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.