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Still My Favorite Cook Kit
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/24/2014 17:02:18 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Still My Favorite Cook Kit

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/24/2014 20:24:57 MDT Print View

I like reading articles and thread like these!

"What gear makes you smile?" was a fun thread awhile back.

I have used a similar system for years and I agree with your sentiments. As much as I love the Caldera, I love the compactness of my 550 pot Esbit system. So tiny!

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/24/2014 20:37:02 MDT Print View

Formaldehyde and Ammonia. Yum. :-( (anti-smile)

This is just one of those binary things like Scissors vs. Knife. Curly vs. Shemp. Taste Great vs Less Filling.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/24/2014 21:44:17 MDT Print View

FireLite made those wing stoves. Some with wonky rivets.

Maurice Ostrov
(garraty) - MLife
I liked Esbits on my thruhikes on 06/25/2014 11:23:56 MDT Print View

I used Esbits on three thruhikes and a lot more.
Since I often did more than just boil water I used a .9 liter titanium pot. With its wider bottom relative to its height it absorbed heat faster and lost less to the environment, so it was more efficient than the smaller pots used in the article.

The stove and windscreen were cut from the thick soft aluminum used for the MSR windscreen. They would last for a thruhike.
Either one or two tablets were placed on a small piece of aluminum which I call the stove. Lighting them in wind was difficult. When done cooking you blow them out and use what is left the next time. If they get wet then you will not be able to light them but the fuel burns if placed next to another burning Esbit.

A strip of hardware cloth served as the pot stand. The width of the strip determined the height of the pot. The greater the height of the pot the wider the flame when it reaches the pot. The flame was also wider if it came from more than one Esbit.
The flame should be as wide as possible without going up the sides of the pot. A wider flame means faster cooking and less heat lost to the environment. Going up the sides does make it boil faster but less of the heat from the flame gets to the water.

The gases given off when cooking are unpleasant but easily avoided and do not affect the food. The residue on the bottom of the pot can be gooey and you probably want to remove most of it each time after cooking. It contains formaldehyde and formic acid so you do not want it on your skin. Protect your skin while using dirt and water to remove the residue. Also be careful of the goo that might be left on what for me would be my bandana.

Esbits give you a lot of heat for their weight. Coghlan's are similar but use a binder that, unlike with Esbits, also leaves a small residue on the stove. Coghlan's are cheaper.
Esbits are solid so easy to store.
You can count how many you have so you can easily have just the right amount of fuel.
There is nothing to spill. They are at least as safe as any other fuel.
They work well even well below freezing and at altitude.

But Esbits are difficult to light in strong wind. They leave a residue on the bottom of the pot that will irritate your skin if you are not careful. They are expensive. And since they are usually not available locally you have to mail them with restrictions maybe the same as for lithium batteries. (It's been a while.)

I would use Esbits or Coghlan's again if I did another thruhike.
But the alternatives have advantages too.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/25/2014 11:51:36 MDT Print View

This is my favorite system too. The absolute simplicity and minimal weight is what won me over. The only time I use anything different is if I need to melt snow.

Michael Gonzales
(dynomo01) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Honest Review on 06/25/2014 11:52:28 MDT Print View

I tried Esbit tablets on a three day, two night outing in cold weather and the results you posted where the same results I encountered. The sticky residue on the bottom of my pot was the biggest issue I had. I found the residue tough to clean off so I am using an alcohol stove now. Toaks Oudoor gear ( has an UL cook system that uses esbit tablets. They also have a 550ml cook pot with handles and without handles - two items that were nearly impossible to find when Backpacking Light stop selling them. Thanks for the great review.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
The MOST efficient ESBIT stove on 06/25/2014 13:26:31 MDT Print View

Thank you Darin for a much needed article on ESBIT cooking.

**I contend that the Caldera Cone stove and
the Brian Green modified Gram Cracker ESBIT holder is currently the most efficient ESBIT stove system going.

A Caldera Cone (with a mating pot) puts heat on the pot sides as well as the bottom,
This is also good for you "ti mug cookers" who like the inefficient shape of a tall cook vessel that mugs have.
The Brian Green modification of the Trail Designs Gram Cracker tablet holder keeps all the liquid residue in the tray and doubles the burn time from 7 minutes per tablet to 15 minutes. And this, of course, cuts fuel weight considerably on a week long trip.

My CC stove is a ti Sidewinder three fuel stove that can use alky, ESIT or (with the Inferno insert) wood. I have a 3 cup pot mated to the Sidewinder and it is all I need for solo cooking. The anodized aluminum pot is wider than it is tall. This wide bottom ratio has been proven more efficient. So it's all in the details where ESBIT efficiency is concerned, i.e. efficient cone pot support, good tablet holder and proper pot shape.

I do keep the little wing stove (with flimsy rivets replaced by small bolts, lock washers and nuts) in my survival kit with a cut down MSR foil windscreen.

NOTE: If anyone has a more efficient ESBIT system than I just described PLEASE post it. I'm not married to any system and I'll change it if another is better.

Edited by Danepacker on 06/27/2014 14:00:07 MDT.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Get over on 06/25/2014 13:45:16 MDT Print View

If you manage to get over the few disadvantages, then you are in bombproof simplicity stove heaven.

What I like the most, is that there's no leaking gas or alcohol spillage. Only solid magic cubes.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
End goal on 06/25/2014 13:51:11 MDT Print View

It reminds me of the mental barrier i had when trying to convince myself to try to go no TP.

Once I managed that, there's no going back.


Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/25/2014 14:59:30 MDT Print View

Nice article Darren. This is a similar setup to what I use as well. I substitute a BPL 1100ml pot and short caldera cone for your pot and the titanium screen but love the simplicity of Esbit.

You can blow Esbit out and use the remnants later OR break a tablet in 1/2 or 1/4 for more/less fuel.

Luke Beveridge
(lukebeveridge) - M

Locale: Australia
Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/25/2014 18:19:35 MDT Print View

Great article, thanks!

Does anyone have any experience using an esbit tab inside a fancy feast stove?

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/25/2014 18:51:55 MDT Print View

I tried and it didn't work out for me.

Jon tried a more sophisticated approach here:

The ti wing is a lightweight and useful design but I think there is probably a way to make it more efficient.

Jimmy D
(byocarbon) - MLife

Locale: El Rio Colorado
Esbit plus Wood on 06/25/2014 18:59:05 MDT Print View

I too have been using the esbit system as you describe it but lately I've been playing with adding a small wood stove to the mix. For a pot stand I use a titanium wood stove from Sulak46 (2.25 oz for their large one) and then I add a wire rack inside the stove to hold the esbit tablet.

As I am usually cooking for two with a 1 liter pot, I find that 1 esbit tablet is not quite enough, but with the option of wood as a second fuel I can either (1) use all wood if good wood is plentiful, or (2) use 1 tablet supplemented by a stove full of wood, or just use 1-1/2 or 2 esbit tablets for those times when dry wood is scarce or just for the convenience of not having to gather wood.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Still My Favorite Cook Kit on 06/25/2014 21:27:15 MDT Print View

I use a setup similar to the one described and for the most part find it to be quite satisfactory. However, once when hiking on a cold, blustery Autumn day I found the wind screen was not sufficient to protect the flame, so I had to build a small rock wall on the windward side to block the wind. Only then could I get the water to heat up! Other than that I have no complaints.

Stephen Adams
(stevemkedcom) - MLife

Locale: Northwest
Esbits are safer on 06/26/2014 12:08:55 MDT Print View

I too used Esbits for my PCT Through hike last year. I used the Beercan Esbit Stove once sold on the Backpackinglight website.

This system may not be as efficient as the ones mentioned above but with this design there is no issues with the gunk on the bottom of the Beer can coming in contact with anything so i just left it there. After a couple of months of use I did find some sandpaper and cleaned off the bottom because I suspected that the buildup of gunk was effecting the efficiency.

One thing that no one has mentioned is that Esbits are much safer than Alcohol. I once witnessed a friend squirt more alcohol into his cat can stove thinking it was out. It proceeded to explode with flaming alcohol all over his pants, His tent and in in a 10 foot radius on the ground. He was Ok but his tent was ruined before he could get the flames out. While in a pinch I felt safe cooking in the vestibule of my tent with Esbits.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Esbit cleanup on 06/26/2014 12:52:15 MDT Print View

A good old fashioned Brillo pad works great for cleaning Esbit residue-- once you get home. It wouldn't be ecologically sound to use one in the field. A through hiker could put them in their bounce box.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Esbits are safer on 06/26/2014 13:02:19 MDT Print View

Doubtful that solid fuel in general is as ecologically or environmentally sound as either alcohol or butane since some of it is left behind when people want to clean off their pot putting the resudue on the ground, leaving crumbs of hexamine behind when they break the tablet into pieces, etc. The tablets do not break cleanly but crumble as you know. Refute this please.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Esbit cleanup on 06/26/2014 13:04:25 MDT Print View

The problem with the Brillo pad is that it slowly scrapes away the metal bottom surface of your pot. I prefer to dissolve the Esbit crud. So far for me, a little Windex and water will do it.

I find that the crud is a little different among the different brands of Esbit fuel. Some of it bakes on harder.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Esbits are safer on 06/26/2014 13:07:19 MDT Print View

John, when I cleave my Esbit tablets with a knife, I pick up the crumbs and flakes and pile those up on top of the remaining chunk. It is much easier to light with those pieces.