Author Topic: Efficient Lightweight Stove  (Read 8412 times)

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Offline Westinghouse

Efficient Lightweight Stove
« on: December 14, 2012, 08:08:13 am »
In anticipation of another long bicycling tour, I have been scouring the internet for a highly efficient, lightweight, inexpensive, camp stove, and somehow those criteria just don't go together. Alcohol stoves weigh nothing, but what about the fuel which is sold in quarts only. That ups the weight to that of a multi-fuel, Coleman, one-burner with a full tank which if much more efficient than the alcohol burner. The Coleman is nice. It costs about $95.00. The other lightweights that use separate pump-bottles are efficient and hot, but $129.00 for some little few ounce apparatus? Ha. You must be joking, or rich. The Sierra Zip woodburner is nice too, but here again look at what they want for it. It takes a lot of space in your panniers too. There are various homemade wood gas stoves that burn nearly smoke free. They are reasonably hot and efficient, but not reasonably enough in my estimation. Then there is the Vital Stove. IMO, this stove is much more directly to the point, except it weighs much more than is necessary to produce that kind of heat which they say can top 12,000 BTU.

See the Vital Stove on Youtube and you will see the sense in my modification of the idea. Just cut four rectangles from an aluminum sheet, cookie sheet, pie plate or whatever about seven inches long and five inches wide, or some other sizes that will work. Drill holes near the edges of the lengths of four pieces and attach them with wires so that they can be folded over like a deck of cards. Not all sides would be wired. Cut an opening at the bottom to allow a flow of air. Form an air conduit with aluminum foil. Tape a small computer cooling fan to one end of the conduit. Fit the other end into the opening at the bottom of your standing burn chamber. Fill with wood. Light. Turn on your fan and there you have it.

It weighs much less than any other stove with comparable heat and efficiency. It costs anywhere from 10% or 20% of of what you would pay for other stoves. There is no need to buy and carry fuel. All you need is a couple of AA batteries which may last 20 hours or so. No repairs. It can produce a flame two feet high at 12,500 BTU and more. You can see the design at work on youtube. It works very well. It folds together and takes only a little more space than two decks of cards. If you want to avoid burning the ground or the surface it is on, put some aluminum foil underneath.

There are some downsides to this stove. You have to collect small bits of wood. In my estimation, it is no problem. I have been by many places on tours where fuel like that was readily and amply available, but it does take time to do. It also blackens cookware with soot. If you are cooking a full meal, you have to feed the burn chamber repeatedly. It must be kept in its own pack to keep the soot out of your panniers. Cookware must be cleaned externally and packed in separate bags.

All in all, when it comes to light weight, low cost, smallest volume,  highest burning efficiency, low maintenance, and fuel costs, this homemade stove is the best. In essence it's the Vital Stove minus the excess, unnecessary weight and raz mataz.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Efficient Lightweight Stove
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2012, 08:35:08 am »
Wood burning stoves interest me, but I have not yet tried them.  I will probably stick with alcohol for trips where I can restock along the way.

I have been considering using a wood burning stove for a longish backpacking trip that I have planned.  The deciding factor will be whether I decide to use mail drops or not.  If I use mail drops I'll mail myself fuel along with the food and take the alcohol stove, otherwise I may try a wood stove.

BTW: There is usually no need to buy 32 ounces of fuel at a time if using alcohol.  I find that the 12 ounce bottles of Yellow HEET are just the right size for me and they are generally pretty available.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Efficient Lightweight Stove
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2012, 08:52:07 am »
That's right. I forgot about Heet. I have used Heet. It works fine in place of denatured alcohol. But this forced air wood burner is so much more efficient and much hotter than the alcohol stove I have. I have made up my mind. It's the best of choices, IMO. I am a wood burner on my next long tour. I cannot say when the tour will happen. I have an idea of where it will be.

I like eating in restaurants. The problem is I always get some kind of diarrhea or dysentery sooner or later eating in public places like those. The only coast to coast trip I took with no food-related sickness at all was the one where I cooked all my own meals about 95% of the times I ate. I like the sociability of eating in restaurants, having hot food served to me, and being able to sit back in comfort with a cup of coffee in a heated or air conditioned room. I'm a decent tipper too. However, in doing these things I also make a trade off of putting what I eat in the hands of others before it gets to my table. Most times it was no problem, but too many times it was a problem. One time is too many. On my next long tour I'm looking out for myself. I will take the time to thoroughly cook my own food and make sure it is clean.

Offline bogiesan

Re: Efficient Lightweight Stove
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2012, 09:38:38 am »
Ultralight backpackers have perfected the stove. Suggest you do your research in that sport's forums to find your stove.

Your descriptions of preferred fuel, mass, BTU development, efficiency, cheapness, multi-course convenience, soot-free combustion, ease of set up, field maintenance, geekiness and batteries are mutually exclusive.

You cannot get a more efficent stove than the current wave of hot water systems like JetBoil. Expensive (that's a relative metric) but it does only one thing very well and it should last decades.

Trangia (and homemade versions of similar) alcohol stoves are hard to beat for mass, simplicity, efficiency, cheapness, universally available fuel and ease of use.
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline rixquik

Re: Efficient Lightweight Stove
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2012, 01:07:38 pm »
There's a new solid fuel (ie wood) stove on the market that also generates electricity for gadget charging.  I haven't used one personally, but it's getting good reviews and seems to have good potential for cycle touring.  Check it out:

Offline dab

Re: Efficient Lightweight Stove
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2012, 03:37:04 pm »
i'll cast a vote for the coleman 442. perhaps a bit bulkier than others, but the multi-fuel feature really does come in handy; you can get unleaded gas ANYWHERE.  the stove plus a refill bottle always kept me in my morning coffee and eve dinner.


  • Guest
Re: Efficient Lightweight Stove
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2012, 06:49:07 am »
There's a new solid fuel (ie wood) stove on the market that also generates electricity for gadget charging.  I haven't used one personally, but it's getting good reviews and seems to have good potential for cycle touring.  Check it out:
See also a thorough discussion by touring cyclists at