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M Performance Comparison Testing of Lightweight Alcohol Stoves

by Will Rietveld

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Article Summary:

Alcohol fueled backpacking stoves are simpler, quieter, lighter, cheaper, and more reliable than canister and white gas stoves, but many people don't take them seriously! Sure alcohol fuel has half the energy of canister stove fuel or white gas, and alcohol stoves aren't blow torches with super fast boil times; but there's a lot to like about alcohol stoves, especially if you're concerned about pack weight, fuel availability, or your budget, and you don't need to melt snow.

Alcohol stoves are simple, but the heat transfer process is not. The complexity (and challenge) lies in getting complete combustion, directing the flames to the pot, getting efficient heat transfer to the pot, and minimizing the effects of wind and other heat losses. In this article, we report results and observations after conducting hundreds of standardized tests on 17 alcohol stoves. We tested commercially available stoves including representatives from each of the alcohol burner types - Open Flame, Open Jet, and Closed Jet. Some of our results were surprising, and others confirmed our hunches.



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