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Thread: Esbit tabs

  1. #1
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Esbit tabs

    What's your experience been using Esbit tabs and/or sterno for cooking on tour? Reducing my kitchen to basics with minimal fiddle factor.
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    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    I have not used esbit for cooking, but I have used them for running model steam engines. Esbit smells nasty and leaves a residue after burning - although it burns really hot, and the tabs take up little space.

    On the other hand sterno doesn't smell bad (to me anyway) and the mess is left in the can. The big benefit to sterno I think would be that a can will burn a very long time, and the flame area is larger (dependent on the can size) - it's also more readily available most places.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I've never used esbit tabs.

    On the Sterno... OK for warming and keeping stuff warm, but so much for cooking or boiling. It burns a long time, but doesn't burn hot enough to suit me.

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    Pedal pusher... alicestrong's Avatar
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    I have boiled water with them, so yes they work in a minimalist fashion...
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    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    I haven't tried it for touring yet but I have an Esbit stove and tabs for backpacking and I like it a lot. When I backapck I just want to be able to heat some water for tea, oatmeal or Mtn House meals. I use different fuel tabs than the Esbit ones. I can't recall the brand name but they come in a green box of 24 tabs and they are short cylinder shape instead of rectangular. One of those tabs heats 2 cups of water in about 5 minutes. I use stormproof matches and I have never had a problem lighting the tabs.

    I did augment my Esbit stove a bit to help it work better. I use a 16 oz size metal cup to heat the water in and to drink tea out of. I made a little wire grate out of a scrap of 1/4 inch screen that sits on top of the stove that the cup sits on. I took some heavy duty tin foil and made a tiny ground cover for the stove to sit on, a windscreen to wrap around the stove (a rock holds it shut), and a cover for the cup. All this folds up and goes into a fabric pouch that fits in the metal cup.

    One thing I really like is that the stove is silent. Nice when out in the wilderness.
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    Here's a good run down of the pros/cons of various stoves.

    http://www.pmags.com/stove-comparison-real-world-use


    I'd go with alcohol instead of the esbit stuff. No one (serious) uses Sterno.

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    I always thought esbit tabs smelled kind of fishy.I just left on my trip to the Natchez trace and are using an an alcohol stove.It's light weight and u can get fuel almost everywhere

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    I've used Sterno and Esbit stoves. I regard both as weekend camping kit, great for compact brew kits and Just Add Water or simple heat-up meals. I wouldnt trust resupply on longer tours. For solo, long distance touring I use Trangia.

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    +1 on the Trangia... Best invention since canned Beer!

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    I've used Esbit.

    The fuel produces an unpleasant odor, that's probably some kind of health hazard.

    Pots tend to get blackened from Esbit fuel, like some other stoves.

    The biggest problem with Esbit is it simply does not produce much heat. It must be one of the weakest stoves in existence.

    Fuel is scarce, too, and also expensive given the amount of "cooking" it actually produces.

    I would not recommend Esbit to a friend. If you lived next door, I'd give you my like-new Esbit stove.

    I have used for many years and can highly recommend the Snow Peak Giga Power stove. It is superb.

    http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___65114
    Last edited by seeker333; 05-12-12 at 02:55 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info. May take a look at the trangia. It and fuel look to be about same weight/volume as the esbit+tabs. But, it is more versatile, burns longer, and fuel is readily available. Fiddle factor looks minimal.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    For a touring cyclist, alcohol stoves are great. Fuel is available at most every convenience store. (yellow bottle "Heat" fuel anti-freeze) comes in 12 oz plastic containers that last me about 20 cooked meals. Bottle starts getting a bit low, pick up another in the following day or two. Light, quiet, reliable.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmyhughes View Post
    +1 on the Trangia... Best invention since canned Beer!
    Different strokes. I'd rather use a stove made from a can from the canned beer. I bought a trangia and made a few alcohol stoves. After substantial fiddling with both it and the home made versions, I don't think my trangia actually ever went on a trip.

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    Going a bit OT but I checked out some efficiency comparisons between the 4oz brass Trangia burner and ultralight pop stoves.
    Pop stoves need more fuel for priming and it is harder to conserve any unused fuel. Trangias burn more efficiently with less priming and you can screw the cap to keep unused fuel. The simmer ring also reduces fuel use.
    After a couple of days, the extra weight of the burner is more than compensated by the fuel saved.

    Do you use pop stoves with the Trangia wind shield or use a stowable foil one?

  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Just some thoughts on those comments... When it comes right down to it I think the differences get down to being mostly preference more so than any differences in efficiency. The following is my take on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Pop stoves need more fuel for priming and it is harder to conserve any unused fuel.
    I've never needed to prime mine. I think it fires up in about the same amount of time as the trangia. The penny stove in the link does require priming though.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Trangias burn more efficiently with less priming and you can screw the cap to keep unused fuel.
    I have my doubts that pop can models are all less efficient. In any case I have found efficiency to be a non issue. I pretty quickly got used to starting with the required amount of fuel and just burn it all. I don't find that there is that much waste.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    The simmer ring also reduces fuel use.
    A simmer ring that works well is a plus. Folks do claim to have simmer rings that work well on pop can stoves, but I confess to never having made one that works well. I don't see the fuel savings as the main issue though, but more the fact that you can simmer.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    After a couple of days, the extra weight of the burner is more than compensated by the fuel saved.
    Not really, on tour I would still buy 12 ounces at a time and replace it when there is a day or two of fuel left depending on where I am. You might have to buy a bit sooner, but weight of fuel carried is the same. If you tour where you can't restock fuel frequently then yes it might equal out weight wise or even possibly give the trangia the edge. By the time the tour was that long without restock being possible, it would probably be beneficial to go to a different fuel entirely.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Do you use pop stoves with the Trangia wind shield or use a stowable foil one?
    I use a foil one.

  16. #16
    Real Men Ride Ordinaries fuzz2050's Avatar
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    I'm another alcohol stove fan who doesn't like the Trangia. It's a robust system, but the efficiency isn't there to justify the weight. By my math (my own boil times and efficiencies) it's actually less efficient in terms of water boiled/fuel used than my Supercat, and it weighs something like five times as much.

    By my own math, the break even point for fuel weight vs stove weight is something like 5-7 days, boiling 2 cups of water a day. After that point, a canister stove is lighter, when fuel usage is considered.

    Of course, neither Esbit or alcohol is terribly good for cooking, but they boil water pretty well. Sometimes that's all you need.

    After much playing around, I use an ikea woodstove to save on alcohol when I can, a Supercat alcohol stove, an aluminum wind screen and an Imusa mug. All together, it's something like 10 ounces, stove, pot and all that stuff, plus, I can burn just about anything.
    Last edited by fuzz2050; 05-11-12 at 10:41 PM.

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I would go with alcohol over the solid fuel tabs, sterno is a non starter in my book. I have used a variety of stoves over the years and the alcohol ones have become the standard for me, due to fuel availability and ease of use. I may still take a white gas stove for a larger crowd or in the winter. I also have a Storm Kettle that I will take on short tours along the east coast.

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    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Never used Esbit tabs but did try out a sterno on a short tour last year. Had the same idea as you - reduced fiddle factor, and all I really needed to do was boil water for coffee and freeze-dried food. It was a total failure. Don't waste your time with it. Took a full 30 minutes to boil two cups of water in a covered pot (this was on a stove made for use with sterno fuel). That time was cut in half by propping up the can so it was about an inch below the pot, but still, 15 minutes to boil water is ridiculous. At that pace I was going through a can of sterno every three or four days. Also aggravating is the fact that the sterno burns out when it appears there's still about half a can of gel left.

  19. #19
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    The last stove I used was a homemade alcohol (pepsi can) model. I used it for many miles and it remains my favorite of several different types of stoves and fuels I've tried. I have a Trangia too--it looks real nice in my gear box. Like many above, I've also tried Esbit and I would give mine to you, too.

    I've gone for the least futz possible and no longer carry a stove. Nice link above to pmags.com--I like it because he mentions the stoveless option. (Mags is a hiking buddy, too.)

  20. #20
    Senior Member hilltowner's Avatar
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    +1 on alcohol stoves. My first one was an Antigravity Gear Tinman Pepsi can stove. I've since made my own from a Redbull/V8 can combo plans are here from Zen and the Art of Alcohol Stoves (best site going on the subject). You can't get much lighter or simpler than that.

  21. #21
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fuzz2050 View Post
    I'm another alcohol stove fan who doesn't like the Trangia. It's a robust system, but the efficiency isn't there to justify the weight. By my math (my own boil times and efficiencies) it's actually less efficient in terms of water boiled/fuel used than my Supercat, and it weighs something like five times as much.

    By my own math, the break even point for fuel weight vs stove weight is something like 5-7 days, boiling 2 cups of water a day. After that point, a canister stove is lighter, when fuel usage is considered.

    Of course, neither Esbit or alcohol is terribly good for cooking, but they boil water pretty well. Sometimes that's all you need.

    After much playing around, I use an ikea woodstove to save on alcohol when I can, a Supercat alcohol stove, an aluminum wind screen and an Imusa mug. All together, it's something like 10 ounces, stove, pot and all that stuff, plus, I can burn just about anything.
    Which size Imusa mug are you using with the supercat stove? I would think that most of the flame pattern would go out past the mug instead of staying under it? I use the same stove and use a wide bottom ul tea kettle for just that reason. That site sells a mini stove that seems to maybe work better with a mug, what is your experience? Also does the mug's handle get too hot to hold and too hot to sip from the metal mug lip? I have been think about going with just a single wall mug for backpacking to eliminate my kettle which is a bit too large. I like that website, it carries high quality, yet inexpensive stuff. Thanks for the link. Also I have a good modification to the supercat stove if you do any cold weather camping, I call it the arctic-cat stove.

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