Alcohol vs Naphyha Stoves

Friday, 28 September 2007
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Trangia Stove and Pot Set
Trangia Stove and Pot Set
Here in North America, alcohol stoves (eg. the Trangia stove) for some reason haven't caught on quite as much that the pressurized or Naphtha (MSR) stoves did. Not sure why, as they are quiet and super reliable.

When I worked in a camping store, I would show people the Trangia stove and compare it to the MSR stoves and they would always ask, how long does it take to boil water? Generally speaking the MSR stoves have a higher BTU output so they will get your tea in your hands slightly quicker.

I have never understood why boil time is the benchmark for stoves. To me, the reliability of a product is way more important. In the 4 years I worked in the returns and repairs department, I only saw one Trangia stove ever come back. I can't tell you the hundreds of Whisperlight and Dragonfly stoves that people tried to return because they couldn't get them working or parts broke while out on the trip. Mind you, the majority (almost all) of the retuned stoves were because the user never read the instructions before using or never pulled out the instructions with the troubleshooting tips when something went wrong. The biggest complaints I got were that they were finicky or loud.

That is where Trangia stoves are different. They are simple with no moving parts. They run on alcohol so the fuel is cheap. Best advantage? They run completely silent. Yes, the BTU output isn't as high but how often do you need your water ready to go in 3 min? You are sitting around talking anyways...

That doesn't mean that MSR stoves are bad, they are fantastic stoves for what they were designed for, high BTU output. I love my dragonfly because it simmers nice but man is it loud. It is designed on the same principles as a jet engine so what does it sound like? Yep, a jet engine.

On a slightly different note, you can easily build your own alcohol stove using two beer cans. This is an old trick that ultra light backpackers have known for years but paddlers have been slow to join in. Build your own stove for about $3 worth of material. Metacafe has a video showing you how to do it.

Here is a little primer on stove via the Wikipedia.

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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