Alcohol backpacking stoves are popular with long-distance hikers because they’re inexpensive and lightweight. They’re also a good option for beginners looking to soften the upfront expense of buying backpacking gear. Here are the main reasons why alcohol stoves can be a good option for boiling water and backcountry cooking,
1. Alcohol stoves are inexpensive
Alcohol stoves are very inexpensive and you can easily make your own with just a hole punch and a cat food can.
2. Fuel is readily available
Most people burn denatured alcohol in an alcohol stove (called meths overseas), which you can buy in any drugstore or hardware store, making it very easy to resupply during a hike. This also makes them great for international travel, especially in countries that don’t have outdoor stores that sell specialized fuels. You can also burn grain alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or Heet Gasoline Additive in them which you can buy at many gas stations.
3. Alcohol stoves are lightweight
Most alcohol stoves weigh less than two ounces and you can even make some that only weigh a few grams. The smaller QiWiz alcohol stove shown above only weighs 18g.
4. Alcohol stoves are maintenance free
Most alcohol stoves don’t have any moving parts and never require any maintenance. There are no hoses or pumps or fuel lines that need to be cleaned, maintained, or repaired. If you want to get fancy, you can buy one with a screw-on cap like the classic Trangia, which lets you burn unused fuel at a later time.
5. No special fuel bottle is required
You don’t need to buy a specialized fuel bottle or canister to carry alcohol. You can use any plastic bottle, including used plastic soda bottles, although the Vargo Fuel Bottle is by far the most popular fuel bottle carried by backpackers and thru-hikers.
Alcohol is a lot safer to use than other kinds of backpacking fuel because it won’t flare up into an explosive fireball like white gas stove when you fill a small alcohol stove up and light it. Alcohol stoves are easy to put out by snuffing them out and you won’t reak of gasoline if you spill it on your clothes.
7. Environmentally friendly fuel
The creation and packing of alcohol doesn’t have the same toxic by-products that are created during the manufacture of white gas, isobutane canister gas, or hexamine solid fuel tablets. Alcohol is still made using a natural fermentation process, although on an industrial scale.
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