Lightweight Alcohol Stoves for Backpacking

Hard-core packpackers make it a quest to reduce the weight of their pack load as much as possible. They break the handles off their toothbrushes, and use a single “spork” instead of carrying a separate spoon and fork.

The kind of cooking stoves I am used to for camping are a butane canister stove, and a pumped stove using Coleman fuel (white gasoline), as shown in the photo below. These stoves work fine, but their weight is nontrivial, and some have a lot of moving parts that can malfunction.

Canister Stove and MSR White Gas Stove

I want to get into backpacking again after not having done much for the last decade. With aging and a knee issue, I cannot carry as heavy a load as I used  to, so I have looked into lighter hiking gear. I found that over 50% of those who through-hike the 2200-mile (3500 km) Appalachian Trail use simple stoves that burn alcohol (methanol or ethanol). These stoves typically weigh less than 3 oz. (90 g), have no moving parts, and can be made at home or bought for less than $40. The alcohols used for fuel are usually available at any hardware or automotive store. Two such stoves are shown below:

Gram Weenie Pro and Turbo II-D, lit

Out of curiousity about these stoves, I bought four of them ( Brasslight Turbo II-D, Gram Weenie Pro, Thermojet, Penny Stove) and made one more (the “SuperCat”). They are actually quite interesting from a technical point of view – – you can readily play around with heat and mass transfer to try to improve them. I have posted a detailed review of these five stoves, with more observations on their use, on the Alcohol_Stoves tab at the top of this blog window. Happy trails…

About Scott Buchanan

Ph D chemical engineer, interested in intersection of science with my evangelical Christian faith. This intersection includes creation(ism) and miracles. I also write on random topics of interest, such as economics, theology, folding scooters, and composting toilets, at . Background: B.A. in Near Eastern Studies, a year at seminary and a year working as a plumber and a lab technician. Then a B.S.E. and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Since then, conducted research in an industrial laboratory. Published a number of papers on heterogeneous catalysis, and an inventor on over 100 U.S. patents in diverse technical areas. Now retired and repurposed as a grandparent.
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