The White Box stove, (image courtesy of White Box).
Note that in use the centre well is capped by the pot.
Unlike so many small alcohol stoves which are made from extremely light but very fragile bits of aluminium, the White Box Alcohol Can Stove is made from a more robust aluminium energy drink can. The construction is very simple, but the performance is, like many other similar pressurised alcohol stoves, quite powerful.
- Good alcohol capacity – 2 ounces
- Quite powerful
- Moderately stable on the ground
What’s Not So Good
- Slow to prime
- Flares when pot is removed
- Not as light as some
- Flame spread is much too wide for narrow pots and beer cans
|White Box (can be purchased via e-Bay or from www.gossamergear.com)|
|2006 – Alcohol Can Stove|
|Aluminium drink can, ‘thick’-walled|
|Pressure fit and rivets|
|‘Pepsi-can’ style, 60 mm (2.3 in) diameter by 55 mm (2.1 in) high|
|21, drilled around outside, 20 mm (¾ in) down from rim|
|Open centre well claimed to hold up to 2 oz denatured alcohol|
|Looks like an open jet, but pressurised in use|
|Matching windscreen is included|
|Depends on amount of fuel used|
|One or two people, can take heavy pots and heavy use|
BPL measured weight:
|Stove: 30 g (1.06 oz), windshield 27 g (0.95 oz)|
There are several different classes of alcohol stoves, depending on your personal preferences, but one major classification is between pressurised and unpressurised ones. In all of them the alcohol has to boil to create the vapour for burning of course; in the pressurised ones the vapour usually comes out of a ring of holes around the side, As they rise up to the pot on top the flames heat the stove to keep the alcohol boiling. Inside the pressurised class we have two main categories: those which are inherently pressurised and those which have an open centre hole and are pressurised by the pot sitting on top blocking that central hole. The White Box Stove fits into the latter category.
Many stoves in this class are made from very light aluminium beer or coke drink cans. As such they can be a little susceptible to damage. This White Box Stove is made from a thicker aluminium drink bottle – think miniature SIGG water bottle or conventional white gas stove tank. As such, the wall is much thicker and stronger. The company claims the drink bottles they use have walls 3 to 4 times thicker than found in ‘Pepsi’ cans. I measured the wall thickness in the White Box Stove as 0.040 millimetres (0.0016 inch), while an energy-drink can I measured had a wall thickness of 0.010 millimetres (0.0004 inch). That is 4:1. To be sure, the alloy used in the drink bottle may not be quite as hard as the alloy in a ‘Pepsi’ can, but I can certainly feel the greater rigidity in the White Box Stove.
The windshield supplied with the stove is made of aluminium foil with all the edges folded over for safety. There are small holes punched along the bottom edge. The windshield is the normal 600 millimetres (24 inch) long by a slightly higher than normal 90 millimetres (3.5 inch), and it weighs 27 grams (0.95 ounces). This is almost as heavy as the stove, and I found myself taking a lighter (17 grams or 0.60 ounce) windshield in its place. However, the White Box windshield is probably more robust than the lighter one.
The White Box company claims (on their e-Bay web site) to have sold some 1,900 of these stoves. That is a very large number: it may be that the solidity of the stove is commercially attractive- very understandable. (It also means someone has drunk a huge number of drinks out of those cans – no comment!) The warranty offered with the stove is for a free replacement if you manage to ‘burn this stove out’. I doubt this has happened very often.
However, the extra strength carries two penalties, and the most obvious one is the weight. The White Box Stove weighs 30 grams (1.06 ounces), while the moderately similar Mini Bull Designs Elite stove weighs about 7 grams (0.25 ounce). Whether the extra robustness and slightly greater diameter of the White Box Stove justifies the (slight) extra weight is something each user will have to decide for himself. I would point out that the extra weight of the stove is rather small compared to the weight of alcohol you need to be carrying for a trip of almost any duration.
The second penalty only appears when you compare the operation of the White Box Stove with a lighter competitor. The White Box Stove seems to take longer to prime and get going compared to some competitors. The leaflet which comes with the stove suggests the stove may take a minute or more to get going properly, and this is what I found. Of course, it is burning up alcohol while it is getting up to speed. It is never clear (to me) whether quoted burn times and fuel quantities allow for this priming.
I think there are several reasons for the longer priming time. It is obvious that the greater mass of aluminium will take some extra heating, but it is not the full story. The larger size of the stove may also mean it takes longer for the flames to spread the heat all the way down into the alcohol. But I think the larger size of the stove compared to something as small as the Mini Bull Designs Elite stove may mean there is a bit of a tendency in practice to put just a bit more alcohol into this stove. Of course, the more alcohol you start with, the longer it will be before it has been heated up to boiling.
The White Box Stove sheltered by rock and windshield.
(Windshield open for the photo.)
The White Box company claims (on their e-Bay web site) that their testing ‘has shown it can boil 2 cups of water in approximately 4 minutes with only 2/3 ounce of fuel and we were able to boil 3 cups of water in less than 6 minutes with only 1 ounce of fuel. It has boiled 6 cups of water in 12 minutes with 2 ounces of fuel.’
I tested these claims with the supplied windshield and an AGG 2 quart (1.8 litre) pot. The windshield is 90 millimetres (3.5 inches) high, and was spaced about 15 millimetres (0.5 inch) out from the AGG pot. I was able to match the White Box performance claim only if I held the pot up above the flame as soon as I had lit the alcohol. I could not match these figures if I waited until the jets around the outside had started burning. I think you have to use a real metal pot holder (rather than a glove or bandanna) to hold the pot above the stove while it is priming, and that is extra weight. In practice therefore I think you can expect slightly longer boil times in the field.
The instructions which came with this stove claim you can light the alcohol by putting a ‘lighter down into the large top hole of the stove’. Don’t try it: you will burn your fingers! Even on a hot day (33 C or 91 F) in a closed lab, the alcohol vapour did not seem to reach to the rim. For these stoves I use a small stick dipped in the alcohol to transfer the flame down into the centre well. Once lit I found I had to wait a little over a minute before the flames were coming out of the jet properly. That is a lot of fuel-burning time.
Once the stove has flames coming out of the jets around the side I found that the jets do put out a lot of alcohol vapour, making the stove quite powerful. In fact I found that the flames were coming well up the side of the AGG 2 quart pot I was using – which is not such a good thing. It means that a significant fraction of the flame heat is being wasted up the sides. It seems that a fast heating rate usually does mean that the efficiency drops. This could be improved by having fewer jets or by having the jets slightly smaller.
The AGG pot used in for my bench testing is reasonably large: almost 150 millimetres (6 inches) diameter. Even so, as mentioned above the flames were licking way up the side of the pot. Putting a smaller pot such as the MSR Titan Kettle or, worse still, a beer can pot on it results in very high flames and a lot of wasted heat and fuel. Reaching such a narrow pot while the flames are licking up the sides becomes an ‘interesting exercise’ if you are not carrying a metal pot lifter. Frankly, I found it rather hazardous.
I thought that the flames from this stove look very long compared with the flames from a similar stove such as the Mini Bull Designs Elite. This makes me think this White Box stove should preferably be used with large pots, cooking for two people perhaps. However, balancing large pots such as the 1.4 litre (1.5 qt) GSI Bugaboo pot (190 millimetres or 7.5 in diameter) on such a small stove presents its own problems. The Mini Bull Designs Sketti stove handles this rather well by being much bigger in diameter and lower in height.
The instructions do mention that once the stove is running you should not take the pot off it. If you do the boiling alcohol in the centre well will send a column of flame leaping upwards, and this can be quite dangerous. Do not have your head over the stove in such a situation! Also you should be very cautious about using this stove inside a tent or under a tarp for the same reasons.
The carbon monoxide emission from this stove is quite significant, as with many other alcohol stoves. Use of it inside a closed structure such as a hut or tent could be quite dangerous for this reason.
- The robustness of this stove is its unique feature.
Recommendations for Improvement
- If the jets were made a little smaller to bring the flames a little more under control, the stove would be both a bit safer and more suitable for use with small ultra-light pots. It might also improve the efficiency in terms of alcohol used.