Lightweight backpacking stove notes

This is an assorted collection of information and postings about lightweight backpacking stoves.
(A fair amount of it relates to Esbit stoves and how they compare with other stoves.)

Please also see the links page, which has lots more information.

1) Stove Comparison
2) Fuels
3) Alcohol
4) White gas
5) Canister calculations
6) Vapor pressures

Solid fuels (Esbit, etc.):

7) Solid fuel comparisons
8) Sources for fuel tablets
9) Esbit stove design
10) Esbit Stove Boiling Time Study
11) Using Esbits
12) Lighting Esbit tabs
13) Esbit safety

Unfortunately I haven't kept track of the source of most of the information below. However, I would still like to thank and acknowledge the many people who have contributed it.

1) Stove Comparison (Links page, for additional stove information)
--- In BackpackingLight@y..., John McElligott wrote:
I'm a new kid on the block facinated with the discussion about light weight stoves. There must be a way to consolidate all this info into the bottom line categories of: 1. number of ounces of fuel to boil two cups of water 2. total weight including a stand for indoor use as in a leantoo. I'm in the market and need some basic advice. Thanks.
If it was only that simple. There hasn't been any independent comparative tests under controlled conditions for the home made stoves that I know of. Also there is the possibility that the results you get with any stove you build will vary from the results of others. IMHO There really isn't a best stove. Stoves have differing characteristics which you might use to choose which one fits your style best.

I have made 3 of the currently popular home made stoves. In my comparison test of my Roy Robinson Cat stove, Scott Henderson Pepsi Can stove (AKA PCT stove), and my stove I obtained the following results.

Test conditions: Inside in my 62 degree basement with stoves on concrete floor. Stoves were at room temperature. Measured 2 cups (16 oz) of 50 degree water. Evernew .9 liter pot that doesn't have a non stick coating inside. I use this pot for testing in part because it makes a groaning noise as it nears boil so I have some warning. Elevation 360 feet. Barometric pressure rose from 30.30 to 30.39 during tests. The same measured amount of fuel was used in each stove. The fuel weight was between 0.5 and 0.6 oz. (I round up and call it 0.6 since my digital scale some times reads 0.5 and some times 0.6) For the Cat stove I used my wire pot support from my photon stove which held the pot 1" above the burner. For Pepsi can stove which is shorter I used the Trangia 28 pot support to get the pot 1" above burner. My Photon stove used all components as on my web page. For all stoves I used the MSR wind screen for my Photon stove. Weight for those configurations of burner, pot support and windscreen was: Cat Stove 3.1 oz. Pepsi Can stove 3.4 oz (with wire support it would be 2.3 but I got 30 second slower burn results probably because the wire support is slightly too high and the trangia base surrounds the burner keeping the burner warmer). Photon stove: 3.1 oz.

Photon stove:

Pot groaning noise: 2:27
Rolling boil: 4:20
Burnout: 4:45
Note: This particular burner runs hotter than most that I have built. 4:30 to 4:45 is the typical boil time under these same conditions with my other burners. Burnout is typically 30 seconds after rolling boil regardless of boil time.
Cat stove:
Pot groaning noise: 3:30
Rolling boil: Didn't. It did have small rising bubbles but not rolling boil at the time it burned out.
Burnout: 5:19
Note: All it needed was slightly more fuel to get a full rolling boil. On soft surfaces you might want a base under the stove and stand so the stand doesn't sink.
Pepsi can stove:
Pot groaning noise: 5:15
Rolling boil: 6:00
Burnout: 8:00
Note: If using a wire stand on soft surfaces you might want a base under the stove and stand so the stand doesn't sink.
I also did the Trangia 28 and Esbit since I own them.
Trangia 28 stove:
Pot groaning noise: 7:00
Rolling boil: 8:30
Burnout: 11:00
Note: A warm stove boils faster. Lighting it via preheat around the outside of the burner helps boil speed a lot.
Pot groaning noise: 4:45
Rolling boil: 7:17
Burnout: 13:00 (Could no longer sustain a boil but still burning)
Note: I have had wide variance in the fuel. My first fuel which came with the stove from Campmor would go out in 8 or 9 min. Your fuel may vary. This stoves heat output tapers off as the tab burns low so you add a second tab earlier than the burn out time if you want full heat longer. The Alcohol stoves maintain full heat output until they quickly die down and go out.
Throw in a plus or minus 15 to 30 second boil time variable to cover differences in construction and performance from burn to burn and this should give a good idea of the results you might see in a stove you build. The Cat Can stove would have achieved a rolling boil if given just a little more fuel or the water was warmer so don't discount this good performer.

The stoves below are commercial stoves you can purchase but take note that none of these come with a wind screen so you have to make your own.

One Esbit Tab weighs .5 oz. Esbit pot support is 3 oz. Wing stove version of pot support weighs much less.

Hike N Light has very fast boil. 2 oz minimum fuel but maybe can get away with 1.5 oz by only placing .5 oz in the burner and using normal amount of preheat fuel. Claimed weight is 4 oz.

Trangia 28. Burner and pot support 4.9 oz. With simmer ring it is 5.7 oz. Burner only 3 oz.

These are all good stoves.  -- From: Photon aka Don Johnston

I've got almost every kind of stove there is, and have used all of them at one time or another. Nice to see you're interested in the Zip stove (by the way, there's a titanium version out there). Unfortunately, it's not one of my favorites. More of a novelty than anything else.

First, it's not very fast to work with. Second, you need to keep feeding it (that oatmeal simmer you're talking about will chew up significantly more fuel than you can pack in it to start. Third, fuel's not always available for it (I do a lot of my hiking above the treeline and some other hiking when there's snow on the ground). You really can't control the simmer very well. Last, it's not particularly lightweight or compact.

Probably my most-used stove is a little titanium Snowpeak Gigapower canister stove. It weighs in at around 3 ounces with the piezo starter. It's quick and efficient, and I've used it routinely at altitudes up to 12,500' and in temps down to 0 F. As long as I keep the fuel canister warm the night before, breakfast is almost always a no-brainer. And it simmers. You'll be surprised how far a canister of fuel will go.

After that, I use a white gas stove (mine's an MSR Dragonfly) for snow camping. Heavier, to be sure, but the only way to fly when you need to melt snow for water. It'll simmer, to be sure, but I use it mostly as a blowtorch <G>.

I've got an alchohol stove and use it rarely, and I've got an esbit and use it only as a backup or for short, fast hikes where food isn't all that important.

I dunno what other stoves you may have, but I'd sure be interested in your comments after you've used the Zip for a while and compared it to what else is out there.

As for all the cheese, sausage, green peppers, onions, etc... While that food is just wonderful to eat, it's incredibly heavy to carry -- particularly the high-water-content relatively low-calorie stuff like fresh veggies. Since this IS the lightweight backpacking forum, you'll find very few people who really want to carry the produce section on their backs. There's very little nutrition there for the weight, especially given the calories that you can use up in a day of hard hiking. Are you actually proposing to carry that stuff for longer distance hikes? And, as you notice, the tradeoff for Irish steel-cut oatmeal is that you also get to carry the fuel necessary to cook it up. Unless you're using the Zip stove in a high-duff area. That kind of food is for car camping, or for horse packing, not backpacking.

I rarely carry a knife with more than a 2" blade backpacking, partly because I rarely need anything bigger. Not that I don't have them, or use them or carry them when I need them. But backpacking isn't one of those times.

Re: your side tangent... I buy the topos for the area I'm going to be hiking and carry that, a compass and a GPS (one of those cheap etrex). I'd rather "stay found" than "cope with being lost." You're not going to read posts about survival stuff here, partly because this is about backpacking, not survival skills. A lot of us know how to survive, make no mistake. But that's for another forum.

As for pot size... Most of the time I carry a Snowpeak 1.5 liter titanium pot that weighs in at 4 ounces. If I'm soloing and moving fast, I carry a Snowpeak 21-ounce single-wall titanium cup instead of the pot. It weighs in at about 2.8 ounces, and both the stove and a small canister of fuel will fit inside. If I'm snow camping, I carry a 2.5 liter pot for melting snow, but that pot is usually "shared" by at least one other person.  -- David Spellman

You could save 4oz on fuel using esbit tabs over the alcohol kit. Figuring 1 esbit tab at .5oz weight each. Expecting each esbit tab to boil 1 pint. The HM esbit stoves that are little more than pot supports weigh about .3oz. (which is what mine weighs). Also save .6oz for fuel container since the esbit weight includes container weight. Esbits are more expensive however.

I know we just had a poll on cooking fuel and more people chose alcohol over esbit tabs and we've been speculating why. Ryan, why do you choose alcohol? Maybe 1 esbit doesn't boil a pint of water at temps you're working in?  -- Carol Crooker

On trips where I need to boil up to about 16 pints of water, I'll take an alcohol stove, Glen's little Red Bull / mini-Pepsi stove. Thus, my cook kit will be:
a. red bull stove with attached pot support (0.3 oz)
b. box of matches in a ziplock (0.5 oz)
c. stainless steel foil windscreen (0.2 oz)
d. 13 oz "Little Nipper" Platypus bag (0.6 oz) for alcohol fuel storage
e. the 21 oz Snowpeak cup (2.8 oz) with an aluminum flashing foil lid (0.2 oz) and a silnylon or mesh stow bag (0.3 oz).
f. Snowpeak ti spork (0.6 oz)
g. 0.35 oz (by weight) plastic alcohol measuring cup (0.1 oz)
Total dry cook kit weight is 5.6 oz. With 12 oz of alcohol (enough to boil 16 pints of cold water in cold weather at 0.7 oz (by weight, not volume) of alcohol per pint). The total weight of the kit with fuel is 17.6 oz.

Parts a, b, c, f, and g are packaged in the mug, and the alcohol resides separately. Now, if I'm going only on an overnighter I might be able to get away with 2 oz of alcohol and then I can package the bottle into the cup as well.

On trips where I need to boil more than about 16 pints of water, I'll take a canister stove. I recently switched to an MSR Superfly from a Snowpeak Gigapower because it boils about 25% faster in still air yet still consumes the same amount of fuel as the Giga. For this, my cook kit will be:
a. msr superfly canister stove (3.0 oz)
b. box of matches in a ziplock & a full bic lighter (1.5 oz)
c. stainless steel foil windscreen (0.5 oz)
d. 8 oz net fuel canister (empty weight 5.0 oz)
e. the 21 oz Snowpeak cup (2.8 oz) with an aluminum flashing foil lid (0.2 oz) and a silnylon or mesh stow bag (0.3 oz).
f. Snowpeak ti spork (0.6 oz)
Total dry cook kit weight is 13.9 oz and with fuel the total is 21.9 oz.

Parts a, b, c, and f are packaged in the mug, and the fuel canister resides separately.

I've used this setup a lot in the field, mostly under pretty cold conditions (temps near freezing or above with water 45 degrees or less and for the most part I can count on 0.35 oz of MSR isobutane-propane fuel required to boil a pint if I'm running full bore. I can turn the heat down and gain at least 25% fuel efficiency at the cost of a few minutes in boil time. I was able to boil 30 pints on a single canister of MSR Isopro using this setup, even on trips where most of my cooking is done at near-freezing temperatures. Thus, with minimal cooking (summer) where I only need a pint boiled at dinner time, I could go for 30 days without resupplying fuel. Unrealistic, sure, but it illustrates potentially remarkable efficiency of a canister stove. For my style of cooking, I usually boil 3-4 pints per day, 5-6 when it's real cold, so a single large canister is just fine for a week to ten days in the summer and usually five days or so in colder seasons.  -- Alan Dixon

2) Fuels, their chemical formulas, melting points, flash points, boiling points, and heats of combustion.
"I picked carbon and coal because they are sort of like charcoal; propane, butane, and isobutene because they are camping gases; hexane and octane because they are major components of gasoline and Coleman fuel; decane because it is like kerosene, and pentacosane because it is like paraffin wax. Toluene and xylene are both sold as paint thinners or solvents. Methanol, ethanol, and isopropanol are the alcohol fuels. Diethylene glycol is the stuff in the chaffing dish lamps at Sams Club. Trioxane and hexamethylenetetramine are the camping solid fuels. The rest, from gasoline to stearic acid, are other fuels." - unknown
          Material                       m.p.    f.p.    b.p.     Hc
                                           (°F)    (°F)    (°F)  (BTU/lb)
            Carbon                 C                              14,096
            Coal                                                  14,310

            Propane                C3H8    -306   -104     -44    19,944
            Isobutane              C4H10   -255    -74      11    19,629
          Butane                 C4H10   -214             31    19,679

            Hexane                 C6H14   -140     -7     156    19,130
            Octane                 C8H18    -70     55     259    19,029
            Decane                 C10H22   -21    115     345    19,031
            Pentacosane            C25H52   128    395     755    18,773

            Xylene (1,3)           C8H10    -54     77     282    17,760
            Toluene                C7H8    -139     39     231    17,601

            Methanol               CH4O    -144     52     148     8,570 (Methyl alcohol; HEET)
          Ethanol (100%)         C2H6O   -173     55     173    11,531 (Ethyl alcohol; denatured alcohol)

          Isopropanol (100%)     C3H8O   -126     53     180    13,100
            Isopropanol (70%)                       71             8,854

            Diethylene Glycol      C4H10O3   13    255     473     8,736

            Trioxane               C3H6O3   143    113     238     6,609 (These don't work very well)
            Hexamethylenetetramine C6H12N4  536    482     538(d) 12,079 (Esbit; also "Hexamine", Coghlan's fuel tablets) (7)

          Gasoline                               -49    77-437  18,900

          Kerosene                               115   320-572  18,510
          Diesel Oil (2D)                       >125   348-698  18,250

            Coleman Fuel                            <0    >100

          Mineral Spirits                        104
            Charcoal Lighter Fluid                 120    >148
            Lamp Oil                               120   370-520
            Paraffin Wax                    133    399            18,074
            Stearic Acid           C18H36O2 157    385     707    15,900
"Looking at the table it appears that fuels with combined oxygen are low in heat content; the alcohols, diethylene glycol, trioxane, and stearic acid have lower heats of combustion than the hydrocarbon fuels. A smaller heat of combustion benefit comes from having a larger proportion of hydrogen and a lesser proportion of carbon in the fuel; from propane down to toluene the heats of combustion decrease as the ratio of hydrogen to carbon falls from 2.7 to 0.9 and coal and carbon with little and no hydrogen have still lower heats of combustion.

The data matches experience. Alcohol stoves need about twice the weight of fuel as either gas or gasoline stoves to boil similar amounts of water. Ethanol is a better stove alcohol than methanol or 70% isopropanol. Coleman fuel is a little safer as a fuel than gasoline. Trioxane is easier to light than hexamethylenetetramine (lower flash point), but it gives off less heat. Butane stoves (and lighters) do not work well in cold weather." - unknown

3) Alcohol
Ethyl alcohol with 5% water is Everclear. You can drink it, thus it is taxed.

The denatured alcohol at a paint store or Home Depot for shellac thinner is mostly ethanol (ethyl alcohol) with methanol or some other poisonous or irratating substance in it so it can not be drunk.

Yellow container HEET is mostly methyl alcohol (methanol) and does not have as high a heat of combustion as ethyl alcohol. That said, it can be found at almost any service station and is more easily found than ethyl alcohol.

"I use one of Roy's cat stoves with a 2 Liter pot, so my fuel consumption is more like 2.5 oz. per day. But on the other hand I'm such a glutton after a few days, I need the cooking room!" - Whitcomb Kincaid

The tricks to get better alcohol stove performance are simple. First, burn ethyl alcohol. It has more BTU/lb than methyl alcohol or the commonly available 70% isoproply alcohol. Second, use a windscreen. It will reduce the amount of air getting to the burner. (There is no point in feeding more air to the burner than the flame requires. Extra air is just something more to heat.) It will also improve the contact between the hot gases above the burner and your pot. -- Bill Murdoch "wsmurdoch"

Alcohol will be hard to ignite when temps are below freezing. Carry the burner with alcohol in your pocket for a couple of minutes (if you have a sealable burner like the Trangia), or use a priming wick as RECON suggested and you'll have no problems. -- Frank

4) White gas tests of fuel usage from our MSR Wisperlite stove. Here is my data and calculations. Any input or checking would be appreciated.   (The calculations below were last updated on 5-13-2004.)
We have 2 white gas fuel bottles, one 22 fl. oz and one 33 fl. oz., as follows: Test1: I recorded our fuel usage at a trip to Pt. Reyes several years ago. We used the stove morning and night for 3 days. This was for 2 people. I estimated that we burned about 5 oz (by weight) per day, or 2.5 oz per person per day, or about 3/10th of our 22 fl. oz. bottle per day.

Test2: I just set the stove up in the back yard for a test. I burned it for 30 minutes and it consumed 1.9 oz by weight on high, or about 4 oz per hour. This is consistent with our Pt. Reyes trip (test 1 above), assuming a little more than 1 hour cooking per day, (Marianna likes to cook and it was a leisurely trip).

Data from REI web page (as of 05-2004):
* 3.5 minutes average boil time. (Note this is a measure of how hot the flame is and is not needed for our calculations below.)
* 7.2 liters of water boiled per 100g of fuel burned.


Fuel burned:   (100 g) / (28.35 g. / oz.) = 3.5 oz.

Water boiled:  (7.2 liters) * (1.051 quarts/liter) * (2 pints/quart) = 15.1 pints

Fuel burned / pint boiled:
   by weight (ounces)  :  (3.5 oz of fuel)                          / (15.1 pint boiled water) = (0.23    oz. of fuel) / (pint boiled water)
   by volume (fluid oz.): [(3.5 oz of fuel) / (.75 oz/fl. oz)] / (15.1 pint boiled water) = (0.31 fl oz. of fuel) / (pint boiled water)

: Combining the fuel/pint value from REI-Data above with the real world data from Test 1 concludes we were boiling about 3.0 pints of water per person per day on our Pt. Reyes trip.

Consumption notes:  I now try to boil only 2 pints of water per person per day, one for a hot dinner and one for a hot dinner drink.  Sometimes I also boil 1 pint for breakfast.  Half is used for my cerial and half for a hot drink.

CAUTION:  Boil times depend on initial water temperature and on outside air and wind conditions.  Our Pt. Reyes trip was a spring coastal trip and with quite mild conditions.  Colder temperatures or higher winds would require more fuel, possibly much more.

5) Canister calculations (MSR Pocket Rocket Isopropane fuel canisters):
Total canister weight (conversion to ounces): (227g/canister) / (28.35 g/oz) = 8.0 oz/canister

Canister burn rate (Conversion to Oz of fuel / pints boiled water): (100 g fuel) / (6.65 leters boiled water)

1) (100 g fuel) / (28.35 oz/g) = 3.527 oz

2) (6.65 l boiled water) * (1.051 quarts/leter) * (2 pints/quart) = (14.06 pints boiled water)

 Amount of fuel / boiled water: (3.527 oz fuel) / (14.06 pints boiled water) = (.25 oz of fuel) / (pint boiled water)

Also, from the MSR page ( ),

8 oz fuel     1 liter       1 quart 
---------- * ------------ * ------- =
0.24 oz-of-fuel-by-weight / pint-boiled-water
16 l water   1.057 quarts   2 pints

Note, we must assume they mean oz. by weight, not fluid oz., so therefore no density adjustment is done in the above calculation.
This is pretty much the number I use for canister in my calcualator.  (Actually, I use 0.25.)

I keep one of the old empties around of each of my brands of canisters. I put a piece of tape on them and write how much an empty canister weighs and how much a full one weighs. All you have to do is weigh the canister in question and it will tell you how many oz you have left. I tend to keep records of stuff. I frequently write down how long my stove burn and at about what setting. I write it on a piece of tape on the side. I weigh it after each trip. It gives me a rough idea how many meals I have left on a canister. But I usually only use it for snow melting anyway.

I use Esbits the rest of the time. And, yes, with the right wind screen/heat exchanger/canister warmer combo you can use the Giga in the winter. -- Jerry "TrailTrash"

6) Vapor pressures (20 deg C/68 deg. F.):
mm Hg Fuel Data Source
5 kerosene  
17 water  
44 Ethyl alcohol  
50 denatured alcohol 
(ethyl alcohol with small amounts 
of methanol and other chemicals to 
denature it and make it poisonous)
On label.
96 Methyl alcohol  
518 Coleman fuel  

The higher the VP the more readily it will evaporate. (It's too bad that kerosene is so stinky, because it's really the best stove fuel there is.) Methyl alcohol is noteable for its defatting properties, so avoid unnecessary skin contact.

7) Solid fuel comparisons; (Esbit vs. Coghlan's vs. Coleman)
Esbit 2 Tablet weight (large tablets) = 14g or .49 oz,
Burn time = 15 minutes
Boils about 16 oz of 50°f water
Coghlan's - Hexamethylenetetramine - C6H12N4
Tablet weight = .24 oz
Burn time = 9 minutes
Boils about ? oz of 50°f water???

Not esbit but hexamine
I used hexamine tablets all the while I was on the PCT this year, mailing them in my bounce box, to stay supplied. You can get them at

Trailquest, the actual url is:

most meals only required 1 tablet, sometimes I used two when I wanted coffee as well. It also depends on the elevation(many had trouble with their cigerette lighters even working above 1200 ft) and water temps.

My partner Rainmaker used them in 99 and 2000, and used a combination in his soda can this last year.  -- brawny  / "C.Wellman"

Hexamine (Coglands Tablets) kicks off formaldehyde. I have always assumed Esbit is made of hexamine, but the manufacturer claims nothing harmful is given off. (The toxicity of formaldehyde is low, but why is everything kept in it dead??? Formaldehyde has been identified by OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH as a suspected carcinogen.) Inhaling cannot be good!  -- Terry Norton

CHEMICAL DANGERS (from International Chemical Safety Cards)
The substance decomposes on heating or on burning producing formaldehyde, ammonia, carbon oxides, hydrogen cyanide and nitrogen oxides.

At the Grand Canyon I needed fuel and they only had Coghlan's. It did fairly well but I couldn't compare it directly with Esbits.

Maybe it wasn't labeled by weight. It left considerable ash, unlike Esbits which don't leave any.

I can only compare amounts of fuel needed to bring water to a boil, add pasta bringing it up to almost a quart of water and food, bring it back to a boil, and have it stop a short time later.

With the Trangia and a windscreen it took around 2.5 oz.

With homemade alcohol stoves and a windscreen I've been told that 2.0 oz is typical.

With either the Esbit stove or a platform of foil and a pot stand of a strip of hardware cloth, along with a windscreen, a bit under two tabs or around 0.9 oz is needed.   -- o123david

Here is a test on the Coleman tabs. The CampColeman web site had these for $1.60 a box. That is 24 tabs 1/4 oz each. I bought my last batch at a Camp Coleman store in Lancaster PA and paid $.60 a box. I'm not sure they are still at the web site. They had them at the local store last time I was there last month.

I used 16 oz of 50 deg. water indoors with room temp around 50 deg. One and one half tabs raised the water to boiling in eight minutes. Rolling boil in a grease pot on a coffee can stove. Tabs are about gone at eight minutes so I burn one half tab more to simmer a meal after the boil.

Looks to me they are about half as good as the Esbit tabs by weight. They are cheaper to use and much cheaper if you pay .60 a box.  -- George in PA ghruppert@h...

Yes they [Esbit] burn a lot hotter.  -- lean-to@w...

Esbit fuel tablet = Methenamine (active ingredient)
Stansport Fuel Tablet = Hexamethylenetetramine (active ingredient)
Hexamine tablets are commonly sold on line and referred to all time.
Hexamine is simply the product name for Hexamethylenetetramine.

---- AND here's the trivia part ----

The synonym for Hexamethylenetetramine is Methenamine.  So in other words:
Hexamethylenetetramine = Methenamine
Hexamine = Methenamine
Hexamine = Hexamethylenetetramine
 ---- OR Put In Product Terms ----
Esbit = Stansport Fuel tablets.
Bottom Line - Buy the Esbit, Stansport, or generic Hexamine tablets - - they are all the same!!!!!

Hey - it took me hours to figure this out. (I suppose you could check with your chemist friends at BackpackerLight.)

The other type of solid fuel tablet out there is called trioxane. Its used to fuel toy boats and toy steam engines.

There is a chart comparison in files on BackpackerLight that shows trioxane doesn't burn nearly as hot as the Esbit (Methenamine) tablets. So trioxane tablets are the ones to avoid. Put this in your file. -- Carol

8) Sources for fuel tablets
I just bought 12 packs of 12 tablets at South Summit mailorder at phone 1 800 234 8654 at $3.95 per packet of 12. this works out to about .33 cents each.  -- Marge Prothman

The cheapest place I have seen is SouthSummit.

The link to the Esbit fuel is at: They quote $3.95 / box of 12 or approximately $0.33 per tablet.

The Coglands Fuel Tablets can be easily found for $1.99 for a pack of 24 through Yahoo Shopping. I have found that three Coglands Tablets equal one Esbit tab. Each box would then contain the equivalent of approximately 8 Esbit tablets at an equivalent cost of $0.25 per burn.

Hexamine (Coglands Tablets) kicks off formaldehyde. I have always assumed Esbit is made of hexamine, but the manufacturer claims nothing harmful is given off. (The toxicity of formaldehyde is low, but why is everything kept in it dead??? Formaldehyde has been identified by OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH as a suspected carcinogen.) Inhaling cannot be good! -- Terry Norton

Try Gander Mountain or similar outdoor stores..not too fancy or PC, like REI. For $2.50 you can get a 6 oz box of 24 pellets. Three of these are about equivalent to one esbit cube and they don't smell as much. Avoid trioxane fuel pellets...available really cheap at places like, because they really smell and are toxic to the touch. -- Dan, Madison WI "djbarryiii"

Esbit tabs mailorder while on the trail
I used my esbit stove on my 01 thru-hike of the A.T. and got all of my esbit tabs from Campmor. While on the trail you can call Campmor at there toll free number and they will mail you your tabs where ever you are. Or you could buy them all before your hike and have them sent in your planned mail drops. Or you could keep sending them up the trail in a bounce box.

So you see there is many ways of having esbit tabs for cooking. Toll free number is 1-800-226-7667 or  -- lean-to@w...

9) Esbit stove design: (from BackpackingLight):
"When cooking with a .9 liter titanium pot I found that when the distance between the surface the fuel rested on and the bottom of the pot was the same as with the Esbit stove the flame was a little larger than the bottom of the pot and there was a lot of heat. When I made the distance between fuel and pot smaller the flame became smaller and it lasted longer.

It seems to me that we would benefit in two ways if we could control the distance between the fuel's platform and the pot.

1. As the fuel is being used up the distance between the top of the fuel and the pot changes significantly. The flame becomes significantly larger. It might be better if we could keep the distance between the top of the fuel and the pot constant while cooking.

2. As you pointed out, it would be great if we could then reduce the distance between fuel and pot in order to simmer.

One other thing. When the flame was larger than the bottom of pot there was more heat, and sometimes that is necessary. On the other hand when the flame was the same size as the bottom of the pot I needed less fuel to bring the same amount of water to a boil.

Sometimes you might prefer one distance and sometimes another. It would be good if you could easily adjust the height and get the type of flame you wanted." -- o123david

My Esbit design - weight 1.5 oz.
  • 2" length of 4" drier duct with 1/4" top notches folded inward for a pot rest) 1/4 " holes spaced 1" apart 3/4" above bottom.
  •  Disk of aluminum flashing w. rolled edges to friction-fit in stove bottom.
  •  5/8" coke/beer can bottom w. dimple flattened
  • Windscreen:
  • 16 1/2" x 3" aluminum flashing w. similar punched holes, 1/2" reverse folds for locking on short ends, and notch for pot handle.
  •  Both the stove and windscreen "unlatch" for fitting around the inside of my Ti-kettle.

    This is designed to work with the 0.85 L MSR Ti-Kettle and everything fits inside the Kettle including 14 tabs, 2 lighters, a 1 oz. nalgene w. denatured alky for a starter, and a film can for unburned tab bits.

    I've found that the coke/beer can bottom is key as a tab "tray". It not only holds the liquifying tab, but seems to extend the burn and focuses the flame to some extent. I set the can bottom on the stove bottom. You must make sure that the vent holes are not blocked by soft sand etc.

    Despite a black crud build-up, my can bottom shows no sign of burn through after maybe 100 uses.   I'd make a new tab holder for each season.  -- "petrox44"

    Because the Esbit tablets liquify as they burn, I wouldn't use foil as a holder. Folding foil introduces too many holes where you could end up losing the liquid fuel. I recommend keeping the original packaging because it's both light and sturdy enough to contain the small pieces that do occasionally break off the tablets. The bottom of a soda can makes a great stove if you don't mind carrying a separate hardware cloth (or similar) pot stand.

    I tried making mine really shallow only to find that I was burning the ground/picnic table around the area of the stove. So now, I make sure the burn surface is at least 1" or so off the ground.

    FWIW, soda can alcohol stoves (like the Tin Can Stove Man's) make a great multifuel stove. Just turn the alcohol stove over and you've got an Esbit stove. :-)  -- Mara Factor

    Good tips on your stove. I Have modified Kevin's original design to accept my Ultralight alcohol "soda can style" stove (I purchased mine from, at $12, .25 oz, height 1.75", 2.5" dia).

    First the height of the wind screen/holder can be increased to 2.7" and still fit into pot, increase the length another 2" to 26",another pot support flange will have to be formed. fold down the pot support lip only .5" (not 1.31"), This will increase the distance from the ground to the bottom of the pot from 1.31" to 2.2". an esbit tablet holder can now be made up to .95" and still meet the 1.25-2.25 inch esbit tablet distance requirement (see previous postings). The top of the alcohol stove will need to be .75 to 1.25 inches from the bottom of the pot. Unfortunately, with the modifications the distance achieved will be only .45". therefore to use the windscreen/pot support with the alcohol stove a small 2.5" dia x .50" hole will have to be dug (with tent stake) and the windscreen/stove placed around the stove.  -- "engr_38"

    I just finished making the stove/windscreen and found the distance from the base of the tablet to the bottom of the pot to be 1.2 inch.

    The boil times do not vary if the height from the base of tablet to bottom of pot is between 1.25 to 2.25 inch. The impact on boil time as the tablet moves closer then 1.25 inch was not evaluated. BTW a ventilated small tablet holder can be made by cutting 2 strips at .2"x1" and notching it .1" midway along the long side(both strips). then matching up the notches of the strips to form a "+". place the tablet on top of the plus. this will decrease the distance from the pot to base of tablet to 1.0", but will keep tablet off the ground and provide more airflow to tablet.

    Another tip for those making the stove a stapler will not penetrate the aluminum. drill small holes and secure with a small gage wire.  -- From: "engr_38"

    Optimun distance of Esbit fuel tab to pot?

    I have built a stove where the wind screen serves as the pot stand as well using an MSR windscreen. The unit is 1.25 in. tall. I use the bottom of a Pepsi can (Diet Pepsi Works Best). With the esbit sitting on the base the tablet is 13/16 in. from the bottom of the pot. My stove boiled 2 c. of water in 8.5 min. in a breeze along side the Walker River.

    I have tried heights as great as 1.5 in. but boil times increased from 8.5 to as much as 12 minutes. Incidently, I could prepare dinner and still have enough fuel left to heat 10 oz. of water for coffee.

    I get a marginal amount of sticky residue on the bottom of the pot which wipes off easily with a small piece of TP. I noticed that the same residue builds up on the can and when hot it liquifies so after 3-4 weeks of use I cut the bottom off another can. This also keeps the amount of residue on the pot at a minium.

    My stove operated quite well at all altitudes and under all the conditions. The highest altitude I used it has been 11,800'  -- Dennis Coffey

    Ultralight/High performance Esbit Stove Plans
    I use a 2" length of 4" diameter aluminum drier duct.

    At about every 1 1/2 " on the upper rim, I cut a 1/2" x 1/2" slot, folding down or cutting off the "tab" on the inside. At the join, I cut out the slot - 8 slots total.

    The top 1/4 " of each remaining tab is then bent inwards to 90 degrees for pot support, leaving 1/4" x 1/2" flame exit holes around the rim when the pot is "on". ( My tiny .85 L MSR Kettle requires more support as its diameter is only 4 1/2" - a bigger pot might not require these fold-ins)

    A series of 1/4 " diameter holes, up 3/4 " from the lower rim and 1 " apart, serve as breathers for the 3/4" of Pepsi can bottom which serves as my Esbit tab holder - with the inner center bulge mashed flat & placed upright, this holds the liquified Esbit as it burns. For some reason, I now get up to 5 minutes minutes more burn time on each tab - had one burn for over 20 minutes - the Pepsi can or combination of parts seems to make the tabs burn more efficiently.

    The nice thing about the drier duct is that you can "unhook" the seam so that it will lay flat upside down inside my 0.85 MSR pot for travel - taking up much less room than the 3 oz. Esbit, and weighing less than 1 oz. including a fitted reflector bottom made from flashing which friction-fits inside the duct.

    Ignoring weight, the key piece of the stove may just be the Pepsi can bottom - this improves the fuel burn and directs the flame, and retains the gunk better. Even if you continue to use the standard Esbit, this is probably a worthwhile and practically weightless addition.

    I have used a Whisperlite screen, but I made a screen out of flashing which also unhooks and fits inside of the MSR Kettle.

    I cut a piece of flashing 16 3/4 " x 3", folded over the short ends in opposite directions about 3/8 " to lock.

    Cut a slot in the top "long" side to clear handle.

    Punch 1/4 " holes 1/2 " to 3/4" up along the opposite bottom "long" side, 1 " apart ( 15 holes ) to improve air flow.

    All sharp edges on the stove and windscreen are smoothed with coarse wet/dry sandpaper.

    I find that 1/2 to 3/4 of a tab will nicely boil 16 oz. water in the AM for coffee/tea and that I can usually heat my ( pre-soaked 1/2 - 3/4 hour ) PM Liptons/Knorr pasta/rice whatever with one tab.

    Lighting the tabs can be a problem - my cure is a 1 oz. flip top plastic REI bottle filled with denatured alcohol - a small squirt on the unlit tab provides a quick and fool-proof light every time.

    Finally, I use a 4-cup Rubbermaid "Servin' Saver" as a bowl and rehydrator - my entire rig, including stove, windscreen, lighter, 16- 18 tabs, scrubber, fits inside.  -- pchalmers@c...

    Esbit Wing
    I think the Esbit stove they have at REI is the pocket stove. That model weighs three or four ounces. The wing stove only weighs 1 or 1.5 ounces. It can be seen (but not ordered) at www.thru- That model has been on backorder on that site for several months. Says new shipment due around 10/15 but similar messages have been up for >2 months I think. How about designing your own lightweight esbit stove. I have used a coat hanger for a pot support with the lower 2/3 inch coke can turned upside down to hold the tablet. Just add in an aluminum foil windscreen and the whole model weighs something comparable to the wing stove. In a pinch, I could use the can bottom to hold alcohol and thus, a dual fuel model. I haven't done any formal testing so I can't claim great efficiency, but it works. Good luck and please let the list know if you find a wing stove that isn't on backorder.  -- josh_bietenholz@h...

    10) Esbit Stove Boiling Time Study
    I ran some tests on my Esbit stove today and thought those of you who might be considering using this little ultra-light (3.5 oz) miracle worker might be interested. Incidentally, the stove, pot, lid, and windscsreen together weigh only 10-1/2 ounces and nest with room for a lighter and storm-proof matches. Fuel tabs are another 1/2 oz @ so one day's supply (3 tablets) weighs 1.5 oz. Do the math for how long you'll be out and compare to any other fuel weight. ADD A SAFETY MARGIN.

    Each test was conducted indoors using:

  • Esbit stove and fuel tabs that came with it
  • 2 cups (16 oz) of 39 deg F water
  • 1.3L titanium pot & lid (Everware model 3)
  • MSR windscreen
  • Remote digital thermometer with thermocouple lead in pot
  • PROTECTIVE SHIELD UNDER ALL - more on this later
  • Use adequate ventilation; the combustion products from the tablets stink up a house fast.

    Using 1 Esbit tablet:

  • Average Rate of temperature rise = 17.5 deg/minute
  • Test 1: reached 190 deg in 9 minutes (stopped test)
  • Test 2: reached 200 deg in 9 minutes, 208 in 11 minutes
  • Neither test reached boiling 212 deg F
  • Rate of temperature rise drops off rapidly after 9 minutes
  • Flame stay under the pot for the most part
  • Using 1-1/2 Esbit tablets together:
  • Average rate of temperature rise = 29 deg/minute
  • Test 1: 200 deg in 5 minutes; 212 in 6 minutes
  • Test 2: 185 geg in 5 minutes; 212 in 6-1/4 minutes
  • Used metal cookie sheet for test 2
  • Conclusions:
    1. I'm in trouble with wife - I see a new cutting board purchase in my immediate future - like, BEFORE she gets home.

    2. Using more than 1 Esbit tablet in the stove at one time represents a fire risk in the wild from reflected heat onto the ground surface and flames up the side of your pot (although windscreen contained them very well). BE ADVISED AND TAKE PRECAUTIONS.

    3. That said, using 1-1/2 tablets seems the way to go. I can boil 16 oz of water for my dehydrated dinner and still have enough burn time left to heat another 16 oz for cocoa, soup, dishwashing, whatever. This also avoids the need to interupt the heating process to add a half tablet. I don't do burnt fingers well!

    Those scientific types among you who want the actual test data can contact me off-list. Be sure to include your email address for a reply.

    Call me paranoid but for a long-distance trek, I'll pay the 3-1/2 oz postage to keep a spare Esbit stove in my bounce box - just in case. Ever try a derhydrated dinner made with cold water?

    I'm going to repeat this testing with a full liter of cold water but I have to go buy some more tablets first.  -- Bob Bankhead wandering_bob@m... / "tubirrb"

    11) Using Esbits
    I seldom try to bring water all the way to a boil with Esbit cubes. I often use a Ti. Sierra-Type cup with an aluminum foil cover. All I do is heat the already filtered water somewhat and add it to dry food in a Zip-Lock. That is enough to rehydrate the food and get a hot meal. The amount of water I heat is less than a pint, and often I will blow out what is left of the Esbit cube and use the remains along with a fresh cube the next time I heat water the next evening. -- Don L. "dladigin"

    I routinely get a pint of water to boil in between 7 and 8 minutes with an Esbit stove (official or homemade), a 1.3 liter Ti pot, and my MSR windwcreen. Never did a "controlled" wind test but often was in very cold conditions (my first at home test was during a 20 degree day) and with similarly cold water, too.  Granted, there are times when water never seems to boil, but those are so few and far between that I don't worry about it.

    Could elevation have something to do with the discrepancy? I wouldn't think so as water boils at lower temperatures at elevation. Hiking in the northeast tops out at ~6,000'.

    All this being said, Esbit makes a good backup in winter mountaineering conditions, but when you want your stove to just keep going and going, I revert back to my XGK II.

    For reference sake, one Esbit tab burns 15 minutes. The tab burns less hot for the second half of the burn time so is pretty good for simmering a Lipton's for instance. Each Esbit is .5 ounce. They definitely work better when you use a windscreen. There will, of course, be variability depending on conditions such as water temp, etc. -- Mara Factor

    12) Lighting Esbit tabs
    The only major disadvantage I see using esbit is the difficulty in lighting, flame wind resistance and the crud by-products left by the buring tablets. BTW, I have found a good way to light the tablets is by dipping the tablets in a paste called "fire ribbon" (REI at $2.75). It lights and burns immediatly, easily catching the esbit on fire. This stuff comes in a toothpaste type container as is use for starting wood fires. I put it into a small clear plastic container  (about .25 oz will last 10 starts).  -- From: Keith "engr_38"

    What I do is to spread just a tiny dab of Maut's fire ribbon on one corner of the tab, and apply a match there. For a short trip I put the fire ribbon on a corner of each of the tabs I'm taking and carry the tabs in a ziplock bag. For a long trip, I just take the tube of fire ribbon along with the tabs. This is a guaranteed easy light with a single paper match as long as your match doesn't blow out before touching that corner. And if your match does blow out before touching the tab, you need to change your stove location or use a better wind screen, otherwise the wind will rob you of much of the tab's heat once you get it lit anyway.  -- Don L. "dladigin"

    My sure fire method (pun intended) is to lay one of those long headed storm proof wooden matches alongside the tab in the stove. Then I take a regular match and light the stormproof match. By the time the wind blows out my regular match, the stormproof match is in full blast and no wind can blow it out. I quickly put my foil and whatever around the pot and stove and by the time the stormproof match burns out, the esbit is burning quite nicely.  -- Dee "ndeewoods"

    13) Esbit safety
    >>On the MPI Outdoor Page I read, that esbit is "non-toxic - - it is completely harmless to our environment", but on the original esbit package is the following warning :

    But this warning is just on the package of one manufacturer, on the others are no warnings.

    I have esbit from 3 manufactors ( from my time in the german army )
    Erich Schumm KG, 7157 Murrhardt
    A.W. Naht, 2000 Hamburg 54
    Gummi-Noller GmbH, 73603 Schorndorf (new zip code)<<

    Back to calculator | (Links page, for additional stove information)

    Last revised: 14 May 2002