Alcohol stoves have garnered a huge following among outdoorsmen, and with good reason. They provide numerous benefits hence their strong appeal. Alcohol stoves tend to be lighter than other cooking options, making them very much ideal for backpackers who are intent on shaving pack weight.
These stoves also tend to be built with simple mechanisms, practically no moving parts. This pretty much eliminates the need for maintenance, save for the occasional wiping down. Whether it’s a DIY alcohol stove or one from the outdoor shop, having the best alcohol stove fuel will make a huge difference in making the most out of your stoves.
Generally speaking, a big draw of alcohol stoves is the fact that fuel is also usually cheap, easy to source, light and not so volatile. You also don’t have to purchase them in bulky canisters like other fuel types. This is, however, still speaking in a general sense as alcohol stoves can run on numerous types of fuel.
Also, if you ask alcohol stove users on what’s the best fuel for an alcohol stove, you’re likely to get different answers. This is because the effectiveness of alcohol stove fuels will vary depending on the stove and in the conditions that they are used.
Choosing alcohol stove fuel
That being said, here are a few considerations when picking out fuel for your alcohol stove.
- Hottest temperature – Not all fuels will burn at the same temperature. Some fuels have a higher temperature output than others. Higher temperature usually means a faster cooking time, however, this often also means faster fuel consumption as well.
Regardless of the fuel type, however, alcohol fuel stoves are known for their inability to reach the higher temperatures that propane and other cooking methods are able to attain. This limits the types of food that can be prepared using alcohol stoves.
- Cleanliness of the Burn – Some fuels will leave soot or residue onto your cookware. That’s more work for you when you get back from the trip. Black marks or soot is a general indication of an inefficient burn. You will want a fuel that burns as clean as possible. You definitely don’t want any of that soot to get into your food either.
- Cost efficiency – No, this doesn’t necessarily mean whatever’s the cheapest fuel available. You want a fuel that is not only cheap but is worth your money in the long run. What good is cheap fuel if it burns out extremely quick? Finding fuel that burns just right is very important.
You could also consider other possible uses for the fuel to make the most of your purchase. If you aren’t that heavy an alcohol stove user, some alcohol based fuels can be used as makeshift cleaning agents on certain surfaces, but be sure to check manufacturer specifications if this is safe.
- Health Conditions – Some fuels which are highly recommended by campers and mariners aren’t manufactured specifically for the purpose of boiling water. Some examples include anti-freeze contain methanol which functions well enough for the purpose of working an alcohol stove. However, when burned, these fuels release a potentially toxic gas.
A lot of campers will consider still use these fuel types despite this. To be on the safe side, if using a potentially hazardous fuel, be sure to cook in open air. Cooking in an enclosed space such as a tent with these types of fuels can be quite dangerous due to the toxicity of fumes.
- The Stove – Some alcohol stoves, especially the ones that are pre-manufactured have specifically recommended fuel types. The best way to make use of these stoves is probably to go with whatever the manufacturers intended. If you’ve come up with a DIY rig, check whether your rig is a pressurized or a non-pressurized system, and adapt your cooking choices accordingly.
- Weather Conditions – Fuels will tend to perform differently when placed in varying conditions. Some fuels will barely work at all in colder temperatures. Others will just be tougher to light. At high temperatures, some alcohol based fuels can boil leading to fuel evaporating without burning.
It’s also worth noting that many fuels have to be primed, especially in cold weather. This is especially the case for alcohol stoves that use jets. This means you will have to heat the fuel to just the right temperature for it to function optimally.
- Accessibility – Some fuels are more easily purchased than others. There are a number of alcohol-based fuels that can be purchased nearly anywhere, while others will require you go to pretty specific locations. Though this may not be a deal breaker for your decision it should still be factored into your choice. Especially if you intend to do some hiking in varying localities.
- Laws – It’s always a good idea to know what is and is not illegal for use in the area that you intend to camp in. The legislation is generally created with the best interest of the public in mind. If being a law abiding citizen isn’t a big enough of a motivation, the potential penalties will make laws worth looking at.
Some locations will not allow the use of alcohol stoves at all. This is sometimes the case for natural reserves that are very protective of local flora and fauna or are very prone to fires. Check local regulations to be sure.
Top Options on the Today’s Market
Klean-Strip Green QKGA75003 Denatured Alcohol
Dimensions: 7.3 x 4.5 x 4.5 in
Weight: 1.9 lbs
Content: 1 quart
Primary Composition: Methyl & Ethyl Alcohol
Best Alternative Use: Cleaning of metal and glass
Description: The Klean-Strip Green Denatured Alcohol is a highly effective alcohol stove fuel with a variety of other alternative uses. Many alcohol stove enthusiasts swear by Klean-Strip’s Denatured alcohol. This is because of the fact that for campers, it provides a number of advantages.For one thing, it combusts cleanly without leaving noticeable soot, an indication of an efficient burn.
The product is comprised of 95% renewable material making it ideal for folks who are conscious about their impact on the environment. The alcohol is biodegradable and contains no ozone depleting chemicals in its composition.
Alternatively, it can be used for cleaning glass, as well as plastic and metallic surfaces. However, it can take off paint, so be careful where it is used.
In terms of safety, the Klean Strip Green Denatured Alcohol warrants some care. As with many other methyl and ethyl alcohol brands, its SDS indicates that its fumes are potentially hazardous especially when large quantities are inhaled. This means that burning it in an enclosed space is not a good idea. Accidental contact with eyes or ingestion also have potentially damaging consequences. So care must be taken. Keep it away from children.
Marine Alcohol Stove Fuel
Weight: 1 lb
Content: 1.14 Gal
Composition: Primarily Ethanol
Description: Captain Phab’s Marine Alcohol stove fuel is designed for a clean and sootless burn. This ethanol based fuel burns at a higher temperature than its methyl-based counterparts. This makes it great for pressurized and non-pressurized alcohol stove systems as it is formulated to avoid blockages in stoves. It also works well with DIY stove setups.
Since temperature produced is higher, this makes cooking or boiling water a quicker chore relative to a number of other fuels. The product also requires little effort to prime because it is formulated primarily for use with alcohol stoves.
The fuel is mostly naturally obtained ethanol, making it an environmentally friendly fuel as it is acquired from renewable sources.
According to its material safety data sheet, Captain Phab’s Marine alcohol only contains roughly 5-10% of methyl, making it a much less of an immediate toxic fuel option in comparison to other alcohol fuels. Most negative effects are limited to irritation and headaches when inhaled. However, it is worthy to note that ethanol is strongly attributed to cancer, so it is best to minimize overt exposure.
At its price and quantity, Captain Phab’s Marine Alcohol offers a great bang for your buck. Couple that with its less hazardous composition than other fuel options and you have a great cooking fuel option for your next outdoor adventure.
SUNNYSIDE CORPORATION 834G5 5-Gallon Denatured Alcohol
Content: 5 Gallons
Weight: 39 lbs
Primary Composition: Denatured Alcohol (Methanol, Ethanol)
Description: Sunnyside Corp’s Denatured Alcohol is a potent denatured alcohol mixture that is a functional but expensive stove fuel. The methanol and ethyl alcohol combination are roughly at 50% each.
This provides Sunnyside’s fuel with a nice and even burn. In terms of heat generated, it is slightly edged out by other competitors. Despite this, however, the burn is relatively clean and should not leave a sooty residue on your cookware.
While it is still a viable alcohol stove fuel, Sunnyside’s denatured alcohol is quite expensive. So much so that its cost becomes prohibitive especially when set alongside other alternatives. As with other denatured alcohol variants, prolonged exposure has negative health implications. Hence it is best to use it in the open.
Alternatively, Sunnyside’s denatured alcohol is a strong paint stripper and a strong surface cleaner, great for glass. It can also be used with shellac to create a lustrous finish for woodwork.
Overall, Sunnyside’s costs largely outweigh its benefits as you can purchase denatured alcohol at lower prices as well as cleaning agents for lower prices. You can do a lot with it, but you might be better off using other products simply because of similar levels of effectiveness and nearly equal levels of cost.
HEET 28201 Gas-Line Antifreeze and Water Remover
Content: 12 fl oz.
Dimensions: 8.2 x 3.2 x 2.2 inches
Weight: 11.2 ounces
Primary Composition: Methanol
Description: HEET Gas-Line Anti-Freeze and Water Remover is a highly effective alcohol stove fuel despite its primary function being anti-freeze. Many alcohol stove backpackers swear by HEET. This is because of the clean and high-temperature flame that HEET provides. HEET 28201 burns without leaving behind annoying soot that can be a drag to clean up on your cookware.
HEET’s packaging also presents advantages to campers. The 12 fl oz package fits right into a backpack and can easily handle a single person’s stove fuelling requirements for up to three days out in the wilderness. Boiling water for tea or straight drinking and heating up noodles is a breeze. Another great thing about this product is that it’s available practically everywhere in the US.
It’s also worth noting that this product is almost 100%pure methanol. While it isn’t carcinogenic, the fumes that emanate from burning this product may lead to dizziness and irritation. Be sure to keep your cooking area sufficiently ventilated to avoid any unnecessary discomfort.
Keeping it handy if you find yourself driving in colder areas is a great idea as well. Moisture can build up in fuel lines especially in freezing or near freezing temperatures. Having this handy can help you avoid the hassle of engine stalls and damage brought about by moisture accumulation and frozen fuel lines.
In totality, HEET is a great choice for working with your alcohol stove. The product is easily available, cheap, burns efficiently, and doesn’t pose any substantial risk. That plus it’s also anti-freeze. Definitely worth having around if you live in colder locales.
Crown Fuel Alcohol Stove Fuel
Quantity: 1 qt.
Content: Light Ethanol, isopropanol
Description: Crown fuel alcohol stove fuel is a safe, reliable option for the next time you have to cook outdoors. It is 90-95% ethanol based, meaning it is less of an immediate safety risk for anyone using it to cook.
The rest of it is isopropanol, which is the same stuff in rubbing alcohol, hence it’s pretty safe stuff. Arguably Crown offers some of the safest fuel for alcohol stoves in the market.Like other ethanol-based alcohol stove fuels, Crown’s offering manages to deliver roughly the same performance as the other players in the market.
The ethanol generally provides a clean burn that won’t give you an additional chore to thoroughly wash the underside of your cooking pots. Though there are occasional complaints of small amounts of sootiness that is a trait that we attribute to the isopropanol. When the soot does manifest, it probably won’t be in quantities that become a cause for concern.
Crown alcohol stove fuel works well with both DIY setups and OEM produced stoves. We’ve also noticed that it takes a tad bit longer to prime for use with setups that utilized vapor jets to do the heating. Regardless, the difference doesn’t amount to much and its overall performance still scores quite closely to the other items on the list.
Overall, Crown fuel is still a great choice for an alcohol stove. While alcohol fumes, in general, have detrimental effects on the body, Crown’s formulation minimizes the potential health hazards of alcohol use.
Solder Seal M2832 Air Brake Antifreeze
Dimensions: 8.7 x 3.3 x 2.2 in
Volume: 1 quart
Description: Solder Seal’s M2832 Air Brake Antifreeze offers good value for its cost. As with other alcohol fuels, you can easily repackage the fuel by transferring the packages’ contents to smaller containers making for easier carry while out in the field.
Looking at its composition, solder seal’s air brake antifreeze is largely comprised of Methanol. Again, this is not something you want to be inhaling large amounts of. That being said, it is advisable to only work with this fuel while out in the open and not in enclosed spaces. If the wind is a problem, then windscreens should be used. Hunkering down in a tent with a lit cooking stove is definitely not a good idea.
In terms of performance, it holds its own. Solder Seal’s effectiveness of use will stack up against the other fuels on this list.
In the event that you have a truck and operate it in cold weather, this product is primarily antifreeze for vehicles with air brakes. That being said, you might want to have it handy not just as a fuel source for your next cookout but for the next time your truck winds up stuck in cold weather.
In terms of availability, however, it’s not as easily acquired as some other items on this list.
Fire it up
Those are only some of the possible fuels you can consider for your alcohol stove. Choosing the right fuel for your requirement may take some trial and error. Luckily, the benefits of alcohol stove fuels include the low price as well as the various other uses these liquids usually have.
Making those purchases won’t leave that big a dent in your budget. Aside from practicality and finding the right temperature and burn efficiency, be sure to consider safety when using these fuels.
Use of flammable liquids already demands added care, even more so considering the potentially hazardous effects that these chemicals may have on a person’s body. Safety is always a primary concern when handling volatile substances.