$60 – $120 per Gallon Camp Stove Fuel

A discussion of camping & stoves broke out on two different threads, here:


and here:


Mostly stimulated by two things. My “cleaning and sorting” old gear, and a question about “What would you do in an event like the 6 months power outage in Puerto Rico?”

Well, as the East Coast is getting their 4th or so Snow Bomb Nor’Easter, and the West Coast is either under persistent rains (near the coast / central valley) or snow dump by feet (Sierra Nevada), and the UK & EU are having exceptional storms & snow too, it’s likely timely to think about your “Preparedness” stuff for lighting, cooking, and heat.

In this thread I’m going to raise a particular point about cost of fuel. Feel free to bring up other points.

So I ordered a very tiny ( 25 grams wt.) stove that sits on the small Butane or Butane / Propane mix canisters. The fuel comes in various size canisters, from 100 gram to 200 gram to 250 to 500 gram. (As a kilogram is about 2.2. pounds, a 500 gram cartridge has 1.1 pounds in it, so “about a pound”) Nice when you must pack things 10 miles before morning coffee. Not so nice if stuck in your house for a month waiting for snow to clear and electricity to return.

The stove is supposed to arrive in the next 8 hours, so an update when it gets here and I run a test or two.

I did not order any fuel with the stove since Amazon sells the fru-fru brands at about $20 / cartridge and Walmart has the 250 gram one for $5.47 and the 500 gram for $10.00 “out the door” including California 9% sales tax. 1/2 price sounds better to me… So I went to the local Walmart. They were sold out of the 250 gram ones (Coleman brand, made in France). I bought one of the 500 gram despite wanting the smaller lighter one. It’s OK, I’ll get smaller later for my bug-out / get-home bag. This one will be used in testing, playing, whatever.

But this caused me to think about something I’d not said on the other threads. The issue of fuel cost. Yes, you get folks saying “white gas is cheaper”. But folks avoid putting a number on it. I’m going to use some “rough estimates” to put a number on it. Your local values will be different, and the actual constants for things like BTU / lb ought to be used ( I’ve done it before); but at the magnitudes involved don’t change much.

Locally, regular unleaded gasoline is running $3.20 / gallon. Out of State it can get lower (down to $2 / gallon in Texas some times). That’s your baseline low cost fuel.

White Gas costs more, but it depends on the volume and how bought. $20 / gallon for the rip-off places. $10 at some better ones. Down to $5 / gallon can sometimes. Better fuel than unleaded gasoline, but best bought after some shopping.

Propane torch canisters were going for $6 at Walmart. They hold about a pound. There’s roughly 6.xx lbs / gallon of gasoline and most hydrocarbons are about the same BTU / lb. So using that to convert, we’ve got about $36 / gallon of gasoline equivalent.

(Folks who are afflicted with Metric Only mental straight jackets can just ignore the units and jump to the comparison ratios; or convert the units. Joules / kg don’t cut it for me. I’ve done it in chem class, but it just doesn’t connect to my intuitive grasper…)

Now that butane canister: At $10 “out the door” and also “about a pound”, that’s about $60 / GGE (Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent) or up to $120 / GGE for higher priced outlets.

Now clearly you are paying for the packaging and convenience. I’m willing to pay $5 for a steel sealed canister that can live in my backpack for years and work on demand, no leaks. I’m not willing to pay $60 / gallon for general cooking fuel used on a regular basis at home. Use case matters.

Now a new stove to use that $60 / gallon fuel costs about $10 (low end) and up to about $100 (very high end) at Amazon. At the $10 price, you can see that a couple of uses of a lower cost fuel pays for a new stove. Thus some of us accumulate various stoves as prices and use cases shift. I’m likely going to order 2 more stoves “just because”. Another one that uses those expensive canisters (but has a built in peizo igniter so no worries about wet matches in my “bug out” bag) and a little bit of cut sheet stainless steel that folds up into a miniature wood stove. The wood stove uses “found fuel” or charcoal briquettes. At $10 for the bare stove or $20 with an optional “alcohol burner”, it can pay for itself with just one or two rounds of using it (avoiding one $10 fuel canister…). Charcoal in big bags is one of the cheapest fuels available and this thing runs on one or two briquettes, so very cheap. (I’ll leave it for others to compute that one).

FWIW, it’s been a while since I bought a gallon of alcohol. It ranges from $2.85 locally for E85 (don’t know if it would be too hazardous in an alcohol stove, but easy to separate the alcohol – just add a bit of water) to about $5 / gallon at the race track to about $10-20 / gallon in cans at the hardware store (“shellac thinner”). Clearly too it’s a lot cheaper than the butane canisters, though more expensive than gasoline. Still, a single gallon pays for the stove.

Then there is Kerosene. Going for $5/gallon at the pump. I paid something like $10/gallon for a plastic jug at a Walmart in Arizona. More expensive than gasoline, but a bit safer and easier to store / transport. You can get it down about $3 / gallon at airports (jet fuel) but it can have a lot of airport tax in it.

Now look at those $/gallon ranges.

That explains a whole lot about why folks put up with the “pump to make it go” stoves that burn kerosene, white gas, or unleaded gasoline (and clean the jets more often). IF you use them regularly, the cost savings is VERY significant.

At the other extreme, a stove that will MAYBE be used once to test it, then stored in an emergency bag for a decade, has little fuel cost to worry about and you will NOT be buying a gallon of fuel anyway. So popping $5 to $10 for a fuel cartridge that is light weight (and that you will be moving around for a decade…) is quite a good deal. It’s the very light weight and reliability (non-leaking sealed can) that you are buying.

Then for folks living “off the grid” and using several gallons of fuel a year (or month…) the only real solutions are kerosene, gasoline, or bulk deliveries of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas – mostly propane but in fact a mix of some butane and occasionally bits of other gasses). Fuel cost dominates mostly, but also convenience, safety, and local availability matter too. Some placed don’t have bulk propane delivery. Kerosene stores better and is much safer than gasoline; though a bit harder to make the stoves work (preheating and such) yet they work longer than gasoline without clogging. Gasoline ubiquitous and cheap while working very well. Most folks use White Gas so they get the clog free use of kerosene unless there’s a need to run unleaded in an emergency. Swapping cost for near zero maintenance.

Now, in a “6 months no power” situation, a little Coleman 533 Dual Fuel single burner stove that runs on White Gas / Coleman fuel OR unleaded gasoline is just dandy. Especially for folks without stored fuel where they might need to siphon it from a car or run to the local (or remote…) gas station with a couple of gallon can. Few stations sell kerosene.

This is why I have one of them.

IF you store some fuel, kerosene lasts much longer in storage and is safer (very low volatiles). It works well in a stove that’s mostly just some large wicks and a burner head. Cheap, but large. For a long time for the family I had one of them and a 5 gallon can of kerosene stored outside the house. Now that we’re down to “just the two of us”, I don’t really need that much anymore, so generally looking to use up the kerosene and pack the kit for storage. (Easy for me to use up 5 gallons of kerosene as it runs really well in my Diesel car ;-)

At this point, for just 2 of us, keeping a gallon of gasoline is easier than dealing with the storage of a big can of kerosene and fussing with kerosene stove starting.

In prior years, the use of kerosene or gasoline “Coleman” lanterns was the standard in base camp / emergency lighting via fuels. Now, with the advent of LED camp lights, it really is silly to burn fuel for light. A large Maglight flashlight can run for a one to two hundred hours of great white light. A couple of sets of batteries and you have weeks of practical use.

However… the fuel based lanterns put out a LOT of heat. About a kW. There’s even a company that builds a stove surface on top of one as a stove with free light. I think of mine as a small space heater with free light. If you live in horribly cold country, a “real” kerosene heater puts out a whole lot more heat, but for folks needing just one room kept just a bit above freezing in modest climates, you will find it a nice option.

In Conclusion

The fuel cost often dominates the decision as to what stove or light is best for a given use case.

Yet at other times, particulars of the storage or weight of the fuel dominate the decision.

Notice that in neither case does “cost of the stove” matter much. There are many different stoves at many different price points for any given fuel type. Weight and reliability being large factors in the cost of the stove, fuel type only a little in that liquid fuels need a pump while pressurized gas just needs a valve.

So folks tend to buy stoves for a use case, and when the use case changes (weight, storage, quantity of fuel used per year, size of cooking to be done) buy a different stove and a different fuel.

And that is why I have a big old heavy clunky boring Coleman unleaded gasoline stove for the house / quake kit; but have a few light camping / backpacking stoves for various “getting home” and “bug out” bags and car bags for spouse et. al. Some stoves are just a lot easier to use for a novice.

Now, in the case of a 6 month Aw Shit with little hope of resupply of fuel, you need more ability to use “found fuel”, and that largely is going to be wood and plant products. For that, I generally expect to use a simple small sheet metal BBQ, or my Pile Of Bricks stove. But for folks not interested in using those kinds of things, there are very small wood burning backpacking stoves. Very cheap on fuel, using just a few small sticks / meal (link in prior postings above). This can also mean very little weight to carry in a “bug out bag” and it can serve as a “back up” to your fuel driven stoves if you should run out of fuel or the fuel leaks oway. For $10 to $15 for the stove and about 7 ounces of weight, a big gain for nearly no input.

Now a clairvoyant might know which of these use cases they will experience, in advance, and only buy what’s needed for that case, but for the rest of us, we have to guess and hope. Yet at some points in life, we can know what things we re not going to confront. I know, for example, that I’m never again going to voluntarily hike 10 miles into the wilderness and spend a weekend in the rain without a tent. (Did that once, never again…) Similarly, I’m not going to be driving over mountains in bad conditions unprepared, nor going “coast to coast” with near no extra money on back roads in bad conditions. Now I’m more interested in high speed getting there on major interstates with lots of facilities using reliable cars. Similarly again, I’m no longer responsible for a couple of kids (they have grown up) nor will I be daily 50 to 100 miles from home during all work days and many weekends, needing a major “get home” bag post quake.

The point? You need to look at your circumstances to decide what you need and why. For me, I now need a “Home for spouse and me” kit, and a “get me home from nearby” most of the time kit in the car. Only occasionally will I be 100 miles from home, and alone. So a lighter “get me home” backpack, and a “toss in the car for trips only” bag or box. The rest is already at home. As none of it will really be used much, the actual fuel costs are irrelevant. In a major disaster, I’m ready at home with gasoline Coleman stove and “found fuel” POB stove already.

The rest of “whatever” I’ve accumulated can now be packed and stored or given “to the kids”. I still ought to have one stove the spouse can use without much experience, just in case I’m far far away when the next quake or other problem hits, but it doesn’t need to support a whole family for a month.


While typing this, the Amazon delivery came. I’ve unboxed the stove. It’s about the size of my thumb when folded and comes in a tiny cloth bag on a card / plastic bubble over. It was initially a bit hard to open (the legs have bumps on them to friction fit against the mount and they ‘catch’ at first. With use that ought to loosen a bit.

Opened, it is sized just about right for a Sierra Club cup or similar “billy”. Length of my little finger from pot support leg tip to tip, or 2 3/4 inches / 6.7 cm tip to tip. Draw an equilateral triangle 6.7 cm on a side, that’s your support surface. 3.75 cm inside end to inside end for the minimal cup size it will support.

I’m going to spend a little while making a cup of coffee on it and be back to post results here:


Screws on the tank easily (make sure you turn the valve off first). Lights easily with a match. Nice strong blue flame.

Put a full sized tea kettle on it with 8 ounces of water (from the cold tap about 56 F) and balanced OK if carefully.

About 1.5 minutes later, it was whistling. I *think* it was about 1 minute to the start of the boil with plenty of steam but not yet whistling. Hard to say as I was using a digital clock to time it and no second hand.

Now this was without being full on.

I adjusted the flame to high-not-full so the flames would “only” reach to the outer rim of the tea kettle.

The flame gets some slightly yellow streaks where it passes the pot support legs. They glowed nearly orange in the fire, but cooled to black where they touched the pot. This thing could melt aluminum if it dries out… I’m glad it’s titanium! I’m also thinking a 4 inch diameter titanium cup (or similar) is in my future…

I have no idea how many “one minute burns” are in a single tank of fuel, but it will be a lot.

Flame regulation is good and smooth. Sometime later I’ll try a frying pan (small!) and a pot at simmer.

Only “issue” I can see is that it’s possible the stove stem / adjuster could get hot, especially if enclosed in a wind screen. Given how small the stove is, you hand WILL be close to the flames when adjusting the burn rate. I didn’t have any issue on a counter at waist height, but on the ground it could be harder. Then again, get it right when you first put the pot on it, and you won’t need to adjust much ;-)

Well, I’m very pleased with this First Fire.

Update 2:

From the card it was packed on:

Material:  Titanium Magnalium Copper
Net Weight: 25 grams
Unfolded Size: 3.22 x 2.37 inches
Folded Size:  1.46 x 2.05 inches
Combustion Power: 1940 W
Gas Consumption: 140 g/hr

Boil 1 L Water Need 2 Minutes 58 seconds

So at 140 g/hr a 250 g tank ought to give 1.78 hours of burn which ought to heat 107 cups of water to the simmer / boil. Used to make “freeze dried reheat” meals, that’s a lot of meals. Even allowing for some “sellers puff”, you are looking at something like a couple of weeks of meals or coffee / soup with modest care.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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79 Responses to $60 – $120 per Gallon Camp Stove Fuel

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    Nice to hear you like it. I am waiting on delivery some some similar toys myself.

    Some random observations:

    K-1 Kerosene here in Colorado at Lowes, goes for about $39 / 5 gallon.
    Another useful fuel to carry in your car for a get home pack is one of the small cans of charcoal lighter. It is basically a light end of kerosene, not quite naptha but a bit lighter than standard kerosene. It will allow you light a fire with just about any fuel even really wet wood. Good news is that cut of the distillation curve near kerosene has just about the lowest ignition temperature of any common fuel so can be easily ignited with all sorts of random spark makers and hot things. Ignition temperature is between 400 – 450 deg F.

    Coleman camp stove fuel is now going for about $12 a gallon in the gallon can size but being a sealed gallon can will keep for a very long time if unopened.

    Nice thing about the small gas stoves and to a limited extent gasoline and kerosene stoves, is you can use a spent bic style lighter as a spark lighter and still get them to light (with perhaps a singed finger if you are not quick).

    Another good thing to keep in your “get home pack” is a good old fashioned $1.50 church key can opener. You can use one to turn a common tin can into an expedient camp stove, by putting some openings at the bottom of any random tin can and some holes around the top to vent the flame when a pot is on the top of the can. (screw drivers and other tools can also be used but the church keys make it a quick and painless process on standard steel cans with rolled seams on both ends. The modern cans which have no crimped on bottom formed with deep draw technology so they are seamless cans (especially if aluminum) may not work as well, but a bit of effort you can use most anything sharp and hard to make the necessary perforations. Nice thing about the old tin cans is they are literally free since you already paid for them when you bought their contents. The cans that are used for LaChoy canned Chicken Chow Mein are just about perfect for this use. The large deep one can be fashioned into a work able expedient stove and the smaller tin is just about perfect size for a single serving of tea, soup or what ever you have to heat up.

    You will have to tinker with it a bit to fabricate a grill top out of something like coat hanger wire, so the small can sits on the stove top securely, but the size is just right for some other tin can sizes to telescope inside to make a nested cookware set that costs essentially nothing other than your time playing with it.

    At one time I used to carry an empty large tin can with another smaller tin can inside it, wrapped in some waxed paper (kindling) in my small get home kit and inside that some utensils and a ziplock bag with a couple “easy light” type charcoal biscuits in it. Any found random sticks and half a charcoal biscuit would make a fire good enough to heat a meal.

    The absolutely best fire starter tinder you can find is pocket lint (or better yet some dryer lint in a zip lock bag) with just a bit of Vaseline or chap stick or motor oil on it. The very fine fibers will ignite with the most feeble spark you can imagine.

  2. Fred from Canuckistan says:

    My emergency kit is a homemade HoBo stove and a couple of bags 20 lb bags of wood pellets.

    Really cheap, way easy to o use.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    Heard on the news that Trump had approved some odd $Billion of tariffs on Chinese products, so figuring anything Chinese might go up in price, I’ve ordered that wood/alcohol stove AND one of the gas canister stoves for $10- that was in your link.

    I’m pretty sure that is enough to let me lighten my various major “kits”.

    Car Kit to get the piezo gas burner and small fuel canister, plus the wood stove. So whatever / wherever; I’m good to go. Backpack to get the little 25 gram job and a smallest fuel canister, with a super-dinky titanium fuel tablet stove that I already have. That way both kits have “something” from the solid fuel class if for God Only Knows what reason the fuel canister vents (like August in Phoenix in the trunk in the sun.)

    Everything else goes into the house kit or storage.

    I think that’ll be about right.

    FWIW, I’ve found that birthday candles make a nice easy kindling. Stick one in some small stuff and light it with a Bic lighter. Keeps well in a small plastic bag. Even if they melt a little, still work.

    For about 5 years I had a fuel bottle (about a quart) of gasoline in the rear side pocket of my Honda. Useful for fire starting AND getting 10 miles down the road (in that car). A good fuel bottle stays sealed rather well.

    I save old BBQ lighters for stove lighting. About $3 last time I bought one. When the butane runs out I keep them as a nice free piezo sparker.

    I played with the tin can stoves for a while. They work well, but as I have other stove redundancy never saw the need for one. I do carry a small collapsible (trombone style) stainless steel grill. I figure if I’m reduced to scrounging a stove, I’ll do a small ‘3 rocks’ or maybe 4… version and use the grill on it. Pretty much everywhere has some rocks around. At least here… in the land of no snow ;-)

  4. pouncer says:

    “birthday candles make a nice easy kindling”

    Get the ones with a wire woven into the wick that gets hot, and so re-ignites a new flame when the wind, or a kid’s breath, blow the old flame out.

  5. Techeditor says:

    What would I do for cooking for 6 months w/o power? Schwartz / Perfection wick kerosene stove, 2 burner. Either vintage or new. Doesn’t matter. Both work the same and new parts fit the old ones too. I have found it is cheaper to restore an old one than purchase a new one. My 2-burner is a 1957.
    I also have a blue plastic 55 gal drum with clear Kero @ $3.39 per gal. at a local gas station. Never use the pink swill!
    I don’t mess with the fussy pressure stoves. The wick stoves are the simplest and easiest to use. 8K btu per burner. They also come in 3 & 4 burner models with some having a built in oven.

  6. Larry Ledwick says:

    Hmm birthday candles – very good idea!

    Like I mentioned in a previous post I always keep a roll of paper towels in the car for things like cleaning windows etc. A small bit torn off a paper towel and daubed with a bit of motor oil off the dip stick then rolled up into a wad also makes fine little fire pellet to get things going.

    Once you start spending some time wondering about all the different methods to get a fire, for survival or just comfort, in a modern world, especially if you are anywhere near cars you really have a near endless supply of options, limited only by your imagination and mechanical ability.

    Even a car battery so dead it won’t turn the starter over or do more than make interior lights glow weakly is still capable of making a spark if you have anything conductive you can use to bridge the battery posts. Add a fuel tank the even if empty has several quarts of fuel in it, and an oil pan with several quarts of oil you have a built in supply of fire starters if you are anywhere near a car.

    In an emergency where folks leave broken down cars parked with the hood open you have access to every thing you need right there.

    Even if the car’s hood is closed, most cars have some oily goop on the bottom of the engine and transmission you can get to with anything absorbent for a bit of accelerant to boost the flammability of what ever you have at hand. Add to that stuff you can scrounge from road side trash (plastic bottles, old McDonald’s bags or greasy french fry or pizza boxes, those flimsy light weight plastic shopping bags if twisted up into a tight little roll they burn like a candle if you have an open flame to ignite them. Same for many candy wrappers.

    Just so many possibilities but most people don’t spend any time thinking about it.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Fred from Canuckistan:

    One thing I’ve learned is that imagination is far more important to “surviving the Aw Shit” than fancy gear. Your “hobo stove” and wood pellets is a great example.

    In a similar vein, for food, I’ve told the spouse (and some others) that if there is a flash of news that some horrible event that will lead to months of chaos, immediately head to the nearest bulk groceries store and buy a couple of very large bags of beans and rice. One pound per person per day. So if you buy 25 lbs of each, you have a 50 day supply of basic calories and protein.

    We also always keep a bottle of multiple vitamins, but if you don’t, try to have a few hundred pills worth on hand. As long as your basic vitamins & minerals are met, you can go a long time on just beans and rice.

    So that’s about $50 for 50 days. Pretty darned cheap, and after 50 days you’re well ahead of just about everyone else.

    Most of the times I’ve had some surprise hit, the particulars did not exactly fit the gear I had at hand. Figuring out how to adapt mattered more than the gear. Having a lot of gear is just to give you more options in how you can improvise.

    The best training I ever had was a book called “Outdoor Survival Skills” by Larry Dean Olson.

    It basically takes the POV that in the Stone Age folks managed to do OK, so figure out what their tech was. He taught a class at BYU in Utah where the final exam was being dropped into the desert in the middle of nowhere, barefoot, and walking out. Basic skills were things like identifying water sources, edible plants, making sandals from woven plant parts, napping stones into tools.

    The key takeaway was that you are surrounded by resources. Everything is a resource. Your job is to figure out / learn how to use it.

    Ever since that time I’ve realized that if I don’t have a knife, I can make one. If I’m without shoes, I can weave some. If I need some food, I’m surrounded by it. (right now its mustard in bloom, 2 months ago it was a tree full of tangelos, etc.) It’s a very comforting realization.

    A screw driver is a dirk too. A tire is shoes and fuel, depending. A tree can be food, shelter, clothes, walking stick, weapons, etc. etc. You just need to map what you have to what you need. So a tin can is a stove, or a water carrier, or a WiFi antenna reflector, or…

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Just did a test with my Trangia methanol stove (same 8 oz cold tap water in tea kettle) and got:

    Boil in 5 minutes, whistle in 6.

    So about twice as fast as the Sterno stove to the boil, and nearly 3 x as fast as the Sterno stove with cheap methanol gel.

    Yet a full 1/5 the speed of the pressurized butane $14 Titanium stove.

    So some quick conclusions:

    The Sterno stove is just BARELY adequate to simmer water, if you wait a long time , to make prepackaged cocoa, oatmeal (instant), or freeze dried meals. Not suited to making beans or rice from dry goods. OK for heating regular canned goods (i.e. ‘hot table’ or chafing dish cooking).

    It is well suited to use by folks with little skill as it takes being able to pry the lid off and light a match, plus it’s nearly impossible to burn your meal and there’s nothing to adjust, really.

    The Titanium Gas Stove is something I’d be thrilled to have on a bare mountainside and needing to melt snow or fry a chunk of meat, even if the wind is blowing. It will cook or melt anything you need to cook or melt. Sound is noticeable but not really bad. At below about -5 C / 23 F it will start to labor unless you warm the fuel (using butane propane mix), but insulated from wind and snow the stove probably warms the cartridge enough to keep it going.

    In between is the methanol Trangia. No moving parts and nothing to fix, it makes a burner pattern by evaporating methanol in the trapped space in the walls, so about a 1/2 ” water gauge pressure at most. So the flame is NOT being pushed out with great pressure. Wind will be an issue, so sheltered location or carry a portable wind screen. Works well on tables in a park as it is quiet and subtle. Hot and fast enough to cook most things, but if you need to make a quart of water by melting snow it will take a long time and lots of fuel. It is dead quiet, so good for areas where disturbance is to be avoided.

    Both the gas stove and the Trangia take a bit of understanding of how they work to make them go. You must be able to screw things together, take off caps, and know where to put what fuel. Neither is particularly hard, though.

    All tests were done in my kitchen (i.e. indoors) and I didn’t die or get light headed. I did have the kitchen window open about 6 inches for ventilation (since I’m prone to sneezing if the doggy air is not exited from the house…)

    All were run on a normal non-stone (manufactured plastic like counter material) counter top without incident or issue.

    In a long power outage, I can make any of them work for meals and hot beverages, but I’d rather have the gas stove first, and the methanol spirit burner (Trangia / Esbit / etc.) a close second. The Sterno stove only if nothing else is around or “management” can be told it’s OK it’s like their chafing dishes, but “management” refuses to allow a real stove…(applicable to “on the road” circumstances).

    in short, I like both the gas stove and the Trangia / spirit burner, while I tolerate the Sterno stove, impatiently.

    I’m going to try spooning some Sterno Stuff onto the bottom of an overturned empty can and see if I can get the burn rate up by removing the limit of the hole in the top of the can. It may be that just treating it like packet gel, it’s not so limited. (Though spill / fire risk goes up. So I’ll test it sitting on a cookie sheet…)


    Well, that was interesting. Put an empty can upside down and used the bottom for a fuel platform. Took a regular dinning set teaspoon and got two very heaping spoons of the methanol gel plopped on top. Lit it, applied my standard test of 8 oz cold tap water in a regular kettle.

    Boiled in 5 minutes, soft whistle in 6. About 1/2 to 2/3 the fuel burned when I took the kettle off.

    I could see the wires of the grid / kettle surface glowing cherry red over hottest parts of the flame and it makes a bit of noise as it burns (sizzle evaporating sound with a touch of burner roar). The aluminum sides of the stove get hot to the touch (probably not good long run)

    What this does demonstrate, though, is that it’s the can that’s limiting the speed of heating of the Sterno stove. That hole in the top is the throttle. A custom sized burner cup could be made to get better performance, while staying under a heat load too high for the stove. (Though I doubt it’s worth the trouble. Just one of those things to remember if you ever have a crate of Sterno and need to cook meals for a bunch of folks fast…)

  9. R. de Haan says:

    Best solution to remain grid independent in case of emergencies is a 6000 liter propane tank that allows you to heat your home with a HR Combi Kettle for heating and instant hot water, cooking, fill gas bottles and refuel your LPG converted gasoline car in times fuel stations can’t deliver.
    You can buy these tanks including a hand pump to fuel up your car or propane bottles in any size as long as they have the same standard filling cap and safety vent. For light weight you can buy aluminum gas bottles in different sizes.
    You can install the tank underground.
    If you install a 100 liter gas tank in your car, you can fuel up 60 times….
    There is no better prepper solution, except for second or third 6000 liter tank if you have the space.
    A friend of mine has a Landrover V8 running on gasoline and propane.
    It has a fixed 120 liter propane tank build in, two removable 100 liter propane feeder tanks and a full gasoline tank allowing him to make a 2500 km plus trip without refueling.
    Cooking or grilling on propane is the best way to go.

  10. R. de Haan says:

    California based supplier of propane tanks and pumps: http://teecoproducts.com/

  11. Larry Ledwick says:

    What do you mean by a “regular kettle”? I assume a standard tea kettle with the self closing lid and the whistle opening to tell you when it is at a boil?

    If so would be interesting to see if the large surface area of the kettle might be limiting your heating? When on search and rescue we found in cold conditions even minor changes in the configuration could make a big difference in times to heat water.

    For example a small metal cup covered with aluminum foil to limit evaporation might cut the heat loss enough due to its much smaller surface area to bring the cup to a boil fast than it would in the kettle.

    I have some stainless camping cups which have a fitted stainless lid with a few small holes in it.

    stainless camping cup with lid

    I might try that with. Here at high altitude, both lower available oxygen and lower vapor pressure of water at boiling point might make my results skewed compared to yours.

    The other option would be to fire up two sterno cans under the same tea kettle and see if the higher heat input, might actually save fuel by cutting time to boil in half or better.

  12. Sera says:

    I use this one…


    Takes about one minute to boil 8 ounces, even if it’s windy- but I have not tried propane, just butane.

  13. beththeserf says:

    Gas bottle, camper stove, axe, candles, matches, cans of sardines,
    rice in glass, baked beans, vitamin pills, mega vitamin c, and importantly,
    Famous Grouse whiskey. :)

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    Great solution. Doesn’t work in my suburban home with piped natural gas. (Won’t get a permit to have a large propane tank). My Florida Friend has a large propane tank … but not propane car (yet ;-) of about 3 foot diameter and 6 feet long as a guess.

    In my future is an RV with propane appliances. I’m hoping to get a few acres of private “campgrounds” in the boonies. Adding a large propane tank would make a lot of sense.

    In farm country, lots of folks had “tanks on stilts” for Diesel for their farm gear. I’d be tempted to put a smaller one of those in place for my Diesel car. Or just get a 55 gallon drum and a drum pump.

    You can do a whole lot more in the country than the ‘burbs.


    Same kind of tea kettle my Mum used 60 years ago and I’ve seen every year since. Your basic tin pot of about 9 inches diameter, handle from edge to spout, flip up spout with whistle. Found darned near everywhere on the planet.

    In this case (low water volume, no wind, indoors) I expect it to be faster than a small pot as the surface area of the bottom gives maximum surface for heating, but I’ll test that expectation soon.

    Outdoors in wind, the wind surface dominates and a lid is essential. I have some small regular pots with lids and some “mess kits” with dinky camp cups with lids. I’ll work out a decent test.


    That looks almost identical to the 2nd one I just ordered from Amazon (but a $ or two cheaper… but I get free shipping… but.. ;-) I expect it to be a “winner” for my car bag. The ultra-lite Titanium has no piezo igniter and I struggled a while to choose between it and the one I just ordered (thus my having now ordered both…) and mostly ordered the 25 gram Titanium one for the “toy value” of playing with an ultra-light. (carefully justified to myself by saying that saving 100 grams of weight in my “walking home” bag would somehow be important, or even detectable…. “First, know thyself”..)

    Speed looks the same between the two.

    This is the second time someone has said “propane” when talking about one of these stoves. (Larry said refill his older stove with propane). Are you sure they will run straight propane? The pressure for it is much higher than butane and the canisters for propane torches are much thicker heavier. The cartridges I’ve seen so far for these stoves are either straight butane (zero pressure at freezing) or butane / propane MIX (not much propane just enough to stay working in the minus degrees range). But now I’m unsure. IS there a propane only canister for these stoves? Do they work with some adapter? (Looking on Amazon shows a standard propane bottle to this kind of gas fitting adapter… that would avoid propane pressure in the butane canister, but then no canister to hold the stove up…)


    You left out two important things, but I don’t expect you to list everything:

    Zip together snuggle sleeping bags.
    Coffee & drip filter maker for the morning…

    Haven’t tried Famous Grouse. I’ll have to look for it. I’m partial to Scotch and good Irish myself. Having a corn allergy, Bourbon has me worry about carryover of any corn products. Rye is interesting too… Unfortunately, it is impossible to store for long. I’ve tried. I’ll buy a couple of fifths and in a week or two, they’re empty. Don’t know where it goes, must be evaporation ;-)

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Just ran a test on the Sterno w/ Methanol gel using a 7 cm tall 10 cm wide aluminum pot w/ lid and blue enamel outside color.

    Took 13-14 minutes to simmer (hard to tell as nearly no steam leaks out and only checking by lifting the lid showed the simmer) and 16 minutes to enough boil to have visible steam leaking out. (Not nearly as much as when driving the tea kettle whistle and I didn’t leave the test running to see if it would eventually reach that point).

    That’s a tiny bit longer than the tea kettle times, but IMHO likely inside the error band of eyeballing the measuring cup level, initial water temp variation, air temperature, etc. I’d also expect a darker color pot to heat faster than a bright blue enamel on this stove as there isn’t a lot of direct flame impinging (it ends just below the pot).

    it is true that minor variations in cookware can change cooking times, so testing and matching to gear matters. Another point I’ve run into often is the pot support (stand) area and points. Some stoves have very small ‘reach’ and only 3 pot supports (like the ultra-light gas stove). Three point supports are not as stable as 4 points or a wire grid, so watch for tipping. On the other end, my Trangia pot support (big white one, not the small aluminum ring) has 4 supports… BUT… they are far apart. I can not use it with a Sierra Club Cup or that 10 cm diameter pot as they don’t reach onto the pot supports and one edge slides down / tips. Both the outside reach AND the inside reach matter to what pots work. (Part of why I used the tea kettle in my tests was it fit on all stoves I wanted to test).

    Little pots will work best on things like the Titanium Ultra-lite with its small support platform; in keeping with the intended use as a backpacker stove. The Coleman 533 gasoline stove is great for 5 inch or larger pots and even things like 10 inch cast iron skillets. Large support area, 4 elements with cross in the center (so could use very small if full flame envelopment is OK), sturdy build. In between is the Sterno stove that has 4 parallel ‘wires’ about an inch apart crossing over the stove area of about 6 x 6 inches. Dinky things can sit on it down to a couple of inches, yet it supports large pots too; just doesn’t heat fast.

    In the sweet spot are the various propane stoves and the Gasone stove (butane). They have large burner areas and large pot supports but no “hole” in the middle for most of them. Some even have 5 pot supports. This is why I really like the gear that uses a torch sized propane canister or the gasoline powered “Coleman” type camp stoves (the briefcase like ones, or the 533 single). You don’t end up trying to balance a slightly too small pot over the “hole” nor trying to carefully position an 8 inch pot on the 2-3 inch center support area without it falling off when you stir something and it imbalances. (That was part of the decision matrix for deciding what to get for the spouse. She’s not a “camping person” and un-interested in the inconvenience of matching particular pots to particular stoves. Just wanted something that works without fuss.)

    So I’m most interested in assuring the pots fit on the stove comfortably, secondarily in the perfect heat transfer match. (That would invert if I were in the snow with limited fuel and an unknown exit time… but with a gallon of methanol, 2 months of Sterno, several propane and butane cartridges, some hexamine tablets, a few gallons of gasoline, and a wood pile; well, running out of fuel isn’t my main concern ;-)

    With that, I’m going to see about more “small pot” tests. Maybe break out the smaller Trangia pot support / stove and use it with this 10 cm pot… Whenever I’m ready for another cup of coffee ;-)

  16. Larry Ledwick says:

    Interesting test!
    I was looking around yesterday on Amazon, seems that no one makes a tea pot that has a capacity smaller than 1 – 1.2 liters. For minimum fuel use you would want something with a 2 -3 cup capacity, large enough bottom to just engage the full flame of the stove and insulated top and sides to minimize heat loss to radiation, with a normal tea pot style whistle spout cover to minimize heat loss through evaporation.

    Since your 7 cm tall 10 cm wide aluminum pot w/ lid and blue enamel outside color. is exposed on the sides and has no insulation the next best would be to fashion a close fitting wind screen around it so that the hot gases from the flame pass close against the sides as they turn the corner on the bottom and head out the top.

    I use the microwave at work to fix lipton dry chicken noodle soup mix. You are supposed to use boiling water with it but in reality you can get by with water that is at about 140 – 160 deg F temperature if you let it sit and steep for a bit after you heat it.

    Likewise for sterilization purposes (safe water or making sure food is hot enough to be bacteria safe) you really only need to bring it to the same sort of temperature range. Even “dirty meats” like chicken are safely cooked at 185 degree F.

    One of the reasons I have fallen in love with an infrared thermometer for cooking, you can keep close tabs on food temp without having to open the lid on containers. If you heat hot chocolate or soup to just about 140-145 deg F it is perfect eating temperature for someone who does not drink a lot of hot drinks like tea or coffee.

    You can also help hot foods steep and heat soak by taking them off the flame and wrapping them in a cotton towel so they don’t quickly cool. Similar to the thermos cooking I mentioned a while back. Heat the food to 165-185 deg and pour in a small lunch box size stainless thermos and let it sit for 10 minutes or so instead of wasting fuel trying to bring it to a simmer or boil.

    Lots of little tricks like that can drastically cut your fuel use. I use the towel trick in the microwave so I don’t have to constantly baby sit the food and can just zap it for 30 seconds or so and let it sit to heat soak while i do something else.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, the discussion of lights and Maglights having batteries leak prompted me to check my remaining Maglights. My very best an newest (about a decade? old) LED Maglight had the batteries leak and stick. I got 2 out of 3 out, but the furthest in was way too stuck.

    Partial disassembly showed a few things. First off, the parts are not interchangeable with my other Maglights (also D cell). Is it different era models, or the LED vs not? Don’t know. Head threads are a different length of threaded bits for one of them but a different diameter too for an older 2 Cell.

    Most egregious, the LED “bulb” seems to be integrated with the switch assembly. Not able to just remove it and move it to a different flashlight. It’s all junk together when it goes…

    I found a page where lots of folks where discussing stuck batteries and how to get them out. Some models you unscrew a set screw under the switch rubber. Others have a circlip like ring you remove under the head. Different eras of D cell lights.

    Well, OK, I have too many flashlights anyway. (At one time had one in each car and one in each major room of the house – the Governor Gray “out” Davis power failure years…) I can do with losing a couple more. The other change was the advent of LED bulbs. Now the AA LED light is brighter than the old 2 x D or 3 x D lights. The 3 x D LED light was a very bright thing… Useful for “security” but not needed for much else. So, OK, I’m “moving on”.

    After reading about “banging out the switch assembly with a hammer and pipe” I decided to just toss a $30 flashlight in the trash. One more “excess possession” out of the way…

    Going forward, I’ve still got 3? or so Maglights of C or D size. I likely only need 2 at most. I’ve been using a AA LED Maglight mostly and it’s Just Fine. So should I ever get to the point where I’m in need of buying another light, it will be a AA LED light. Though perhaps not a Maglight… Less weight, less bulk, much lower price, and more than enough light for most things.

    At one point I bought some “size adapters” and I’ve got 3 x C cells in my other 3 x D cell Maglight with a replacement LED bulb. Any battery leak will happen inside an easy to remove plastic wrapper. I’ll likely find some better ones to use in my 2 x D cell light. (Both have batteries dated about 2004 to 2008, so well aged). I’m also going to buy a new set of batteries…

    Any larger sized Maglight flashlight I ever buy will be checked to see if it has a removable LED “bulb”. If not, I’ll buy the non-LED version and an LED Bulb upgrade kit. The bulk of the price is in the bulb… That’s what I’ve got in my other 3 x D cell flashlight (the one with the C cell adapters).

    Sigh. Oh Well… I’ve gotten decades of service out of my oldest Maglights, but it looks like the newer ones have a slightly smaller barrel diameter and closer fit to the batteries. Once one swells and sticks it’s nearly impossible to get out. I’m sure I got them out of my older ones a couple of times with just vigorous shaking and / or hitting the open tail on a plastic cutting board.

    There comes a time to “move on”, and for me, that’s now for big Maglights. The remaining inventory will be allowed to “age out” and at any future buy point, they will need to prove this problem is solved or I’m buying something else.


    I suspect your tin can approach would be useful for “can-pot surrounds”. Find a proper sized can, remove top and bottom, cut slot to slip over handle stem. Maybe bend a couple of bit inward to reduce wobble.

    160 F is the minimum “safe temperature” for holding foods and 190 F is the typical lowest cooking range. Though slow cookers can spend a lot of time below 160 – 190 F before they reach finishing temperature.

    “Somewhere” I have a wide mouth Thermos I’ve used for thermos cooking as a test. Might be nice to find it again ;-)

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    On the mag lights I also recently had to toss a nearly new Maglight due to stuck batteries. Really pissed me off since it was one of the new expensive electronic switch types with multiple settings including strobe feature.

    I ended up replacing it with one of the older models with the incandescent bulb and a drop in LED replacement bulb for the incandescent bulbs. So I have a simple mechanical switch body with the new LED light bulb technology.

    By the very nature of these flashlights they often spend their entire life on a shelf waiting for some sort of emergency use. May only get 2 – 3 minutes of actual usage in several years.

    This time I am trying an experiment. I am sealing the battery stack in a second layer of protection.

    First I took a square of the heavy duty Mylar packing tape and taped over the plus end on one of the batteries, and the pressed the tape down firmly all around including across the top. Then took a sharp knife and cut just around the nipple on the plus end of battery #1.

    Then using the same heavy duty Mylar tape, I taped around the junction of battery #1 and battery #2, then likewise between #2 and #3.

    Then I rolled the taped battery stack up in a waxed paper.

    There is just enough room to slide the taped battery stack with waxed paper down the tube into position. I then took a sharp knife and cut the extra waxed paper off just below the threads in the back of the flashlight and screwed the base plug and spring in.

    In a 3 cell flashlight like my Maglight you have 6 battery ends that can leak, only one of those (the back seal in the rear most battery) is trivial to fix. All the others wedge the batteries in the tube and or corrode the guts of the flashlight. That gives you a 5/6 odds of the problematic leaks over the 1/6 chance that the rear battery base leaks.

    I am hoping that this makes any battery leakage a trivial issue and much easier to clean up without having the flashlight ruined.

    While I was working for the state civil defense program I used literally thousands of D cell batteries in our civil defense kits. Some sat in the field for 5+ years before they found their way back to the shop for calibration and new battery replacement. In all those years all the leaking batteries I had except one were EverReady or Duracell batteries – I only had one leaker in the Ray-o-vac batteries.

    The Ray-o-vac are not quite as good as they were in the 1960’s and 1970’s when they guaranteed to replace your flashlight if they leaked but I have had much better luck with the Ray-o-vac batteries that the much touted Duracell and EverReady batteries as far as leaking goes.

    By the way I was able to get my stuck batteries out of that new flashlight by using inertia. Take base plug off and bang the flashlight on a block of soft pine 2×4, it eventually came unstuck and I got it out. But the corrosion had gotten into the electronics in that new magic flashlight and ruined that part of the flash light.

  19. R.de Haan says:

    @Larry Ladwick, None of my flash lights survived the strain of time. I’ve had the rubber lights for diving, the latest LCD flash lights with titanium housing and everything in between. Leaking batteries killed them all.
    For emergencies I keep the flashlights separated from the batteries.
    This is the only way to go.

  20. Larry Ledwick says:

    @ R.de Haan
    I agree in absolute terms, assuming you have the time to put in batteries, not so good if you hear a bump in the night and need light right now. Trying to find a middle ground between the two.

    Perhaps the solution is to set up an inspection schedule on the flashlights to check and replace batteries but I simply am not disciplined enough to do that so I assume a few lost flash flashlights is a cost of doing business.

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    Sidebar on cooking experience:

    I’ve used 5 different stove types for cooking meals over the last few days.

    Electric Range
    GasOne butane cartridge table top Asian style stove (large burner area flat thing).
    Sterno Stove with 2 x kinds of alcohol gel fuels (methanol / ethanol)
    Trangia methanol / spirit stove (really burner with pot holder – in this case the large white one)
    Titanium ultra-light (25 gm) butane stove on cartridge

    The strange thing is that, of the five of them, I find I like the GasOne the best for cooking experiance. Especially given that I’d started out using it with the intent to just “use up” the fuel canisters to get them out of the way in a bit of spring cleaning.

    Why? Has caused me some ponder.

    The Titanium ultra-light is absolutely the fastest, lightest, coolest thing I’ve got. Cooks well and fast. The problems are minor, but there. It’s “tippy” with anything but very small pots. You’ve got to balance your 8 inch fry pan on a 3 inch triangle, and not imbalance it when stirring / flipping. Flame adjustment requires lifting the pan or reaching under it near the flame. Lighting is via match so you get to find them and use them.

    The GasOne is just plop you pan on the large burner and turn the knob to light and adjust. No tippy bits. No ‘find and strike a match’. No match smells. No fingers near flame to adjust. While much heavier (i.e. not a backpack stove), well suited to “car camping” and “emergency at home” cooking. Widely used in Asian cooking for ‘at the table’ preparation indoors (things like shabu shabu beef). Only real downside is the burner top is a bit ceramic coated slick, so pots can slide if you push them. Not a problem, just something to notice. “indents” in the top of the support are to catch pot rims if they have edges, but most don’t. Only time I noticed was flipping with the spatula the pan wanted to move unless I grabbed the handle.

    So both near ideal for exactly opposite use cases. Backpacking vs in the home / car.

    The Sterno stove made coffee and eggs for breakfast yesterday, but at 12 minutes to make a cup of coffee, they were as ‘courses’ not “a meal together”. Nice large 6 x 6 inch pan support means no tipping, so easy for inexperienced or kids to use and you will be at very low risk of burning any food or spilling fuel to burn more than food. But an exercise in patience when cooking eggs. Long slow slightly irregular turning to white as the thin bits did and the parts around the yokes took their time. Eventually getting done. But by then the coffee was already drunk and it was water with the meal. “Workable” and “easy” are about all it’s got.

    The electric range is actually slower than the Titanium or the GasOne. Burner warm up time takes a while. Quick heat adjustment it does not have (set things off the burner to turn down the heat fast… and there is no fast increase in heat). Getting the right heat setting requires allowing for that long lag in adjusting. Then it’s just not much fun to look at a dark semi-glowing thing when you could have flames! “Slightly annoying” and “easy” is all it’s got. Well, and clean, unless some pan oil spatters on the next burner over and when you turn it on it smokes…

    Which leaves the Trangia. They make two circular burner surrounds (pot supports). A larger white enamel coated one that has about a 4 inch gap between support legs, and a very small one of aluminum that has about a 3.x inch maximum reach of the support legs. You MUST use larger pots on the large one and you OUGHT to use small pots on the smaller one. “Fall in” and “Tippy” issues each way. Now I love the light weight and the elegance of designing a “stove” (sans burner part) of a single sheet of bent metal, but one must pay attention to pot size and tendency to tip. It starts slow and then “blooms” as the fuel warms and power increases. This means a constantly changing heat profile. Ham & Eggs this morning started very slow ( I didn’t wait for the “bloom” before starting as it just wastes fuel) and ended at a fairly hot meat browning frying temp. Very long and slow on the first side of the eggs, fast after the flip. Then fresh coffee a few minutes later. Excellent for a park / camping stove. A bit of a bother for “in the kitchen when power is out”. Single threaded meals and all.

    Turning off the Trangia involves tossing the flame controller cap onto the fire and letting it snuff. Sometimes positioning it with a fork if you missed the flame toss aim. Then waiting as evaporating methanol cools the stove. In theory you can control the flame size with the lid via a sliding top. In reality I’m not cooking on it things that take a 10 minute simmer. Generally fast boil or fast fry.

    For all of the gas / alcohol / Sterno stoves, it’s been fun to cook in the living room while watching the TV (instead of just listening from the kitchen). Another ding for the electric range.

    As California is proceeding to “crazy high” prices for electricity, I’ve moved more of my Summer cooking outdoors and away from the AEK (All Electric Kitchen). I’m now thinking some winter cooking can go to the living room / kitchen counter on fuel stoves. We’re presently 19 ¢ / kW-hr for electricity but at over baseline hit something like 36 ¢ / kW-hr. The GasOne is a couple of kW burner and I think I’ve gotten at least a couple of hours out of a fuel can (needs a real measure). I’ve been using the first can for weeks on and off. The propane equivalent stove lasts even longer on even cheaper fuel. I suspect we’re nearing cross over for propane, are past it for gasoline and charcoal, and likely approaching it for the butane cans for the GasOne if bought bulk and cheap. I need to do a spreadsheet… (Note that a $1/2 / kW-hr request is already at the PUC and ‘peak summer central valley’ time of day pricing already as a $1/kW-hr tariff. At that rate you only need to cook 2 hours on the 2 kW GasOne to pay for a $4 fuel can.

    So yeah, I need to “do the math”, and maybe set up to refill propane canisters from a big tank on the BBQ; but a combo of both “more enjoyable and cheaper” would be hard to turn down. I think I’ve seen propane adapters for the GasOne or perhaps it was a dedicated different dual fuel model. If that can be arranged, I’d be really happy cooking more meals on gas.

    So there is no one perfect stove. But with several of them you can have the perfect stove for each use case.

    Overall,”cooking with gas” is the most pleasant. I’d swap the kitchen electric stove for gas if I were planing to stay longer. Instead, a portable gas works very well with fine control for cooking. Small, ultralight, or large.

    Alcohol spirit stoves are second, and light. Less control and a bit more technique needed, but pleasant and easy. Fun to play with.

    Electric is about a tie with the spirit stoves. Better on some bits, worse on others. Rising in cost.

    Last being the Sterno Stove. Barely adequate and mildly annoying. But would be very good for setting a pot of canned green beans on to warm while you cooked the rest of dinner on something else. Think of it as a “back burner on simmer” and it’s a champ.

    It’s also the case that to cook a “Real Meal”, you need more than one small burner. If really cooking for a “family of 4″ in an emergency, having 2 or 3 of these going at once is a good idea. Slow stuff in the back on one, medium stuff on another, and maybe ‘fast sear’ on gas in the front..

    I’m mostly done with testing / characterizing these particular stoves. As I’m digging through stuff and repacking, I’ll try some of the other stoves too. The 8 oz tea kettle will stay my standard test, but I’ve found a nice thermometer so will be taking water temps at the start. I have gasoline and propane stoves to clean & trial, and when summer comes I’ll be using the Kerosene stove outdoors again. (It’s a bit big for in my small kitchen. Designed for giant canning pots! ) It’s been in outdoors patio storage for about 2 years, so that will also be a ‘long duration of neglect” examination. I’ve also got a couple of small folding “tablet stoves” (looks like metal origami about 3 inches max) but as I know these are slow, have no control, and low power; I’m not seeing much reason to test / measure them – unless someone wants me to.

    Current cold water reading (1:40 PM) is 66 F not the 56 F I’d guessed yesterday.

    “Going Forward”: I’ll be using up my store of crummy methanol based chaffing dish fuel in the Sterno Stove via slow coffee and slow heating canned goods for meals. Frying and fast cooking on something else. I’m also going to store the Trangia & related “spirit burners” along with the 1/2 gallon of methanol I’ve got left. Eventually I need a quart container of saved fuel and dump the metal gallon can, but that’s months away and after I’ve used up all but a quart making coffee ;-)

    After that it’s likely to be “cooking with gas” (and the occasional white gasoline outdoors), when not using the BBQ. AEK only when feeling lazy.

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve gone to zero batteries in almost everything (radios, stored lights, etc.) and inspection on the Maglights. The problem (as evidenced today) is that inspection only tells you “It will leak later”.

    So as of now, we’re going to only 2 lights with batteries in and likely down to 1 + AA on my belt.

    I’ve had Panasonic and Kirkwood (COSTCO house brand) leak also, but mostly I’ve used Duracell… with obvious results… I guess I’ll start buying Ray-O-Vac…

    FWIW, if you let batteries freeze they leak more. Also note that the KOH electrolyte in alkaline cells usually leaks out a pressure relief area in the top of the battery. Don’t know if storing the flashlight “head up” would help. Frankly, with LED bulbs needing nearly no power, I’m tempted to just use heavy duty carbon zink which don’t have a liquid alkaline aluminum eating electrolyte…

    … thinking about that… By God, that IS what I’m going to do. A saved $20 or $30 flashlight buys a lot of carbon zink cells and if they don’t last, well heck, they get changed more often…

  23. R.de Haan says:

    @Larry Ledwick,

    It takes me 15 seconds to pop two batteries into the shaft of the flash light and switch it on, even in the dark.

    I had one flash light though that used the same lithium clip on battery packs (18V) that I use for my cordless drills.
    It was nicked within days after the purchase and I haven’t found a new one since.
    Although the battery makes the lamp a little heavy it produced a lot of light for a long period of time with zero risk of leaking.
    It should be quite easy however to convert a broken down cordless drill into a flash lite with all the LED kits around for pocket change.

  24. beththeserf says:

    Thx re omissions, EM. Yes, important. Nearly as important as the Grouse. )

  25. Larry Ledwick says:

    In fairness I have had a few Ray-O-Vac leakers in the last few years, but they seem to be less aggressive when they do start to weep compared to some of the brand names, and they do not leak as often (seat of the pants I would say only 1/2 as often as the brand name alkalines, and they are significantly cheaper.

    I will see how my new protective barrier strategy works out.

  26. Power Grab says:

    One time my grandmother’s brother cooked us all dinner (hamburgers) on an old coffee can with holes punched in it as described above. The grill was an old piece of metal window screen. He used sheets of newspaper as fuel. The hamburgers were good, too.

  27. Power Grab says:

    I have some LEDs-on-a-stick. They have clamps at the other end. They work GREAT when playing piano in the dark for a show.

  28. Larry Ledwick says:

    Hmmm apparently the prepper / survivalist movement is becoming of interest to Europeans.


    Perhaps wisdom of the crowd, people are getting that uneasy feeling that the government has an agenda that is not focused on the citizens welfare, and society is more vulnerable to break down than is commonly believed.

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    looks like Amazon has battery adapters. Not found the odd sizes (like C to D) yet.

    This one looks like 2 x AA to D and gives you batteries inside a nice plastic carrier. As AA are way cheap, and LED lights don’t need Amps so much as persistent Volts, I think using these would solve the stuck battery problem.


    I’ve got some “way too cheap” adapters that I got at a clearance place a decade ago presently in one Maglight converting C to D with an LED bulb. Works nicely.

  30. Power Grab says:

    I’m concerned about how unprepared young people today are to deal with a reduced level of civilization. After seeing a video recently where some college-age young people were watching intently while one of them took 10 minutes to figure out how to use a manual can opener…and then teaching my kid how to use our manual opener (I don’t even have an electric one)…and reading this week how they’re saying little tykes don’t have the finger dexterity to learn to write because they all play with ipads…

    Well, it’s amazing and concerning.

    I’m trying to learn to do some old-fashioned things that I never did before. Right now, I’m learning to knit socks. I’ve known how to knit for several decades, but only recently was faced with the need to knit some myself. (It’s a fashion thing for my kid, who likes anime and cosplay.)

    I also bought an old 35mm film camera right before the big eclipse.

    I do most of my log-keeping by handwriting in my Daytimer. I’m trying to prevent my handwriting from becoming irretrievably illegible!

    Last night my kid asked me for a lesson in fixing holes in socks. (I use a blanket stitch.) When I told a friend about that today, she asked me to show her, too.

    I’m about to take up the banjo…when and if I can free up the money for one. I hope when I get my 2016 deductible paid off later this year, that will do the trick.

    The teenage son of some friends asked me to teach him piano last weekend. I gave him a task to do while we were at the piano. He wanted to stop before it was completed. But I told him that was his first lesson and he had to finish it.

    These kids have no idea how good it would be for them if they would follow through and complete a task like that.

    The Asian kids take their music lessons seriously. I understand that’s because their moms know the value of it.

    Oh, while I’m on a rant…The programs I use at work make it hard to stay awake. I guess someone told the developers to make it where all the users do is click on little spots of pixels to do their work. They don’t trust people to even type in dates anymore, I guess. One the newest program I use, you have to select the date from a pop-up calendar (no typing allowed), and then you have to click on the hour on another pop-up, and then click on the minute on another pop-up. AAARGH!! I could type it so much faster!!

    It felt so much more challenging to actually type things in.

    But NO! Now you have to click on tiny little spots on the screen, OR…speak to an “assistant” and have them do your bidding.

    I am concerned at where this is leading.

    In a previous life (as they say), when I did secretarial tasks, there was some challenge and even satisfaction in producing documents and managing files and data. I even did some accounts receivable by hand “Back in the Day”. To streamline the billing process, we photocopied the actually AR sheets with a special “header” and mailed them out for payment. It seems rather crude now, but it was pretty efficient for the horse-and-buggy-days!

    Back then, you had to stay alert and maybe even devise more efficient ways of getting your work done. Now, you’re restricted to doing only what some programmer (in India?) came up with who has no idea what real, front-line workers deal with.

    I’ve decided the main point of our systems is to provide a surveillable crumb trail. Efficiency is out the door. Working smart is not allowed.

    When I think about that recent bridge disaster in Florida, I wonder how much of this attitude went into allowing that to happen.

  31. Larry Ledwick says:

    You know that would be a great idea for a youth summer camp, have them do everything with older technology / methods.

    Like pump water with a hand pump or carry it in a bucket from the river and then boil it on a wood stove.

    Chop wood with an ax and bow saw then split the wood. etc.

    Of course the kids would think it was torture but it would be fun to watch – maybe an idea for a TV show. 6 kids in a cabin and an old fart to show them how to do things.

  32. Power Grab says:

    Maybe it could be set up as a competition. I guess girls-vs-boys would be hazardous, but maybe they could be arbitrarily divided into teams with animal mascots.

    Or maybe they could make it a reality show. (I especially hate so-called “reality TV”, but something along that line might help get them motivated.

  33. Robert says:

    beer can stoves are the future. I have a friend who goes far off-piste (Alaska, Mongolia, Africa) and that is what he uses, a few minutes with a beer can and a swiss army knife.

  34. E.M.Smith says:


    A beer can stove is basically a Trangia or Esbit like alcohol / spirit stove made crudely from old cans. I tried making some once but it is harder than reputed. I’d rather drop a few $ for a better brass one. The biggest problem is accurate cutting of very thin aluminum. After some practice you can do it, but practice and skill is needed.

    @DeSkilling Youth:

    I’m the wrong person to talk to that. I’m both driven to self reliance and fascinated by “old ways”. Probably the Amish Granny via Dad. I can’t imagine not knowing how to make biscuits from scratch, replace brake pads & rotors, program a computer, or knit. I’m all about “how to”. I was knitting at about 5 years old (and likely why I program well – knitting guides are a programming language) and cooking then too. Dad had me changing brake shoes at about 8.

    Yet I’ve met a lot of “air heads” and “empty suites” who could not figure out which end of the shaker the salt came from… and made a LOT of money. Which of us “has it right”? I think that depends on the state of society. In an Aw-Shit, it’s definitely me. During “Fluff and Image” times, them.

    FWIW, my kids know how to cook, wash, rebuild old motorcycles, write sonnets & novels, dress a fish (catch a fish…), etc. They have told me they are sometimes appalled at others of their generation who are absolutely clueless and dependent. (My Son actually thanked me for his self reliance and willingness to take charge – and responsibility…he recognized that I didn’t limit his ability and promoted his deciding and living with the consequences…) So it isn’t all of this generation, just some. My daughter tends to rise to the top in her organizations simply because she figures out how to get things done instead of waiting for someone to give guidance. She is “a finished person” and knows she is empowered to do what needs doing, so does it. It is fun to hear her talk about others asking guidance as she is a bit rebellious and is finding herself the authority figure…

    With folks like them in it, the future is going to be OK.

  35. jim2 says:

    I have a set of AA and AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries. I assume they could play a role in some shortage/outage scenarios. Once they were recharged and deployed, I kind of forgot about them and at one point wondered if I had lost them. But then some clicker, head lamp, or other device would stop working and I would find them again.

    As long as you have a source of electrical power, they can be recharged and used; and you don’t have to have a large stash of non-rechargeables.

  36. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ve bought various NiMH and even Alkaline Rechargeables over the years. Never got my money’s worth out of them. The NiMH have poor standby (large self discharge current) so you end up constantly charging them for no net benefit (for applications like flashlights, but good in high demand frequent use things like motor toys and radios). while the rechargeable alkalines do standby well, they have limited cycles, but worse, the family would tend to toss them when they needed charging.

    You must get by-in, and training to read the batteries in things, from all family members.

    Between those two recharageables have mostly been a vehicle for moving money to the garbage can. I suspect many people had that experience as a whole lot more alkaline cells are sold than anything else.

    But yes, they are a good thing in emergencies as long as you have an inverter to drive the charger.

  37. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM: just one thing comes to mind… 180 proof rum has many uses. As expensive as $60 a gallon, but comes in .2 gal bottles. Excellent solvent, disinfectant, recreational uses and burns nicely, too.

  38. Pingback: Larry Cost Me $25 – Thermos Cooking | Musings from the Chiefio

  39. E.M.Smith says:

    For a long time I had a couple of quarts of “Everclear” on the emergency shelf. Burns nicely as fuel in an alcohol cooker, and as you noted, is a disinfectant, solvent, etc. It is also an anesthetic (i.e. drink enough you pass out) should “field surgery” be needed, and while it feels like burning on application to a wound, that is in fact in common with most anesthetics, and it is a topical anesthetic. So pouring some on a wound both kills the bacteria and numbs it for suturing. IIRC a slightly more dilute solution is better so as not to cause tissue necrosis in the wound, but it’s been a while… so I could have that garbled. In any case, don’t soak in it, just a quick rinse… Also a very good barter item.

    Cheaper than Rum, and less “junk” in it (like flavor ;-)

    A few months back, they still had it at the local Bevmo. But right now I’ve got enough “stored stuff” I’m trying to weed out and dump, and that includes fuel and some prescription pain killers in the archive… so don’t need more ATM. After a move, I could see stocking a new bottle of it.

  40. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM: Everclear works very well for all that, and can be used for rapid caramelizing in a fry pan, ‘cooking show’ style.

    Thr issue with tissue in an open wound is that the nearly pure alcohol sucks the moisture out the cells. As you suggest, dilution is in order. For that purpose, a few oz of distilled water go a long way.

    Other uses that come to mind… a squirtgun of it would be dissuasive for little critters.

    Other than the obvious uses for cooking, there are hypergolic effects as well. A drop of it which comes in contact with high percentage hydrogen peroxide will burst into flame… no spark or match required, kinda like autoigniting rocket fuel. Though a bit hightech for a bugout kit. A fireplace starter or Bic lighter seems more practical and reliable to me.

  41. jim2 says:

    SF – Potassium Permanganate is sold for water purification and is frequently in emergency kits. It is also sold at hardware stores. Mixed with glycerin, it will start a fire. Might do the same with alcohol.

  42. Steven Fraser says:

    Jim2: Yes, looks like it.

  43. Sera says:

    I had the adapter in my hand, then decided that it really wasn’t worth it. I have propane bottles for my Coleman lantern (works great) and a propane tank for my BBQ grill and space heater, and a propane tank for my soldering torch. My house uses natgas for the stove/water heater/furnace.

    The reason I purchased the ultra-lite was for size and weight when camping- mostly for the geek factor and boiling water for the coffee press. So I decided to purchase the Gasone after watching youtube videos and getting a better grasp on things.

    My pack now has both stoves with fuel, lantern and propane, air mattress, waterproof matches, water purifier, toilet paper, soap, rope and tarp, multi-tool, gloves, small saucepan and pot, utensils, tent, thermal blanket and towel, and a first aid kit (which I added Tylenol PM, styptic pencil, Orajel and DenTek (saved two camping trips with that stuff).

  44. Larry Geiger says:

    Larry. I use the Big Larry LED light. Very nice.
    Stoves: https://www.rei.com/blog/camp/diy-how-to-make-an-alcohol-stove-from-soda-cans
    Make alcohol not liquor. Or maybe a little bit of both. :-)
    Anybody here have parts for a still?

  45. E.M.Smith says:

    Just so folks know when Larry talks about a Big Larry it isn’t about Larry but a Big Light:
    is a Big Larry…

    Yeah, the soda can stoves are an interesting and super light idea. I’m OK with paying $10 for a real brass one ;-)

    I like the idea, and if you are skilled with precision fine sheet metal it’s an easy build. If you have big fat farmer hands, cut easily and don’t like origami… well, it’s only a couple of Starbucks coffees for a nice brass one with flame control and screw on lid…

    Oh, and remember you can freeze hooch, take out the ice, and have hard cider… freeze concentration works. So you can do that to get some far proof increase (depends on freezer coldness with lower is better. Dry ice from the store if you need it…) And yes, I do have “still parts”. Somewhere in the old boxes is a nice glass condenser – lab quality – and some flasks… I also have tin cans, welding gear, and copper tubing…


    Yeah, at one time I was really “into” adapters. They were fun to play with and a cool bypass of “issues”… but prone to getting lost in the garage and just, well, something more to deal with.

    Now I’m more inclined to just by a stove for each fuel I want to run. Run out of one fuel, swap to the other stove, or light, or whatever…

  46. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yeah I had to look up that light too!
    I have some similar lights from different vendors the new LED light panels are pretty cool for area lighting, their broader surface area cuts down a bit on how harsh the light is and softens shadows a bit so they are more like a conventional light bulb for area illumination.

  47. jim2 says:

    I’m toying with the idea of making one of these type of alcohol stoves. Just need a longer list ;)

  48. E.M.Smith says:


    Interesting stove. One hopes you don’t need a blow torch to light t each time… The glass jar they can’t name is a 4 oz jelly jar. I have a dozen of them… Now I’m pondering just drilling some holes in it and putting 1/2 dozen round wicks in them and trying it as either a large alcohol lamp or even a small kerosene burner… Lids, being about 30 cents each, are “disposable” .

  49. E.M.Smith says:

    Today my two stoves arrived. The $9.9x butane one that Larry pointed out, and the $20 ish Lixada combined wood and alcohol one.

    First off, the $10 wonder: Works a champ!

    In my 8 oz tea kettle test, despite my not getting it turned all the way to High for a few seconds after the clock turned, it was making simmer noises in a bit under a minute, steam at the minute and at an estimated 1:20 to at most 1:30 was starting to whistle. In any kind of an Aw Shit or even parked by the road at a rest area, I’d be IMMENSELY more happy with tea or soup in 2 minutes than the 12 with a Sterno stove.

    No matches were harmed in the making of this fire.

    The sparker was a worry as I sat in the yard unpacking things. I clicked it a few times but could see NOTHING. “Oh Dear, is it defective? ” though I. Inside, on the gas canister, POOFF! flames on the first click. Not defective, just a thin enough spark that in the sun against shiny metal you will not see it. Which brings us to point #2:

    Make sure off is really off. First use while you get used to it, off is likely 1/8 more turn.

    I turned the stove “off” and poured my coffee water down the filter into the cup. Savoring the aroma and pondering. “Could I see the spark NOW?”. Click (small blue ring of fire and gone). Click (small blue ring of fire and gone). Turned about 1/8 turn more the valve fully stopped (at what I thought might be a bit too much pressure on the thin wire “handle” but it worked). Click (tiny spark). Click (tiny spark).

    So 2 lessons learned there. It doesn’t take much spark to light one of these and you will not see it in bright light. It isn’t off until you check it’s off and / or remove it from the gas canister.

    For $10, I’m thrilled. Barely larger than my thumb when all folded up. Not heavy enough to notice. Fits easily in a shirt pocket, a few in a pants pocket and almost in a watch pocket! Has a nice small plastic protective case too. One of these and a 200 or 250 gram fuel can in your pack, you’ve got fuel for several (many) meals and drinks all at about 8 to 9 oz total weight. No match or ignition worries either. We’re talking 2/3 of a soda can size & weight here with fuel. (Though flatter form factor).

    Stove #2 – the Lixada Wood Burner

    I have not done a “First Fire” on it. It’s an alcohol stove like the Trangia, almost an exact knock off, so ought to have very similar times. Using wood will be highly variable based on kind of wood, wind, charcoal, size of fire etc. not not very informative and will get the stove dirty and sooty. I’d like to leave it clean and run on alcohol until reason arises to do otherwise.

    My “complaints” are minor and match what was in the Amazon reviews. The sheet metal comes with a blue plastic lightly stuck to one side. Peels off easily, except for the fiddly bits that break off at the hinges. It takes about 5 minutes to peel and pitch the plastic, mostly fiddling with the hinges. The other side, where the die punch came through, has a slight ridge on the edges that feels a bit sharp, but didn’t hurt me in any way. Using the enclosed emery paper with a couple of light strokes / edge maes it smooth. While I could question the wisdom of putting scratch protective plastic on an object you are expected to scratch with sandpaper… in fact the scratches go on the inside.

    General fit and finish is good. The pins in the hinges look to be lightly peened on the tops, not on the bottoms, (One guy said his fell out when he was shaking out ashes, perhaps upside down? I suggest pulling the one pin with a handle and opening it to let the ashes out.) I’m not seeing the problem in general.

    The alcohol burner is a direct copy of the Trangia except: The flame control cover is chromed and the handle has a friction tab that ‘grips’ the stove on closing. Which will scratch it. I’m likely going to bend it out of the way IF I ever use the flame control for simmer. In general, I just run these wide open without the snuffer / flame control ring as I’m mostly boiling or frying things.

    The hole / carrier it sits in is slightly loose. Not bad. I’d estimate about 3/4 mm where the stove has about 3 or 4 mm of flange on the top above the hole. Now this is odd as the Trangia AND Esbit alcohol stoves do NOT fit in the hole. Almost, but no. I’d guess about 1/4 mm too big. The Amazon reviews (for the wood stove only without the Lixada burner) had folks saying they had to sand it a bit to make the hole big enough for a tight fit with the Trangia. I’d say that’s about right. My guess is that Lixada makes their burner about 1 mm smaller than the Trangia as a material cost savings. (Or, possible, as an ‘our burner fits their stoves, their burner doesn’t fit our stoves” bit of nose tweek like Russia does with ammunition…)

    Were I buying this expecting my Trangia or Esbit to just drop in, I’d be annoyed. The sanding needed will be significantly more than it took to remove the machining rim.

    All up it took about 10 minutes to make ready the stove. (Plastic removal, sanding, assembly). Not significant, really. I’m glad I got the one with the burner as it fits without issue. At about $7 over the bare wood burner, well worth it for “another spare” alcohol burner. (They do wear out with use as the rubber seal for the lid gets old and you end up doing stupid things like stepping on the snuffer ring and… ;-)

    It is big enough a pot holder surface for larger pots but small things like Sierra Club cups will “fall in”. My “dinky stainless steel grill” will sit on top nicely as a holder for small cups and a place I could grill 1/2 a pork chop at a time over wood…

    Overall, I think it’s a good addition to my car bag. IFF I’m ever stuck out in God Only Knows where and discover the alcohol bottle empty (or use it up) being able to use twigs is a very nice feature. I a car pack, the added weight of 2 stoves (this one and the gas one) is irrelevant.

    “Someday” I’ll try it with a couple of briquettes in it Looks like you could fit at most 6 in it. I’d guess 2 or 3 is enough to make ramen. If that works well, one of these and a couple of pounds of charcoal briquettes would keep forever in a car trunk. (Think folks who live in Arizona and “found wood” has nothing to do with trees… or “tundra” dwellers.) Pressurized or volatile liquid fuels in a car trunk in the sun in Phoenix in August are, um “challenged”. Pressure canisters can vent. I’ve even had candles melt into goo (thus my candle in a jar).

    So over all I’m very happy with this kit.

    Now I get to go through my car and ‘walking out’ bags and swap these in to “lighten the load”.

  50. Sera says:

    Chiefio cost me $6 and it was worth it. Purchased the 7.7oz can of Performance Blend (vs. $19 for the 6.7oz butane) and it fired up- no problem. Took 4½ minutes to heat up 20 oz of water for the coffee press- same as butane. Conditions: outside at 60°F, variable winds at 5-10, altitude 1,000ft.

    A couple of notes: 1) The p/b is more toxic indoors, and they warn about this- adequate ventilation required. 2) Butane will not work at or below freezing- so, limited conditions and much more expensive. Also, a butane cartridge for the GasOne costs $4 for 8.8oz- so why is the ultra-lite canister so expensive?

    Because I will be using this kit outdoors, I’m sticking with the p/b because of cost and conditions.

  51. E.M.Smith says:


    Good info! Odd that they would say performance blend is more toxic. As I understand it, it’s about 20% propane the rest butane. Raises the pressure a little bit and depresses the frozen no-go point significantly. Propane vs Butane on toxicity ought to be a wash… Wonder if they mix something other than regular propane… like a bit of MAPP gas ;-)

    The reason the backpacking canister is so much more expensive is because the purchasers have more money. Asian home cooks and oriental restaurants doing shabu shabu beef at the table are more cost sensitive. Folks who spend $500 for shoes one ounce lighter not so much…

    You can get the 8 oz cylinder to Lindal (camp stove) adapters for about $9 but they work best with “stoves with legs” not the dinky screw on the top stoves. I suppose one could make a stand to stabilize the skinny cylinder on end… FWIW I’ve put a similar 1 lb Propane to Lindal adapter on my Amazon Wish List. iIRC it’s about $14. The fat propane bottles stand up OK and you can get cheap plastic bases if needed. The idea being that for “found fuel” it would be nice to not need a camping store in an Aw Shit but any hardware store would do…

    I seriously fretted over the advantage of a “three legs with hose” stove + adapter to 8 oz butane for a while before deciding “just get the cheap stove and move on”… ’cause I have a stove that uses the 8 oz cans and as “found fuel” they would be scarce.

    Being in California near sea level, working “at freezing” just not much of a concern to me. Then when going coast to coast, in Winter I tend to do I-10 so again freezing not much of an issue. For the one trip every decade where I’m looking at frozen conditions, I’ll just toss a propane bottle and adapter in the car… or a propane stove… or just use alcohol for a couple of days… or….

    Test of Lixada Alcohol

    I rand the tea kettle test with the Lixada wood stove / pot holder and the Lixada alcohol stove insert. Time to first boil was 5 minutes and to a medium whistle was 6.5 minutes.

    Roughly the same as the Trangia (no surprise).

    Some relatively long time from now I’ll try it with a couple of charcoal bits and see what that does.

  52. E.M.Smith says:

    Hmmm… Mix of n-Butane, iso-Butane, and Propane…. Wonder if iso-Butane vs Propane has different health effects or incomplete combustion byproducts:


    In this article, I’ll discuss what makes up MSR’s IsoPro™ fuel and why it’s some of the best canister fuel on the market. I’ll also share candidly where fuel canisters can sometimes be equivalent.

    Let’s start with the fuel itself. Backpacking canister fuels, such as MSR’s IsoPro, typically use a blend of propane, isobutane and/or butane. Each of these fuels falls into the general class of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), but there are some important differences between them that can have a real impact on the quality of your stove experience—particularly if you camp in cold weather, or go for long trips and use your stove for more than a few minutes at a time.

    I suspect the “increased toxicity” is in the noise level of reality…

  53. Larry Ledwick says:

    Since the stoves have fixed metering jets for the fuels, I suspect they are referring to changes in fuel air mixture and how clean it burns. A liquefied petroleum gas stove that is properly adjusted for fuel air mixture for the fuel it is being fed (like LPG cars) can burn very clean with almost no CO output. But each of those fuels will have slightly different ideal fuel air mixtures and although they might all burn just fine with the fixed metering jets, the fuels which have higher energy hydrocarbons will have a higher oxygen demand and will probably be a bit more prone to producing carbon monoxide levels which are a bit higher.

    We see this sort of behavior with race cars and electronic fuel injection, you can adjust the fuel air mixture over a large range by adjusting the pulse width of the fuel injectors but substituting a different brand fuel with higher content of aromatic content like toluene and xylene have higher oxygen demand (and higher energy output) so those fuels need slightly richer fuel mixtures to get max power and low carbon monoxide exhaust gases.

  54. Larry Ledwick says:

    Correction to above – with no changes the high aromatic fuels burn richer, you have to lean them out a bit (more oxygen) to get clean combustion but that makes them burn hotter due to their higher fuel energy (benzine ring compounds) and a small error can make you melt your engine.

  55. Sera says:

    Larry, that makes sense- just because a fuel WILL burn does not mean it is efficient.

  56. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry & Sera:

    Remember that burners are less picky than internal combustion engines as the flame is “in air” so some slop in the mix can be made up by contact air. While it’s ideal to have the right mix, it’s still a full burn as long as the flame is blue with at most slight yellow bits (non-smokey). That’s why you can run propane in a butane stove (though I might be tempted to put a tiny bit of tape over part of one of the air holes if needed) and butane in a propane stove works well with at most a bit of yellow tips on the flames.


    Just timed my “small” nominally 2 kw electric stove burner. From cold (since that’s when I start it to make coffee…) it takes almost exactly 3 minutes to the boil and 3.25 to 3.5 to whistle.

    For my purposes, I’m going to call it 6 kW-minutes to boil 1 cup of water. 1/10 th of a kW-hour. Or about 1.9 ¢ to 3.2 ¢ at present baseline / later in the month rates. Call it 2 to 3.

    This gives me a very nice metric for deciding on fuels and what to use to replace AEK time…
    Above I figured 107 cups to the boil on a $5.47 canister of fuel for the ultralight butane stove. That’s 5 ¢ / cup. About 2 x the cost of the electric stove. Now that’s just more expensive than I’m willing to spend, BUT: There’s a 50 ¢ tariff request at the PUC.

    Now think about that a minute. Once that tariff passes (or if it is summer in the Central Valley with time of day pricing that hits $1/kW-hr on hot afternoons) it will be (is) cheaper to use expensive camping stoves / fuel to make your meals. Just amazing.

    Now consider the 8 oz butane canisters. In the GasOne or with an adapter to the ultralight, you can get fuel much cheaper. 220 grams = 7.76 ounces. Almost the same as the 8 ounce cans. They run about $4 each, so cost is about 3.7 ¢ / cup. Competitive with the non-baseline rates now, almost. Shift to Propane, it’s $7 for 2 canisters (call it $3.50 for one pound). That’s roughly twice as many cups ( so 214 ) for $3.50. That’s just 1.6 ¢ / cup. Wait a minute! That’s cheaper than Baseline Rates!

    So I can buy propane in expensive 1 pound canisters and beat the cost of electricity. Even the baseline rate in California. Golly.

    Now if I bought it in 5 gallon tanks at $3 / gallon instead, that would make it less than 1/4 that price. Or about 4/10 &cent ; / cup. Gasoline in my Coleman stove is about the same price / gallon, but you get more BTU / gallon of gas than gallon of propane, so it will be even cheaper.

    What this says is that using either propane or gasoline to cook, in California, is just flat out cheaper than using electricity, even at baseline rates.


    So, what’s a fella going to do? Were a I poor person, I’d be making sure to cook at much as possible on my Coleman camp stove or Propane BBQ burners. Me? I’m going to get a propane adapter for the GasOne stove I’ve got (they sell a dual fuel model that’s basically this one with the adapter) and plan on using propane canisters for my daily coffee, tea, breakfast, as convenient.

    I’ve got facilities to refill the canisters from a bulk tank (basically fitting adapters and you put the propane canister in a bucket of ice) and sometime (whenever the weather improves) I’ll be getting the BBQ re-filled.

    When weather improves too, I’ll be firing up the Unleaded Gasoline stove… It’s a bit of fuss for just one cup of coffee, but I’ve used it in summers for cooking meals before.

    Now the other thing I need to do is repeat these calculations for the alcohol stove. I’ve been using it to make my coffee / tea as it’s fast enough, silent, and fun. But I don’t know the burn rate nor a current fuel price. E85 sells for $2.85 locally, so race fuel is likely about $5 / gallon. More than gasoline or propane, but might be worth it. The BTUs / gallon are also lower. I’d guess overall it’s about 4 x the cost if buying race fuel. Yet 4 x 0.4 cents is only 1.6 ¢ and still cheaper than my AEK at the coffee making. The wild card here being that the Trangia type stove gets hot, then some fuel evaporates when you “turn it off” with the snuffer as it cools the stove down. That can be ‘fixed” by putting in a measured quantity of fuel for the one burn. But in the end I still don’t know the fuel burn / cup to boil. So need to measure that.

    E85 in an alcohol (Esbit) stove (at 4 min they light it):

    Works but sooty from the looks of it. Surprised nobody makes an E85 stove… (or maybe they do and I just don’t know it… )

    So in any case, looks like “camp cooking” going forward. Why? Because I am offended by paying more than rational for electricity.

    It’s a very sad state in this State when it’s cheaper to use camping stoves than an electric kitchen.

  57. E.M.Smith says:

    That last bit got me wondering about methanol burn. So I measured my Trangia and stopped at 4.0 ounces of combined stove + fuel when filling it. Then I did the 8 oz teakettle boil and snuffed the stove. (Coffee while it cooled enough to handle) and then re-weighed it. 3.7 oz.

    That makes it 0.3 oz / cup to boil. (with 0.1 oz error band as that’s the limit of resolution).

    A bottle of HEET costs $1.58 at Walmart and is 12 oz. 158/12 = 13.17 ¢/oz or 3.95 ¢/cup boiled. That’s on what’s likely THE most expensive source of methanol OTC.

    I bought a gallon of methanol (lacquer thinner) for somewhere around $12 (God only knows how long ago…). that would be about 1280 ¢ / 128 oz or about a dime an ounce. Or 3 ¢ / cup to the boil. Roughly the same as my using electricity. Golly!

    Further, since racing methanol last I looked was about $5/gallon that implies buying 5 gallons of methanol racing fuel every so often would be about 1/2 the price of using my electric stove!

    That’s quite a surprise.

    This also puts the upper bound of methanol racing fuel when it is at break even at about $10 / gallon. Any time I can get alcohol for less than that, it’s cheaper than using my AEK. A very nice number to know.

    Furthermore, with E85 at $2.85 /gallon it is clearly very much economically advantageous to separate out the ethanol and use it (ethanol works well in a spirit burner). This is easily done by adding a small amount of water which induces phase separation of the gasoline from the ethanol. The left over gasoline with some residual ethanol in it can just be put in the gas tank of my Subaru.

    This has interesting potentials…

  58. E.M.Smith says:

    Was wondering about relative burn time and efficiency of the three main easy to find alcohols (methanol, ethanol, iso-propanol) and ran on this:

    Someone “did the test / experiment”.

    [–]ultralightdudeLighterpack: Tent: /r/efdtgi Hammock: /r/e3j7ch 1 point 3 years ago*

    I did some testing with pure isopropyl, ethanol, and methanol (my job allows me access to these things). In doing testing with an ounce of each fuel, here are my findings: Isopropyl burned cooler (more orange, likely due to the tertiary nature of the center carbon), and it left black soot all over my pot. 1 ounce of fuel burned for about 10 minutes and 35 seconds. Ethanol: burned hotter (bluer, with flickers of orange) and left some carbon residue on my pot. It burned for 10 minutes and 40 seconds. Methanol: burned the hottest. In the end, the pot was as clean as when it started. It burned for 10 minutes and 25 seconds. All three fuels boiled 2 cups of water in just over 4 minutes on a homemade pop can stove. When I’m on the trail, I use nearly pure methanol from the yellow Heet bottles. It burns clean. Always store methanol separate from your eating utensils in a sealed bottle. I keep mine outside the pack in a side pocket.

    He does not state if it is one ounce volume or weight. I’d assume volume… maybe. But he’s a hard core backpacker, so maybe weight….

    So for the same 1 oz (some kind) he gets about the same fuel burn time. One presumes (hopes? questions?) he got the same flame size and pot heating times…

    The bottom line looks to be that a stove designed for methanol works best on methanol but you can use the other fuels in a pinch if you don’t mind a little bit of soot. Since I got a quart of “denatured alcohol fuel” for about $2.50 in the paint department there, that seems the cheapest small size to buy. Up thread in that link someone claims the MDMS says it’s 40% ethanol the rest Methanol. That ought to be about ideal. I’ll test it (and 91% iso-propanol from the pharmacy at $2.50 / quart and pure methanol) sometime tonight.

    Then I’m going to try a blend of the Iso-propanol with methanol. Just curious if a 50-50 mix would be low soot. (so really a 4.5% water 45.5% isopropanol 50% methanol blend)

    The bottom line of the test quoted above is they all work OK and it’s just a question of soot levels that are OK on your pots.

    ASSUMING the burn rates are about the same, I’d predict that the denatured alcohol would run:

    250/16 = 7.815 ¢ / ounce and 2.34 ¢ / cup boiled…. or LESS than my electric stove…

  59. Techeditor says:

    Since people are doing performance tests on their stoves, I decided to do the 1 cup test on my Perfection “Hi-Power” Kerosene stove. Starting at 52F I reached bubbles at 3:45 and a rolling boil at 4:36 with a high yellow flame.

  60. E.M.Smith says:


    Neat Stove! I’m suffering envy ;-)

    Nice and fast, too.

    Thanks for giving us a kerosene benchmark. My kerosene stove is packed up at the moment and hasn’t been run in about 2 years so will likely need freshening and cleaning… You’ve saved me a Saturday Morning! Precious thing, that.

    Having found a cheap and easy source of stove alcohol that is less than the cost of my electric range, and more fun in the Trangia: I’ve decided to just swap over to living on the Trangia for my misc. cups of coffee & tea. Still going to use the range for the dinner meal; mostly as I often use 3 burners at once and / or the oven. In good weather I’ll move some dinner making out on the patio with the BBQ / grill or 2 burner gasoline stove; just ’cause I like it out there (and maybe a little as it points out the absurdity of our PUC)

    I also have been making breakfast (sausage & eggs) on the alcohol burner. (Hey, it was already fired up and running from making coffee… so just keep going and avoid a re-heat cycle). Made a pot of hard boiled eggs on it after that, so some salad and sandwich components moved off of the electric stove.

    The silly thing is, I find the experience more fun. It gets started faster than the electric stove. I get to “play with fire” and love the blue flame. It’s easier logistically: The stove sits on the counter where I prep the filter / coffee / cup and fill the pot. So just set it on the alcohol stove; no turning around to the electric stove, turning back, and repeat when it whistles, and… All just right there in front of me. The big Trangia is a nearly perfect match to the kettle. Very stable. It’s almost like the kettle is sitting on the counter and just whistles when ready.

    I know it’s a silly thing; but the lack of rotating back and forth between counter and electric stove is more comfortable and easier.

    Since the quart sized denatured alcohol is a rough match to our baseline electric rates, and we use well over baseline, it also saves money. At least until we are regularly below baseline when it will be a rough match. By then I’ll likely find someplace selling methanol for less. It’s only $2.25 / quart per the receipt so my above “from memory” guess of $2.50 was a bit off. So I need to find a source of racing fuel methanol or ethanol for less than $9.00 / gallon. That ought to be easy.

  61. E.M.Smith says:

    I went down a rabbit hole wondering about alcohol based lighting… Looks like there was, long ago, mantle type lamps using alcohol. From the pictures it looks like an Aladdin type round wick with a mantle over it. I’ve got an Aladdin in the garage somewhere, but I think it’s there as something on it broke… Then I found this lantern that runs on all sorts of odd fuels, though the very heavy (Diesel) and very light (methanol / ethanol) need to be in a 50/50 mix rather than straight:

    Click to access BL_500CP_EN_MANUAL.pdf

    16 BriteLyt Rapid 829/500CP
    Multiple Fuel Operation Guidelines

    The preheat times listed are approximate. Variables such as altitude, humidity and temperature will have an impact.

    Burning fuels that are not listed in this manual should be done at your own risk. BriteLyt assumes no responsibility for the burning of nonlisted fuels. Burning fuels not listed in this manual can cause permanent and irreversible damage to your lantern.

    Alcohol based fuels (ethanol or methanol), or pure oil (vegetable, motor, industrial), should not be burned on their own. If using any of the fuels listed above you must mix with another fuel, in a 50/50 ratio for your lantern to run properly.
    BriteLyt Rapid 829/500CP 17

    Gasoline Type Fuels
    Pre-Heat Time approximately: 10 to 35 seconds
    Examples: Coleman Fuel, Gasoline, White Gas, Paint Thinner, Lighter Fluid, Mineral Spirits without Oil.

    Oil Based Fuels
    Pre-Heat Time approximately: 15 to 45 sec
    Examples: Kerosene, Lamp Oil, JP Fuels, Citronella Oil, Mineral Spirits with Oil.

    Heavy Oil Base Fuels (50/50 Mixture Recommended)
    Pre-Heat Time approximately: 45 sec to 2 min.
    Examples: Diesel Fuel or Bio-Diesel.

    Below are recommendations for mixing fuels in order to improve efficiency and safety. The recommended mixture is 50/50 but can be adjusted to match your conditions.

    Kerosene and Gasoline Type Fuel
    Pre-Heat Time approximately: 15 to 30 sec
    Total Run Time Approximately: 10 to 12 hours
    Examples: Kerosene mixed with any of the following fuels:
    Coleman, Paint Thinner and All Alcohol Fuels.

    Diesel and Gasoline Type Fuel
    Pre-Heat Time approximately: 20 to 40 sec.
    Total Run Time Approximately: 10 to 15 hours.
    Examples: Diesel mixed with any of the following fuels: Coleman, Paint Thinner and All Alcohol Fuels.

    Biodiesel and Gasoline Type Fuel
    Pre-Heat Time approximately: 45 sec to 2 min
    Total Run Time Approximately: 10 to 25 hours.
    Examples: Diesel mixed with any of the following fuels: Coleman, Paint Thinner and All Alcohol Fuels.

    Motor Oil and Gasoline Type Fuel
    Pre-Heat Time approximately: 1 1/2 to 3 min and may have to use Alcohol cup and not preheater (part 35). (Must test pre-heater if it does not work use heat cup part 35)

    Might be nice to have an omnivorous lantern during an Aw Shit time…

  62. E.M.Smith says:

    Tested the Tragia with some other fuels:

    The 91% iso-propanol burns nicely but with a yellow flame and soots pots. I didn’t time it as I’d only use it in an emergency and then you don’t care about cost, soot & time.

    Same thing for acetone. Runs the burner nicely, but yellow flame tips. I think it is a bit less yellow than iso-propanol, but still sooted the test object (BBQ spatula). I’d use it in an emergency, or diluted with methanol. (A someday bored test: At what % acetone does sooting start?)

    The Kleen-Strip Denatured Acohol Fuel – not looked up the MSDS but the redit link claimed it is 40% ethanol, the rest methanol – burns very nicely with just a tinge of orange at the flame edges or tips. No sooting observed. Test time: 4:45 to boil, 5:30 to whistle. Faster than pure methanol by a tiny bit (or inside my error bounds). In another test, 2 tsp. or 10 ml raised 8 oz. or about 250 ml just to the boil as the stove ran dry. Useful to know if you don’t want the hot stove cooling by evaporating fuel (my prior fuel burned test let the stove cool then weighed it, so is wost case fuel use) or are worried it will leak in your pack with the lid on (bad gasket).

    I also poured out all fuel, then lit the stove. It retains 90 seconds of fuel, or about 1/3 of an 8 oz water boil… clearly draining the stove after each boil is not efficient and either a sealed cap or load only enough fuel is max efficiency. The “snuff and cover” is fine for my daily use, but knowing 10 ml / cup for minimal fuel use / max efficiency is useful if you must stretch fuel.

    I think this concludes my fuel tests. “Someday” I might explore what ratio of iso-propanol to methanol is soot free or minimal but acceptable soot. Same thing for acetone. But I already know what I need. Both work for emergencies, but with sooting. Probably better used as fuel extenders in a gasoline stove. Or perhaps on a wick for lighting in a fixture that is safe for highly volatile fuels (i.e. NOT a kerosene lamp).

    I’d worry that acetone might dissolve any tank coating in a gasoline stove, so would only use it with stoves having an aluminum fuel bottle. Similarly, it could soften some seal materials. Basically, I think it is not a good idea unless you can do stove maintenance, That’s why I was hoping it would work in the passive all brass spirit burner… Oh well, it is expensive stuff anyway, at double the price of denature alcohol in quart sizes. So the only interest is a Mad Max one…

  63. E.M.Smith says:


    I made a test mix of 1/3 acetone 2/3 “Denatured Alcohol Fuel” ( that is 40% ethanol 60% methanol). It burned relatively cleanly and did not soot up a stainless steel BBQ spatula placed in the flames. It DID have a somewhat orange flame away from the burner holes and it looked like a relatively large flame.

    After the stove cooled, it was drained and a new mix put in. This was 1/4 acetone and 3/4 methanol (from S-L-K can). This burned with a clean blue flame while the tea kettle was on the stove, but when no obstruction was above it, again a slightly orangish flame away from the burner proper. No soot formed on the tea kettle and it boiled faster.

    At the boil in about 4 minutes (it caught me by surprise so I wasn’t counting seconds) and whistle at 4:48 (I was counting by then and it was a 12 count after whistle until the clock rolled to 5 minutes).

    It looks to me like acetone makes the stove run a bit faster. I’d guess it is an azeotrope formation thing depressing the boiling point.

    My conclusion is that using a mix of 1/4 to 1/3 acetone in Methanol is Just Fine and a bit faster burn. I’d guess that at about the 1/2 point sooting would start to happen, but I’ve not tested that. I may do it “someday”, but since all I want right now is a way to use up the acetone I bought for the test, this is “good enough”. I can make a jug of 1/3 acetone just use it.

    Some several cups of coffee from now, when the stove has run out of fuel again, I’ll try the same experiment with iso-propanol 91% at the 1/4 and 1/3 mix levels with methanol. ( I have a quart of it to use up too ;-)

    Now the interesting thing for me is that acetone (also named propanone) can be thought of as the same structure as iso-propanol, but where the center carbon of the three carbon chain is double bonded to the Oxygen there instead of single bonded to it, with the other bond from the Oxygen going to a Hydrogen just like the other Carbon bond goes to a Hydrogen. Essentially, iso-propanol is what you get when you stick H2 into the double bond between the Carbon and Oxygen in Propanone.

    So the question is: Does having that center carbon already double bonded to an O significantly reduce soot formation? Or does it not make much difference in any case and the extra H2 in the molecule just adds more heat to the fuel?

    News when it happens… which will be several cups of coffee or tea from now and maybe even tomorrow… unless I get bored and dump the stove fuel back in the bottle and…

  64. E.M.Smith says:

    Curiosity is a cruel master… I could not resist, even though it was just wasting fuel…

    1/3 91% iso-propanol mixed with 2/3 Methanol gives a very similar yellow flame when no pot is in place. With the pot, it’s a slightly orange tinged flame away from the burner jets. The test instrument gathered no soot. I ran a test with the tea kettle. No soot. Fast times. On the order of 4:35 to the whistle. I need to re-run it to be sure, but it seemed to be starting to steam and make noises at the 3 to 4 transition and on the 3:50 side of it.

    Now this run was done without “burning off” the stove, so there was some residual acetone / methanol mix (that didn’t pour out) in the stove. 90 seconds worth per prior burn off testing. For that reason I ran it over 90 seconds before doing the evaluation. Still, some small acetone amount might have crept into the mix. I added 45 ml of mixed propanol and methanol, and a 90 second burn ought to be about 3 ml, of which only 1 ml was acetone… so it ought to be a negligible point.

    I’m now of the opinion that 1/3 of either iso-propanol 91% or acetone in methanol 2/3 will work fine as a stove fuel; though it will give a significant yellow flame with the pot off the burner. That could well be a feature in daylight use where a pure methanol flame is invisible. At some time I’ll test that outside. It’s only a little past noon now, so as soon as the stove cools…

    This leaves open the question of usability of 1/2 methanol 1/2 acetone or propanol blends. I’m guessing from the yellow flame with pot not in place that 1/3 is about as far as you can go without sooting. But it ought to be tested for sure “someday”…

  65. E.M.Smith says:


    A 50%-50% mix of iso-propanol 91% with methanol gives a very yellow candle like flame with no pot in place (so ought to be very visible in daylight) while going orange-ish with a pot in place and blue near the burner – and put no soot on the pot. I didn’t time it as it was just a proof of concept and I thought it was going to soot and be pulled before the boil… but it boiled very fast (no surprise as this was the water I’d just heated before, not fresh from the tap).

    This strongly implies a 50/50 mix of acetone / methanol ought to also work fine and without sooting.

    Very unexpected. I was sure at 1/2 heavy stuff I’d get sooting.

    When some draft from the open window hit the burner, the bits blown out the side of the stove did go yellow again (and that typically means C dropping an energy state – so soot possible if it cools before hitting an oxygen. I think that’s a ‘tell’ for near the limit of non-sooting mix.

    Well, the good news is this means I can use up my test acetone and iso-propanol faster ;-)


    Tested in overcast daylight at about 2:15 PM PDT the very tips / edges of the flame are visible. Not brightly, but enough. Especially if a bit of breeze puffs at it.

    I think I’ve just invented “Spirit Stove Daylight Safety Fuel”! My gift to the spirit stove world…

    I hereby “Copy Left” under the current GPL (or any prior or subsequent version of the GPL as the user might choose) and grant to public use the phrase “Spirit Stove Daylight Safety Fuel”.

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  67. E.M.Smith says:

    Over morning coffee I got to wondering just how cheaply methanol could be bought from a major supplier in quantities suited to running your kitchen or heating on it. Bit of a surprise:


    (Valid April 1, 2018 - June 30, 2018)
    Methanex European Posted Contract Price
    Posted March 21, 2018
    Euro 380/MT
    North America
    (Valid April 1, 2018 - April 30, 2018)
    Methanex Non-Discounted Reference Price
    Posted March 27, 2018
    USD 1.49/Gal*
    USD 496/MT
    Asia Pacific
    (Valid April 1, 2018 - April 30, 2018)
    Asian Posted Contract Price
    Posted March 29, 2018
    USD 460/MT
    * Convert to $/MT using a conversion rate of 332.6 Gal per MT

    So it’s cheaper by about 25% in Europe (where other fuels are more expensive) but still quite cheap in North America at $1.50 / gallon. Now I’ve not looked into just what size units you must buy to get that price (hopefully not measured in tons…) but that really is a low price.

    Methanol has much lower BTU / gallon (or ton) than, say, Diesel Oil, so that it’s running about 1/2 the local Diesel price is not really a surprise if based on BTU/$ but still. This is “way cheap” compared to running an electric stove.

    So I guess now the question is how to get it retail in 5 gallon jugs for less than double that price ;-)

  68. E.M.Smith says:

    There’s something inherent in the Propane experience that’s just special.

    I moved the”starting to rust” propane canister to one of these:


    A $15 single burner propane stove. It’s a bit tall so care in using off balance frying pans in order. OTOH, for $15 & $4 of propane you are in business. And it DOES mean business.

    I just did 12 ounces of cold water to whistling tea kettle and pouring over drip coffee maker in… ONE minute and 16 seconds…

    That would make the 8 oz standard size about 50 seconds. Doesn’t even reach a whole minute in the test.

    For $30 you can get this 2 burner model that’s low and flat and a LOT easier to cook on:


    As I’ve put maybe 4 gallons of White Gas through my Coleman Unleaded stove, I’m no where near break even on fuel cost payback. That would take about 12 to 15 gallons of unleaded gasoline (and I’m burning camp stove fuel…)

    Anyone who doesn’t want to “play with stoves” and just wants a cheap and ready to go cooking appliance with “cheap enough” and no fuss fuel, propane is the way to go. I doesn’t have the “dick with factor” of the gasoline stoves so not as much “feeling like you are camping”, but you get instant cooking NOW without bother. The propane canisters seem to store forever in my garage. I’ve got a couple that are a decade (or maybe two) old and still look new. The one I’m using up now has been outdoors about 3+ years…

    Oh, and I re-figured how long my Coleman 2 burner unleaded and the propane canister had been in “outdoor storage”. It’s been about 1.5 years since my last contract ended (and I came back to California) and it was a 1.5 year contract that I bugged out for, so that’s somewhere over 3 years “stored” in an open shelf outdoors. Canister in a brick cubby hole under the patio old brick BBQ, stove under the Webber grill / BBQ pushed up the fence where squirrels sat dropping sunflower seed shells into it. (FILLING the whole darned webber storage area!)

    That’s a long time for “abusive storage” and it still worked fine.

  69. E.M.Smith says:

    One More Item in the saga of the Greater Tuna Sterno Stove: Charcoal.

    I bought a 6 lb bag of “Expert Grill” match light charcoal at Home Despot for about $5 ( $4.75? something like that). Under $1 / lb. (Compare propane in canisters at $3.50 / lb and gasoline at about $0.50 / lb – using a $3 price and 6 lbs / gallon as estimates). It is much cheaper in non-match light – about 33 ¢/lb IIRC.

    Using the tuna can in the Sterno stove, I put in 3 briquettes. These are smaller than the Kingsford and have a ‘waist’ on them that’s supposed to promote air flow and better burn. Lit them and applied the kettle. It burns with a yellow kerosene like flame, soots the bottom of the tea kettle like kerosene, and boiled the water in about 7 to 8 minutes. At 12 to 13 I gave up getting a ‘whistle’ and poured the water into the coffee filter. At about 14 minutes the last of the ‘yellow flame’ went out and the parts of the briquettes above the can rim were glowing nicely…

    I made a tuna sandwich during this time, and used the second tuna can to make a ventilated burner. 8 x “churchkey” holes about 1/2 size around the rim. The can dented significantly in the process. Either get a much sharper churchkey, or use a drill… The charcoal was poured into this can (gingerly, using needle nose pliers) and the first can inverted in the bottom of the stove as a stand, the second can placed on top.

    At this point, the non-glowing bottoms of the coals had become the top, and began to issue whisps of stinky hyrdocarbon. They had been heated enough that there wasn’t enough to sustain a flame, but more than enough to annoy. Several matches gave their all in the attempt to light the (now) tops. Eventually a slight flame started i the very middle, but more CO burning than HC. The tea kettle had the bottom washed to de-soot it and a new 8 oz of cold water inserted.

    After 20 minutes (likely 25 by now) still no simmer. A thermometer inserted into the tea kettle reports 185 F steady.


    You CAN use self lighting charcoal in the Sterno Stove with a Tuna Can burner. Mostly you are just burning kerosene from a charcoal sponge…

    Charcoal itself, at least the 3 pieces that fill a tuna can, is enough to make a slow cooker or warming stove, but not enough to boil water. Much more power is needed. I’d guess some kind of tray with at least 5 maybe 6 or 7 “coals” on it.

    Self Lighting is an interesting feature. I don’t like it. You would be better served carrying regular charcoal and a stove that burned the fuel that’s soaked into the self lighting stuff. Toss some old newspaper in with the bag of charcoal and light it the old fashioned way. Carry a small bottle of vegetable oil if you need enhanced lighting ( one tablespoon on some newspaper, under the briquettes, it’s a champ). Then in real Dire Straits you could always just drink the vegetable oil for calories…

    I’d rather get a real Hibachi and use it, and the charcoal, at home. Get something more peasant for use “in the boonies”. A small gas canister and stove is about 300 grams and will cook several meals plus lots of drinks, lights every time with the built in sparker, takes zero time to get to speed and does not stink nor soot things up. Cost is about $15 to $20 with fuel and storage bag / box.

    With that said: IFF all you have is a Sterno Stove and some charcoal, you can make a go of it. As a last ditch desperation measure. Even the bad methanol based chaffing fuel is better…

  70. ossqss says:

    I have used small pieces of lighterknot for short term heating needs. It is basically dead pine tree tap root which is very flammable due to the concentration of sap. Smells like turpentine. I dug out about a 2′ piece when we did the pool about 8′ down (probably been there 30 years or so) and have been using small chunks of it to start fires for a few years now. The stuff is magical I tell ya! Lights like a candle.

  71. E.M.Smith says:

    Just a documenting prices comment. Made a run to Walmart…

    Propane 1 lb canister $3.12 sold in sets of two for $6.24. Since gasoline is about 6 lbs / gallon, that is roughly $18.72 / gallon equiv.

    Crown brand white gas – $7.64 / gallon can. Actually reasonable as it comes with a can… and stores longer / burns cleaner than unleaded gasoline (going for $3.59 / gallon here RUG cheap station – not Shell or Exxon or…)

    220 gram Coleman brand Butane / propane mix for small fitting gas stoves (Lindal fitting) $5.74 or roughly $90 / gallon depending on how you do the conversion. But very light and convenient for packing on foot. And Walmart is way cheaper than everyone else who run about $10- $15/can.

    Denature (mostly ethanol some methanol) fuel alcohol. $2.50 / quart. $10 / gallon. Quite reasonable for very clean easy to use light weight fuel. Probably about 2 x the fuel volume needed for any given food cook due to lower BTU / lb though. So, likely about a push vs propane canisters, but cheap compared to Lindal.

    Butane in Hair spray shaped canisters at Smart & Final ~$2.60 / 8 oz in pack of 4. Roughly $20 / gallon equiv.

    So overall, Unleaded Gasoline is by far the cheapest. White Gas off-brand in cans reasonable and better for longer storage / bugout package. Best for very frequent “car campers” and cooking at home outdoors / patio. My fair weather patio use AEK (electric kitchen) replacer.

    Alcohol fuel is nearly as cheap, but with mass conversion in fuel burn Propane would be as good I think and ends up about 2 x White Gas net. I’ll use alcohol for sporadic walk in camping, propane for any car camping where I’m not using White Gas, and at home as AEK replacer if inside.

    The “Hair Spray” shaped Butane used in the Asian stoves can be cheap if you look around, and is available in Asian grocery stores and food service outlets. Basically a wash with Propane canisters on price. There are adapters to let you use it with Lindal stoves (but you want the stove with a remote tank not the one where the stove sits on top of the fuel can as the narrow butane hair spray can makes a very wobbly stove base…) For FREQUENT ultra light campers, that would make sense. I might use it as designed for “at the table” cooking.

    Finally, the Butane / Propane Lindal Canister is very small efficient and convenient. Also horribly expensive. So I’m only using it for “walk out bags” and similar things where it will sit for years and maybe be used once; but when you use it you want light weight.

  72. Greg Hall says:

    And water clear low sulphur Kerosene is $3.39 per gallon at the gas station. 138,000 BTU per gallon

  73. E.M.Smith says:


    Thanks for that data point. Would that it were true here…

    In Kalifonia, they are paranoid about the minuscule road tax they could lose from the near zero Diesel cars that might add a few percent of kerosene to winterize their Diesel for the two months a year it actually gets cold in 1/4 of the State… Despite it costing MORE at the pump than Diesel…

    First they mandated the hoses be 2 foot long. That just made it impossible to dispense for everyone. (Even filling a 5 gallon jug was near impossible) I’ll skip the middle… Now it is red dyed and something close to $6 /gallon at the one or two stations that carry it ( I know of 2 Rotten Robbie in the whole south bay area.)

    While I love it for running my outdoor oven (makes nice bread) the PITA factor on using it is just too high now, here.

    For completeness: I carry a 1 gallon jug in my Diesel as emergency fuel. IIRC it cost me about $10 at Walmart. In general, in places that are sane. kerosene cost is roughly the same as gasoline but with about 20,000 more BTU per gallon. Often available at airports as jet fuel.

    Even with the crazy high aviation taxes, jet fuel is cheaper than at the pump in Kalifornia… go figure.

    At one point (prior to red dye phase) I converted my home quake prep to Kerosene. Got a Colman kerosene mantle lantern and 2 stoves that run it (one a pressure bottle pump stove, the other wick – wick is easier and IMHO better). Plus a 5 gallon plastic jug of “water white”. Still have about 2 gal. of it. I’d love to make it my home “Fuel of choice” (especially if I could get an old Perfection stove / oven like Grandma used to use – she being Amish) but that’s just not what Herr Commissar Der State here will allow…

    So that’s why I tend to leave it out of analysis and comparison bits. ‘Cause I don’t see the real price data from non-crazy places… and usage here is low.

  74. Larry Ledwick says:

    Last time I bought some a 5 gallon can of K-1 Kerosene here in Colorado from Lowes was about $35-$38 a can.

    Looks like it is now selling for $44.00


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  77. E.M.Smith says:

    Did a test with the microwave. 1.5 kW took 2.5 minutes to boil 8 oz. cold tap water in a pint cannig jar (lowest mass microwave transparent heat stable container I have with water roughly a right circular cylinder. That worked out to 2 ¢ to boil vs 3.2 ¢ estimated on the range.

    We saw above that stove alcohol was running me 2.32 ¢ / cup to boil, so the microwave beats it by 1/3 ¢ (but I’m going to keep using the alcohol stove ‘cuase fire is more fun and it is silent and first thing in the morning silent matters ;-) almost as much as late at night…


    GIven propane in canisters was running about 1.6 ¢ that means any of these is cheaper than even using my microwave oven to boil water:

    unleaded gasoline
    white gasoline
    BBQ tank propane
    canister propane
    racing fuel alcohol

    and that even “by the quart at Walmart” stove alcohol is roughly a wash.

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