About the author

Tim Moss

Tim Moss has supported over 100 expeditions across all seven continents. He has climbed new mountains, crossed a desert on foot and recently cycled 13,000 miles around the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society London and a Guinness World Record Holder. He aims to encourage more people to live adventurously. Read more...

One Comment

  1. 1

    Dosh

    Hi Tim,

    Great post, but I feel you didn’t quite do justice to alcohol stoves. Please allow me to add my 2 cents on the subject. During my current cross-continental, two-and-a-half year tour I have used a multifuel stove (Primus Omnifuel), a stove-top canister stove (Kovea Supalite titanium), and an alcohol stove (Trangia, first as part of the 27-series cook set and then with Trangia Triangle and a single 1.75L pot).

    I hated using the multifuel with petrol. A faff to get going and always smelly and messy. Between England and Iran I think I only used petrol half a dozen times; the rest of the time I used it with canisters. Sometimes in countries where they were only available in large towns I would have to carry more than one. This was bulky and heavy. I also always felt bad about having to chuck the canisters, as they are not easy to recycle. I wish someone would invent refillable ones. As you said, for ease of cooking and cleanliness they are the best.

    The tiny, 60g Kovea was great. Worked fine with the 1.4L pot I had at the time. I didn’t have balance issues. Wind could be a problem at times.

    When I got to Australia I bought the Trangia because there were often vast distances between towns and often the towns would be small, without a camping store. I could always find alcohol fuel in any hardware store and sometimes in supermarkets or automotive shops. The same has been true in the US.

    There are a couple of myths commonly propagated about alcohol stoves. First that they burn cleanly. In fact it very much depends on the fuel you can get and even in the best case they aren’t nearly as clean as gas. In Australia and New Zealand the meths burned so sootily that my pot and hands were always covered in the stuff. At first this was annoying, but eventually I learned to live with it; you just need to keep your pot(s) in a plastic bag to stop soot getting on anything it would otherwise touch. In the US, denatured alcohol burns a lot cleaner.

    Another myth is that it’s an ultralight option. Well it could be, if you are only going bikepacking for a few days and can decant the exact amount of fuel you are using into an appropriately sized receptacle. If on a long multi-country tour, the reality is that fuel is generally only available in 1L bottles, so you are carrying up to 1kg of fuel plus the weight of your fuel bottle. The ultralight pop-can style stoves don’t withstand much wind; the Trangia sets do, but they are heavy and bulky. I’ve found the Trangia burner in conjunction with the Trangia Triangle (a copy of the Clikstand) together with a foldable aluminium windscreen is the best middle ground.

    Lastly on the negative side, alcohol doesn’t work so great in sub zero temperatures either. It’s ok when you can get it started but lighting it is difficult. I usually end up heating the burner (while closed) with some fuel in it with a lighter until the alcohol warms up and then lighting it.

    On the positive side, fuel availability in most countries is almost as good as petrol. One less thing to plan or stress about when going remote. You didn’t mention that canisters, once they run low have less pressure and lose some efficacy. Alcohol doesn’t have this problem. It’s true that it burns cooler and contains less energy per gram than gas, but I’ve never found it too slow. In fact it burns just right for the sustained simmering or sautéing of the kind you need for most camp cooking.

    The burner + Clikstand/Triangle combo is quite small and light. When you add fuel to the equation and compare it with the weight of a canister stove and fuel, I don’t think there’s much between them.

    The Trangia + Clikstand/Triangle is a little more wind resistant than your average canister stove, although a canister stove is the only one I would dare to use in the vestibule of my tent, which is a consideration in foul weather.

    In the end I’ve found the alcohol stove my preferred option for multi-country touring. Ultimately it depends on your style of touring. Personally I like to seek out remote places and can’t rely on canister availability. There may be some regions where alcohol isn’t available. For example I haven’t toured in Africa, possibly it might be a non-starter there. If I were doing a short tour (a couple of weeks or less) I’d take a canister stove.

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