Coffee on the trail

The month of June has mainly been a rest and doing other stuff. As for blog direction, the original idea of one travel post per month is now back on the agenda and will begin following one more London day trip.

Weight is one of the main considerations when I go on a trip. My target is 10 lbs, plus or minus 2lbs in the backpack. This keeps me well within the 10 kilo max for carry on if I'm flying and is also a lot easier to get around with. City streets or country paths are a lot less hassle with a light pack.

Some of my trips will involve between town treks, on public footpaths, trails or even open country (my favorite) travel. When you're out there, it's nice to be able to cook up a little something or just have a nice hot cup of coffee. To do that you need some kind of stove. It has to be very light and function in most kinds of weather. After some considerable thought I have decided to use an alcohol type burner. This is for two reasons.
  1. You cannot carry gas or any kind of fuel canister onto a plane.
  2. The easiest to obtain is some kind of burnable liquid and the weight decreases as you go.

I looked at a number of different kinds of burners and will have two types. An open one for any kind of flammable liquid and a closed one for de-natured alcohol. I already have an open one that I just punched some holes in a baked beans tin and it works fine, it just needs to be smaller. A closed one was made as well. My burners must fit inside my pan/lid assembly. It will depend on where I go as to which one I take.

The new stove kit.
Only one burner would be carried.

There are two burners—open and closed. Making the open one is simple, just punch two rows of holes in a can and you're there. The closed one is a whole different animal.
During the research I did in regards to a closed burner, I found a number of options. Commercial ones came in at anything between 15 and 150 dollars. cott3.jpgThe rest were homemade. These are mainly Pepsi Cola cans. They are made out of aluminum, very light but the base is very unstable—the unit can be knocked over too easily. There are any number of instructions online showing how to make one. I tried and wrecked a six pack. They are a pain to make, too flimsy and I consider them unsafe. But the idea is good and the other day I bought some Pepsi (I drink it anyways) that changed my mind about having one.
The can on the left is not the normal English Pepsi, because it is German. Guess what? The can is made of tin, not aluminum.

I thought, if I use a baked beans tin as a base and the pop can for the top, I would have a stable, all tin, burner. Plus it would be stronger and probably burn hotter as tin retains heat more than aluminum (though it gets hot faster). As you can see from the new stove kit image, that's exactly what I've done. I also have a Trangia and decided to run a comparison test (did this 3 times).

All my Pepsi can type stoves are made the same way.
You can see how at: Build a Homemade Alcohol Stove.

The test
For a test to be valid. certain conditions must be the same. The fuel, the amount of water, the distance from the flames and the priming time.
  1. I used the little jug as measure for water—5.75 fluid ounces (my cup on the right holds 6).
  2. The stands hold the pan 9mm above the burner. I had a stand for each burner as they are different heights.
  3. The fuel is English Methylated Spirits*. The little measure was to get 20ml of this stuff.
  4. The burner was primed for 1 minute before placing the pan with the 5.75 fluid ounces of room temperature water on the stand.

It took 5 minutes and 15 seconds for the Trangia to boil the water. It took 3 minutes and 30 seconds for my one to do the same. You tell me why, because I don't know. Same fuel, same pan, same distance, same prime, same amount of water.

I just tried some bio-ethanol in my little burner and was drinking a cup of very hot coffee, within 3 1/2 minutes. This was done outside on a cold evening and the water was cold. It burns clean and much hotter than Methylated Spirits, but slightly cooler burning than Isopropyl. It also costs a whole lot less per liter bottle, plus it doesn't stink. I now use this for my burner, have had no problems and my clothes don't smell of that rotten, blue, stuff the English think is great.

My open top burner boiled the water in 2 minutes and 42 seconds—same amount of fuel.

The Trangia unit weighs about 110 grams. My one is 12 grams. That's a big gap. This was on my kitchen scales, so there may be a slight difference from a set of calibrated scales. My entire kit with the closed burner and lid, weighs just under 7 ounces. A small bottle of fuel would weigh around 2-3 ounces.

*Please note that what we call de-natured alcohol in the North America is not the English Methylated spirits that you buy in stores. The name may be the same—but the content is not. De-natured alcohol in the UK is called Industrial Methylated Spirits (IMS), is 99% alcohol and is illegal to sell, buy or use without a special license (I spoke with a main UK manufacturer of IMS). The blue stuff in the bottle contains a bit of that, plus a bunch of other garbage and if it has 85% alcohol—it's got a lot. It stinks to high heaven. It burns sort of okay. Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) blows the spots off it for heat, but it leaves a carbon residue. Bio-ethanol burns very hot , clean and does not smell.

What I think of the Trangia
Not a lot. There seems to be a poor design here. The fumes come up through a space which has the threads for the cap and must swirl around something fierce (the Pepsi can idea has a direct out the hole escape). Other than that, it is well built, a good idea and I like the snuffer/simmer lid. Plus on a single day trip I could store my fuel in it because the lid has a seal in. However it is made of brass and therefore quite heavy considering what it is. The depth pushes the lid of my pan up so it takes up more room in my pack. Cold water, from what I've read on forums and reviews could take up to 10 minutes to boil my amount of water with this thing.

Just accepting something because, "that's the way it is", does not impress me. It's a lazy excuse and I was not brought up that way. So I will play around with the Trangia by enlarging the holes to see if it speeds things up—if not it goes in the trash.

I did that and after 7 minutes the water was just beginning to get hottish. So the Trangia's factory holes are at their optimal size. 5 minutes, 15 seconds is the best I will ever get from one. It is now residing in the trash can.

The entire object of my backpack is to be as light as possible and the Trangia does not fit into that equation. I want my water to boil fast—hey, this is just one cup of water. What ever I use as a burner must be stable. The Trangia is stable. The original Pepsi Can burners rock all over the place and collapse way to easy—they are just Rube Goldberg (Heath Robinson in the UK) devices, not worth the time of day. The one I've made using tin is very stable and a lot more solid. My pack is still light and I can use that extra quarter pound for something else.

On the inside of the 'tin' can is a plastic coating. This will not affect anything because your water/food is in the pan. What does happen, is the plastic will separate inside the burner. After the burner has cooled down, remove it with tweezers or whatever as that takes place. Eventually it should all be gone.
Jun 29, 2012