If you’re shopping for a compact camping stove for the first time, the fuel choices can be a bit overwhelming. Each type has some pros and cons. We like the gas canisters for car camping, but spare gas is bulky, and may not be readily available when traveling. Solid fuel is safe to store and transport, but doesn’t pack a lot of energy, and may also be difficult to find. Multi-fuel stoves that can burn compressed gas or gasoline and other liquids are very flexible, but not quite “plug and play”, and require some extra maintenance as well. Wood burning stoves, whether commercial or homemade, are inexpensive and handy, but maintaining a steady temperature is problematic. Alcohol stoves manage to balance everything, as fuel is cheap and readily available, the stoves are light and not terribly bulky, and they allow you to vary temperature with few moving parts. Until now, the only real downside was that alcohol as a fuel wasn’t terribly efficient. The Esbit Alcohol Cookset with Heat Exchanger solved that last issue quite nicely.
By attaching a heat exchanger to the bottom of their 950ml pot, Esbit has cut boil times by about 30%, which means meals are ready sooner (after a good hike, that’s a huge deal), while using less fuel. Reduced consumption means you don’t have to pack as much fuel either. Packed inside is a burner made entirely from brass, with a lid containing a thick rubber O-ring, for leak-proof storage. There’s also a handy temperature control device for the burner that allows you to boil, simmer, or snuff out the flame completely. Everything nests inside the pot, which has folding handles so it all fits inside the included mesh storage bag, making for a 10.9 ounce package about 4.9″ x 4.9″. The pot, stand, and lid are all hard anodized aluminum, which greatly improves strength, creating a durable cookset that should last for years.
Using the stove is simple. Once you’ve added some alcohol, place it in the stand and light it. For boiling water, leave it as-is. To reduce the heat, just vary the opening on the temperature control device. Esbit has smartly stamped both ounce and milliliter markings inside the pot, directly below a tiny indentation in the rim, which forms a spout for easy pouring. Because it’s on the uppermost part of the pot, and the lid has a thick edge, no heat escapes. This assists in faster heating, and lowers fuel requirements for simmering.
We loaned it out to one of our guest contributors (and fearless testers) for a two day trip, and asked him to provide feedback upon his return. Not surprising, comments centered around the improved efficiency over his old alcohol stove, and that it was about half the size, weight, and price of the compressed gas model he sometimes uses. Although neither of us had any complaints, we both agreed that the tiny plastic handle on the lid was not so easy to grasp with large hands. The consensus was that this would be a great stove for a new camper as well as a seasoned veteran. Inexpensive, light, easy to use, and you can buy fuel in every grocery store, drug store, or hardware store across the US, and probably just as easily overseas. Find it at industrialrev.com