Alternative Fuel

If it’s not canister or liquid, you’re probably cooking with an alternative fuel. Solar, solid fuel,

My preferred method of cooking is with Esbit and it is the cheapest, lightest, most common, and well known alternative fuel but some folks get real creative.




Esbit Solid Fuel Tablets – $23.97 (36 pieces)

Weight: 14g
Boil time (0.5 liter): ≈ 8.5 min
Burn time per 14g tablet:
≈ 15 min

These are my go to fuel source. At 14 grams each (13.59g on my scale), you’d be hard pressed to find a lighter manufactured fuel. One tablet is more than enough to bring 550ml of H20 to a rolling boil, almost twice. Esbit fuel tablets produce a flame that can get up to 1300° Fahrenheit.

You do not technically have to use boiling water to rehydrate a dehydrated meal; boiling is only necessary if you are boiling to purify your water. Using prefiltered water and only bringing the tempurature to hot, not boiling, allows for the possibility of two people to efficiently use just one 14 gram tablet per meal.

I love that these fuel block tablets are each individually packaged in waterproof packaging. The single serving style allows for easy prep, planning, and packing. Though they do have a unique odor before using, they burn virtually odorless and smokeless. Solid fuel tablets are shelf stable and will last 10+ years.

The only complaints I have about solid fuel tablets are that the raw product has a strong odor, the flame is not adjustable so technical cooking isn’t easy, can be hard to light and keep burning in high wind, and the tablets leave thick crusty black ash on bottom of cooking vessel and on burn surface.

These tablets are great for boiling water, but not cooking with finesse. Since the only “cooking” I do on the trail is heat water to add to dehydrated meals, these are perfect for me.




Sterno Gel

Yep, Sterno Gel. A buffet platter’s best friend. Keeping large pans of food and your next camping meal warm all night. A standard can is 4 ounces and burns for 2+ hours. Bring a pot stand or build your own over the can at your campsite.

Sterno on its own will not bring your water to a rolling boil, but it will get it hot enough to reconstitute with. If you place the sterno in a coffee can or something similar (creating a wind block and a vortex chimney) and place your pot on top, you can bring 16 oz of water from 62°F to boil in about 18 minutes.

This is more of an emergency/backup option for me, as the Sterno cans are bulky and the gel can be messy if you don’t keep it contained. Also the flame is somewhat resistant to being extinguished with out capping the can and smothering it.







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