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Trangia Stove

The Trangia 28 alcohol stove that I use is serving me well. The Trangia burns ethyl alcohol, otherwise known as wood or denatured alcohol which can be found in paint and hardware stores. Another fuel alternative is HEET gasline antifreeze (or any brand of gasline antifreeze as long as it containes methyl alcohol).This burns even hoter and cleaner than ethyl alcohol but is also fairly toxic. You want to avoid breathing the funes and contact with skin. I'm a chicken when it comes to chemicals so use denatured alcohol. Avoid burning rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. It burns but with lots of soot and it will take forever to boil water.The stove is inexpensive, very light (3.2 oz), and extremely reliable since it has no moving parts. Basically it is just a container with wicking material enclosed in a space around the fuel chamber. Chris Townsend describes it as the most popular stove in the Scandinavian countries.

Alcohol can be heavy if you take a lot of it, but for my 3-5 day trips, a 4 oz bottle is more than enough. For a weekend, I fill the stove (about 2/3 full is recommended) and don't need any more fuel than this. Often I save fuel by boiling water, dropping in the ingredients for my meal, stirring, extinguishing the stove, covering the pot with a insulated cozy made with closed cell foam, and waiting 15 minutes or so for dinner to cook. See the Tips page for instructions for making this simple cozy. My usual pattern is to boil water for hot cereal at breakfast, eat a cold lunch, then boil water again for dinner. Following this pattern, I go through about .5 oz. of fuel per day. Fuel savings is also one of my rewards for not being a coffee drinker.

I have modified the original stove set which consists of the stove, a base or housing, a lid, and a second covering that has a sort of flap that you can slide over the flame to have at least a crude control of the flame size. I discarded the sliding covering as a piece of foil will do the same thing. I also discarded the housing and replaced it with a 2.5 inch section of 4 inch aluminum dryer venting in which I drilled holes all around the sides for ventillation (thank you Onestep for this idea). Then I cut the end of a coat hanger, which rests on the can, supports the pot, and allows air to enter between the stove and the pot. The coat hanger also makes it possible to support a Sierra cup on the stove as an alternative to a pot. These modification ideas are not original but are part of a description of a home made stove that Michael Connick once used. When it is all put together it makes a very wind tight unit.

In cold weather it is a good idea to carry the stove unit filled with fuel in your pocket for a couple of hours before lighting it.

Many backpackers have opted to make their own alcohol stoves. Two of these, the Photon Stove and the Tin Can Stove are quite popular and the designers have posted instructions. I stick with my trusty Trangia because it has a sealed lid so I can carry fuel in the stove. Also, I typically bring my water to a boil and put out the stove, using very little fuel. All the home made stove designs I have seen requre that you fill the stove, then burn until the fuel runs out. I think that I would use considerably more fuel if I couldn't control the burn time.

For lots of additional information about the Trangia line of stoves and other lightweight alternatives go to Stoves.


Stove in center with the section of dryer vent and coat hanger

System all set for cooking

Closed Cell Foam Cozy

If the weather is nice, I am not too tired, and there is a fire pit available, I opt to cook over a small fire following techniques suggested by Ray Jardine. This saves fuel and adds to the camping experience. Basically one builds a very small fire using sticks not larger than your thumb. Make a tripod of sticks, each one about four feet long , tying the top together with a overhand knot. Tie a line to the wire of your pot with a tautline hitch and tie this to the tripod. The tautline will enable you to raise and lower the pot. When ready to cook, set the tripod with hanging pot over the flame with the pot positioned about an inch above the flame.

For some samples of food ideas and recipes that I use while backpacking see Trail Food.

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