Last year we started to reduce weight by changing from tent to tarptent. Our old tent we only use during winter hikes, for all other hikes we use our tarptent nowadays. Last packrafting weekend made us scrutinizing our cooking gear.
First we went to search for a replacement for our pot. Till today we used to take a pot with lid and two eating bowls with us. If we could replace this by a pot that could also be used to eat from, we won’t need our eating bowls anymore. We found a new pot with lid: Quechua Popote Rando 1P. It is saving us 140 grams and a lot of volume in the backpack. The windscreen needed an update too. Our old windscreen was free standing on the ground. When using a large gas canister, the windscreen was too low to cover the flame. Our new windscreen for the MSR Pocket Rocket is based on this article. It’s made from 0.3 mm thick aluminum and a few paperclips. The gas canister and windscreen can be stowed in the pot. It saves a few grams and hopefully cooking will be more efficient with the new windscreen.
We’ve also taken a critical look at other fuels. Perhaps we find some advantages of using alcohol or Esbit. First we need a windscreen that can be used as pot stand as well. We used the same aluminum to build a windscreen that uses two tent pegs to support the pot and two paperclips to hold it together.
This windscreen is used to test the performance of several stoves. We’ve investigated weight, costs and availability of:
– MSR Pocket Rocket with a 1 litre aluminum pot.
– MSR Pocket Rocket with Quechua pot.
– Trangia stove
– DIY alcohol stove
– Esbit stove
We did not look at our Primus multi fuel stove in the comparison. That stove and fuel bottles are much heavier that all other stoves. We used to take this stove with us if we need to fly and were not sure if gas was available where we were going to.
In the comparison we measured the time it took for each stove to get 800 grams of water to a rolling boil and we measured the amount of fuel that was used for that. The outcome can be found here: StoveComparison
The following conclusions can be drawn:
– Esbit is always the most expensive. (About ten times as expensive as alcohol)
– Alcohol is the cheapest.
– Esbit is hard to find and might not be taken on a plane.
– Gas in a threaded self sealing gas canister is reasonable available in shops like Intersport or Decathlon.
– Alcohol is available everywhere, for instance as spirit in each supermarket or convenient store.
– Gas is always lightest.
– Alcohol is relatively heavy, but is used fast.
– Gas cooks fastest.
– Alcohol takes about 2 or 3 times longer than gas.
– Esbit takes about 3 times longer than gas.
Which fuel is best fit in the end, depends mainly on which property is most important. For a few days hiking gas and alcohol are about the same fit for the purpose. For a long hike, gas has advantages, but might be hardly available.
Other people use Esbit on their trips because of its simplicity: It’s solid fuel, it cannot leak and there’s no specific stove needed. We’ve tried Esbit again but our cooking times were still twice as long as other people’s: In the Netherlands the 4 grams blocks are the only ones easy to acquire. These are not packed in air-tight containers and our blocks were several years old. Probably there was some moisture in those blocks resulting in loss of energy. By using the air-tight packed 14 grams blocks we get the same cooking times as other people.
As stove we copied Brian Green’s Esbit Tray Stove from a small sheet of tin.