ASK: Cooking with denatured alcohol.

Ever been caught out finding fuel for the Trangia? My guilty secret, given that I try to travel ultra light, is that I’d been using a ridiculously portly MSR XGK because it was what I had and I was too stubborn to replace it. I solved that problem by giving it away to some young mountaineers in Buenos Aires! I had imagined going with the old standard whisperlight international — alas, the whole world has gas stations — but am intrigued by alcohol fuel stoves. Joe. 

Joe, I’ve yet to be caught out with the Trangia. Sometimes finding fuel demands persistent enquiries, even foraging in parts of town otherwise unknown – that’s part of the Trangia experience. The key to success is finding out what cooking alcohol is called in each country, which in turn makes it a whole lot easier to track it down (for instance, in Honduras it was pharmacies that sold it, while in Peru it’s larger hardware stores). As an aside, in the US it’s easily found in small, handy bright yellow HEET bottles, sold in most gas stations in mountain states, used as an engine antifreeze.

I noticed a lot of Brits use this system; swapping notes on the best place to buy denatured alcohol is a kind of bonding ritual. It’s definitely slower than a pressurised stove, but it’s oh-so-quiet, safe to carry in a regular drinks bottle, and there’s no stove maintenance to worry about. I used mine at over 4000m, though it takes some persistence to light in colder temperatures.

Some useful links giving the names for tracking it down:


A trangia cooker packed away within a MSR 1 litre pot with a titanium Clikstand.

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