Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered


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Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered on 08/22/2013 17:10:38 MDT Print View

As I get ready for a trip I am taking next week, thought I'd share why I am not taking an alcohol stove.

I apologize, but it can be cumbersome to write up things on this site, so I am just going to link to my website. :)

http://www.pmags.com/alcohol-stoves-reconsidered

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered on 08/22/2013 17:37:23 MDT Print View

Alcohol stoves have evolved somewhat. Many have improvements in efficiency and/or safety.

Zelph is constantly testing and improving his stoves and I know the one I purchased from him a couple years back is much more efficient than cat stoves I've used in the past.

The one I have is also spill proof and even has an option to regulate the flame to a simmer if you want that.

I remember once accidentally knocking my whole kitchen over in a fall. My pot spilled, but the stove didn't spill any alcohol and continued to burn at a nice mellow flame.

And you can't beat the fact that you can get fuel at convenience stores, hardware stores, supermarkets, gas stations, ...

And you also can't beat the reliability of a simple alky stove. No valves, hoses, gaskets .... to fail on you.

I do admit that carrying enough alcohol to melt snow is not practical, but for the hiking I do, alcohol is very easy and light

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
Re: Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered on 08/22/2013 17:45:19 MDT Print View

I've too moved on from alk and on to esbit. i know theres no "on/off" switch on those but you can still blow out an esbit very easily if you were to kick it over or whatever. Theres no fiddle factor with them (ie fuel bottle, leaks, spilling, measuring). And ive found its a little cheaper too. the Coghlans brand contains 24 6.5g tabs for $2.15!

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Simplicity on 08/22/2013 17:49:50 MDT Print View

Read this article if you want simplicity, ease of getting fuel, flexibility and no fiddle factor Reliable, too. :)

http://www.pmags.com/going-stoveless-cold-food-for-thought

And while Zelph stoves et all are amazing, kinda defeats the simplicity and DIY frugality of the Pepsi Can or Cat Food Can stoves.

And, I'll say it again, there are too many WHAT IF? question with stove bans. See the many threads and the multiple answers from official sources right here on BPL!

Edited by PaulMags on 08/22/2013 17:52:09 MDT.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
stoves on 08/22/2013 18:04:04 MDT Print View

No stove is perfect for all places, or all trips.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
no perfect stove on 08/22/2013 18:10:51 MDT Print View

Yep. I've always said different tools for different jobs.

Doug Wolfe
(Wolfie2nd) - F
Alky stoves on 08/23/2013 04:34:14 MDT Print View

Now keep in mind before beating me up I'm not a gram counter.
I find Alky stoves to be on the lower end of ok. They are fragile, not efficient in windy or cold weather plus the danger of spilling them and causing a blaze. Not to say that I don't carry one in my hunting pack for that one time I may need it. If anything I find them fun and collect them.

My opinion the pocket rocket is probably best for the 3 season packer due to its simplicity and quickness but fail terribly in my favorite season (shoulder season). there have been numerous time I'd watch my friends put their canister in their sleeping bag over night and to watch them freeze their fingers off trying to warm the tank in single digits and below.

Now my fav is the whisper lite international while my buddies are coming close to losing fingers I've got water or snow boiled for both of us. Yeah I know it's heavy and takes up space in our small packs. ill take the hit cause its probably the most dependable stove out there. Wind , rain, stow what ever you throw at it. She will take care of you. My vote oviously is for the white gas in all seasons for dependability .

Dan Yeruski
(zelph) - MLife

Locale: www.bplite.com
Re: Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered for Fire Ban on 08/23/2013 06:05:54 MDT Print View

Maybe, just maybe, sometime in the near future the western states will find out about the StarLyte/Calder Cone combination and will allow it to be used in fire ban areas :-)

Have fun on your upcoming trip, which fire ban area are you going to? Looks like most of the west is in smoke:-(

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered for Fire Ban on 08/23/2013 06:13:46 MDT Print View

Hey guys...

Just back from my JMT extravaganza and wanted to add that not a single ranger, sign, person...nada...thought the ban applied to any kind of stove. I asked all the rangers I saw at Yosemite (and there were a lot of 'em)...they had no idea what I was talking about in terms of alky stoves not being allowed. Kings Canyon? Same thing. The handwritten signs throughout the park said "no fires at any elevation. Stoves ok"

So I asked several rangers about the definition of stove and they looked at me cross-eyed...I mentioned the whole "on-off switch" thing...again, nothing but blank stares, although I did get one "hmm, that's an interesting thought..."

Anyway...I must have talked to two dozen official type people and without exception not one of them thought the fire ban in the Sierra had anything to do with alky stoves.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife
Re: Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered for Fire Ban on 08/23/2013 06:16:59 MDT Print View

"Anyway...I must have talked to two dozen official type people and without exception not one of them thought the fire ban in the Sierra had anything to do with alky stoves."

Welcome back Jen! If we see sweeping changes in the rules we now know who's responsible.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered for Fire Ban on 08/23/2013 06:23:18 MDT Print View

Thanks Ken! I really thought I would at least need to wait for my pack to stop stinking before I started dreaming about the PCT (marathons generally require 1-2 weeks before you think it was the coolest thing ever and can't wait to do it again...), but alas I didn't even get out of California before the wheels started a-turning...

Entertaining trip report to follow...

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
bans on 08/23/2013 06:29:43 MDT Print View

JEnnifer, the Sierra is not Colorado.

The PDF from JeffCo (COlorado) was very specific about the on/off switch and the Underwriters Lab designation. It did not help a fire in Colorado was started last year by a alcohol stove.

Furthermore, I'll quote from one of the threads here on BPL:

"I called the Tahoe Basin Mgmt Unit, spoke to Chris, said no alky stoves in Desolation Wilderness"

IF you are inclined, you can find other examples, too.

A bit of confusion, no? Which is why I don't bother with a stove during these restrictions. The individual officials seem to have different interpretations and that is more trouble than its worth IMO.

Oh yes..I am going to the Uintas. AKAIK, there are no restrictions. I just prefer going cold as it is simpler when I am doing longer hiking days vs more camp time. :)

Edited by PaulMags on 08/23/2013 06:40:19 MDT.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered for Fire Ban on 08/23/2013 07:06:02 MDT Print View

Yes, welcome back. Looking forward to a trip report.

And " Welcome back Jen! If we see sweeping changes in the rules we now know who's responsible."
That ^^^^^^^^^ :)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: bans on 08/23/2013 08:11:13 MDT Print View

"A bit of confusion, no? Which is why I don't bother with a stove during these restrictions. The individual officials seem to have different interpretations and that is more trouble than its worth IMO."

Yep. Ask 5 people and you might get 5 answers.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered for Fire Ban on 08/23/2013 08:58:45 MDT Print View

But people still had a campfire the morning I left Suzie Lake in Desolation, I reported it when I visited the FS on my way home. Unless a permit was downloaded, they stamp the permit "No campfires". No fires have been allowed there or maybe 20 years or more now. I saw evidence of another campfire above Highland Lake.
Duane

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Alky stoves on 08/23/2013 08:59:52 MDT Print View

Interesting progression from Pocket Rocket to Whisperlite International.

I have done the opposite.

Canister works fine down to 30 F or even 25 F. Then you just wrap solid copper wire around canister and up into flame to conduct some heat down. Or have a windscreen designed to conduct heat down.

Pocket Rocket may not be the best, but sometimes an old, proven design is just fine.

Dan Yeruski
(zelph) - MLife

Locale: www.bplite.com
Chicken on dry Ice on 08/23/2013 09:37:02 MDT Print View

Paul, pack in some fried chicken on dry ice for your first 3 days and a soft liter of wine:-) Mountain House chicken and rice rehydrate with cold water......enjoy :-) Mountain house granola w/blueberries. It's ok to go cold, I do it often.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
RE: Bans on 08/23/2013 10:11:49 MDT Print View

"Yep. Ask 5 people and you might get 5 answers."

So true. And look at the wording on fire bans from 5 different agencies and you'll likely get 5 different versions. We seem to go through this most years in Colorado and I find the discrepancies annoying, and it's probably confusing to a lot of people. I contacted the governor's office last year and suggested appointing a "fire czar" or the like to coordinate fire bans and standardize terminology across all the agencies that can declare fire bans. I think in Colorado it's state, county, fire districts, NFS, NP, and BLM. I didn't hear anything back, and didn't expect to really, but it was worth a shot.

I have also started going stoveless for short trips. But I think for week long trips, I'd still bring a stove. I'm thinking of going up to the southern Winds in a few weeks and that would be a week long trip. After seeing this thread, I checked the Bridger-Teton FS page and saw that they just increased the fire danger level to very high. But no fire bans. I was kind of surprised by that.

Last year, there was a fire ban when I went, and the wording (which I can't recall) was very confusing. I called the Ranger office multiple times and each time they said alky stoves were OK. And I did take mine but would have been fine taking the Pocket Rocket if required. The only reason I own it is because of fire bans.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Alcohol Stoves Reconsidered" on 08/23/2013 10:23:59 MDT Print View

I have two soda can stoves and one cat can stove...and frankly can't bring myself to use them. It takes 7-9 minutes (depending on conditions) to boil water in my Ti cup using an alcohol stove, 2 minutes with my Pocket Rocket. I generally do two boils in the morning (one for the food, one for the coffee) and up to four boils at night (food, coffee and hot water for my bottles to take into the sleeping bag with me if it's cold).

One of my companions uses her alcohol stove when she's with me but I usually feel kind of bad for her because I'm eating and drinking a hot drink before she's even reached her first boil.

I know we're not supposed to be in a hurry, but I just have other things I'd rather be doing than waiting on my stove.

Richard May
(richardmay)

Locale: Costa Rica
Re: RE: Bans on 08/23/2013 10:35:35 MDT Print View

I like my alky stove. But, to be honest, I realize how some of them could more easily cause a forest fire. If I packed in an area with a very high danger level then I'd absolutely bring a canister stove or go stove-less, with or without alky restrictions. Though I believe that the Starlyte with a Caldera Cone would be an equally safe (maybe even better) option.