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:
I sucessfully used a picogrill on a 4 month tour: http://www.picogrill.ch (german)
Heavier (240g) but can be used with the trangia burner or with wood (hobo). For transportation you can fold the picogrill to a flat packet about the size of a A4 paper.
I’ve not come across that one before – thanks.
I got the titanium version. It works great but putting it together can be a bit finicky. I guess you just have to get the technique down. I took it up this weekend for a 3 day long weekend snow biking trip up the Callaghan Valley near Whistler with the new Mukluk, that was fantastic. I learned that it’s hard to get alcohol burning at minus 5 C.
I also brought my packraft and I planned to snowshoe over the pass into the next valley (Squamish) and raft down the river to the highway and then ride back up to the car. But it was too hard to pull the packraft on the snow, after a km I was done. I’ll look into finding some more slippery liner I can put under the raft for pulling on snow. Plus I wasn’t used to the 1300 m elevation. I know that probably sounds low down to you. So I just went back down the next day (flying down the cross country ski trails at 40 km/hr was great) and drove up the Squamish Valley. Rode 10 km up the road on the bike and rafted 10 km back down on the river.
Got lots of GoPro footage and photos, I’ll have to post a trip report.
Sounds great! Would love to see some pics – and check out the new bike too.
Putting the Clikstand together just takes a bit of practise. I’ve got it honed.
Why not a Caldera Cone?
I’ve never had a chance to try one. I’ve heard good things, but I’m very happy with the Clikstand.
One major advantage of the Trangia is the comfort level for people not comfortable w/ lighting other types of stoves. My wife really does not like fire, matches, lighters, etc but is comfortable with alcohol stoves. I also have no problem letting my 8 yr old daughter use one.
Very true. That’s why they’re often used by schools in the UK for their camping trips. For kids, I guess the only issue is not being able to see the flame clearly in daylight.
You didn’t mention it here, but elsewhere I noticed your Evernew pot is nonstick.
How would you say that coating has held up and is it worth it over regular Evernew ti?
Actually Andrew, mine’s just the standard issue ti… Great potset, very much recommend it.
HI, Cass. You and I crossed paths in the Spiti valley in August 2003. How time passes.
I have used a Trangia for years. I’ve had all the other types but always come back to the Trangia. Unfortunately, you can’t get meths everywhere. I spent a month last year riding in the Balkans and denaturised alcohol was unknown. Admittedly my Albanian and Serbo Croat were not up to having long conversations but, try as I might, I couldn’t find the fuel anywhere in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia or Croatia. So I ended up eating cold stuff and dining in hotels – which was not a challenge financially as the area is good value. I rode into Peja (Pecs) in northern Albania on a wet and windy day and decided to look for a hotel for the night. To my surprise I found myself in a 5 star hotel which charged only €50 for dinner bed and breakfast and the room was luxurious. Incidentally, the ride out and over the hill from Peja into Montenegro was an epic 1800m climb which took me four hours. Bosnia was fantastic.
Denatured alcohol is universally available as a cleaning fluid, solvent and miscellaneous uses. Typically, there is one version found in hardware stores (solvent and cleaning fluid section), another version in cold-countries used to get rid of water that has condensed in automobile fuel lines, another version in pharmacies for skin application (for example, nurses swab the skin with alcohol before giving an injection). You just have to know where to look for it and what to ask for. Some versions of denatured alcohol might be isopropyl alcohol or blends of 70% alcohol/30% water, both of which burn poorly.
Any alcohol will working in the Trangia and the home made penny alcohol stoves…. including rubbing alcohol and high proof drinking ethanol… Although Everclear and other high proof spirits are more expensive they will work in a pinch. I’ve never been to a country that is liqueur free….
Thanks Dan. Alcohol Puro has so far proved to be easy to find in Chile and Argentina, in the pharmacies. I have also come across Solvente de Quemar in hardware stores, which seems to work well too – sometimes sold by bulk, which is handy.
Have anyone tried using Trangia or any other penny stove with gasoline instead of alcohol?
yes, but they all died or are currently in the intensive care burn unit of the hospital and so aren’t available to reply.
Quick but important note on the Trangia — NEVER put the fire out using the lid. OK, you might get away with it, but there’s a rubber O-ring in there and at a minimum you will be damaging it and someday you’ll end up with fuel seeping into your pack. Just use the simmer ring as a snuffer. It’s right there an works perfectly well.
I just bought this exact setup. How do you use the simmer ring in the clikstand? the extinguisher part seems to get in the way?
I don’t have mine here to check exactly, but I can’t say I’ve had that issue. I use the simmer control all the time. It’s one of my favourite bits about the Trangia – it really helps conserve fuel. How do you mean it gets in the way?
I have just purchased a Ti Clikstand from the US and am just learning to use it. The latest ones have two sets of slots for the burner platform and the recommendation is to use the lower set for the meths burner (the upper set being for the gas (as in butane propane) .
The problem with the simmer ring is that when fully open the “extinguisher” disc rests on the sides of the stand tilting the whole simmer ring at an angle so it does not work correctly. However, if you open it partially so it drops fully onto the burner it does work but perhaps not in the way intended.
Thanks for the update. A friend had a more recent version, but I don’t remember it having the issues you’re encountering. Maybe drop them a line?