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.
Leave a Reply