View Full Version : alcohol or white gas?

02-01-2003, 15:08
Since ive discovered this site i have gained valuable info on how to plan my own thru-hike next year. Ive read many well written threads arguing or disproving a myriad of topics. Im trying to decide whether to go with a white gas or an alcohol burning stove. I can see both plusses and minuses to both, but as a complete newbie, perhaps some of the more educated people that hang out on this site could offer up some advice. Im either going to go with the optimus nova or the trangia westwind. After a lot of research i decided on the optimus nova for its metal pump in lieu of the MSR plastic one. Ive also read they are vastly superior to the MSR in terms of simmering (which I really like).
Howerver, Im also partial to the trangia since alcohol is quieter, seems to be more fuel efficient and with no moving parts seems pretty much idiot-proof. Ive never used either type of stove before however i have a basic undedrstanding of how white gas is used however i have never used alcohol before but after hanging out on this site for a while it seems to be the way to go so I guess i need to be converted so to speak. If anyone has any input on either stove it would be greatly appreciated .

02-01-2003, 16:23
If you want to be convinced which is the best way to go, ask how many hikers who started at Springer were using white gas. Then ask how many that finished at Katahdin were still using white gas. IMHO, I'd bet you would find a huge majority that started with white gas made the switch to alcohol somewhere along the way. Lots of reasons why... but I think you covered most of them.

02-01-2003, 16:43
Alcohol...alcohol...alcohol ! Much lighter-fuel easy to find-and no parts to break, repair, etc.

02-01-2003, 17:53
I'm a recent convert to alcohol stoves. The weight savings alone is reason enough for me... but my homemade pepsi can stove is incredibly light, easy to use, easy to replace and works great! I'd recomend making your own before spending money on a store-bought model. I really wish I had.... I doubt I will ever use my store-bought stoves again.

-- Ivy

02-01-2003, 20:31
I have a Svea 123 that is 30 years old and has never failed me, but about 3 years ago I realized that I was always worrying about the Svea lighting. I purchased a Trangia mini 28 and discovered alcohol. I have made soda can stoves and find them as good as the store bought Trangia. Reciently I have discovered that the 1 inch bottom of a soda can works as well as the more complex stove with the liner and holes. Reliability is about 100%. So long as alcohol will burn this stove will work and you can make one with a pocket knife. If you are going to be melting a lot of snow for water, then a gas stove is better, but in most other cases alcohol rules.

02-02-2003, 03:46
I use the Pepsi Can stove and have had no problems doing so. My current stove has been lit over 100 times and has held up pretty well...granted it looks like death haha. I also like white gas stoves but they are a little over-kill for a thru-hike in my opinion. Do you really need to boil water in 3 minutes? Do you really need to spend $60 on a stove? Alcohol stoves work fine and obviously weigh much less, just have to get used to the amount of fuel needed to cook you dinner of choice.

02-02-2003, 05:52
since I am currently converting heres a few pro/con items

alcohol is easier to find then white gas.
alcohol is a renewable resource and generally non toxic
alcohol uses simple, cheap non mechanical burner

for 1 person backpacking in 3 season weather alcohol does well


white gas produces more heat both overall and per pound of fuel.

for 2 or more people in any weather, weight can be shared and dishes for more then one can be made, white gas can be more effective and lighter in overall weight.
for melting snow and winter usage only white gas can produce the temps needed.

there are of course cannister type fuels but I haven't tried them for myself so I will refrain from comment.

clear as mud?

02-02-2003, 06:24
Alcohol stoves rule, forget canisters-learned that a couple of weeks ago when the temp was between 10-15 when we were cooking....spend the extra money and get a Brasslite Due (Brasslite.com). it is a work of art that you will give your grandkids and their grandkids when the pepsi can stoves will add to the landfills.

SGT Rock
02-02-2003, 12:26
Note: follow these steps one at a time. Do not read ahead until you have done the step you are on.

1. Here is a simple challenge, make an alcohol stove, it only takes a few minutes without specialized tools or parts. 2 coke cans, a wire hanger, and some aluminum foil. Check out http://wings.interfree.it/

2. Go to Wal-Mart and get some de-natured alcohol. Total cost about $3.

3. Take it into your back yard, add some alcohol, and boil a pint of water. To measure your alcohol, take the cap off a soda bottle and fill it up 2-3 trimes. It will boil water.

4. Now sit back and realize there was no pumping or priming required, the stove weighs less than 2 ounces, and you can carry enough fuel for two weeks in a 16 ounce soda bottle. AMAZING!

5. If you want to simmer, cut the bottom off a third soda can and then cut it into 1/2. Use it like a shutter for the top of the stove. You just added a wopping 0.2 ounces.

6. So for about 3 ounces of stove and fuel bottle, and 14 ounces of fuel you have a sytem that has less moving parts, less fuss, less noise, and is cleaner than the gas stove - before you even fill the fuel bottle on that gas stove. I think you are converted by now.

7. Now research it some more and find out how to make the system more efficient and better ways to use it. www.hikinghq.net has some great tips :p

02-03-2003, 10:39
The beauty of the alcohol stove is that you can make and test it for free (more or less) before you need it. Alcohol stoves work well in moderate (above freezing) temperature when you don't need massive heat output over long periods of time. Bringing an alcohol stove on a winter mountaineering trip would be foolish. Bringing an alcohol stove on the AT where you mostly just boil a pint of water makes a lot of sense. I wouldn't buy the Trangia as there are plenty of basic designs that even I can make: Cut the bottom third off of a can. That is your stove. Cut up about half of a coffee can and make some vents in it as you see fit. That is your pot stand. All done. If you want to get fancy, you can make a stove out of an empty can of beans and skip the pot stand entirely.

02-11-2003, 21:48
What are other names for denatured alcohol so I am sure to buy the right stuf?!?!

02-11-2003, 23:29
In response to bringing an alcohol stove on winter mountaineering trips, I believe that many people in Northern Europe and the Himalayas use the Trangia type stove. Although it takes along time, you can simmer with an alcohol stove for upwards of two hours on a few ounces, meaning it may take along time to melt snow, but done slowly you can melt alot. Alot of Sherpas use them I heard, not to mention the sweedish military (or is it norway? one of those countries up there).

I use it on day trips in the winter, and successfully used it on an overnighter the other weekend where I had to melt snow. It took a little while, but worked.

02-12-2003, 00:11

In response to your question about other names for the alcohol, here is what I have used most and I think it is the best. I use Heet brand of gas-line antifreeze & water romover for the automoble. I think they may have 2 different types of it, however, be sure you get the on in the yellow bottle. It is a bright yellow 12 oz bottle and cost anywhere from 35 cents to 99 cents. Usually at Walmart it is about 49 cents but sometimes goes on sale for 3 bottles for a buck. I have also used the denatured alcohol that is used with paint and found in the paint section of department stores or in a hardware store. I found in my tests that the Heet burns better and hotter, and is also a lot cheaper than the other. Whatever you use to get the best heat I would recommend that you use a product that has "methyl" alcohol, since that is what Heet contains.

PS ... in my tests Heet was also the cleanest burning alcohol that I tried.

Hope this helps...