Aug 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm #1238333
I decided to try out an alcohol stove for my next hike instead of my esbit. I bought it from trail designs and it says it uses denatured alcohol. I don't know what that means unfortunately. Does that mean I can use rubbing alcohol in it? What about HEET? Everclear?
And if there are multiple kinds I can use, which one can I use for other purposes? (like cleaning a wound or sterilizing a knife or something)Aug 4, 2009 at 5:01 pm #1518751
No rubbing alcohol! Horrid stuff in a stove. Everclear is great if you can get the 95% stuff. The non-isopropyl HEET is fine. You can find denatured alky at any hardware/paint store. Some have more (or less) nasty denature-ers in them. Zenstoves.net has some good info, too…Aug 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm #1518753
Check the MSDS for the brand of hardware store alki–it'll give amounts of different types of alki and other adulterants–just google "[brand name] MSDS" and you'll find some site with the info. Conventional wisdom seems to be, the higher percentage of ethanol and lower percentage of methanol, the safer and more effective the fuel. I use Ace brand denatured alcohol–about 95% ethanol (same as Home Depot brand?) IIRC. There's a lot of posts on these forums about alki, and some articles too (prob. in members' section).Aug 5, 2009 at 8:00 am #1518858
Ok so I tried some everclear in my alcohol stove last night and it was very aggressive. It boiled 2 cups of water in about 3 mins and started to melt a rubber pot holder I have on the rim of my can.
It also left a lot of black soot and may have hurt my caldera cone. Is there another fuel that might be a little cleaner and not quite so hot?
Is there any advantage to burning denatured alcohol over everclear?Aug 5, 2009 at 9:00 am #1518875
>"Is there any advantage to burning denatured alcohol over everclear?"
Well, it's a lot cheaper. And Everclear can't be sold in some states. I've never had any problem with denatured alcohol and soot (but have never heard of a soot problem with Everclear, either).Aug 5, 2009 at 9:12 am #1518881
What is the best kind of denatured alcohol to use? I would like something that doesnt leave lots of soot all over my can.Aug 5, 2009 at 9:31 am #1518884
As I said above, I use Ace brand, from an Ace hardware store. Others have good results with SLX brand from Home Depot, which also seems to be 90+% ethanol (there's no HD in my town, so I haven't tried it). Again, I've never had soot problems with my stove (a Mark Jurey-style penny stove), even running with a tight windscreen and incomplete combustion. Here's an article that talks about adding a bit of water to the alcohol to control flame and soot:
EDIT: Now that I re-read the article, it does mention soot problems with straight ethanol (Everclear) when used in some stoves. Water seems to help. I think the article is available to everyone.
EDIT: Just rechecked the MSDS on Ace brand (which looks like same manufacturer and product as SLX). A little confusing–looks like ethanol is actually 95% of the "denatured alcohol" which is about 50% of the contents. The other 50% is methanol. So Ace/SLX is actually a bit less than 50% ethanol total, with the rest mostly meths.Aug 5, 2009 at 9:35 am #1518885
@beepLocale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
So far as I know in the US, all Everclear is not equal. Some states (like my home state of Minnesota) don't permit the sale of Everclear or may limit the proof or alcohol content to less than 190 proof (95% ethanol).Aug 5, 2009 at 9:37 am #1518886
Yeah I used 190 proof. It was very powerful. I wonder if they will let me take some small bottles of it on the plane with me.Aug 5, 2009 at 9:41 am #1518890
I dont think the article is available to everyone. It says I need a premium membership to read it.
Does it mention how much water I should add to the everclear? Why would that mixture leave less soot? It has to go somewhere right?Aug 5, 2009 at 9:44 am #1518891
@beepLocale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
I typically use the Ace Hardware brand of denatured alcohol. In my Caldera Cone combination with the stock stove, I've never had any soot of any kind.Aug 5, 2009 at 10:05 am #1518895
Sorry–I didn't see the "M" next to the article. The gist was, adding up to 20% water can reduce flaring and soot. I'd try to get away with the least water possible, experimenting until I found a sweet spot. As I understand it, soot is unburned carbon, resulting from too little oxygen to fully consume the fuel. Think about an old-fashioned oil lamp with the wick turned up too high. Turn down the wick (reducing the flame size, which is what adding water to alki does), and there is more oxygen relative to the size of flame to fully combust the fuel, hence no soot.
BTW, I've had a membership for a couple months now, and it's been worth every penny. The premium content is very, very good: solid, science-based testing of gear and techniques; thorough, unbiased reviews of new products; and even discounts on gear through the BPL store.Aug 5, 2009 at 10:43 am #1518906
I am in the DC area and 190 proof everclear is readily available and fairly cheap. I hate carrying poisons (fuel, bug repellant, etc.) in my pack and prefer everclear due to its' versatility (fuel, antiseptic, painkiller & drink). Don't worry about the soot, it won't hurt your cone or pots and improves boil times.Aug 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm #1518925
Can I take everclear on a plane with me?Aug 5, 2009 at 12:59 pm #1518928
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
Have a look at http://zenstoves.net/Fuels.htm
I sometimes carry everclear as some or all of my planned stove fuel, with the idea of also making a nice mixed drink on the last day or two (1:7 everclear to water, add crystal light), but it is expensive, and I too have to go to another state to buy it. Generally just easier to carry denatured alcohol or HEET.Aug 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm #1518980
"Can I take everclear on a plane with me?"
No. It is a flammable liquid, and they are strictly prohibited.Aug 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm #1518983
te – waParticipant
anyone have an educated insight on the safety of fumes from burned everclear? as a 190 proof vodka, im positive the fumes are safer to inhale than either denatured or HEET but there still must be a small risk.. comparitively speakingAug 5, 2009 at 4:52 pm #1518984
"anyone have an educated insight on the safety of fumes from burned everclear?"
If your stove is burning 100% efficiently, the fumes should consist of water and CO2. If it is burning less than 100% efficiently, there will be some CO, probably not enough to worry about.Aug 5, 2009 at 6:40 pm #1519000
Roger Caffin's article on CO emission by all alcohol stoves calls CO levels "very significant"–the stove in the caldera cone has some of the higher levels of stoves tested.
(Another "members only" article, I'm afraid)Aug 5, 2009 at 7:32 pm #1519006
"Roger Caffin's article on CO emission by all alcohol stoves calls CO levels "very significant"–the stove in the caldera cone has some of the higher levels of stoves tested."
Thanks for pointing out my mistake, David. This was an important one, for me and everyone else.Aug 5, 2009 at 11:16 pm #1519033
Recommend that folks here actually read Caffin's article, written over 2 years ago, and heavily caveated at the time before concluding anything.
Further, I have had a number of emails with the person originally commenting on the performance of everclear in a cone and there is a lot of information missing from this discussion that I will let him share if he likes.
RandAug 6, 2009 at 8:19 am #1519083
I'd like to hear from OP on how he got a bunch of soot from Everclear! A really sooty mess from the cleanest-burning alcohol available? Weird. The only major soot problems I've had were with iso…Aug 6, 2009 at 10:09 am #1519116
Since I'm the one that posted the link to Roger Caffin's article, I want to clarify that I didn't mean to imply there was anything wrong with your company or its products. To the contrary, everything I read on these forums suggests Trail Designs is exactly what one would want in a cottage gear maker–good stuff at reasonable prices, innovative design and R&D, and excellent customer service.
My take-away from the Caffin articles (and I read the series in full a couple weeks ago) is that alcohol stoves, by their nature, produce significantly higher levels of CO than other types of stove, esp. *some* of the propane/butane canister types. I use an alcohol stove for most of my hiking–after reading the articles, I wouldn't use it in an enclosed area (eg, a tent) but will absolutely keep using it–for me, the benefits of an alcohol stove far out-weigh any drawbacks.
Obviously, any stove capable of boiling water is potentially hazardous for several reasons. In my view, CO production is just one hazard (like an open flame) to be aware of and managed with appropriate knowledge and skill.Aug 6, 2009 at 10:19 am #1519119
I have been talking to Rand from Trail Designs and learned a lot. Here is what probably happened.
First off, 95% everclear isnt completely clean. You can see this by the yellow flame when you burn it out in the open. I think what happens is there are so many alcohol fumes being emitted that it prevents enough oxygen from entering the reaction causing incomplete combustion leaving soot.
In my case, I also didn't use the rubber ring to keep the pot higher in the caldera cone. Im pretty sure what happened is that combining the everclear (that starves itself of oxygen) with a really low pot in the caldera cone which pushes even more oxygen out of the area, causes much of the fuel to not combust completely as well as jump out the sides of the cone in search of more oxygen.
Those two factors combined turned the inside of my cone into a firestorm. It got extremely hot and started melting the rubber ring.
I am going to try adding some water to it to slow the burn down a little and elevate the pot out of the cone more.
My problem is that the alcohol stove with everclear emits a flame that is about 1 foot high and I think the most efficient way to heat a pot is to use the tip of the blue flame where it is hottest. This means I will be effectively resting the pot on the cone if I can. (unless adding water reduces the height of the flame)
I am for the most part speculating so if any of you think I might be mistaken please let me know.
Thanks again to Rand and trail designs for all the help. Once I get this all figured out, this thing is going to be very light, and burn clean and very fast. I boiled 2 cups of water in 4 mins with the firestorm technique. hahaAug 6, 2009 at 10:34 am #1519121
Not a problem…..it's all good! :-)
A bit more information that is missing from the above description. The Caldera system that is being used here is the Caldera Keg-GVP. This is a special version created exclusively for Gossamer Gear and designed to be used as an esbit burner only. The reason is, we made the cone shorter so it would fit completely in the Fosters can/pot. We could get away with that because the esbit tablet doesn't require the tablet<->pot offset that the stove requires.
Well….after being on the market for a while, it seemed that the Gossamer Gear customers were also interested in an alcohol fallback solution. So, we packaged up an "add on" kit to accomplish that which included a stove and a larger "beer band" designed to hold the Fosters can up higher in the cone to give the stove "breathing room".
As noted above, I think we ran into a perfect storm where John Ben took the GVP cone, used it in alcohol mode, without the offset band in place, and with a hotter fuel (everclear)…..and got the results that are being discussed. We tested everclear in a standard Keg-F system with no problems, and plan to build a GVP cone tonight to see if we can reproduce the symptoms seen above.
Hope that helps!
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