EkoFuel Blog

  • Alcohol Stoves: Myths

    Alcohol stoves are lightweight, convenient and very versatile, they're also very cheap to buy and almost free to make. So naturally, they get a lot of flack from commercial stove manufacturers.

    Myth 1: Alcohol Stove Don't Work

    They wouldn't be so popular with thousands of hikers, backpackers, campers and tinkerers if they didn't. While these stoves have their limitations, they certainly work.

    Myth 2: They Aren't Reliable

    Contrary to belief they are actually the most reliable stove you can get. There are no moving or separate parts and so a well-constructed burner is difficulty to break. A home-made stove can be accidentally stepped on and crushed, there's no side-stepping that issue, but you could easily make a replacement on the fly. There are also rumours that they don't work at high altitudes or in cold weather - not true! In cold weather it can be more difficult to light the fuel and it may burn less efficiently, but it will certainly work. There's also no real evidence to show that high altitudes have negative effects of alcohol stoves.

    Myth 3: They are Dangerous

    Alcohol is a flammable liquid, hence why this myth takes hold. With the exception of spills, alcohol stoves are no more dangerous than any other stove. If you follow common-sense safety precautions, you'll have no issues.

    This post was heavily inspired by The Soda Can Stove.

  • Camping Stoves: Which Fuel?

    Choosing a camping/backpacking stove isn't an easy task as you have to consider not only the type of stove you wish to use, but the brand and fuel that the stove uses.

    In the UK, there are 5 main types of fuels used in camping stoves:

    1. Liquefied Gas (Butane, Propane)
    2. Alcohol/Spirit
    3. Chemical Solid Fuels
    4. Wood
    5. Paraffin

    Coleman Dual Fuel Campstove 424Liquefied gas stoves
     are the most people in the UK are referring to when they talk about camping stoves. The most well-known brand, omnipresent in most outdoors shops is Coleman. Coleman make larger base camp stoves and smaller canister stoves. Liquefied stoves are popular for a reason.

    They can kick out a lot of heat and are accepted as the quickest at cooking when camping. You've also got a good level of control over the flame so it's easy to simmer. If you've got a base camp stove you'll be able to cook multiples things at once, at the cost of portability - you won't be taking one backpacking with you!

    The downside to liquefied gas stoves though is that fuel is quite expensive and once you've run out of fuel, you're done.

    Trangia 25 Cookset With Kettle & Spirit BurnerAlcohol stoves aren't as well-known as the omnipresent liquefied gas stoves, but they are growing in popularity. Alcohol stoves have been popular with lightweight backpackers for years, they are light, simple and very easy to use. Also if you don't want to spend money on the well-priced commercial stoves, such as the Trangia, you can always make your own for less than £5.

    Not only are they versatile and easier to make, alcohol stove fuel is incredibly easy to get your hands on. There are a few types of alcohol fuels that you can use on your stove and you'll find a usable fuel in most shops. Alcohol stove fuel is a

    Alcohol stoves are the most environmentally friendly option, a point which aides in it's growing popularity - the abundance of DIY tutorials online has also clearly helped.

    Esbit Pocket StoveChemical solid fuels are often called hexy or hexamine blocks. Esbit stoves are the most well-known stoves designed to burn chemical solid fuels. The pocket stoves are lightweight, simple and low-cost.

    Hexy blocks burn hot and quick, but can leave a lot of soot and residue behind, making them not so great for the environment.

    Wood StoveWood stoves are possibly the most useful as the fuel is available in abundance, if you run out, you simply have to pick up a few more twigs and sticks from the ground. They do however give off a lot of soot and smoke and can adversely affect the taste of some foods. They also leave behind ash and can be a bit of a pain to clean.

    Paraffin StoveParaffin stoves are quite uncommon and you're more likely to see paraffin fuelled lanterns than stoves. Paraffin stoves were once as common as liquefied gas stoves are today, but their use has waned dramatically.

  • What Are Alcohol Camping Stoves?

    Alcohol Camping Stoves

    Alcohol stoves are the most lightweight, and one of the easiest to use types of camping stove which use alcohol-based fuels, such as ethanol or meths.

    Alcohol stoves are extremely popular among lightweight backpackers and bare-bones campers. Alcohol stoves have a bit of a cult following with regular users demonstrating the benefits of their stove to anyone with an interest. These stoves are so versatile as they can run on a number of different alcohol fuels.

    There are quite a few variations of camping stove, each with their own advantages and limitations.

    There are a few reasons that alcohol stoves are so popular:

    • Lightweight - Often weighing a few grams compared to half a kilo or more
    • Simple - All you need to do is pour your ethanol into the reservoir and light with a match, lighter or fire steel.
    • Quiet - If the ethanol isn't too hot and boiling within the reservoir, they are generally silent.
    • Odourless - Unlike gas based stoves, if you spill fuel on your clothes or gear, it will simply evaporate and the smell of gas won't follow you around for the rest of your trip.
    • No Maintenance - Cleaning an alcohol stove is as simple as cleaning a bowl and due to their simplicity, there are almost no individual parts that can break and need repair.
    • Safety - Alcohol stoves don't used a pressurised fuel, it's not explosive and can be easily extinguished with water.
    • Low Cost - You can easily build your own penny-can or soda can alcohol stove using only 2 cans. Even store bought stoves are much cheaper than their gas counterparts.
    • Eco-Friendly - Bio Ethanol releases only water vapour and a small amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It's also a renewable source of energy.
    • Availability Alcohol stove fuel or methylated spirits can be found in almost any hardware store or petrol station.
    • Transportability - Not only is the stove lightweight and easy to carry, the fuel doesn't need any fancy metal containers, normal plastic bottles are fine.

    As great as alcohol stoves can be, there are of course some downsides to using one:

    • Reduced Heat Output - Compared to gas or other liquid fuels, you'll get a reduced heat output which means you'll be cooking for longer and you may end up using slightly more fuel to get the job done.
    • Invisible Flame - An invisible or translucent blue flame is actually a good sign as it shows that the burn is clean (a yellow flame is an indicator of incomplete combustion and CO2). However it can make handling the stove slightly more dangerous if you can't properly see the flame.
    • Temperature Sensitive - If the environment is quite cold, it can be much more difficult to light the fuel and once lit, may not burn as hot or efficiently as under regular conditions.
    • Durability - This only really applies if you've made your own stove using a can, but you can easily step on or otherwise damage/destroy your stove if you're not careful.
  • Alcohol Stove Fuel: Different Types

    The best fuel for an alcohol stove, is bio ethanol. Bio ethanol is ethanol made from the bi-products of growing crops. It's is very environmentally friendly and clean burning. We recommend, bio ethanol fuel from EkoFuel is a denatured alcohol which is 97% pure ethanol, 2% other alcohols with 1% of denaturing agent.

    methylated-spiritMethylated spirits are another denatured alcohol, which is ethanol denatured with up to 80% methanol. Methylated spirits are widely available and can be found in most stores. Methanol is poisonous when ingested and not good for the environment.

    Isopropyl AlcoholIsopropyl alcohol
    , also known as rubbing alcohol is found in drug stores and comprised of 70% alcohol. Rubbing alcohol produces a lot of heat, but doesn't burn cleanly (yellow flames) and can soot. As it's mixed with water, it can also be inefficient.

    Festival StoveAlcohol Gel is quite common in outdoors and camping shops. It is slightly safer than liquid fuel as it's more difficult to spill. The majority of gel alcohol stoves don't get hot enough to properly cook food or boil water, due to their small openings.

  • Commercial Alcohol Stoves

    Trangia 25 Cookset With Kettle & Spirit BurnerTrangia

    Trangia is the market leader and also the most well-known name in alcohol stove, most alcohol stoves, branded or not are simply referred to as Trangias. The Trangia burner is an open jet style alcohol stove. They have high quality construction and the lightweight cook set packs away inside the largest pot.

    Esbit 985ml-Dual Fuel Stove Hard AnodisedEsbit

    Esbit is another popular alcohol stove, though they are mostly known for their pocket stoves which burn hexamine blocks. The Esbit alcohol burner itself is almost identical to the Trangia burner, with only small variations. Where the two differ are with their cook sets. The Esbit cook set is made from anodised aluminium. Like the Trangia, the cook set fits inside the largest pot.

    Dometic ORIGO 9103303882 3000 Alcohol Stove 2-Burner Freestanding ModelOrigo

    While not as popular among campers and backpackers (due to their size and weight), Origo (owned by Dometic) are the largest name in marine alcohol stoves and ovens. If you see a stove on a boat and it isn't fuelled by gas or petrol, it's likely to be an Origo alcohol stove. They come with a dual burner and are the closest you'll come to a standard gas camping stove with alcohol. While they can run on most alcohols, best results will come from specific marine stove alcohol.

    Evernew Titanium DX Stove SetEvernew

    Evernew stoves are Japanese made, titanium alcohol stoves. They have a patented Bi-Level Jet system allows the stove to give 2 separate levels of flames. It also allows the burner to be used without a pot stand.

  • DIY Alcohol Stoves: Types

    There are a number of both DIY and commercial alcohol stoves available and naturally, each has its own defining characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. There are 5 types of alcohol stove, though there are variations within each type:

    open-stoveOpen Reservoir - An open reservoir is the simplest design and can be made from any small metal tin or container (e.g. tuna can or cat food).
    They are easily to ignite and easy to extinguish.

    open-ventedOpen Vented
    - These stoves are similar to open reservoirs, but have ventilation holes to increase the supply and circulation of oxygen.

    siide-burner-stoveSide Burner - These stoves have holes punched into the sides of the container. The flames come from the side of the stove meaning that a cooking container can be placed directly on the burner, without the need for an elevate platform as it won't smother the flame.

    Evernew Titanium Alcohol StoveOpen Jet
     - The popular Trangia stove is an open jet alcohol stove as are most soda-can stoves. They have an open reservoir and small holes around the lip of the burner where the flames shoot out from. Rather than burning the liquid fuel itself, these stoves burn the vapours as the fuel evaporates. They do need pot stands and can be slightly less efficient due to the large opening in the centre of the burner.

    pressurised-jet-stovePressurised Jet - Identical to an open jet stove, but without the large opening in the centre of the burner. Instead the opening is closed off to allow the stove to build pressure and force the vapours out of the jets. Pressurised jet alcohol stoves will burn hot and cook fast, often with greater fuel efficiency. However these stoves generally need to be preheated and they can be very difficult top construct.

  • Which Camping Stove?

    We've all been there. Stood looking at a row of camping stoves trying to decide which one will best fit our needs. You have to take into consideration not only the stove itself, but the camping fuel it uses. It can be pretty confusing if you don't know the advantages and disadvantages of each; so we've assembled a little guide which will help you choose.

    Basecamp Stoves

    These are the big double and triple-burner stoves which run on propane gas canisters. They are used to create the closest at-home kitchen experience possible.

    Advantages: They generate a lot of heat and are great at cooking multiple things at a time. You can fry your eggs in one pan, cook your bacon and sausages in another pan and boil your beans in the third. They heat up quickly and cook quickly, no different to your stove at home.

    Disadvantages: They are heavy; you won't be taking one hiking with you, but fine if you're camping with your car. You have to buy the gas canisters, which can be quite expensive and once you run out of fuel, you're done.

    Canister Stoves

    The most common type of stove and uses by backpackers and ultralight campers. The fuel is made from a mix of propane and butane and burns hotter than older butane stoves. They consist of a small burner which is connected to or sits atop a gas canister.

    Advantages: Small, lightweight and very convenient with a good range of control for boiling, simmering and frying.

    Disadvantages: The fuel can be expensive and and not-cost effective for cooking. Canister stoves are perfect for a night or 2, but not convenient for longer trips as the canister will need to be take with you. Performance can a hit in colder temperatures. and they can only cook one pan at a time.

    Ethanol Stoves

    Ethanol/spirit stoves are not as well known as gas powered stoves, but are becoming more popular, especially with hikers and light-weight campers. They run on eco-friendly bio ethanol in a small pot which often sits within a larger receptacle, as is the case with Trangia stoves. Origo marine stoves also use a spirit fuel as do home-made penny-can stoves.

    Advantages: Very lightweight, simple and safe to use (a spilled stove is easily put out with water). Alcohol camping fuel is easy to acquire, virtually silent, and odourless. Better for the environment.

    Disadvantages: Lower heat output with less control over the heat (you can easily adapt your burner to give more control.)

    There is no BEST camping stove, just the stove which is best suited to your situation. If you're taking family camping with the car and need to feed a lot of mouths, a basecamp stove is a good choice. Just 2 of you, why opt for a canister stove instead? If your're doing a lot of hiking and are carrying everything on your back - try a lightweight ethanol stove.

  • How to Light a Fire

    Aside from hunting, fire lighting is possibly the oldest skill that exists in human culture. The ability to light a fire, for many men, is a skill that represents masculinity and to light a fire quickly and reliably is

    Aside from your wood, there are 3 other things you need to light a fire:

    • Tinder - A small, dry, easily flammable material.
    • Kindling - Small twigs and sticks to start the fire.
    • Fire Starter - Anything that can produce or create a small flame.

    The first step in starting a fire is gathering your fuel. Start with your kindling, small twigs and sticks which, unless you're building an upside-down or pyramid fire, will form the base of the fire. The larger sticks and logs will provide the majority of the fuel for the fire. The best advice we can give for gathering wood is gather as much as you think you need, then double it. You will almost always need more wood than you think you need.

    The next step is dictated by which method you'll use to build your fire:

    Assuming you've now built your fire using one of the methods above, it's time to get the fire going.

    There are a number of tools you can use to start a fire. The easiest and most popular option is to use matches or a lighter, you simply ignite the lighter or match and hold the flame against your tinder to light. However, lighters can run out of fuel and both matches and lighters don't perform well in wind or rain (unless you use weather-proof matches). 

    A popular option among bushcrafters and survivalists is to use a flint and steel or a ferrocerium rod with a magnesium striker. Striking one against the other produces a shower of sparks at 1,650 degrees celsius that when they come into contact with kindling can begin a fire. Place the end of the firesteel against your tinder and strike the magnesium (or knife spine) against the rod. The shower of sparks should land on the tinder and ignite. You may need to do this a handful of times before the tinder catches.

    If you really want the primitive experience, you can try using a bow-drill (fire by friction), but this does take a lot of practice and patience, especially taking into account Britain's humidity..

    If you're having difficult getting the fire started, you can make the job easier by using a flammable fuel such as ethanol/spirits, hexamine blocks, or a fire lighting gel.

    You've chosen your tool so you simply need to light the tinder. Once the tinder is lit or is smoking, place the tinder inside your kindling and blow gently until the kindle catches fire. This can take a few minutes and there will be a lot of smoke.

    When the kindle is lit place it in your fire and observe until the rest of the wood begins to burn. If the fire goes out at this stage, you can often reignite it by blowing gently against the fire.

    Your fire has started and you can now cook your food, boil water or sit around the fire enjoying it's warmth.

    Safety Considerations

    1. Be mindful of your hair and clothes when handling the fire as they could easily catch a flame.
    2. Especially, when windy, ensure that there's nothing flammable around the fire that could catch fire if a stray gust of wind pushes the fire beyond the pit.
    3. Never pour flammable liquid onto an already burning fire, unless the bottle has a positive pressure nozzle, the flame will travel straight up the stream of fuel and into the bottle, causing an explosion.
    4. Never leave a fire unattended until it's completely out. Even white ashes can retain a lot of heat and reignite the fire and potentially spread.
    5. Don't use your fire as a rubbish pile. Only add wood, and food waster (vegetable peelings) to the fire. Burning plastic, metals and glass can produce toxic fumes which are extremely dangerous when inhaled.
    6. Be careful about adding paper to your fire, most commercial paper (printing paper, notepads) have chemicals and plastics added. Paper could also be blown away and ignite a fire elsewhere.
    7. Lastly, and the most obvious always take care with other people, especially children moving too close to the fire.
  • How to Light an Upside-Down Fire

    Traditionally, fires are built tepee style, from the bottom up. You light your tinder and then pile on some small twigs followed by sticks, then logs until you've got all your fuel on the fire. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s worked for thousands of years. The downside is you do have to manage the fire quite a bit.

    There is an alternative: the upside-down fire.

    An upside-down fire is essentially the opposite of a traditional tepee fire. The fire burns down and requires little management. The fire won’t look very impressive for about 20 minutes, but this is fine. The idea of this fire is that the embers will fall to the layer below and light that layer; hence why the platform can’t have any spaces between.)

    These fires can burn for hours without any interference.

    •     Firstly you want to arrange your largest logs at the bottom, making sure that there is little to no space between them. This provides a platform.
    •     Next put on another layer of slightly smaller logs laid across the platform.
    •     Repeat this with smaller and smaller logs until you are left with a pyramid structure
    •     Now place your tinder atop the fire; tinder can be anything from newspaper, to cotton wool to silver birch bark (depending on where you are). Light the tinder and observe.

    When lighting your fire you can use a lighter, matches, ferrocerium rod or a flint and steel. Sometimes you’ll have problems lighting the tinder, especially when your outdoors and it is easier to use an aide. The best aids are soaking your tinder in alcohol (works well for cotton balls) or using a fire lighting gel.

    Once your fire is lit, it won’t need much management, so you can sit back and relax for the next few hours either cooking your food or soaking up the warmth of the fire.

  • How to Light a Teepee Fire

    The teepee fire is the fire that most people have dealt with, especially if you were a member of the Scouts as a child. The teepee fire is named as such as it resembles the cone-shaped teepee used as houses by Native Americans.

    The basic principle of a teepee fire is that you lay your kindling and smaller wood in a pile and then arrange the larger pieces of wood around the pile, with their ends touching in the middle above the fire (as pictured).

    The first step is to gather your wood; you'll need small sticks and twigs, larger sticks, thick logs.

    The small sticks and twigs will form the base of the fire and will be placed in a mound at the centre. Then place the larger sticks around the fire leaning on each other in the middle. Make sure these sticks are as close as possible, but make sure to leave a small opening (like a doorway) for you to reach in and start the fire.

    Once the first ring of sticks has been added, you then need to add your final layer of thicker logs. Now the fire is built, it's time to light.

    You can use matches, a lighter or a ferrocerium (fire-starter) rod. Light your tinder (lint, dry grass, char cloth, silver birch bark shavings etc.) and then place it among the kindling. Blow lightly until the kindling catches fire.

    If you don't have any fine material for tinder, you can our a small amount of fire starting gel directly to the kindling. In some conditions (wind, rain) using a fire lighting gel or other alcohol fuel will make lighting the fire easier.

    Now that the fire is lit, you can add a few more logs to close the opening, just leave enough space for air to ventilate.

    The next step is to start cooking, or sit back and enjoy the warmth of your fire.

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