Friday, June 26, 2009

Setting Things On Fire.

Before I describe my current stove, a little disclosure of my personal history with stoves might help to explain my stove addiction. Being a typical heterosexual type male I’ve always enjoyed setting things on fire.

My first stove was a Coleman multi-fuel I picked up somewhere when I was a teenager. It would burn un-leaded gas and had a little pump on the side to pressurize the tank. All the elements for a proper disaster were in place. Teenager? Check. Gasoline? Check. Matches? Check. Device to spray gasoline into the air? Check.

To this day the hair on my left hand grows in thicker than the hair on my right. Much of my first attempt to light it is a blur, but I do remember kicking the little metal fireball away from my camp-site and into the woods then spending some time stomping out the fire. But I still used it for a few years with only the occasional mini-inferno.

Next I moved on to a tiny German-made butane stove that would easily fit into a pocket. The fuel was expensive and hard to find. I soon lost the German stove and replaced it with a Primus stove that worked great but was very noisy. Pressurize gas stoves are expensive to fuel, the canisters end up in landfills and they sound like little jet engines. The noise seems to take away from the back-to-nature experience.

I tried a wood burning stove with a battery powered blower underneath. It worked pretty well and was a move in the right direction, but a bit on the heavy side. Burning wood was appealing, fuel was everywhere and free, but rain is common in the mountains and a few experiences of eating dry/uncooked noodles led me to look for something more reliable.

On to alcohol; my current favorite. I have a couple of Trangia stoves and love their simplicity, affordability and reliability. I’ve also been making Pepsi can stoves that weigh and cost nothing. Wood and grain alcohol is environmentally safe (I think) and can be found in any hardware, auto parts or liquor store. The only drawback is the invisible flame which can easily burn the bejesus out of you.

We’re trying esbit tabs and twigs on our next trip. We are trying to go as light as possible and space is an issue as well. With the esbit tabs we can take exactly what is needed for each day. I’m looking forward to trying something new.



  1. That was Funny a bit like my Experience Years ago in Wicklow. We were Camped outside Wicklow Town on a Campsite and I had a Brass Primus Stove. It was a bit Eccentric and sometimes Hard to Light. It ran on Paraffin/Kerosene and you had to Prime it with Metholated Spirits in a little Dish just under the Burner and it had a Pressure Valve to keep the Pressure going in it once Lit. The rest of the Gang went off for a Walk and I was trying to make something to Eat. As Hard as I tried it just would not Work,I put on to much Meths in the End and when Lit the Whole thing went on fire in a big Whoosh. There was a Three Foot High Flame and my Friends were coming back and they Burst their Sides Laughing at first then got Worried I might have got Burned. In the End some English Lads who were Camping Nearby gave us a Lend of their Camping Gas Stove which was great. we got one of those ourselves this was back in 1973-5 as we badly needed something and didnt trust the Primus to Light. When I got Home and Tried it the Primus of course it Worked Perfectly and for an Hour or two, Sods Law or Murphies Law.

    I still have that Old Museum Piece but have not used it since. I sometimes use the Camping Gas Stove.
    I have seen those Coleman Stoves in the Camping Shops and have Heard good things about them in Magazine Write ups.I will have a look at the Trangia Stove it looks interesting.

  2. I wonder what kind of liability protection the stove manufacturers carry. There must be a certain percentage of people each year who blow themselves up. I’ve come close a time or two myself.


  3. Great Post! Fun to read, I always knew you were a closet pyro-maniac. Regarding stoves, I have camped with Whisper Lites, Trangia, butane-something-or-others, and stoves so old they don't even have names, they just leak fuel and burn hand hairs. I have used a coleman stove for many years. I screw on a one burner top to a small propane cylinder and wa-la, ready to cook. It is bulky, heavy, not environmentally friendly, but I love it. I can only eat raw noodles, un-cooked spam and fresh caught trout raw so many times until I ditch my other stoves and go for the big, ugly-reliable coleman. Hope your new stove experiement leaves you with a full belly of cooked food.

  4. Mmm, spam.

    Hope to join you for a day or two on the BRP. Raquel will call or email with details.