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  1. #1
    Ricky and his Husky Jack
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    Default Some People don't 'believe' in alcohol/can stoves

    A month ago I decided i wanted a Jetboil Stove because of fuel availability and because of the mug/pot that comes with it ($100 online)

    But then a few days ago, i decided to go with a Pocket Rocket (I made a thread here asking how to build a pot) because of its $39 price.

    But then this morning when I woke up, I realized I could save even more money, and just get an alcohol/can stove for a few bucks.

    So I drove 40miles to Chattanooga to check out 'ROCK CREEK OUTFITTERS' that local hikers recommended. But when I got there, the place had a serious 'yuppie' tone to it. And along with overpriced items. It seems more like an upscale boutique, with a large selection of hiking etc gear.

    But while I was looking for the alcohol/bottle/can stoves, I was told by an employee "We don't carry them" and when i asked 'why', he replied "Because we only sell things we use ourselves. And we can't make money selling those. We like these jetboil stoves ($122, which is $22 higher than the MSRP) and we don't believe Alcohol stoves to be a good cooking source".

    Once he walked away, I asked another employee if they had the can stoves, and she said "We don't. We don't find them useful".

    That seems odd. So i bought a national geographic map of the local Cohutta hiking area, and a Pocket Profile of the GA portion of the A.T. and decided to go 11 miles further to Sportmans Warehouse (which is like a little Bass Pro Shop, if you've never been to it)

    Once there, I saw about 4 different stove options (Jetboil, pocket Rocket etc. and about 30 "Solite alcohol stoves"... The guy that helped me find the alcohol stoves told me "we sell about a box every day (30 units). It's the cheapest and lightest stove to use". I know you can buy a cheap home-made alcohol stove online for $8 but paying $25 to buy it right away in the store was worth it, to me.

    After I grabbed my new alcohol stove, I noticed the store had a Sale on JetBoil Zip on sale for $59 (normally $89 online, and at the store I was just at for $110).... I almost got it. But then i realized instead of spending $59 plus fuel, i can just buy the alcohol stove for $25, plus a 5pieve aluminum cooking set for $9 and Heet fuel for $4. ($40 for everything, sincetead of $65 for the jetfoil and fuel.)

    Since this is my first actual cooking 'stove' I ever bought, i was wondering "are there people that don't believe the the usefulness of alcohol stoves?" Or did Rock Creek Outfitters just say that because they can't make a huge profit compared to the other stoves?

    Without starting a debate about alcohol vs other stoves, i was wondering if Alcohol stoves really are popular to use? Or did I just get brain washed into thinking they are great, because of the few posts I read about them?

    (I should be taking it out to use this week)
    Me: Ricky
    Husky: Jack
    Skeeter-Beeter Pro Hammock.
    From Dalton, Georgia (65 mi above Altanta, 15mi south of Chattanooga)

  2. #2
    Ricky and his Husky Jack
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    I can't tell if its a good thing that they have the "we only sell what we personally use" of if that's kinda making them sound like D!cks by not giving us a wide variety and selection of options.
    Me: Ricky
    Husky: Jack
    Skeeter-Beeter Pro Hammock.
    From Dalton, Georgia (65 mi above Altanta, 15mi south of Chattanooga)

  3. #3

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    Ricky, you have attained hiker trash status, with a propensity to dirt bag and deal (this is a good thing) go forth with your new stove, feel invincible and years from now you'll tell stories of your first alcohol stove that brought you many a good meal and fellowship. and to answer your question, many people use em.

  4. #4
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    Throughout my mountaineering and backpacking experiences I have used in white gas stoves, various styles canisters stove, and alcohol stores. Depending upon conditions and my temperament, all of them have their place. Each stove has its benefits in terms of fuel efficiency, heat output, etc. but at some point it comes down to personal preference. Despite my preference for canister stoves, it doesn't mean that alcohol stoves are wrong. Most of the time I just prefer to not fiddle with them. But that's just my preference. It's not right or wrong.

    Perhaps you need a little personal hands-on experience than relying on what you read on the internet or hear from store employees. Form your OWN opinions and preferences.

  5. #5
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    I believe you will find alcohol stoves to be especially popular with long distance hikers and/or those who use FBC (freezer bag cooking). In most cases these groups are not cooking so much as heating water to rehydrate food. It makes less sense for groups, those that cook or folks that hike extensively in areas of extreme fire danger.

    Also, make sure you use yellow heet not red. Also, you can save major league money on fuel by buying gallons of denatured alcohol at Home Depot or similiar. It will be much less expensive than Heet and you can refill your Heet bottles because that's about the right size for most trips.

  6. #6
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    Alky stoves: the "infrastructure" -- the stove itself -- weighs next to nothing, a few grams. With a canister stove, you're carrying 5 or 6 oz. of "infrastructure" -- the burner unit, plus the canister itself (ie. the container for the isobutane fuel.)

    Alky stoves are usually home-made but they can be purchased for a few bucks online (eg. antigravitygear.com). I wouldn't expect to find them at REI, EMS or even an proper backcountry outfitter.

    The fuel, alcohol, has a much lower energy density than either isobutane (canister fuel) or white gas. If your meals don't take too many BTU to cook, alky stoves can end up being lighter overall (stove+fuel.) You put X amount of alcohol in the stove (usually about 1 fluid ounce) and light it, and hope that gives you just the right burn-time for whatever it is you're cooking. With some foods, that works OK, like the aforementioned freezer-bag-cooking. You give it a few minutes boil time, and after that you let the meal sit in the insulated pot for a few minutes and finish cooking, without additional heat. If you need a long burn-time, alky stoves probably won't work for you.

    I'm one of those people who prefer canister stoves, even at the expense of a slightly heavier kitchen.

  7. #7
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    That 5 piece cookset, a clone of the BSA cookset my folks gave me back in the Stone Age and still in my gear locker, is $5.50 at Academy.
    I quit. Have fun.

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  8. #8

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    Alcohol stoves are popular on the AT. Not so much out west where they are banned in many areas due to a perceived risk of starting a forest fire, since someone, somehow actually once started a forest fire with one. But seeing how clumsy and inattentive one would have to be to do this, it probably wouldn't have mattered what stove that person had been using.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  9. #9
    Registered User Last Call's Avatar
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    Really like Sportsmans Warehouse, have one here. I consider the Jetboil a yuppie stove, no offense to anyone that has one. I have made a couple of alky stoves, work pretty good I just fear a leaky fuel bottle in my pack. Micro Rocket for me...

  10. #10
    Registered User Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Sort of answering your own post. If you can make it at home - why sell it... I remember a really cool post right here when a guy pulled out the best alcohol stove a wind screen and a pot... and someone in the shelter said ...dude your kitchen is made from trash! Recycled sure. Not everyone is going to go alcohol. It takes a little skill in cold weather, wind and might let you down... A Pocket Rocket won't - but that's a part of life.

    I cannot defend someone who is a hiker who works at a REI or a upscale boutique of backpacking gear. I suggest you lower your expectations of enthusiasts who work there for whatever reasons. They are not professional sales persons, they are enthusiasts. They like being there - they feel they are being helpful & I am grateful for their presence to save me time in that store. Tis far better- when you ask a question, they do not respond, like they do at Best Buy "I will look it up for you." - miserable place to shop.


    Last week I walked into a REI and I knew that my LLBEAN laminated breathable raincoat had bit the dust in just a few years. I was looking to replace it, I approched an older guy and asked for the lightest rain coat in the store... no hesitation took me right to a Marmot Nano Pro Breathable shell. His explanations were well thought out and simple... I needed it for work not backpacking - but I still may take it hiking... I bought it.
    Last edited by Wise Old Owl; 06-15-2014 at 21:44.
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  11. #11

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    Hopefully, especially after your "How far is it OK to skip?" thread you are realizing hiking and backpacking involves opinions that vary. That's good! Accept it! R&J there are pros and cons to most any type of gear. There is no right way that satisfies everyone all the time. There is no definitive book, website, store, person, or group where you can go to find the answers appropriate for you all the time. This is what makes hiking and backpacking so AWESOME to me - we all get to arrive at our own conclusions about what's appropriate for us. Here's a brief rundown on stoves Mags put together. I like his down and dirty reviews(beta) when I want a quicker not bogged down in every single detail round up of info.

  12. #12

  13. #13
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    Cut my teeth on whisperlite, (after plain ole camp fire cook'n) still have 3 in the gear box. Canisters are high speed. Still for most times carry the -OH. Will add I usually drink some coffee and eat home dehydrated meals. Works well.

  14. #14
    Ricky and his Husky Jack
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    I guess I was jus tore shocked that I expected a sporting good store to carry them because I hear they are so light, and easy to use. Making them very popular.

    Rock Creek outfitters had a "We don't carry it because we don't use it ourselves and don't 'believe' in it" attitude. I thought that kind of was sucky for a business. I mean, I guess it's good they only sell by the products they stand by, but I mean it IS a business, and the fact that Sportmasn warehouse across town has to stock a case (30 units) every day because they are good little stoves says something.

    I guess I just expected a "hiking meca" after having recommendations to go there. But the place was just too fancy. I believe they only sold 2 brands of packs, but their store was reasonably big with tons of items. They just didn't really expand the possibilities and choices.

    Variety is a plus.

    And the option to chose something because YOU read reviews etc is something I expected. I expected to find a popular item for sale, and not to arrive and be told "nah, we just don't like it" seemed odd... Even tho it was THEIR store, its still a store meant to serve it's customers.
    Me: Ricky
    Husky: Jack
    Skeeter-Beeter Pro Hammock.
    From Dalton, Georgia (65 mi above Altanta, 15mi south of Chattanooga)

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  16. #16
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    I don't think that there is an experienced A-T hiker that doesn't believe that alcohol stoves are useful. Some will say "an alcohol stove is not for me," and the wiser will continue, "an alcohol stove is not for me because..."

    I've used all three of the major types: alcohol, canister, naphtha, and all three have their places.

    My usual "go to" is alcohol. I've been using alcohol-fired stoves since my parents got me a Turm Sport back in the 1970s (because it reminded them of the old-reliable alcohol stove that they'd had on their boat). I hike in the wet East, so I don't worry too much about spilling a burning stove, even though I'm clumsy. Mine is one of the complicated ones that Skurka derides. Unlike him, I do more than freezer-bag cooking, although that's my mainstay. So I carry about another ounce of gadgetry that lets me fit the stove with a simmer ring and/or a steamer basket. That lets me broaden out to things like muffins, or do real rice, or lentils, or quinoa, and steam vegetables.

    Alcohol gets to be weight-prohibitive if you need a lot of heat. I run at the "need a lot of heat" end of the spectrum: I typically do both porridge and coffee in the morning, and a hot meal in the evening with perhaps even a cup of tea or hot chocolate. But since all of my trips are short - I haven't done anything longer than 4 nights in years - the weight of my setup is still competitive with a canister.

    In deep winter I switch to a Whisperlite. You go through fuel at an amazing rate when you need hot drinks to stay warm and you need to melt snow for water. The greater heat content of naphtha as opposed to alcohol offsets the greater annoyance factor and weight of the stove itself. But I dislike having to clean the stove at unexpected times, having it flare into an alarming fireball when I'm trying to prime it, and otherwise putting up with a temperamental beast, so I resort to it only when I need the power. Perhaps it would be better behaved if I used it more often.

    I like canister stoves, too. They're simple: just screw in the canister, turn on the valve and light! You can adjust the heat without carrying various little aluminum widgets that throttle alcohol stoves. (Sometimes I've been tempted just to make a little stove for simmering out of a tea light!) They're fast. And they've got over the problem that they used to have: canisters were hard to obtain. Back in the day, every manufacturer's stoves took a different canister, every outfitter carried only one or two, and manufacturers went out of business distressingly often.

    The big disadvantage is that they're heavier on long trips, the fuel is expensive, I can never keep track of how much fuel I have left (which means that I'm often toting a second canister because I might run out), and they have poor cold-weather performance. On a recent trip in February with a big group, I saw the canister users sitting around cradling their Jetboils in their hands trying to keep their canisters warm so the stoves wouldn't flame out. I had to use the priming dish with my little beverage-can stove, but I'm used to that. The stove lit, primed and made my coffee on a morning when my thermometer said 18 F inside my tent. (I didn't look again, didn't want to destroy morale, but I'm pretty sure it was in the single digits outside.)

    There's a small but vocal minority - Nimblewill Nomad, Qi Wiz and 1azarus among them - who prefer twig-fired wood stoves. These have no fuel weight, but demand patience and get stuff all sooty. They're not for me, I'm afraid, at least at this point. Maybe next year I'll see the light. Certainly my ultimate backup if my stove fails is to use my pot stand as a trivet and scoop out some coals from a campfire underneath my pot.

    With any of these systems, my usual pot is a K-Mart Grease Pot if I'm solo or a GSI Dualist pot if I'm cooking for a partner. (Which I often am: my hiking partners like my cooking.)

    Summary: They all work, and it's a matter of hiking style. A canister is easiest for a beginner. What suits my personal style is alcohol for three seasons and naphtha for deep winter. If I hiked somewhere more inflammable than the wet Eastern forests, I'd switch to a canister for safety.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  17. #17
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    The key for you now is to practice using your stove. Don't wait to get on the trail, cook your trail meals on your porch or backyard. Learn to use it in various conditions (wind, rain, etc) now, before you *really* need to figure it out.

    Usually, when someone with an alcohol stove says "cook", they mean "boil water".

    My last SuperCat stove cost 64 cents, for the cat food can. I made a modified version that wasn't quite so blow-torch efficient because my cooking style has evolved from straight FBC to the meals you find on http://www.backpackingchef.com/. His recipes are dehydrated, but you soak for 5 minutes, bring to a boil, let boil a minute or two, then cozy for 10 minutes. His recipes rehydrate excellently and the taste is really good.

    My favorite feature about the SuperCat - besides the price - is that the stove is its' own pot stand. One less thing to mess with.

    +1 on the above advice to get denatured alcohol instead of Heet for fuel. Much cheaper, even if you go to Wally World for the quart size instead of the gallon can. Make sure your (yellow) Heet bottle has a threaded cap, some have a pop top which isn't secure enough to take hiking (personal experience). I always put my fuel bottle in a gallon ziplock and keep it in an outside pocket, just in case. Except for the one time, I've never had a problem with leaking fuel.

    I do have a canister stove, but I use it mostly for car camping or to lend out to buddies who need a stove when we go out.

    TL;DR - Practice with your stove and recipes at home!

  18. #18
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    Different tools work for different people. Yuppie is a loaded word and means more than just "expensive". I would also argue that a Jetboil Sol Aluminum, which can often be purchased around $100, is not outrageously expensive considering that it is an entire system. To compare jetboil to something like a pocket rocket without considering the cost of a lightweight cook pot is an apples vs oranges comparison.

    yuppie is a $100 lululemon yoga pants, not a jetboil.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricky&Jack View Post
    And the option to chose something because YOU read reviews etc is something I expected. I expected to find a popular item for sale, and not to arrive and be told "nah, we just don't like it" seemed odd... Even tho it was THEIR store, its still a store meant to serve it's customers.
    Like I told ya, don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Whiteblaze is a tiny sampling of people who hike. We have folks here who have hiked all of the US long trails, or have hiked the AT ten times over, etc. etc. -- people with tens of thousands of miles of hiking experience. What works for them may or may not work for you. Their experiences may or may not align with yours.

    Best way to learn is to get out there and learn what works for you. And what works for you will probably change over time. The hiking gear I use now is night and day different from what I started with as a youngster in my 20s. I've learned a good deal from the folks on Whiteblaze, but there's also a lot of info and opinions that have no relationship to the way I hike.

  20. #20
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    Never used anything but the lowest model Jetboil, and my wife and I love it. I believe it was $60, and we do all freezer bag meals by dehydrating our own suppers, and using oatmeal, etc for breakfast. We are just weekenders though.I have only seen one person in our meetup group using alcohol stove, and most common thing I've seen in our group is the Pocket Rocket.

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