three stoves

Backpacking camping stoves! Gas vs Alcohol

We’re soon going to be heading off on a 5-6 day walk along the Norfolk Coastal Path (82 miles). We’re planning on going relatively lightweight, which prompted us to have a look at our stove options and what might work the best.

We’ve always used gas stoves. Our alpkit brewkit is our best friend on van camping trips but we decided to take a walk around Decathlon to see if there was anything that could be useful for our trip, and we found an alcohol/meths stove that looked well worth a try. The price was ยฃ18. We decided to compare all of our available options and these are the results. The test has been pretty conclusive and the best option is ‘it depends!’ but the figures here helped us make an informed choice.

The first test was a 3-way boil test between the Alpkit Brewkit, the OEX-F1 and the meths burner. We used new 500g gas cans. We used the brewkit as it came (but the weight below doesn’t include the pan support). The OEX-F1 without a windshield (we didn’t have one tall enough) with a 1l OEX pot. The meths stove was used with a windshield and another OEX pot. Outside temp was around 2-3c.

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Left: Meths Burner. Middle: Alpkit Brewkit. Right: OEX -F1

It’s worth noting that on this test, we had issues with the OEX stove not being on the can well enough and it stopped working part way through. We fixed it up and continued the test without stopping the clock. We also had some issues with the meths stove in that the flame was licking up all over the side of the pan, so we decided to add the simmer ring part way through.

Stove Weight Boil time (1l) Fuel used (g)
Alpkit Brewkit 470g 6.18 15g
OEX-F1/OEX Pot 350g 16.45 25g
Meths Stove/OEX Pot/Concertina windshield 460g 24.12 42g

All in all, this first test was a bit of a disaster, but it showed us that the our loyal buddy the brewkit came out on top. Though it was the heaviest option, it was also the most efficient. We didn’t stop there though! We could see there were some improvements to be gained and so began test 2. This time we made a pot cosy for our OEX and used simmer ring from the start.

Stove Weight Boil time (1l) Fuel used (g)
Meths Stove/OEX pot with cosy/Concertina windshield 480g 30+mins 29g

At 30mins, we gave up. The water was very hot. Enough for a drink but it just wasn’t getting there quickly. We were very happy with fuel performance. 30mins of cooking time with 29g of fuel is great, but we’d spend far too much time waiting around for a brew! But what if we tried using the brewkit pot with the heat exchanger? Would it keep the flames in? It did, and the results were great but it was also heavier. We also gave the OEX-F1 with the same pot.

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Our new pot cosy made from a sleeping mat and foil tape. It got slightly burnt.
Stove Weight Boil time (1l) Fuel used (g)
Meths Stove/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 540g 11.40 20g
OEX-F1/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 440g 5.45 20g

In this test, fuel consumption and speed were hugely improved and the OEX-F1 was quicker than the brewkit, but a bit less efficient.

But what do all the figures mean? It depends on what matters to you. There appears to be no perfect solution. Things to consider are the stove weight, how much boil time matters, would you use one canister of gas, or would it be two/three or more and can you resupply enroute? What are you cooking, boil in the bag or something where simmering is more important? Is it for one or two people?

Gas canisters are heavy. The full Primus 230g canisters weigh 380g meaning that canister alone weighs 150g. By comparison. A meths bottle is around 60g. 500ml of meths weighs about 400g excl the bottle.

To calculate our best option, we looked at how much fuel we would use for 3 full boils a day. It’s not what we will be doing, some will be cooking, we won’t want 1l each time but it lets us compare. We’re not too worried about boil times.

Stove Weight Fuel per boil Fuel needed per day (3x boil) + a bit Fuel needed for 6 days Total fuel weight, incl. canisters Fuel + stove weight
Alpkit Brewkit 470g 15g 60g 360g 2x cans – 760g 1230g
OEX-F1/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 440g 20g 75g 450g 2x cans – 760g 1200g
Meths Stove/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 540g 20g 80g (100ml) 480g

(600ml)

80g =100ml
480g = 600m
2 bottles (60g each)
Total 700g
1240g

 

The verdict:

So all in all, the results are actually quite similar! The main differences being in boil times.

We’ve actually decided to go with the meths stove with an extra pot cosy. We know we can cook on it as well as boil water. While initially heavier, after day 1-2 we would be lighter overall because we would lose one bottle and around 80-160g worth of fuel and it stays the lighter option throughout. If we could get away with a single can, the gas would win the test on fuel efficiency alone.

Other considerations: We know the gas boil times are much quicker with a full can and that this drops down considerably the more empty the bottle gets. The other benefit is that the alcohol burner is much quieter and the fuel is easier to get hold of being available at both hardwear shops and camping shops. The meths burner is also more compact.

For this trip, our alcohol stove will be coming with us, but it doesn’t mean it will always come out on top.

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The chosen stove. Brewkit pot, concertina windshield and meths burner.