Decision: Alcohol Stove

Most of my experience with backpacking stoves comes from my days as a Boy Scout when we used the ‘ol MSR Whisperlite. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great stove, and one that I wouldn’t mind owning myself. It worked well for cooking for small groups and was durable and easy to maintain. And because it uses white gas, it’s great in all weather, even when other stoves won’t work as well due to the cold. However, it’s more stove than I really need. I’m going to be cooking for one, and so I don’t need a super-powerful or versatile contraption. For hiking the AT in 100 days, what I need is light, small, basic. Think, minimalist. Also a consideration: price. I’m a broke recent college grad.

After looking around at alcohol stoves, entertaining the idea of building my own, and briefly considering canister stoves, I decided to buy the Trangia Mini T-28 alcohol stove for about $35. Considering that the price includes a pot, a frying pan, a windscreen, and the legendary Trangia alcohol stove, I considered it a hell of a deal, and the best option for my own personal needs and wants.

Now Papa Goodling, my father, has built and tested and tested and re-built and obsessed over many different alcohol stove configurations. The reason? Alcohol stoves are really cool. They are super-duper minimalist. They burn denatured alcohol, which is easy to find, renewable, and clean-burning.  And you can make them yourself out of aluminum cans.

So what’s the downside? Well, they aren’t very powerful. The instructions in my Trangia said that it would boil a liter of water in 10-15min. The Whisperlite can do that in under four minutes. They also aren’t very good in cold weather, and they need careful wind-screening to be effective.

Part of the appeal of buying a “system” where the stove, pot, and windscreen work in concert is that this will (hopefully) be the most efficient configuration for fuel use and heat transfer, minimizing waste and the weight of the fuel I will have to carry. It’s very light. Also, the fact that everything nests together is excellent for packing into an already crowded backpack.

So now that I ordered it, I will give you a “grand-tour”, complete with pictures of me firing it up, in the next few days when it arrives.

So, keep an eye out for that, I guess. Or whatever.




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