There was a time when I was convinced that an alcohol stove was the way to go and it’s possible, depending on the hike, that it might still be the better choice.
For the alcohol stove
- easily snuffed
- easily replaced stove - hole puncher and a tuna can
For the canister stove
- fast boil
- variable temp
- windscreen not always needed
For the tab stove
- light per boil or near boil
- smaller - one stove has build in windscreen
- packs small
- 1 tab is smaller than the equivalent alcohol
In summary, while I’m still thinking about food in terms of calories per ounce I think the same can be said in terms of fuel source and heated water. And as calories can be categorized in protein vs carbs so can the stoves be compared will it boil or just warm.
But there are some real cons too. The biggest complaint of the canister stove is that unless you exactly how much fuel there is in the can you’re either carrying around too little or too much. And it’s the too much that upsets the UL hikers.
Buying alcohol on the trail is curious. My latest purchase was 1L. So where can I buy 8 ounces and would I really want to pay a premium for that. Then there is the potential for leaks an such.
The tab is said to have a smell since it’s a chemical burn. I cannot imagine that would actually effect the task of the water but it is worth testing.
The one real pain of all of these systems is that they are not permitted on airplanes. Sure you can carry the stove but you will not be permitted to carry any fuel. And so I would prefer to have a SOL firetab kit forwarded to me at some postoffice. It’s said that all of these fuels are available along the AT, however, the FT is a lot less forgiving.
NOTE it has been suggested that a full boil is not really needed to re-hydrate meals. That also needs some testing. Certainly this is true of mashed potatoes as the flakes re-hydrate quickly where Mac N Cheese requires more time and that means heat too.