A Tale of Three Stoves

So you might have figured out by now that I like to make my own gear and I have a wee bit of an obsession with stoves. I watch far too many YouTube videos about people boiling water.

Let me tell you a tale about three alcohol stoves: the first one I ever bought, the first one I ever made, and the last one I will ever need. Each holds a special place in my heart and I’m not ready to give any of them up, but I think I’ve found that one that I will keep coming back to over and over again.

My First Love

My first foray into alcohol stoves was a purchased Trangia mini. It’s a well-built, sleek, and mean water boiling machine.

DSCN0020You can see the good Swedish craftsmanship of the stove. With the included pot stand/windscreen, two cups of water in the included aluminum pot will boil somewhere between 7-8 minutes. The stove itself weighs in at about 4.0oz. The whole kit comes in at about 11.7 oz. Pretty heavy considering all the light weight, BYOG alcohol stoves out there!

To improve the boil time of the Trangia and enable me to use it with my Snow Peak 700 pot, I made a Caldera Clone out of aluminum flashing using an on-line template by Captain Paranoia on Zen Stoves. If you decide to take this on, I would remind you to measure the pot you are going to use with the conical stand very, very carefully.

IMG_0726

I used a Caldera Clone fissure model that can be stored in two pieces. It was made to support my Snow Peak 700 mug/pot.The Caldera Clone provides both a wind screen and a pot support and is custom made for your pot. Using the Caldera Clone, the boil time of two cups of water was reduce to 4-5 minutes.

The only thing that bothers me about this system is that I cannot fit the conical stand in the pot and it is bulky with pointy,sharp aluminum edges that I worry about tearing at my pack.

The Rebound: Super Cat Stove

After having read Andy Skurka’s book The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and techniques to hit the trail, I became convinced that I had to have a Super Cat Stove as described by Andy in his book.

SkurkaI decided over my 2014-15 Winter break, to spend a couple days making various alcohol stoves including the Super Cat. The Super Cat is a low pressure, side burner stove, and despite the 8-9 minute 2 cup of water boil time, was the only one I kept out of the three I made that break including the penny alcohol stove.

I loved the Super Cat’s simplicity and its 0.3oz weight! Compared to other stoves I made, it is super easy to construct. The only problem I found with it was that it did not work well with my Snow Peak 700. The problem seemed to be that this type of stove works best with pots that are wider thanDSCN0023 4.0 inches and the Snow Peak 700 is quite narrow. Rather than the flames heating up the bottom of the pot, they curl around the sides, losing their ability to directly transfer heat to the pot. In addition, I seem to need always 30-40mL of fuel to get a decent boil.

Despite all this, however, the stove is amazingly efficient for its weight, and with the right pot (like my 0.8L aluminum pot that came with the Trangia set) works quite well.

The Final Solution: Fancee Feest Stove

Eventually, if you look long and hard enough and are willing to wait, the perfect stove will appear. And appear it did this afternoon. I was discussing design and construction with people at work today and mentioned how I had really enjoyed researching, designing, and building the stoves. Knowing that I didn’t yet feel like I had the perfect alcohol stove, I went searching through YouTube again and stumbled upon the the Fancee Feest stove.

Carbon fiberLike the Super Cat, it is primarily constructed out of a 3.0oz cat food can, but it is a wicking stove with the wick sandwiched between the outer cat food can and the an inner can which can be almost any small can with a diameter slightly smaller than the cat food can. For the inner can, I used a small tomato paste can. For the wick, I purchased a carbon fiber mat made out of a material (that to me sounds like the name of a science fiction character) called Zoltek Pyron. It is known at places like Home Depot and Lowes as a flame protector and found in the plumbing aisle of the store.

The carbon fiber acts to wick the alcohol through the gap between the cat and tomato paste cans to create full flame all around the base of the stove. The top of the tomato paste can acts as a pot stand.

DSCN0026Here’s a picture of the beauty. You can see the carbon fiber sandwiched between the two cans. Also notice a small hole on one side just under the upper lip of the tomato can. This is apparently necessary to let out some of the pressure built up within the tomato can caused by the lit alcohol as it turns into heated gas.

What I like about the stove: (1) it takes only 5:30 minutes to boil two cups of water, (2) it weighs only 1.0oz (more than the Super Cat, but 3.0oz less than the Trangia), (3) I can use it very successfully with both my 0.8L aluminum pot that came with the Trangia set and with my Snow Peak 700 pot/mug, and (4) I was consistently able to use only 20mL of fuel with the stove to get a consistent boil at 5:30 and very little fuel left after the water was brought to a boil. The fact that it uses less fuel to bring the water to a boil will save me fuel weight in the long run.

Here’s a YouTube video of the Fancee Feest stove from Shug. If you don’t know this guy’s videos, you should.

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