Richard Bucker

camp stoves

Posted at — Jul 27, 2016

I’m sitting at my desk watching my code boil and listening to a bushcraft guy talk about the Pathfinder alcohol stove. The first thing to note is that appears to be a break-in period. I do not know exactly why but I would imagine that it has something to do with the dual wall construction and the wick material between the two walls. He then described the capacity and burn duration. One filling would last 5+ hours and the kit included a second filling. Between the two reservoirs he estimated at least 5 days worth; which is a vague estimate since we do not know how many burns a day that is.

I have a Solo and Campfire from SoloStove and while I really like them because I do not have to carry fuel with me I’m starting to discover that they may not be permitted where I would normally be camping. I’m still researching the limitations and I’m getting to the point where butane may be the only way to go. Even for those thrifty AT hikers may be legally limited to something with an instant shutoff and that might be limited to butane.

Anyway, while researching I also discovered Esbit tabs. They are kinda pricey. $9 for 12 tabs or $11 for 6 tabs and a stove. Other brands include Redfuel, Coghlan. Boiling sample water with Coglan seems to require 3xtabs where Esbit requires 1x. The RedFuel seems to be more firestarter than cooking fuel.

Cost compare the unit of measure is boil:

The Esbit is one boil per tab and costs about $0.33 per tab in units of 20.

The Coglan is 3x tabs per boil and costs about $0.22 per tab or $0.66 per boil in units of 72 tabs

** it’s not until you get into crazy quantities that you can save some money on the Coglan tabs. I suppose you can also slice the Esbit and use parts but who knows if there is any side effects or off gassing when the package is open and not use right then.

On thing I like about the Coglan is that if you know what you are doing then using exactly the right number of tabs means you can stretch your fuel needs. On the other hand neither tabs or gels are ubiquitous. You cannot fall off the trail and grab a bottle of denatured alcohol or 91% isopropyl alcohol and start cooking or warming. A stove like the one at Pathfinder give you better options and the trail pro kit means you have even more although you can assemble a kit yourself.

In the end a lot can go wrong. The butane or alcohol and leak. You can run out of tabs. Your kit can break to the point it’s useless… but in the end you need to be able to make a fire when you need it. So make sure you the appropriate backup skills to offset these fancy products.

Lastly, one advantage of the Dragon Gel and alcohol is that they can serve multiple uses from warmth, heat for cooking and antibacterial when called upon.

Keep in mind you cannot do much else other than boil some water with these fuels. Cooking a steak on a skillet is just not practical or cost effective. These fuels are more about cooking something very simple or re-hydrating.