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  1. #1
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    Lighting an alcohol stove

    I am starting a tour from Carmel to Phoenix on Tuesday (April 11) and am planning to cook some meals on a mini-Trangia alcohol stove.

    In practicing for the ride, I have cooked a few, one pot, meals with the Trangia. Each time, I've had to use several matches to finally get the stove to light and stay lite. I've also had to shake the stove (with the cover on it) before lighting it. After while, it simply stays lit.

    I am using Rubbing Alcohol (70% alcohol) as a fuel.

    Is the use of several matches normal for lighting a mini-Trangia or am I missing something?

    Thanks,

    Ray

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    You could get a more concentrated form of alcool, I bet it would help tremendously.

  3. #3
    Old Noob oldguy52's Avatar
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    Hi Ray,

    Yep, your missing something. The 70% rubbing alcohol is your problem.

    You want methanol to fuel your Trangia burner. Go down to the auto parts store or gas station and get some HEET (yellow bottle) Look on the back, you'll see the main (and mostly only) ingredient is methanol. If you live near a race track you can usually buy methanol by the gallon from the fuel supplier there. It's used for racing fuel in some of the higher performance classes. Or, go to the hardware store or Lowes, home depot etc. and you may be able to find methanol or, by another name methyl hydrate, in the paint department of any of these places. If you can't find any methanol in these places, then, while your there, look for denatured alcohol. It will also be found in the paint department. Denatured alcohol is mostly ethanol (grain alcohol) denatured with one of several things to make it poisonous to drink. It will work in your trangia almost as well as the methanol will.

    Either will work far better than 70% rubbing alcohol. Save that for your poison ivy.

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  4. #4
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    hey raybo, i had the same problem last week. In prep for a tour I filled my new mini trangia with rubbing alcohol and it wouldn't light. I figured it was too cold so I set the stove on my electric range and turned it on warm. It began to burn better once I did that. Very impractical in the field. The next day i went to OSH and got some denatured alcohol. It lit right away (I'm using a butane lighter) and stayed lit. I really like it so far (although I've only boiled some water in it).

    Some questions I have about the stove are:

    1) The pot now is stained where the water was. It's a much darker color than the pot was originally. Anything to worry about?
    2) is the simmer ring good for anything besides extinguishing the thing?
    3) what do you carry your alcohol in? I don't really want to carry this huge metal thing on tour. One of those liquid fuel bottles like for a white gas stove?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldguy52
    Hi Ray,

    Yep, your missing something. The 70% rubbing alcohol is your problem.

    You want methanol to fuel your Trangia burner.

    Rik
    Methanol is fairly toxic. I don't know if I would want to cook my food over methanol fumes. I would suggest a more concentrated form of the isopropol alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or ethanol. The other 30% of the rubbing alcohol is water. I thought Coleman makes fuel for these things. Check at REI or someplace simular.

  6. #6
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    Trangia

    I've backpacked in the Scottish Highlands for a number of years now and always used a trangia.
    Normal size version and the mini. They're foolproof even in the wind ( although the mini is slightly less
    so in windy conditions ) but I always use meths, over here we can buy it in outdoor stores, hardware stores and chemist shops. I kinda like the simplicity of the thing and like I say never fails.

  7. #7
    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    Just my two pennies worth:
    I find that the mini-Trangia is a lot easier to light and burns hotter when I use a home made baffle to break the wind. I've experimented and found that the disposable roasting pan cut to shape with legs that go under the stove seems to work the best.

    You can find more (and bigger) pictures here:
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/journ..._id=19966&v=at
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by stokell; 04-06-06 at 09:06 AM.

  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robmcl
    Methanol is fairly toxic. I don't know if I would want to cook my food over methanol fumes. I would suggest a more concentrated form of the isopropol alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or ethanol. The other 30% of the rubbing alcohol is water. I thought Coleman makes fuel for these things. Check at REI or someplace simular.
    Methanol is toxic if ingested but when burned, it burns completely and wouldn't add anything to the food.

    Methanol doesn't have the heat value of other alcohols however and there is the toxicity if it is ingested and it is more volatile than other alcohols. Go to one of the big box stores (or try your local little hardware store first) and look for denatured alcohol (ethanol that has been treated so that you can't drink it) or isopropanol (aka 2-propanol, rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol). Both should be available in 1 L (1 qt) to 4 L (1 gal) cans.

    Do get proper fuel bottles to carry them. The MSR fuel bottles are good, just label the bottle so that it is clear it has alcohol in it.
    Stuart Black
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    The Trangia uses something called a Pot Burner which allows the heat from the alcohol flame to pull in enough air to make a good fuel air mixture without pressure mechanisms.

    The thing about this is that it uses less fuel than pressure systems and hence there's less energy being presented to heat anything.

    No big deal of course it just means that it takes longer to heat anything up.

    YOU MUST USE DENATURED ALCOHOL or PURE ethanol (which is really hard to find).

    Rubbing alcohol or "Isopropyl alcohol" is some 30% WATER and doesn't burn well and burns much cooler.

  10. #10
    Bike touring webrarian
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    cyccommute you wrote:

    Do get proper fuel bottles to carry them. The MSR fuel bottles are good...

    What are MSR bottles? I was going to use a small hard plastic bottle that I got at REI. Rubbing alcohol comes in a very thin plastic bottle.

    What is the danger?

    Thanks for all the advice.

  11. #11
    40 yrs bike touring
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    I carried alcohol fuel in clear plastic water bottles for the Divide Ride without a problem. Do not overfill. Leave room for fuel expansion in warm weather.

    Unlined Aluminum fuels bottles like MSR will be corroded by the alcohol.

    Trangia makes alcohol specific fuel bottles with a pressure relief valve.

    At high altitude and/or in cold weather I find that warming a small fuel bottle or the Trangia burner unit in my pocket makes lighting easier. In the worst of cold conditions I would add a LITTLE alcohol to the mini Trangia burner windhield/base unit and burn it around stove unit accelerating the lighting process. This helps to vaporize the alcohol to a temperature suitable for burning properly.[ Try this at home before using in the field so you know how much to add without creating a big fire.]

    My forty some year old Trangia even has an attachment for the burner base with a wick for <winter> pre-heating that works well. I do not know if this pre-heating item is still available today.

    I prefer the quiet of alcohol stoves compared to the jet engine sound of the MSR XGK and others for most three season touring that cyclists do. The lower heat output means longer cooking time.

    I do not go bike touring in order to brag how fast my water boils!

  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclintom
    YOU MUST USE DENATURED ALCOHOL or PURE ethanol (which is really hard to find).

    Rubbing alcohol or "Isopropyl alcohol" is some 30% WATER and doesn't burn well and burns much cooler.
    You should say that "most" rubbing alcohols are 30% water. Not all of them are, even ones readily available at drug stores, grocery stores, etc. You can find, but you have to look, ones that are 96% isopropanol. The isopropyl alcohol available in hardware stores is 96% or higher but you have to read the labels.

    Pure ethanol, 95% or 180 proof, is readily available at liquor stores, especially ones near colleges. It called Everclear. But you probably don't want to use that since it's rather expensive on a per gallon basis
    Stuart Black
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  13. #13
    Senior Member toolboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by super-douper
    2) is the simmer ring good for anything besides extinguishing the thing?
    The simmer ring swivels to the side. By doing that and placing it on the burner, you can simmer your supper like no other stove can do. By having only about 1/4 inch of burner showing you can have a "keep warm" situation (at least on the regular stoves which provide extraordinary wind protection). Trouble is that when you then want to extinquish the flame you have to remove the simmer ring, WAIT FOR IT TO COOL, swivel the top back and then replace it on the burner. I use the pot gripper to reach down to get the simmer ring but it is not a stable grip. Has anyone solved this little glitch in an otherwise perfect cooking tool?
    Just FYI Trangia makes a winter burner attachment which fits under the burner and preheats it with alcohol. I have had to modify the preheater by removing 3/4 of the absorbent insulation on the preheater - I found the full preheating regime to heat the fuel to the boiling point which is not a good situation.

  14. #14
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo
    cyccommute you wrote:

    Do get proper fuel bottles to carry them. The MSR fuel bottles are good...

    What are MSR bottles? I was going to use a small hard plastic bottle that I got at REI. Rubbing alcohol comes in a very thin plastic bottle.

    What is the danger?

    Thanks for all the advice.
    Liquid fuels always have a danger of ignition. You just have to have enough heat to get them started so you should always handle them with care. But that's not the immediate issue here.

    The MSR fuel bottles are available from REI also. They are an aluminum (thicker wall than a pop can) bottle with a nice tight cap so that they don't leak if closed properly. Things get knocked around on a bike. Stuff rubs against other stuff and the next thing you know, whatever is riding with the fuel is covered with the fuel - if you use plastic bottles! And you are eating cold dry freeze-dried for dinner! That's just icky!

    The metal bottle will just stand up to abuse much better than plastic. The thin plastic bottle that isopropyl alcohol comes in is packaged in a box so that it doesn't have to rub against other stuff in transit. It wouldn't last too many miles in a bike bag.

    It's just better to be safe than eating dry freeze-dried food.
    Stuart Black
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  15. #15
    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldguy52
    Hi Ray,

    Yep, your missing something. The 70% rubbing alcohol is your problem.

    You want methanol to fuel your Trangia burner. Go down to the auto parts store or gas station and get some HEET (yellow bottle) Look on the back, you'll see the main (and mostly only) ingredient is methanol. If you live near a race track you can usually buy methanol by the gallon from the fuel supplier there. It's used for racing fuel in some of the higher performance classes. Or, go to the hardware store or Lowes, home depot etc. and you may be able to find methanol or, by another name methyl hydrate, in the paint department of any of these places. If you can't find any methanol in these places, then, while your there, look for denatured alcohol. It will also be found in the paint department. Denatured alcohol is mostly ethanol (grain alcohol) denatured with one of several things to make it poisonous to drink. It will work in your trangia almost as well as the methanol will.

    Either will work far better than 70% rubbing alcohol. Save that for your poison ivy.
    Rik
    For the benefit of Canadian members, we call the right stuff Methyl Hydrate. It is also used in gas line anti-freeze.

    As an aside; airlines don't want you to transport it so you may have to buy in locally. In England, they add a horrible odour to it (I guess to keep people from drinking it).

    On my first day touring in Europe I couldn't find any so I tried my duty-free liquor. It was a no-go. Only 40% alcohol so I had a cold supper on day one.

  16. #16
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stokell
    For the benefit of Canadian members, we call the right stuff Methyl Hydrate. It is also used in gas line anti-freeze.

    As an aside; airlines don't want you to transport it so you may have to buy in locally. In England, they add a horrible odour to it (I guess to keep people from drinking it).

    On my first day touring in Europe I couldn't find any so I tried my duty-free liquor. It was a no-go. Only 40% alcohol so I had a cold supper on day one.
    Methyl hydrate is part of a class of compounds that can use that name. You can have ethyl hydrate or propyl hydrate or hydroxyl hydrate. They can also be called hydrated alkanes or alkyl hydrates. They are flammable (with the exception of the hydroxyl hydrate) and have varying degrees of toxicity. One, ethyl hydrate, is even consumed in vast quantities regularly. Their more common name uses alcohol in the place of the hydrate, except for hydroxyl hydrate. That one is water

    Methyl hydrate is methanol or methyl alcohol.
    Stuart Black
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  17. #17
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    here are a link surrounding 'alcohol' fuel availability and the benefits and drawbacks.....there are links in the sidebar to technical Materials Safety Data Sheets about the various fuels


    www.thru-hiker.com/articles.asp?subcat=2&cid=51
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  18. #18
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    I would highly consider the health effects of methanol. This is a toxic chemical and it does not make sense to me to handle it, especially around food, when there are other, safer alternatives available that work just as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robmcl
    I would highly consider the health effects of methanol. This is a toxic chemical and it does not make sense to me to handle it, especially around food, when there are other, safer alternatives available that work just as well.
    Then all stoves excluding alcohol stoves using ethanol are dangerous

    The important thing is not to drink it.

  20. #20
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arctos
    I carried alcohol fuel in clear plastic water bottles for the Divide Ride without a problem. Do not overfill. Leave room for fuel expansion in warm weather.

    Unlined Aluminum fuels bottles like MSR will be corroded by the alcohol.
    The corrosion of the aluminum by readily available acohols - methyl, ethyl, isopropyl - is minor. If you were to leave the alcohol in contact with the aluminum for years you might see an effect. The aluminum will discolor but I doubt that it would ever pit and leak, especially during short term usage. The clear plastic bottles you are talking about, I assume, are the polycarbonate ones. Those are tougher than the polyethylene bottles that the alcohol came in originally and would stand up to the abuse they are going to be subjected to in a bike bag better but there is a safety issue to consider. Many people put water and other liquids in those kinds of bottles. You don't want to reach for what you thought was water and get a slug of an alcohol that has been specifically poisoned so as to be undrinkable. Or in the case of methanol, a slug of that. It could really ruin your day.

    Fuels in a fuel bottle don't invite accidents. Go with the MSR and replace them if they are corroded at the end of the tour. They are pretty cheap overall anyway.
    Stuart Black
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  21. #21
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magictofu
    Then all stoves excluding alcohol stoves using ethanol are dangerous

    The important thing is not to drink it.
    Only alcohol stoves using Everclear aren't dangerous Denatured alcohol is ethanol that has been poisoned by various substances to make it undrinkable.

    To be completely honest, I don't use any liquid fuel stove. I've tried them in the past and they are too messy (MRS whisperlite) or too slow (alcohol) or just too bothersome (both). Propane/butane is always ready, doesn't need priming, has igniters built in and is completely controllable.

    The only reason I got into this discussion is to keep everyone honest. Methanol is toxic. Highly toxic but most of us also deal with hundreds of gallons of far more toxic material every year. The gasoline you put in your car is a highly toxic and dangerous material and you should limit your exposure to it as much as possible. But handled properly, as with any toxic flammable material, it can be used safely - just like methanol. But make sure you "know" how to handle it safely! Most people think they know but they don't have a clue.
    Stuart Black
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  22. #22
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    I certainely handle stove fuel more than gas for my car! but stuart has some valid points.

    limit skin exposure to volatiles like methanol, petrol fuels, and the like. all bad for the body.

    however, camping stove use is largely safe for the user, regardless of your choice of fuel.

    isopropyl can be bought in 90 percent solution at drugstores, and most innocous are the everclears. how about a tour fueled on 151 rum?
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  23. #23
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robmcl
    I would highly consider the health effects of methanol. This is a toxic chemical and it does not make sense to me to handle it, especially around food, when there are other, safer alternatives available that work just as well.
    I've cooked food with methyl alcohol (toxic), Coleman fuel (toxic), charcoal (toxic fumes), wood (toxic fumes), propane (toxic fumes - carbon monoxide), etc. with no problems. Just do it outside of course.

    There is no risk to food safety cooking with any of these fuels.

  24. #24
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    I looked up some MSDSs and this is what I found:

    OSHA TWA (Threshhold weighted average per 8 hour day, 40 hour week)

    methanol
    260 mg/m3
    or
    200 ppm

    Isopropyl Alcohol
    980 mg/m3
    400 ppm

    Denatured ethanol (with 5% methanol)
    1900 mg/m3
    1000 ppm

    Propane
    1000 ppm

    The point is that all of the alcohols are toxic but to varying degrees. Methanol is five times worse than the denatured alcohol and twice as worse as the isopropyl alcohol. Also it takes less than 1 ml of methanol to be ingested to cause blindness. It also can be absorbed through the skin and mucus membrane. The point is that you need to be dam careful with it around food. The biggest risk due to propane other than flammability is suffocation if it is used in an unventilated area.

  25. #25
    Bike touring webrarian
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    As instructed, I went to the hardware store and bought some denatured alcohol. However, it doesn't list what the ingredients are or their percentages. Does this matter?

    I intend to handle the fuel with latex gloves on (I always pack them in case I need to do heart surgery by the side of the road :-).

    The stove lit the first time and stayed lit.

    Thanks for all the input. I greatly appreciate it.

    I leave Tuesday (4/11) south on the California coast into an 11 MPH headwind and on a day of rain! Ahhh, the joy of bike touring.

    Ray

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