In the present day a lot of people use the gas canister stoves for hiking. Are Alcohol stoves still useful for hiking? Yes they are!
Next to Gas canister stoves there are a bunch of different options to take with you hiking. Think off Solid fuel stoves, the newer wood gas stoves and Petrol stoves. But next to that has always been an Alcohol stove. The main advantages of an Alcohol stove are that they:
- Easy to make yourself
- Cheap to buy
- Cheap to find fuel for
- Easy to find fuel for (Does depend on country)
- Requires no maintenance and often does not have moving parts.
My history with Alcohol stoves
My history with the use of Alcohol stoves goes back a long way. When I was a kid and just starting out with backpacking and hiking I was addicted to making homemade Alcohol stoves and pots and pans. I must have made over a 100 of them in my childhood. I used to save up a few cents and buy the cheapest cans of cola I could find in the grocery store. Collect cans that I found on the side of the road and ask family to collect them for me.
The amount of toxic fumes I must have inhaled from all the failed experiments will come back to me someday I think. I started out with the simple Penny stove. Which I made a whole lot of. Then coming to the more pressurized stoves and open stoves.
A Tuna can stove or Cat food alcohol stove can be made in under 10 minutes, you do need a hole punch though or a drill. Penny stoves can be made using a Stanley knife and something to poke small wholes with in the can. I always used my mothers needles from her sewing kit for this or a thumbtack. The pressurized alcohol stoves can be a bit more dangerous to play around with. I remember using it incorrectly and it blowing up, spraying burning alcohol fuel everywhere.
Channels that I watched and websites that I followed for making these stoves include Tinny from Minibulldesign on YouTube and Zenstoves. Zenstoves is the go to website for the instructions on making one in my opinion.
A note on safety with Alcohol stoves
If you are still a kid or not very good at being an adult, supervision is recommended while using and making Alcohol stoves!
Alcohol stoves can blow up or sputter in some cases, fall over and spill and during the daytime you cant see the flames. So be aware of the safety aspect while handling these things.
But same can be said about other stoves.
General use with Alcohol stoves
Cooking is something that every hiker on trail handles a bit differently. You have the gourmet hikers that take the time and materials with them to put out something unique and wonderful to eat. And then you have the hikers that make something edible and stuff it down as quick as possible. Even the gourmet hikers will reach a point like that.
Cooking with Alcohol stoves require in general a bit more fiddling around before you can eat. Or even put you pan on to boil. Most alcohol stoves need to light up or warm up a bit before you can actually cook.
Cooking with Alcohol stoves
When using Alcohol stoves you are a bit more limited than for example a gas canister stove. On nearly every Alcohol stove their is no regulation of heat output. Except for perhaps a simmer ring. And you have to refuel them a lot when cooking for a longer period of time than say 10 minutes.
Therefore using Alcohol stoves for more than quickly boiling water or more people gets more difficult than other stoves. Then comes the fuel efficiency which is less than with other options, you have to carry more weight to cook the same volume of water. Its slower than most other stoves, and its vulnerable to wind and high altitude.
Upsides of using an Alcohol stove for your outdoor cooking
You may be thinking, does Frank still uses or likes Alcohol stoves?
Yes I still do, with all its downsides it does have its upsides. Otherwise they would not be this popular in the hiking community.
In countries all over the world you can still get Alcohol fuel when gas canisters for example are more difficult to find. When choosing a gas canister stove your also putting your eggs in one basket. The gas canister itself.
Alcohol fuel can be many different things. Walk in to a drug store for Nail polish remover. Walk in to a grocery store to get cleaning alcohol, Hardware store for Methanol or denatured alcohol. Etc etc etc. The list goes on and on what an Alcohol stove will burn on. Not all fuels burn as good or as clean. But in a pinch they will work just fine.
In the Netherlands where I live you can get Spiritus alcohol in any supermarket. This burns clean enough and is also very cheap. For 1 euro most of the time you get a liter of fuel. In my village I can also get a gas canister at a forestry supply store for 5 euro’s.
Gas canister stoves or gasoline stoves are loud, when at full blast you can no longer hear the birds or sounds around you. A traditional Alcohol stove like the Trangia Alcohol stove does not make any noise at all. Same can be said for nearly every other stove types that you can make yourself.
The stoves themselves can be very lightweight, what comes around that like a pot stand, windscreen and pot cozy can be a bit heavier. Depending on what you use to make them. Most forms of can stoves are sub 10 grams and a tealight stove is even lighter than that. A Trangia stove made out of brass is a bit more heavy at 100 grams. But you can beat those up like nothing else. If you want to see an overview for different cooking stoves for hiking you can read up on it there.
Conclusion on Alcohol stoves
These upsides for me still mean I take my Trangia stove over my Kovea Gas canister stove. Its cheaper to run and always makes me think of my younger years cooking outdoors. When push comes to shove I still take my gas canister stoves for the longer hikes that I do. After a long day of hiking I don’t want to keep messing about and just eat.
You may have your Alcohol system down to the letter and it works for you. That’s the beauty of the Hiking world, everybody has their own ritual and ways of going about it. So for short hikes I take my Trangia stove, and for longer hikes my Kovea. If you want to learn more about Alcohol stoves or just be entertained I highly recommend Shugemerry’s channel over on YouTube.
I hope you share down in the comments what your stove of choice is! Happy hiking and Hike for Purpose!