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We test four of the best lightweight cooking stoves.
August 2016. Not yet rated.
We tested four lightweight cooking stoves against the criteria of how they performed against the maker's claims and if they were value for money and gave them our rating out of five stars (five being excellent value for money and for performing 100% against the claims made by the manufacturers). For compatibility of boiling times we used the pot that came with the Trangia stove in all our tests.
Test one: The Trangia Mini Trangia 28-t Stove Kit
The Mini Trangia is manufactured in Sweden by Trangia AB, Alsenvägen 16, 830 47 Trångsviken, Sverige (+46) 0640 681330, firstname.lastname@example.org and is widely available for sale on line and in good outdoor stores in Europe and the USA retailing around £25.00 / €29.00 / $32.00 (USD). It is a practical and lightweight stove set designed for single person use. It comes with a 0.8 liter / 1.4 pint aluminum pan, 15 cm / 5.9 inch non-stick lid/frying pan, and spirit burner with simmering cap, windshield and handle.
We found the claim that the stove could boil 1 litre of water in 8 minutes didn't hold true even when tested indoors. The best we could achieve was a boil time of 12 minutes to bring water to a rolling boil sufficient to purify drinking water.
Needs an external windshield to make it more effective; one can easily be fabricated or improvised. Using the stove as supplied we found it didn't blow out even in high winds (18m/s / 40 mph) but the effectiveness of the stove was drastically reduced from a 1 litre boil time of 12 minutes to a 1 litre boil time of 22 minutes at a wind speed of 5 m/s / 11 mph. Shielding the stove with an external windshield improved the boiling time to 13 minutes in this particular test. The frying pan doubles as a pan lid as shown above.
Do not carry the burner full of fuel without thoroughly testing it doesn't leak – we found two out of the three stoves we tested leaked meths slightly which is not good.
The burner comes with a simmer cap that works well when cooking eggs, pancakes and for heating products like baked beans. It is also excellent for reheating MRE products – the burner cap makes a great snuffer for putting out the burner.
The stove is of simple construction with no moving parts so it is virtually maintenance free.
The frying pan/pot lid is non stick and performs adequately.
Even in windy conditions the stove is easy to ignite with a flint and striker, match or cigarette lighter.
It is possible to modify the burner to take Esbit solid fuel tablets by plugging the bottom of the burner with silver foil to raise the fuel tables. It gives an alternative if you don't want to carry liquid fuel but we found the stove performed best using Denatured Alcohol (Methylated Spirits).
We like this stove a lot and it does what it claims, but we knocked off half a star because two of the three burners we tested leaked fuel when packed.
Test two: The Esbit 585 ml Cookset
The Esbit 585 ml (1 pint) Cookset is sold by Esbit, Marlowring 21, 22525 Hamburg, Germany, www.esbit.de, telephone: +4085310650. Be aware that although this is marketed as a German product, this cookset is made for Esbit in China. Esbit dry fuel is produced in Germany. The Esbit 585 ml cookset retails around £25.00 / €29.00 / $32.00 (USD).
Apart from weight and size, Esbit make no claims regarding the performance of this cookset on their official website. This cookset weighs 200 grams / 7 oz, and packs down into itself measuring B 111 x H 86 mm (B 4.37 in x H 3.39 in). Designed for people who want a complete cookset for making hot drinks and for heating ready–made meals (MRE). The cookset is constructed from hard anodized aluminum, the pot has a pouring lip and is graduated in ml and oz an includes a convenient mesh bag.
The ability to bring water to a rolling boil (water purification) depends upon the amount of water put in the pan. Using one solid fuel tablet it took 8 minutes to boil 227 ml / 8 fl. oz of water, just enough for a small cup of instant coffee. It took 18 minutes to heat 500 ml / 1.6 fl. oz of water to a simmer. Rolling boil could not be achieved and the solid fuel block ran out. Adding a second block and with the stove fully protected from the wind it took a further 9 minutes to achieve a fast simmer but we could not get it to a rolling boil. The inference is that this is not the stove to use to purify water in any usable quantity, it is designed for heating potable water in small quantities to make a hot cup of tea, coffee, soup, or Army MRE's, etc.
The cooking pot provided appears to have a protective coating of some sort and when first used it gives of an unpleasant smell, so wash it thoroughly and boil water in it a few times before use. This seems to eradicate the problem.
Although the burner can be stored in the pot for transport this means the solid fuel used could conceivably pollute the pot. Can be overcome by putting the cold burner in a high grade plastic food bag before packing it into the pot. If you store spare fuel in the pot make sure it is well packed for the same reason.
We modified the burner by adding packing made from a cola can to raise the height of the fuel block by 0.5 cm / 0.2 inches, this deceased to boiling time by two minutes as the heat source was closer to the base of the pot. You need to experiment to get the block to the optimum height without the flames travelling up the outside of the pot and sooting it up.
Esbit fuel blocks (not included with cooker) are easy to light with a match or cigarette lighter, more difficult with a spark but can be done.
We knocked off a star because of the slow boiling time, but in fairness if you only want to heat food up or make drinks from potable water, it does the job.
Test three: The Swiss Gel Fuel M1 Stove Kit
The Swiss Gel Fuel M71 Stove Kit includes fuel and a reusable burner. It was designed for use by the Swiss Military for portability and operational security. The M71 Stove sells on line for around £4.00 / €4.50 / $5.00 (USD), sometimes very available sometimes harder to source.
The best way to use the stove is to remove the lid (which is also used to snuff out the burner), cut an "X" in the inner thick foil seal and pull the four points upwards to direct the flame and heat upwards.
It has to be understood that this gel cooker was designed specifically for heating army MRE's and in our test we found it compatible in performance to cookers using Esbit solid fuel. We rated it down because it burns with a pretty noxious smell and must under no circumstances be used indoors, only in well ventilated areas.
It cannot bring water to a rolling boil but heats it to a simmer, enough for a piping hot drink. It took 7 minutes to boil 227 ml / 8 fl. oz of water and 16 minutes to heat 500 ml / 1.6 fl. oz of water to a simmer.
It ignited first time with a spark from a Swedish Steel flint, by using a single match or a cigarette lighter.
The steel burner doubles as a windshield but this was not adequate and additional shielding was needed even on a relatively calm day.
The gel fuel has a strong, pervasive chemical smell.
The gel fuel is supposed to burn for 2 hours but in our test it burned out after 80 minutes, a second M71 lasted for 95 minutes, well below the claimed 120 minutes burning time.
The burner was easily extinguished using the burner cap but left soot mark on the cooking pan, so not a clean fuel.
The smell of the fuel lost it two stars but we added half a star because it was so cheap, did most of what was claimed for it, and if you buy at a reasonable price as we did, the M71 is good value for money.
Test four: The Bushbox Titanium Outdoor Pocket Stove
The Bushbox Titanium Outdoor Pocket Stove can be used with wood, other organic material, a standard Trangia burner or Esbit solid fuel tablets. Comes with two trivets (supports) for any pot size. Can also be used as a windshield/pot support for other burners. Very small and lightweight, fits into any pocket. Comes with a built in ash pan.
Bushbox with Trangia burner.
Assembling the Bushbox was straightforward following the instructions it took just under a minute, but with winter gloves on it proved quite fiddly and took four minutes. The stove fitted together tightly and was very stable. Taking it apart was another matter, the interlocking slots required a lot of fiddling with to get them to slide apart and even with a bit of practice it took us five minutes to dissemble it.
To set the Bushbox up for use with a Trangia alcohol burner you use at least one of the trivets to link the two sides together leaving off the front panel. This gave sufficient stability to support the cooking pot and the weight burner.
Using different fuels:-
With the fuel burning well, the cooking pot was filled with 227 ml / 8 fl. oz of water, which took 3 minutes to reach a rolling boil. The test was repeated with 500 ml / 1.6 fl. oz of water, which took 8 minutes to reach a rolling boil.
Using a Trangia liquid fuel burner filled with methylated spirits.
The cooking pot was filled with 227 ml / 8 fl. oz of water, which took 8 minutes to reach a rolling boil. The test was repeated with 500 ml / 1.6 fl. oz of water, which took 17 minutes to reach a fast simmer.
Using two Esbit solid fuel tablets.
The cooking pot was filled with 227 ml / 8 fl. oz of water, which took 8 minutes to reach a rolling boil. The test was repeated with 500 ml / 1.6 fl. oz of water, which took 15 minutes to reach a fast simmer; we could not achieve a rolling boil.
Not a cheap stove but built to last, we marked it down half a star because it was hard to disassemble. Our decision was that this stove was the BEST IN TEST because of its small size and multi fuel capabilities.