Sep 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm #1239687
I was wondering if anybody had any thoughts about the relative merits of using esbit fuel pellets versus alcohol with the Caldera cones.
I'm using the short cone with the 550 mL BPL pot/ cup (no handles).
Can I get away with half an esbit to heat up 500 mL?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of esbit vs. alcohol on long vs. short hikes?
Does one really need a holder for the fuel tabs, or can one just put them down on the dirt and get the same effect?
Am I even asking the right questions?
I'm at the stage now where I'm hauling about six pounds of BP base weight. The only thing to cut at this point is consumables, so if I can save an oz or three by using the fuel tabs as opposed to alcohol, I'm willing to listen to suggestions.
I must confess, I'll miss the alcohol fuel, however. I nip o' the old Everclear warms up the the cockles of the heart after a long, cold day of hiking. ;-)
One gram at a time,
StargazerSep 27, 2009 at 6:26 pm #1531069
John RoanBPL Member
Some notes I had previously recorded on this subject…
Got my new Caldera Keg system for xmas (there really is a Santa!)
I like Esbit for its low weight and & convenience, but the soot it leaves on the pot is a big mess.
So I decided to take a look at the soda can alcohol stove that comes with the Caldera system…
Alcohol – 20cc = 0.5 oz weight
20cc's burned for 6 minutes in cone and 2 cups of water just came to a boil
30cc (=.75oz weight) burned for a total of 11 min, full boil was at 7 min
Fuel bottle (full) weighs 4.95oz…at 20cc per .5 oz, one bottle = about 8.5 x's 2 cups (container weighs .7oz)
Esbit tab = 0.5 oz weight including packaging
Took 8.5 min to a full boil (using Trail Designs Gram Cracker)
Burned for a total of 15 min
Conclusion…weight of Alcohol system is only more due to additional weight of stove & fuel storage bottle when using to boil 2 cups of water in this system.
20cc of alcohol is all that's needed to bring 2 cups of water to a boil (used in the 45+- degree garage with cold water).
Esbit tab burns twice as long as necessary. Could possibly blow it out and reuse the remaining esbit? Even so, the remaining Esbit would not have enough to boil another 2 cups.
Alcohol stove, fuel storage bottle, & measuring cup weighs 1.40 oz…Gram Cracker weighs 0.10 oz
Cons: Total weight gain of 1.30 oz when using Alcohol vs. Esbit
Pros: No sooty residue left when using alcohol, fuel less expensive and easier to obtainSep 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm #1531071
Good stuff! I've never used the esbit tabs. Can they be cut or broken in half easily? (Sounds like i could get by with 1/2 tab for cooking purposes, which would make them a bit more economical to use.)
StargazerSep 27, 2009 at 6:35 pm #1531073
John RoanBPL Member
Esbit tabs tend to break up in small pieces when you try to break them, kind of like crumbling. But, I bet there is a way to break them more cleanly…I haven't spent any time trying. I have gone to the Caldera Tri-Ti Inferno wood burning system, and just bring an esbit tab as backup in case I can't find any dry wood.Sep 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm #1531078
Jay WilkersonBPL Member
@creachenLocale: East Bay
I have been taking this cooking system the past two summers..I use the bottom 1/4 part(or Less)of a beer can as my stove platform for the Esbit Tab with a MiniBullDesigns six loop beer can pot stand w/ the 550 Caldera Cone which makes for a very Quick and easy setup…No fuss and almost everything can be recycled accept the MiniBullDesigns pot stand…This system boils very quickly and is so easy even a caveman can use it!
!Sep 27, 2009 at 11:47 pm #1531121
@trtlrockLocale: Blue Ridge
You can buy 4-gram Esbit tablets here:Sep 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm #1531123
@antigLocale: Pacific Northwest
I would never carry esbit on a short hike. The weight does not offset the disadvantages, for me. I hate the smell that sort of lingers around my nose as I'm eating my food. I hate waiting so long for a boil. I hate having soot. I hate having to use multiple tabs and wait even longer for larger boils.Sep 28, 2009 at 12:04 pm #1531216
If you want to make every gram count, then definitely use Esbit, and definitely use the Gram Cracker plus wings stove that's designed for use in the cone. Here's why:
With 2 cups 18C water and 14g fuel, without the wings (saves 1.5g) it boiled in 5'50" and there was 3.3 grams of fuel left. With the wings it took 7'25" and there was 4.9 grams fuel left, so definitely more economical with wings. You could say the extra weight of the wings payed for themselves with the first 2 cups boiled. Don't be in such a hurry and you will use less fuel. Also note the Gram Cracker stove accommodates up to 2 x 14g Esbits, so is good to go for larger boils too. I just blow out the unused tabs and reuse them at my next boil.Sep 28, 2009 at 10:26 pm #1531374
Jay, are you serious? I thought that was a joke on Tinny's site. I mean, it's just metal cloth. Did he weld the ends together?
And what's all this about a gramcracker esbit stove with wings? Is that lifting the tab up for air flow? I've never really used esbit either, but I'm considering it as a backup for my twig stove.
-michaelSep 29, 2009 at 5:50 am #1531399
todd harperBPL Member
@funnymoLocale: Sunshine State
Tinny's pot stand is no joke. Not welded—just connects to itself be bends in the metal.
The wings on a Gram Cracker actually block some wind, thereby yielding the great efficiency.
ToddSep 29, 2009 at 8:16 am #1531413
Jay WilkersonBPL Member
@creachenLocale: East Bay
Hey Micheal, It is not cloth– it is hard mesh metal.(Very Stable)…Tinny at MBD twist the wire around the wire-looks like a hard task actually. Regaurdless it works very good… That MBD six loop pot stand (picture) is over two years old.
-JaySep 29, 2009 at 10:58 am #1531442
I prefer alcohol over esbit, admittedly…
If I were going to use esbit, I'd use a gram cracker; it's absurdly light. That said, just how much are you watching literally every gram in your pack? I ask because in Lynn's example (not picking on you, Lynn!) if you boiled 2 cups twice a day, you'd save 3.2 grams of fuel per day with the wings… and add 1 min. 35 sec. to each boil. Even if you were going on a 10 day trip, you'd save all of 32 grams, or 1.1 ounces. Personally, not sure that one ounce would be worth the extended boil time. YMMV.
I'm guessing that you'd carry the esbit in something, maybe a zippered baggie… that would add another 1/3 oz, maybe?
I regularly boil a pint/2 cups on 15ml of fuel in my caldera, but assume cold water and 20ml. 20ml is about .68 fluid ounces. IIRC, alcohol is about .8 of water by weight, so 0.8 x 0.68 = 0.54 (mass) oz of alcohol per boil. That .54 oz converts to 15.3 grams. Direct comparison of alcohol to esbit, then, given info above, seems to be that esbit is a few grams lighter. If you were to assume a 4 gram difference per boil (11g esbit vs 15g alcohol -edit, had wrong units), two boils per day, then a four-day trip would yield a 32 gram/1.1 ounce weight advantage. A 12-day trip, of course, would net a roughly 3.3 oz advantage to esbit. Are grams the only important consideration in your cooking system, though?Sep 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm #1531472
Rand LindslyBPL Member
While the wings on the GC do keep wind off of it, that wasn't the purpose of adding them in there. The main reason is to slow down the esbit burn. With 5 sides of the cube exposed, it burns faster than the water can absorb, and therefore you are blowing the heat out into the atmosphere. We added the wings to slow down the burn so that the water/pot had time to absorb the heat and provide more fuel efficiency.
Hi….my name is Rand….and I am an esbitholic. While we sell a lot of alcohol stoves, I personally use esbit/GC. In addition to the efficiencies that people note here, and the weight savings, and the simplicity…..the one thing I haven't seen mentioned that I think is a BIG win….is that with esbit, there is no chance of spilling/leaking alcohol into your pack. Real peace of mind.
Rand :-)Sep 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm #1531484
The wings on the Gram Cracker reduce airflow, thus making the tabs burn more slowly and efficiently.
"Direct comparison of alcohol to esbit, then, given info above, seems to be that esbit is a few grams lighter. If you were to assume a 4 gram difference per boil (11oz esbit vs 15 oz alcohol), two boils per day, then a four-day trip would yield a 32 gram/1.1 ounce weight advantage. A 12-day trip, of course, would net a roughly 3.3 oz advantage to esbit. Are grams the only important consideration in your cooking system, though?"
??It takes 9g of Esbit to boil 2 cups with the Gram Cracker compared to 15+ grams with alky. At 2 boils per day over 4 days, that's a savings of ~50g fuel over alcohol. If, like us, you boil a lot more than that (cooking for two), then the savings can become rather large…the wings save 1.6 grams per boil or 13g over the same trip, but slow boil times a little. Again, for us cooking for two, the savings from using the wings are even larger. A 12 day trip would make the Esbit with wings a clear winner, weight wise, if you don't mind the cost, the soot, the smell and difficult start!Sep 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm #1531485
Jonathan RyanBPL Member
@jkrew81Locale: White Mtns
Depends on the trip for me. For local trips I use my Caldera with alcohol. I do this b/c at the start of each season I can buy a $5 jug of fuel and it will last the entire year. When my wife and I travel the benefits of esbit are greater in that is is easier to find in the quantities I need and it is easy to monitor fuel usage.Sep 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm #1531491
> It takes 9g of Esbit to boil 2 cups with the Gram Cracker
> compared to 15+ grams with alky.
Depends on the stove system. The 15+ gram number is pretty typical with the caldera cone system. Given this thread was started about using a caldera cone then the answer seems to be esbits will be lighter.
But there are alcohol systems which can beat most caldera cone + esbits syetems (excluding the keg caldera and MLD compact caldera) for step in weight and total carry weight. My first generation ion stove + pot stand + windscreen (1oz), lil nipper for carrying alcohol (.7oz), and an Ultralight .9l (wide) evernew pot (4.2oz) weights 5.9oz. Less than most caldera systems because a caddy to protect it is not required.
In most conditions I can bring 16oz of water to a rolling boiling for >=1 minute with .3oz (8.5grams) of alcohol. You will note that this is less than esbits by .5 grams.
Of course there are downsides… as noted you can spill the alcohol, it takes 15 minutes to get to the full boil and the setup isn't a quick and easy as say a Caldera Cone with esbits.
–MarkSep 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm #1531500
So if you assumed use of the wings-and why not, right?-and assumed 9g of esbit use, and all the other pre-established stuff… Then my first example would be a half-ounce off…
but more importantly, if you doubled the fuel use/water boiled (as for two people), then esbit @ 9g x 4 boils/day = 36 g/day vs. alcohol 15g x 4 boils/day = 60 g/day. 24g per day advantage to esbit for two people… 4 days, saves two people 96g or 3.4oz… 12 days, two people, saves 10.2oz (over alcohol). Hmmm.
Might be worth thinking about more, I guess. I cook for one, so 12 days might save me 5.1oz over 12 days in our examples. Never been too enamored with esbit though, personally…Sep 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm #1531511
Esbit has one big advantage for me over alky. The ability to start a whole tab (or two) and just blow out and reuse the remaining fuel means that my boils are more dependable in that I don't have to guess how much fuel to use. This is especially relevant in windy or cold conditions where the needed fuel may be more than the calculated 9 grams (or 15 grams for alky). With alky I always end up adding more fuel than I need because it's more important to me to not run out of fuel during a boil, and I can't easily recover the excess….but maybe this is less of an issue for solo cooking.
Other UL systems I have used perform great in garage testing, but in my real world (often wet and windy) the wind blocking of the Caldera system adds up to better fuel economy (whether you go alky or Esbit). The stability of the system is also un-surpassed IMHO. It is a rare meal in the field where I actually get 9 grams of fuel to boil 2 cups of water, and boil times are usually longer in the field, as the water/air temp may be colder than at home, and wind is a constant enemy to fuel efficiency. The Caddy is optional…Sep 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm #1531530
Sorry to derail, I appreciate all the esbit info…. So, I guess it's actually called Hardware Cloth, not metal cloth, but it's the same stuff: galvanized wire screen, about 1/2" gap. Cloth makes it sound like something else.
I actually thought it was a joke because you can buy a roll and make 50 pot stands for the same price. But then you have a big pointy roll snagging you every time you go for a tool… I'm just being a tad snarky. It was the long name for a simple DIY object that made me snark. No offense, Jay.
btw, if you want to gram weenie the pot stand, take a look at trimming some of the interior mesh. it still stands strong and looses a lot of wire…
lotsa use… still have way too much sitting around. ;?)
Sep 29, 2009 at 3:44 pm #1531543
> The ability to start a whole tab (or two) and just blow out and reuse
The ability to use the right amount of fuel and then turn it off is really useful… thought this isn't exclusive to esbits. Some alcohol stoves can do the same thing. You smother the flame with a lid and then pour the fuel back into the bottle… or with some stoves you just tighten the lid. This doesn't work for the ion. So if I need to be completely sure I hit a boil I do use extra fuel just as you said. Nights that I just need to water to be hot like cooking ramen with water already purified I use the .3oz. If the water doesn't hit a full boil I am still ok. That said, almost every time I used .3oz of fuel I did achieve a rolling boil when the temp was above 45F (maybe upper 30s) when I was cooking. Below that I needed to bump up to .5oz of fuel.
> Other UL systems I have used perform great in garage testing, but in my real world (often
> wet and windy) the wind blocking of the Caldera system adds up to better fuel economy
A good match between the stove and windscreen is very important and makes a big difference in the field. The caldera cone is a nicely finished and easy way to achieve this. That said, there are system which I found to be as efficient in the field such as the thermajet stove, and slightly more efficent at the cost of ease of use such as my ion + windscreen + evernew pot.
All this said…. I have been very tempted by the idea of esbits in either the GG Keg Caldera or the MLD Compact Caldera for a more packable cooking system which requires less hassles. I just haven't gotten to the point of spending the money and making the switch.
–markSep 29, 2009 at 3:52 pm #1531555
"That said, there are system which I found to be as efficient in the field such as the thermajet stove, and slightly more efficent at the cost of ease of use such as my ion + windscreen + evernew pot."
I admit I haven't used the Ion, but used the ThermaJet quite a lot…and the fuel efficiency and speed of cooking increased dramatically when I used the ThermaJet in a Caldera Cone instead of the supplied windscreen. I have also used the FeatherFire with snuffer cap and suck back bottle adapter. Once again, this stove worked even better in a Caldera Cone. Basically all open centre (ie non-pressurised) stove I've tested perform better in a Caldera Cone! The tight fit of the windscreen against the pot, plus the reduced airflow created in the cone seem to improve fuel efficiency across the board, whether open centre alky or Esbit. But heck, we are probably not talking about back-breaking differences in total weight carried, and as Brad has said, there are other factors to consider in terms of convenience, personal preference, fuel cost etc…Oct 9, 2009 at 8:11 am #1534643
> Basically all open centre (ie non-pressurised) stove I've tested perform better in a Caldera Cone!
Interesting. I will have to try my ion inside the cone to see what happens. My comment of the ThermoJet was from memory. I thought I remembered it using about the same amount of fuel but I could be wrong. As you noted… on most trips the difference of .25-.5oz / day isn't a big deal.
The Caldera cone is a very nice system. I actually just tried the UL Caldera with the gram cracker esbits holder. Worked like a champ with 16oz of water. I am likely going to give the UL Caldera + esbits a try for a season to two for a change of pace.
–MarkOct 9, 2009 at 8:40 am #1534654
Forgot to post: Got the Gram Cracker and used it with my BPL Caldera system. One 16-gram esbit heating the 1 1/2 cups of water I needed to do a single-serving Mountain House and another cup for my beverage. Not bad for 16 grams!
The next step is to try the wood-burning version.
StargazerOct 9, 2009 at 9:09 am #1534664
I just wanted to comment that my alcohol figures were quite conservative earlier. I do regularly boil on 15 ml of alcohol, and with some experimentation I'm getting about 1.5 minutes of rolling boil. Some more experimentation coming, but I anticipate reliably boiling a pint on 10-12 ml of fuel in the Caldera/Ti-Tri… without going through all the conversions, that'd be roughly 10g of fuel per boil for alcohol. I'm also playing with the new Inferno set up, and it looks quite promising. A little more up-front weight, but no additional fuel weight, either.Oct 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm #1534826
this morning I tried the ion inside the caldera cone. That's one stove that isn't helped… performance is significantly worse. The primary issue is that the ion normally much closer to the pot and needs a smaller space to get thermal feedback to work effectively.
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