Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trangia Stove 4 Month Review

Read my intial impressions here.

I've been using a Trangia alcohol burner for all my camping trips this Spring. I've never tried alochol as a camp stove fuel in the past so I was intrigued with the idea. Having used this Trangia burner for several trips now I thought I'd share the pros and cons of this type of stove.

The pros:
  • Alcohol is a safe fuel. It doesn't explode and it's easy to handle. This was a nice feature when allowing novice camp stove users to cook on the stove. You don't have to worry too much that things will end in tears!
  • This is a quiet clean stove that was pleasant to use. Unlike some pressurized white gas stoves you can barely hear the Trangia when it's at full tilt. This allows you to enjoy the natural sounds of your camp site and have a quiet conversation with you friends.
  • The stove was foolproof and really it's almost impossible to see how it would fail to work. There are almost no moving parts and so very little that can go wrong.
  • The cost of the burner and pot stand was less than $30 compared to over $100 for many pressurized liquid fuel stoves. As long as you don't loose the stove it should keep working for your whole camping career.
  • Assuming you aren't carrying fuel for a long trip the stove is quite lightweight. Not as super light as some of those DIY pop can stoves, but much more durable. I tried a production titanium Vargo alcohol stove this year at home briefly [then returned it], but it was hard to use and didn't simmer at all.

The Cons:
  • Alcohol doesn't generate as much heat as naphtha when it burns so you end up going through quite a bit of it. I kept underestimating how much we'd need and was worried we'd run out of fuel. For short trips or car camping trips this isn't a huge problem as long as you plan wisely and take enough with you. On longer remote trips this may be an issue as you'd have to carry a lot of fuel on your bike.
  • You can't see the flame or really hear it when it's burning which can result in the odd burn or singed arm!
  • On our recent bike tour we stopped at an outdoor store to buy more fuel, but they only sold naphtha and gas canisters. We did find alcohol at a gas station [fuel line anti-freeze], but we had to buy several small bottles at an exorbitant price.
  • You can simmer with the supplied simmer ring, but it's a bit of a pain to use.
I'm glad I tried out the Trangia and it will definitely stay in my arsenal for trips where I'll be driving and can bring loads of fuel or short trips where running out isn't an issue. The dependability is nice and I like the fact it's fairly safe for just about anyone to use. For longer trips, particularly remote ones, I'll use a pressurized multi-fuel stove that sips fuel slowly, simmers well and is easy to find fuel at camping stores or gas stations.

9 comments:

bmike said...

Nice review Vik. The cool thing about the Trangia (and alky stoves in general) - is that they are cheap and lite! Each member of your crew could carry your own - simplifying complex camp dishes and making fuel usage a bit easier to deal with...

But - you are right about the fuel - it takes a bit to get used to. I'm using the Trangia with a piece of reflective insulation underneath to cut down on heat loss - and I use it with a homemade windscreen or homemade caldera cone style windscreen / stand. Works like a charm - and keeps all the precious heat from those few BTUs aimed at my dinner, and not the table, the trees, or that big rock.

Canister stoves are so convenient though (aside from the cost) - I'd pick up a Jetboil if I had the xtra cash - would be nice to pull that out on a long brevet and make tea or pressed coffee... hmm... maybe on a fleche next year.

-Mike

Vik said...

Hey Mike,

I should add that I am not one of those folks that plans their whole cooking routine to minimize fuel use. I'm sure you could do much better with conserving fuel than I did with the Trangia, but that starts to sound way too much like work for me! I heard that a pot cozy can do wonders to save fuel.

Doug said...

Vik, Thanks for the write-up. I've been considering an alcohol stove for some upcoming overnighters on the LHT. I've always used an MSR Whisperlite or DragonFly for backpacking and cooking for two. But I thought an alcohol burner might be more compact for solo travel.

Vik said...

Doug,

You can store the stove full of alcohol so if you can get away with a single meal and a burn time of 20-25 mines [with windscreen] you'd have a very small setup indeed. Even if you brought a second or third load of fuel it still wouldn't be very much to carry.

One thing I should point out is all my use to date has been with 3 people or more and in most cases we actually had two Trangia burners on the go doing silly things like making 10 shots of espresso! The less people and the more efficient you can be with your fuel use the more sense the Trangia makes. Besides it's so cheap it is worth trying out. You can take it along on a car trip and make a cup of tea or soup at a rest break.

bmike said...

Doug, Vik -

I have a Whisperlite as well - last time I lit it was a bit scary... prime the cup, light, listen for the fuel to vaporize... flames everywhere, turn it down, cross fingers, pump a bit during the cooking to keep the pressure up... hope not to knock it over while fussing with it...

but I've cooked many a decent camp meal on it, and made many a cup of camp coffee... (some of the finest on the Oregon coast - Vik)

I'd definitely use the Whisperlite for winter or large group cooking - but I like the compact Trangia and 1 of my home made stoves for basic cooking.

When cooking in a large group it may help to think about the volume of what you are heating - there is a sweet spot to how much volume you heat vs. how much fuel you burn. A Trangia won't do well trying to boil a 2 gallon cookpot... so my comment about bringing 2 stoves can be right on - if you need to boil a large amount of water (pasta) - get the 2 stoves going (1 with a large pot) and combine them after it gets rolling. Then you can work on part 2 of the meal on the free stove...

But, for shear BTUs the white gas and canister stoves can put out the heat. I like the alky stoves because they are so so compact and simple. No moving parts, easy to maintain and clean... and cheap!

Anonymous said...

Hi there. May I know where you got the pot stand for your trangia stove?

Thanks

grahamteo@yahoo.com

Vik said...

This is the pot stand I'm using with my Trangia:

http://tinyurl.com/5dufvs

It's called the Little John Stove Stand and I bought it at www.mec.ca

Anonymous said...

i don't really have any beef with your review, BUT: alcohol is THE most prevalent and available fuel in much of the world. good luck finding naptha or butane or any canister fuel or fuel pellets in a small turkish town, or in remote thailand, or nepal, or somewhere. it might not be as efficient, but in much of the world, grain alcohol, or even vodka, which works just fine, is cheaper outside of the u.s., and plentiful, it is also there to be had. when you are in fa$%otville, colorado, or some other ridiculous locale in which you are expected to purchase titanium chopsticks or groundsquirrel-safe shoes, and be a tree hugging, teva sandal wearing, granola eater, then, by all means, use the other things.

with all this modern b.s. it's hard to believe that people crossed oceans in outrigger canoes and made it across the landbridge with just an understanding of cooking that relied on tender, real fire-making know-how, and sometimes sacred hearths.

i'm gonna go back under my bridge, now....

Gail Rhea said...

Vic, thanks for the good review. I have a DIY Kiwi stove (shoe polish can with steel wool + Esbit Pocket Stove) and am thinking about buying a Trangia because of the simmering capability and larger capacity for storing alcohol in the stove.

I read another review somewhere that said it's faster and more fuel-efficient to boil 1 cup of water at a time than it is to make drinks for a group all at once. When cooking ramen, cappellini, or rice, he puts the food in with 1 cup of water and, as it heats, gradually adds the rest of the water instead of boiling all the water first and then adding the food to cook. HTH.