One of the essentials in every camping trip is a means to cook food and boil water. There are many means to do this, some of them are more bothersome than others. Among the most convenient ways to prepare food on a camping trip is by packing and using an alcohol stove.
The best alcohol stove for your trip will depend on a variety of factors but in general, these pieces of cooking equipment are lightweight, versatile, and ergonomic. It is the go-to stove for minimalists.
Alcohol stoves provide a number of advantages to campers. For one thing, fuel is inexpensive and easily accessible. Alcohol stoves will generally run on denatured alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, most fuels for alcohol stoves can easily be bought at drugstores or convenience stores.
The fuel also doesn’t require any special container or equipment to handle. You can use generic plastic bottles to store fuel. They’re also usually very lightweight. The mechanisms behind these types of stoves are also very simple, hence they will not require much maintenance (if any at all).
It’s also worth noting that alcohol stoves safer than stoves using gas and petrol. Alcohol is far less volatile than those variants. Under the right (or more accurately, wrong) circumstances gas and petrol stoves can create small explosions when mishandled due to the volatility of the fuel.
Compared to other types of portable stoves, alcohol stoves are also cheaper. Since their constructions are simpler, suppliers tend to charge lower prices for them. However, given their minimalist configurations and the low output rate of alcohol, gourmet mountaineers who prefer to cook complex meals will have trouble with alcohol stoves. These pieces of cookware are ideal for boiling water and preparing simple meals such as ramen.
It’s important to note that not all alcohol stoves created equal. Here are a few things you will want to note before making a purchase.
What to Consider When Looking for and Cooking in An Alcohol Stove
The ideal alcohol stove will vary depending on what you intend to use it for. The following are the generic items you will want to take note of:
- Weight: In general, alcohol stoves don’t really weigh that much. But it’s still something you will want to take a look at when making a purchase. Every ounce counts, especially if going on an extended outdoor trip and some alcohol stoves will weigh more than others.
- Assembly: How is the stove set up? Does it pack away easily? As with any other piece of camping gear, you definitely want an alcohol stove that isn’t clunky to store. You also definitely want to make sure that the setup is stable. Having your stove tip over while it’s lit and filled with flammable liquid can wreak havoc on your gear and campsite.
- Type of alcohol stove: Not all alcohol stoves are the same. There will be differences in terms of construction which have a direct impact on the heating. The differences will usually be where the vents are located, whether or not the stove uses jets or an open flame.
- Fuel: As the name suggests, alcohol stoves will use alcohol. variant
The type of alcohol to be used has an effect on heating and fuel efficiency. Some alcohol types such as certain variants of methyl alcohol and variants of grain alcohol are potentially hazardous as these are potentially poisonous due to their extraction method and the chemical additives that they also store. These, however, are capable of producing stronger flames and higher temperatures. Check out our article review on the Biolite camp stove to see if this is the right one for your needs.
Denatured alcohol, on the other hand, refers to either methyl or ethyl alcohol. Both of which are generally easy to procure. Drug stores and hardware shops will generally carry these alcohol types. This will make stocking and restocking fuel much easier.
Note that Isopropyl alcohol and other rubbing alcohol types will leave black residue on your cooking surface. So it’s not ideal.
Top Products of 2018 Reviews
Esbit CS985HA 5-Piece Lightweight Alcohol Burner Stove
- Total Weight – 15oz
- Burner Material – Brass
- Cook set Material – Lightweight Anodized Aluminum
- Pot – 470mm & 985mm + lid
- Size: 985ml
Description: The Esibit Lightweight Trekking Cook set is a lightweight and versatile cooking option, great for when out on a backpacking trip. The assembly features a broad, stable stand to cradle the alcohol burner. The materials are sturdy and will last a long period, assuming that they aren’t stepped on accidentally.
It has an advantage over the run of the mill alcohol burner, as this has a flame regulator, allowing greater control over cooking temperature. This folds away nicely for easy storage. The anodized aluminum is easy to wash and clean out.
It takes roughly 5 minutes to boil a cup of water with the Esbit. Not bad at all, considering the many negative preconceived notions about alcohol stoves. It makes no noise whatsoever while cooking. The insides of the pots have markets that indicate the volume inside, this allows you to effectively measure the amounts of what you’re cooking.
In terms of portability, the Esbit does not disappoint. The set comes with two pots 470mm and 985mm 985mm in diameter. Everything, including the pots, holders, and the lid fits inside the large pot for easy carrying. The stove doubles as fuel storage with its screwable top.
The entire assembly fits in a provided mesh bag, making it easy to store in a pack. Another great thing about it is that it’s one purchase for the whole set, and the cooking surfaces are built to suit the stove, eliminating the problems that arise when pots and/or pans aren’t suited to the stove.
The package does not have any glaring faults. Though a few minor ones should be considered. For one thing, anodized aluminum will take some time to cool off. So it takes a few minutes more before you can drink the water you just boiled.
Overall, the Esbit 5 piece lightweight trekking cook set is a solid choice for your next camping trip. What’s great about it is a full cooking set. No separate shopping for cooking surfaces required.
White Box Alcohol Stove
- Weight: 1.02oz
- Constructed from recycled material
- 20 minute burn time
- Side Jets
- Includes, stove, windscreen
- Diameter: 2.25in
- Height: 2.25in
Description: The White Box Alcohol Stove is a great, cost-effective, ultra-simple solution for your lightweight outdoor cooking needs. The first thing worth noting about the White Box Alcohol Stove is the simplicity of use. It’s as straightforward as it gets.
Prime it for a couple of minutes and ignite it. It’s also very lightweight. At just over an ounce in weight, it’s every lightweight backpacker’s dream. The lack of frills makes it ideal for minimalists. In ideal conditions, the stove will take roughly 4-5 minutes to boil 2 cups of water.
It’s also strong enough to carry large pots if ever the need calls for it. The free windscreen also helps in using the stove.
What’s also great about the White Box is that it’s built from recycled materials. For anyone who is conscious about climate change, using the White Box is the next best thing to cutting down a beer can yourself and putting together a DIY alcohol stove.
As with most alcohol stoves, the White Box requires a bit of care when using. The absence of a stand lightens the load on your back. This, however, leads to a stove that’s a bit easy to topple. Assuming that it’s a small pot, then you will probably not have much trouble.
But if you’re using a larger pot, the small diameter of the stove will require a flat surface. That’s a luxury in some locations.
Overall, the White Box Alcohol Stove does what it’s supposed to do. It’s a lightweight stove primarily meant for boiling water and preparing simple meals while you’re out. It’s also a strong option for anyone prepping a bug-out bag. The light weight, quality material and ease of use are all great to have in an emergency setting.
Evernew Titanium Alcohol Stove
- Material: Titanium
- Dimensions: 3.26 x 2.36in (Upper Portion)
- Dimensions: 2.36 x 1.97in
- Comes with DX Stand
- Weight: 1.6oz
Description: The Evernew Titanium Alcohol Stove is a strong, versatile, and rugged lightweight cooking option for backpackers. The two-level design features two sets of jets which create a stronger flame that’s better at focusing heat onto the cooking surface.
The stand can also be used with alternative fuel sources such as wood to cook. This is great if you happened to miscalculate the alcohol amount that you needed to carry.
The Evernew does come with drawbacks. The most glaring of which are probably going to be cost. This makes it prohibitive for those intending to switch from DIY stoves. Also, the stronger flame generated by the stove comes at the cost of fuel burning out a bit faster, so this has to factor into fuel calculations.
Another concern is the fact that it has no snuffer. This wouldn’t normally be a concern on other stoves, however, due to the unusual shape, killing the flame becomes difficult. The fact that you can’t turn off the flame pretty much means you have to wait for the fuel to burn out. That’s an even greater sink on alcohol.
Overall, the Evernew Titanium Alcohol stove is a good buy for anyone who’s particular to highly durable or titanium products. Most of its weaknesses can be overcome with thorough fuel estimation during the pre-hike prep.
Fire-Maple Mini Camping Alcohol Stove
- Material – Brass
- Dimensions – 3.2 x 2.4 in
- Comes with pot support, simmer lid, carry bag
- Burn time : 100ml alcohol / 60minutes
- Weight – 4.9 oz
Description: The Fire-Maple is a little-known, low-cost gas stove option that is a pretty good option if you’re looking to purchase an alcohol stove for your next camping trip. It has a reported burn time of 100ml or 3.38 oz alcohol in one hour.
The stove comes with pot support so the cooking surface doesn’t have to rest directly on top of the stove. A simmer lid allows you to control temperature.
This also potentially saves on fuel as you can pour out unused fuel afterward. Fire-Maple is a lesser-known Chinese brand, hence it may turn off some outdoorsmen, especially those that favor American or European Cookware.
Nevertheless, it makes use of the same technology and science that Is applied in the construction of most alcohol stoves. The free carry bag also allows for easy storage and carrying.
For those scrimping on weight, however, the Fire-Maple Mini Camping Alcohol Stove might not be the ideal option. At 4.9oz it is among the heavier options for alcohol stoves. That is potentially a game-breaker for more weight-conscious campers.
Still, the Fire Maple Mini Camping Alcohol Stove does what it’s supposed to do. Boiling water and heating very basic food is really what it’s all about, pretty much same as other alcohol stoves.
Vargo Triad Titanium Alcohol Stove
- Material – Titanium
- Weight – 1.6oz
- Diameter – 2.5in
- Retractable legs and pot support
- Compact design
- Burn Time at full capacity: 30 minutes
- Fuel Capacity – 15 oz (44ml)
Description: The Vargo Triad Titanium Alcohol Stove is a great option for Titanium cookware enthusiasts. At 1.6oz it can go toe to toe with some of the lightest alcohol stoves anywhere.
The titanium construction provides great resistance to corrosion as well as a high level of durability. The Vargo is a much more rugged piece of cookware than many other alcohol lamps out there.
With it you can get 1/12 cups of water boiling in 7 minutes under optimal conditions. Colder weather and stronger wind can extend this time by a little bit, though. To remedy the potential slowing effect of cold weather, the proper use of the provided windscreen will prove critical to effectively maintaining a flame. Alternatively, you can also use solid fuel tablets with this stove by flipping it upside down.
A good thing about the Vargo Triad is that you can return unused alcohol into your container. Simply pour it back down into the container while using one of the supports as a spout. Though this won’t get 100% of the remaining alcohol, it certainly beats having to let it burn out on its own. Also, you can blow on the fire to extinguish it. Pretty convenient.
This particular model features retractable legs that double as pot supports. This should allow versatility in terms of handling cookware and the surfaces on which you will end up cooking. And while it’s great for making the entire stove compact an easy to fit, the legs at times will do more harm than good.
The legs are potentially unwieldy and have a tendency to spread too far apart for stable use. Their effectiveness will hinge on the pot or cup in use. They are also potentially sharp enough to damage other gear if you aren’t careful.
In terms of heating, some folks generally have trouble with using titanium alcohol stoves as the heat conducting capacity of titanium is lower than aluminum, hence creating a slower burn.
It’s still definitely a good option for outdoor cooking, but anyone other than titanium lovers should probably be wary when purchasing this. Also, it’s on the higher-end of the price scale.
Solo Alcohol Burner – Spirit Alcohol Stove
- Material: Brass
- Weight: 5oz
- Includes; simmer ring, burner, rubber o-ring with twist cap
- Diameter 2.9 in
- Height 1.8 in
Description: The Spirit Alcohol Stove by Solo Stove is a great example of a dependable backpacking alcohol stove. Its brass construction provides a high level of heat conduction, allowing for great utility as a stove.
The simmer ring feature allows for ample control over temperature. The o-ring with twist cap allows storage of unused alcohol. It’s great since it allows you to keep the extra alcohol without bothering to return the fuel to its original container.
Also, it’s more cost-effective than other stoves that all but require fuel to burn out. It utilizes an efficient air flow system that helps create a much more powerful and stable flame.
At 3.5 oz the Solo Alcohol Burner isn’t exactly top of the list when it comes to lightness. It’s also important that you crank the lid tightly. This is because many users have reported deformity in the gaskets of their purchases. Most of these were attributed to the failure to effectively close the lid.
Want more affordable options? Check out our article on DIY camping stoves to find out how easy it is to make one.
Choosing an alcohol stove is definitely a good way to go if you want a lightweight and portable cooking method for your next camping trip. You not only make it lighter for yourself, but you lessen your impact on the environment as well since your cooking apparatus uses renewable fuel.
Picking out the right one is largely a matter of preference and need. But once you pick out the right one, you definitely won’t regret it.
For more safety tips while camping, check out our must-read article on the topic.