• 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.

  • 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 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.

  • Coke Can Bioethanol Gel Burner

    In addition to our bio-ethanol liquid fuels for use in alcohol camping stoves, our bio-ethanol BBQ fire lighting gel can also be used for camping applications.  In order to demonstrate the power and use of EkoFuel bio-ethanol gel, we made a bio-ethanol gel burner for a Trangia, from a couple of coke cans.

    We this burner can heat up 750ml of water from 20C to 100C using EkoFuel  BBQ fire lighting gel in around 7mins 30secs.

    step 1step 2

    Step 1                                                                          Step 2

    Mark the first can with 2 rings.The first around 50mm for the bottom edge and the second around 55mm (Step 1). Cut the can along the first ring and then cut the can vertically from the first ring to the second ring, to end up with something similar to that shown in step 2.

    step 3step 4

    Step 3                                                                            Step 4

    Cut the 2nd can near to the top and bottom and unfold to produce a sheet of aluminium. Draw out on a piece of paper  an inner diameter of 66mm and a outer diamter of 86mm. Cut out the ring and cellotape to the piece of aluminium sheet (Step 3).

    Cut out the aluminium ring and slide up the  outer diameter of the can to look like the picture in Step 4. Fold over the edge and start crimping. Finish off with a pair of pliers.

    step 5step 6

    Step 5                                                                          Step 6

    The result is the can shown in Step 5 weighing 6.8grams. Not the prettiest of items, and not a long term solution but ideal to demonstrate the use of EkoFuel bio-ethanol fire lighting gel to cook with. In step 6 we show the burner dropped into the base of a Trangia.

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