I’ve been looking fora while for some real data on how different camping stoves stack up and finally stumbled across a great comparison of the amount of time that it takes to boil some water using different sorts of stoves. The results are pretty stark in showing how much more powerful both canister gas stoves and multi fuel stoves are when it comes to heating up water than alcohol.
The stoves put to the test were a Trangia 27, a Jetboil Flash, MSR Whisperlite, Jetboil Helios, Trail Designs Caledera. This is a fairly good sample of some of the latest and most high tech camping stoves about that use different fuels. In the mix are two gas canister stoves (both by Jetboil), a multi-fuel stove (Whisperlite) and two alcohol stoves.
Alcohol is slow
What is particularly striking is that even the best alcohol stove, the Trail Designs Caldera take well over twice as long to boil water as the gas stoves and the Whisperlight. The Trangia Stove on test took 11 minutes to boil its water, that’s almost four times longer than the others.
I’ve written in the past about the differences in efficiency between different multi fuel stoves but the differences evident in this test are far more meaningful. I’ve always had a soft spot for alcohol stoves because of their ease of use, but this data makes a clear case for confining their use to relatively benign conditions. If you are going into very cold conditions or are going to be high and having to melt snow for drinking water then you are better off with a decent gas or multi fuel mountaineering stove rather than an alcohol stove.
You have neglected to mention that the TRANGIA stove will have this boil time in ANY conditions, regardless of wind and other elements due to its fully enclosed design with cauldron like heat dispersal. Whilst the gas stoves will often not bring water to boil in adverse conditions, even with a flimsy windshield in use.
Just food for thought and definitely worth taking into account when looking for a realiable outdoor stove setup.
Thanks for the feedback. You are right in that it does have a built in windshield which certainly does help. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Trangia because I love its simplicity and ease of use. They also last for years without anything to go wrong.
But the boil-time issue is a problem in very cold and windy conditions. The more heat you are able to pump into a pot to bring it to the boil quickly, the more efficient your overall outcome is. Think of it as boil time = (heat in) minus (heat lost to wind or just conduction from the pot). If the wind is able to get to the pot it cools it, so even if your burner is enclosed you still lose heat.
It is for this reason that the Jetboil and other integrated and insulated systems are so darned efficient. Now one thing that helps the Trangia is if you are able to cook inside the vestibule of your tent so you are right out of the wind. Just be sure to still stay very well ventilated (tent door open) and be careful of flames as you don’t want carbon-monoxide poisoning or to set the tent on fire.