how come esbit is not more popular?

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Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) how come esbit is not more popular?

Viewing 22 posts - 26 through 47 (of 47 total)
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    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    If I remember correctly, Esbit has 12,500 btu/lb versus 10,800 for HEET. Gasoline is around 19,000 and iso-propane even higher (surprise, surprise – thanks, Roger C). My preference in 3 seasons is Esbit, but I just boil water. Esbit is readily available in metropolitan areas. On a thru-hike, like the PTC, Esbit is not readily available and alcohol is usually a better choice for most thru-hikers. With a Trail Designs Caldera Cone, it is pretty darn efficient. With me CC system I am more concerned with the beer can pot holding up, than the residue. I have only been using it for a few years.

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Jon says: "One reason that Esbit is not very popular is … an unfavorable MSDS."

    Unfavorable compared to what?

    Denatured alcohol and HEET contain many toxic and/or "proprietary" additives – by design! Even Everclear is toxic in high doses.

    Butane used in canister stoves is not exactly harmless.

    Wood smoke is pretty bad for you, too.

    So PYP – Pick Your Poison.

    Jon Fong
    BPL Member



    From Wikipedia,

    Esbit's Material Safety Data Sheet states combustion can create formaldehyde, ammonia, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen cyanide

    Yep, choose our poison is correct. Esbit creates some unfovorable byproducts. BTW, I do use Esbit with care.

    Best redards, Jon

    mik matra
    BPL Member


    Locale: Brisbane AUSTRALIA


    I am busy for the next few days but will endeavour to get some pictures up on PBL on the weekend.

    Thanks for you time :).


    Tony Wong
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area


    I have been using Esbit for a year or so with a caldera cone and the gram cracker esbit stove they sell.

    I can get 2 to 2.5 boils in my 0.9L MSR Titan Kettle with one Esbit cube in the Sierras three season camping.

    Based on my experience with THIS setup (the gram cracker stove almost doubled the efficiency/number of burns I could get out of one cube), I would say that the Esbit fuel gives me more boils per ounce of fuel and is superior over alchohol.

    However, Esbit is not perfect…the negatives:

    Smell bad…frankly, makes me sick

    Leaves a sticky black tar on the bottom of my pot that requires that I store it in a plastic bag to avoid soiling my gear in my pack. (Cleaning is easy at home…spray on oven cleaner, let sit for 5-10 mins and wash off clean…toxic chemicals, but clean and shiny new).

    Can be hard to ignite

    Expensive vs. alcohol

    Availability on the trail or on the road to resupply can be a big issue vs. alcohol, which is generally readily available.

    My thoughts are esbit is my light weight fuel of choice depending on the length of the trip that I am taking and will I need to resupply myself with Esbit on the trip that I am taking.

    This was in issue with my friends and I on our 2011 JMT trip…we called ahead to the resupply places and they assured us that they would have plenty in stock.

    Well, they did not and we had to conserve fuel….and hence my love of the Gram Cracker stove, which was my 1st purchase after my JMT trip. (My friend, Jeremy, had the Gram Cracker Stove, which saved me and allowed me to have enough fuel to the end).

    The Alcohol vs. Esbit discussion is really about which is the best fuel source for the specific trip you are taking.

    If it is a long trip where you can carry all the esbit you need or can guarantee yourself with a resupply source of esbit, the weight savings with esbit is clear to me with MY setup.

    Shorter trips…then the advantage of Esbit vs. alcohol are diminished to the point where you take the fuel that you like best or is the easiest for you to use.

    Cost wise….alcohol is the clear winner over esbit, which is expensive.

    When you are commiting to Esbit you are saying that you are willing to pay a premium to save the weight vs. a cheaper alcohol alternative.

    Did I mention that the smell of Esbit makes me sick???

    Hope this helps put things into perspective….ultimately you are picking the system that works best for YOU, based on educating yourself to the pros and cons of each option available to you.


    michael levi


    Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles

    I use Coghlans instead, they come in smaller cubes and are about 1/5th the cost.

    Dan Yeruski
    BPL Member



    My interest in esbit has increased since I now have the ability to simmer with it. The small container I recently came up with that has the sliding lid to cover the cube in small increments makes it really easy to simmer. FlatCatGear has a simmering esbit stove that works well also.
    I have some interesting foil bags on order that I will use to contain my cubes so that the odor will be contained. They are of the ziploc type and are made to be opened and closed many times. As many of you have found out, the odor comes right through the foil /plastic packaging that the esbit comes in. I suspect I will be able to cook in the bags also. Cook as in submerge the bag in boiling water.

    Randy Martin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    I admit to being a bit of a neat freak. The idea of using a fuel that leaves soot all over my stuff is just disgusting. I'll stick with alcohol thank you.

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Michael, I remember the Coghlan's cubes are much cheaper – do you know what's the difference in weight between the Coghlan's and standard Esbit cubes? Taking weight into account what's the difference in cost?

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    "I admit to being a bit of a neat freak. The idea of using a fuel that leaves soot all over my stuff is just disgusting. I'll stick with alcohol thank you."

    It really isn't soot, but a residue that is pretty hard once it dries, which is pretty quick. My shoes get much dirtier from hiking.

    Mark Ries


    Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

    I really wouldn't call it soot its more of a residue that quickly drys hard and is not all that messy. I bring a plastic shopping bag to put the pot in and throw it in my food bag wrapped up. No mess problems at all. Its kinda funny but when I started over twenty years ago I thought esbit was stupid, so I started with white gas then canister stoves then played with alcohol and now use what I like best for how I cook, the lowly esbit tab. That is if I can't have a open camp fire

    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    The reason I've stayed with a canister stove is that while breakfast is just a quick boil, and lunch is not cooked, dinner is pasta or rice with freeze dried meat that takes 15-20 minutes on low boil to become soft and good-tasting; and the sauce, spice and dried veggie mix added takes another 5-10 minutes of simmering. With enough water for a couple cups of tea or other hot drink, the Shelties' kibble, and sterilizing the utensils and dog dishes, that all requires over a quart of water to be boiled. The payoff is that the dinners really taste good, and unlike all freeze-dried, provide plenty of energy for the next day's hike.

    The weight of the full Coleman canister is around 13 oz when full, and the Ti Snowpeak Gigapower stove with plastic canister stand and Ti burner windscreen, around 3 oz, for a total of a little over a pound on the first day when the canister is full. That lasts for 6-7 days, at which point a resupply cache is reached on the route, with a stay at a lodge or cabin if convenient.

    This system requires the ability to regulate the simmer or boil, and the canister seems to excell in that, especially a higher altitudes of 10-12K feet. The concern about the focused flame on the stove never proved a problem. So the weight runs from a pound down to less than a half pound, and the food is delicious, carefully mixed and packaged at home with the best ingredients. Very clean burning with easy cleanup.

    Unforunately, the canisters have around doubled in price at Walmart; but enough were purchased when they were $2.50 US to last for a while still.

    But I can easily see why the alcohol would work better for long distance treks, as opposed to a total of three or four weeks in the summer.

    Ryan Dorn


    I tried it for a bit as well as alcohol, but it was too slow for me. I'm so impatient when it comes to boiling water.

    Robert Kelly
    BPL Member


    Locale: UL gear @

    . . . especially for an extended trip above treeline or in a fire ban area when I can't burn wood. I used Esbit in a CC system on a 3-week AT section hike, mailing it to myself, double-bagged, in resupply boxes. Worked great. I have used it multiple times on 8-10 day treks without resupply above treeline. Worked great. Lighter than alcohol, can't be spilled, easy to budget 2 cubes (1 oz) per day for my needs of hot breakfast with 2 cups of hot coffee in the morning; hot dinner with 2 cups of hot tea at night. Any residue you don't like scrapes off your pot with a rock anytime you like. I keep my pot in a cozy to eat and to store in pack so not much of an issue anyway. It is more expensive than alcohol, so I don't typically use it for weekend trips except as a backup fuel when planning to burn wood, another purpose for which it is ideal IMO.

    Phillip Damiano


    Locale: Australia

    I love using Esbit, but down here in Australia it's not very cheap. Luckily I purchased in bulk a while back and got a great deal thru an online store wanting to get rid of there stock.

    Esbit for me is far lighter than Metho on hikes of 4 or more days. No fuel spillage to worry about.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    I’m of the “ESBIT persuasion”, pretty much permanently.

    With my modified Brian Green tab holder and TD Sidewinder ti cone stove W/3 cup pot I do very well in terms of boil times and efficiency. Plus it’s very consistent at any altitude, unlike some alky stoves.

    I keep my ESBIT fuel in a coffee bag. Its aluminum mylar lining and roll top keep the fishy smell inside. The bags are “free” when I finish one at home.

    On a week long trip I think the fuel weight of ESBIT is less than alcohol for the same total burn time. That’s been my experience at least. I cook both breakfast and dinner and often actually cook, as in spaghetti and rehydrating spaghetti sauce or cooking Pad Thai noodles, frying scrambled eggs, etc.

    Still waiting on “de-tuned solid rocket” fuel to replace ESBIT. THEN we’d need a high pressure burner fuel container with jets adjustment. Jus’ saying’…



    Ben C
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kentucky

    I stay with alcohol because i can use exactly as much as i want for each burn. Sometimes i burn 1 cup,  sometimes 2+

    BPL Member


    It’s hard to light, need a big lighter

    YouTube video

    BPL Member


    Or big matches

    YouTube video

    BPL Member


    These matches will replace esbit in the near future :-)

    YouTube video

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Other people have covered many of the perceived downsides of esbits: smell, cost, availability if you need to do resupply on the trail, difficulty lighting, and leaving residue on the pot I will add improperly used (my first attempt) unable to boil water efficiently.

    GVP encouraged me to try them again, I learned that distance between the esbits and port bottom will impact performance significantly.  With a decent stove I feel in love with them. The made planning easy, fit well into my camp life / cooking style, and the rest of the typical criticisms I found to be at most,  minor annoyances.

    Solo trips are esbits in an UL Caldera. For each day I throw in 1 or 2 cures depending on menu (typically 1).. no measuring fuel, worrying about spilling, or accumulation of half filled canisters.

    My use: I bring around 12 ounces of water to boil for my dinner… blow out the esbits. Eat. Relight the esbits, and have enough fuel to 8oz cup of tea. I then use the tea bag is as sponge… I knock off any food particles on the inside of the mug before drinking. The tanic acid in the tea seems to help cut through an oily remnants of dinner so a quick rinse takes care of the inside, and then use the tea bag to remove the esbits residue from the outside of the pot (before it hardens) when I am finished drinking the tea. I have never had a problem with the pot getting the inside of my pack dirty nor does my pot going into a protective bag.


    Steven Evans
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canada

    @verber Long time no see…you are around about as much as me these days :) Hope you are well my friend.

    I am all about esbit, been using them for as long as I can remember. Soot cleans of the pot with a bit of water and a small sponge scrub after each boil and then the pot goes straight into my backpack.  It is expensive in comparison to other fuel, so if you can find Coughlans, it is a fraction of the cost and they are about half the size. I live the simple life on the trail – only boil 2 cups of water each day for dinner (ie. 1 tablet/day) and if I want any more hot water, well, too bad. :)

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