The Tealight alcohol stove
One of the easiest stoves you can “make” for alcohol stoves is the simple tealight stove. Whenever you are in an emergency or just carry it around as a backup stove on a longer hike. A tealight stove embodies the spirit of DIY, low-tech, alcohol stoves. Let’s get into the Tealight Alcohol stove. And what I think are good use cases for them.
There are many different types of backpacking stoves to choose from, whether it’s a gas canister stove or commercial alcohol stoves like the Trangia’s. Wood-Fired, and gas-operated (petrol). DIY alcohol stoves are a popular choice for ultralight hikers, emergency car kits, or other emergency preparedness kits.
Alcohol fuel can be stored in a plastic bottle, not metal, for a very long time without any problem. And alcohol stoves require little to no maintenance whatsoever. Pretty much all alcohol stoves do not have any moving parts and can be improvised in a pinch with only a multitool. Or nothing in the case of a tealight stove.
Use cases for the Tealight Alcohol stove
Tealight alcohol stoves are suited for a few scenarios in my mind, mostly as a backup or as an emergency stove. For your primary backpacking stove, I think there are better options for you out there that require less fussing around after a long day of hiking. When you can make it work on just a tealight stove then more power to you.
I base that on the following arguments.
A Tealight stove can only hold so much fuel
The Tealight stove stays tealight size, it only can hold enough fuel to burn for about 8 and a half minutes in my experience. that is about enough to get 250 milliliters of water to the brim of boiling. And that’s about it. Different circumstances make for a lot of variables. You can of course use a bigger tealight candle to up the size of the tealight stove. However, the uncontrolled flame in bigger formats than the standard tealight form factor is not recommended in my opinion.
Total burn time for a tealight safely filled is around 8:30 minutes, factors such as the wind, type of fuel and temperature are all factors that influence this. In my case, this was not enough to bring 250 milliliters of water to a rolling boil. It just brought it to the brink of boiling.
Uncontrolled and unpressured flame
Most alcohol stoves are pressurized in some way shape or form. When the alcohol fuel starts to boil, the gasses that are released can be used to jet out the sides of a stove. Many different types of alcohol stoves exist, but the standardized form factor is always the Trangia Stove. This flares up in the beginning and settles down to a nice jet-based flame without bigger flare-ups. Take a look at the video to see that in action:
This is, in my opinion, the biggest downside of any “open” alcohol stove, these open-burn alcohol stoves are inefficient and produce bigger flames than a similar form factor jet stove. Those flare-ups can be also more dangerous to handle and make it so that you always have to be careful with your pot handles.
Those two factors make it so that I cannot recommend you rely solely on a tealight stove for your backpacking needs. But if you are already carrying an alcohol stove as your primary stove, a tealight stove makes for a great backup in case your existing one gets crushed, breaks, or is lost.
Weight, less than my scale can pick up
The weight of a tealight stove is of course minimal, it’s a tiny bit of aluminum, so that is not something that is really noticeable. For that reason alone it is an easy backup stove to throw in your pack, or use in an emergency at home.
A total cook kit that would bring a cup of water to the brink of boiling, is exactly 100 grams in my case. If you sub a homemade soda can pot instead of my stainless steel one you can get it down even further.
Required with a tealight stove, pot stand, and windscreen
As with any alcohol stove, you have to protect it from the wind. Making your own windscreen is very easy to do, and you can take a look at my Alcohol stove Windscreens article to learn how. A windscreen saves you a lot of fuel and reflects back a lot of the heat that you would be missing out on.
A pot stand is required with a tealight stove and can be improvised out of a lot of different options. For this one, I sacrificed one of my fiancee’s clothes hangers. Works like a charm. In a future article, I will cover a few DIY options that you can use for any alcohol stove. Including the Trangia. So be on the lookout for that article. And follow me on Social media.
Further reading on Alcohol stoves:
How to use an Alcohol Stove
Cooking with Alcohol Stoves
Different cooking stoves for hiking
Are you one of the gramweenies that makes a tealight stove work? Be sure to share your experiences in the comments!
Happy hiking and Hike for Purpose!