG, too.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: How to Get a Good Seal on Alcohol Fuel Bottles on 05/02/2013 16:44:31 MDT Print View

That extra bit of civilization saved the morale of the group and allowed us to see the earth, in all it's glory, from 500m.
Whoa! I'm sure you must have used supplemental oxygen. That dropper no doubt made it easier to get past the breathing apparatus. Wow, talk about true multi-use gear. :)

[ahem}

On a more serious note, I've used a lot of flip top bottles. I find them super handy, especially the Pack-A-Feather cap. The only problem I've had with the Pack-A-Feather cap is finding bottles with compatible threads. I find that with P-A-F cap, I minimize spills and it's really easy to fill my little medicine measuring cup to wherever I want it (or pull some out if I over fill).

HJ
Adventures in Stoving