I began this trip using a MSR Whisperlite, a versatile multi-fuel system stove popular amongst round-the-world bike tourers, and one I’ve long used on my travels around Asia. Being pressurised, it works well at altitude, burning readily sourced gasoline or kerosine. But it also tends to require regular maintenance, can be a little fiddly to get going at times, and leaves pots with a sooty residue.
Since then, I’ve moved to the Swedish-made Trangia, which burns denatured alcohol. Although this system boils up water more slowly than the roaring MSR, the advantages to denatured alcohol include that it can be stored in any plastic drinks bottle, and it burns quietly and cleanly. Plus, these kind of stoves don’t require any maintenance or replacement parts.
Although not as omnipresent as gasoline, denatured alcohol is relatively easy to find, once you figure out the right word for it in the country you’re travelling through, and the kind of shop that will stock it. In the US, for instance, it can be found in the yellow HEET Fuel Line Antifreeze bottles, available in most gas stations (I’ve written a bit about sourcing it here). I’ve burnt denatured alcohol at up to 4500m without a problem, though if temperatures are very cold, it can take some persistence to light.
The Trangia complete system works particularly well in high winds and is extremely stable, but it’s on the heavy and bulky side. The best compromise I’ve found is the Clikstand ($45, plus $25 for the windscreen), which is effectively a more svelte version of the classic Trangia. It’s a great compromise. Not quite as good in high winds, but it packs small, it’s way lighter and almost as stable. I’m a big fan, having used it for over a year now without any issues whatsoever. As with the Trangia, there’s a few quirks to cooking with it, like rotating the simmer control when the stove is lit (I use my spork) and extinguishing the flame (throwing on the cap, an enjoyable technique I’ve now perfected). But all in all, it’s pretty foolproof.
Mine stores neatly in a featherweight .9L titanium Evernew pot, which offers ample cooking space for solo trips. Even I’m feeling travelling with a partner or feeling gourmet, I’ll nest it in a second 1.3L pot ($82 for the set). The windshield system is designed to work with certain pot sizes, so it’s best to check if what you have will work, or just use the likes of a larger MSR windshield.
Although there are lighter alcohol burners on the market (or you can easily make a similar stove yourself – have a look at this site for a wealth of cheap, innovative ideas), I find the Clikstand more robust and easier to use. Plus, using the original Trangia stove means you can screw on the lid and conserve any alcohol you don’t burn. For overnight trips, I’ll simply fill it and leave the fuel bottle behind.
Here’s Russ and Laura’s thoughts: