Alternative Fuel Stoves

If you are trying to get your kitchen kit weight as light as possible, and still have a hot meal at the end of the day, then you probably want to employ the use of an alternative fuel stove. Allowing you to ditch the bulky liquid gas or isobutane containers, alternative fuels can range from alcohol and antifreeze to wood sticks or fuel tablets.

In the case of wood burning stoves, you don’t have to bring fuel at all, as you will find it in the wild. Esbit fuel blocks, or similar products weigh less than 14 grams each and are smaller than a piece of gum. “Alcohol stoves”, which can burn various other types of liquid fuel, only require you to bring as much as fuel as you need, in tiny see-through bottles. Alternative fuel stoves tend to be much smaller and much lighter than any type of traditional stove and many are easy to design and build yourself.

Vargo Triad Multi-Fuel Stove – $28.60

Boil time (0.5 liter):
Fuel Type: Multi (Liquid)

This is a professional company’s version of the tried and true “beer can” or “tuna can” stove, using Titanium. This basic form and style of liquid fuel stove was originally created by DIY’ers using old aluminum cans. (you can see a great tutorial of how to build your own here: Although the DIY soda can version is actually lighter, the Titanium version is vastly more durable. This stove, by Vargo, also has small folding legs, acting as both pot stand and stabilizer, keeping the stove off the ground.

These liquid fuel stoves run best on denatured alcohol but can burn on many highly combustible liquid fuels. Denatured Alcohol can be found at hardware and paint stores and rarely in outdoor sections of some stores like Walmart or CVS. Vargo also sells durable clear little bottles to bring only a small amount with you on a trip.

If not using alcohol, I see most people use HEET 28201 Gas-Line Antifreeze and Water Remover. Though it burns way dirtier, it is readily found gas stations, dollar stores, auto parts stores, and Walmarts.

The only draw back to these types of stoves is that the flame can be hard to see and extenquish, making them somewhat more “dangerous” to use than others. Also, still having to bring along and keep up with extra fuel is a major detractor.

Esbit Ultralight Folding Titanium Stove – $17.24

Weight: 0.4oz / 11.5g
Dimensions: 3.3 x 1.1 inches (8.4 cm x 2.8 cm) folded
Boil time (0.5 liter): ≈ 8.5 min
Burn time per 14g tablet: ≈ 15 min
Fuel Type: Solid fuel block

Right now, this is my go to stove for solo thru hikes. Though I just discovered two solid fuel stoves that weigh way less (the Gram Cracker, from Trail Designs, weights just 3.4 grams and the Brian Green Esbit Tray (BGET) is a DIY option that weighs JUST 1.66 GRAMS!!!) this Esbit brand stove seems more durable, is still relatively cheap, even at 14 grams is still extremely light, and it folds down slim to pack away easier.

You should definitely plan on bringing a windscreen when using any solid fuel stove, as the fuel blocks are somewhat difficult to light and do not burn efficiently in windy conditions. One large 14g fuel block does not burn quite long enough to bring two 500ml pots of water to a boil, but will get the second pot hot enough for coffee or tea and still hot enough to reconstitute a dehydrated meal, which doesn’t really require you to bring the water all the way to a rolling boil, contrary to what the package says.


Emberlit “Fireant” Wood Burning Stove – $65.83

Weight: 2.8oz / 79.37g
Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 5 inches
Boil time: Varies
Burn time: Endless…?
Fuel Type: Organic tinder

If you are going to use wood as your fuel source, you could just build a fire. If you want to burn wood efficiently, however, you can utilize an ultralight wood burning stove. Not only are wood burning stoves safer than an open fire, they also provide a stable stand for your pot as well as creating a chimney vortex, which concentrates and feeds the flame, resulting in faster boil times.

The Emberlit Fireant consists of four separate Titanium panels which are assembled into a tower. Each panel is 0.45mm thick and when stacked for packing, all four panels together are 1/8″ thick. The flat packing design allows this stove to be stowed in spaces no other stove can fit.

Developing moderate skill at fire starting is recommended before using these stoves, though your skills will improve greatly with each use. You do need to constantly feed the fire to keep it burning hot, as the burn compartment is not very large.


BioLite Campstove – $125.99

Weight: 33 oz / 2.06 lbs
Dimensions:  4.5 x 5 x 9 inches
Boil time (1 liter): 4.5 min
Burn time: Uses about 1.6 oz (46g) of wood to boil 1 liter of water
Fuel Type: Organic tinder

The Biolite company has created some amazing products and patented some incredible technology and their Campstove design is what put them on the map. Using the energy created from combustion, the Biolite Campstove converts it into electricity! Devices can be charged directly off of the stove, via the USB ports; 20 minutes of charging provides about 60 minues of talk time (Charging times vary by device).

At over two pounds, this stove is definitely not made for thru hiking or even multi-camp-spot trips. But get ready to up your festival/car camping/glamping game with this wood burning, cooking, power hub!




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