Author Topic: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?  (Read 1822 times)

pavel

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Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« on: June 10, 2017, 06:50:31 PM »
Quick question here - I am very happy so far with my alcohol stove, but am thinking of perhaps buying something like the whisperlight multi fuel stove. The reason for it would be simply for the ability to cook a lot longer without interrupting the process with re-filling every eight minutes or so.

I don't like the idea of carrying two fuel types along, especially ever since I mixed things up and took my coleman stove's fuel by mistake. That was quite the bonfire in my alcohol burner.

Is it possible then to burn alcohol in a multi-fuel stove? I know the caloric values are very different, but that is fine by me, I'm never in a rush. I don't see why it would not work, but I haven't seen alcohol advertised, leading to the mystery I hope one of you can solve for me.  :)

Danneaux

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2017, 06:57:12 PM »
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Is it possible then to burn alcohol in a multi-fuel stove?
In a word...no...at least to my knowledge. The issue seems to be the lower volatility of alcohol fuel failing to pressurize adequately in a multifuel stove (the opposite of your experience with white gas in the spirit stove[!]...you got very lucky on that one compared to What Could Have Been).

That said, my multifuel stoves (I have two Coleman Peak1/eXponent multifuels with different generator tubes for white gas/unleaded petrol and kerosene) might have that capability, but I don't need to test it. Better to instead toss in one of my beer-can spirit stoves and wire stands if I need a backup (and I sometimes do).

Don't forget -- and this was covered in part in a recent discussion of fuel vessels -- alcohol has different characteristics than petrol-based fuels and might not do the inside of your fuel-based stove any favors with continued use. I'm thinking in particular of the sealing o-rings.

Best,

Dan.

rualexander

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2017, 07:19:51 PM »
. The reason for it would be simply for the ability to cook a lot longer without interrupting the process with re-filling every eight minutes or so.

Eight minutes? A full Trangia burner will burn for twice that at least.

You could convert it to external fuel feed https://youtu.be/eGsCZYFzi1s

pavel

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2017, 07:41:33 PM »
Thanks Dan, that makes sense.  My trangia does however have a seal on it, perhaps it's silicone.

I've never actually timed it rualexander, but that guess seemed about right.  I want to get more skilled with cooking on the road and am actually entertaining the thought of bringing a carbon steel frying pan along, or perhaps a small steel wok.  Both require high heat and so perhaps alcohol is no longer the way for me.  But for the sake of knowledge, perhaps I will do a burn test on alcohol as well as heat - soon. Would be good to know. It has always seemed a bit on the short side to me, however.

The one thing I miss on this forum is a dedicated cooking and eating, complete maybe with some recipes sub-forum. I wonder if there would be demand for that?  Aside from learning how to eat better on the road, I soon hope to buy a desiccator and vacuum packer and start to prepare my ready to re-constitute meals, if I decide that I am actually as hopeless in any kitchen as I suspect I am.  So much to learn.

Danneaux

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2017, 08:03:22 PM »
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... for the sake of knowledge, perhaps I will do a burn test on alcohol...
Do beware: If a Trangia is repeatedly allowed to burn dry, it can ultimately result in cracks and leaks. I found this to my great dismay in testing a fleet of genuine and imitation Trangias to check time-to-boil and ultimate burn times.

The problem seemed to arise from vessel overheating in the last 30 seconds or so due to a lack of evaporative cooling; in other words, there was not enough liquid in the well to outgas and cool the upper portion of the burner to compensate for the hot flame as happens in normal operation. I used a non-contact thermometer to monitor operation and the rise in upper-level vessel temperature just before burnout was remarkable...followed by cracks appearing after repeated operation in that burn-to-empty state.

NB: It is often possible to resolder/solder shut cracks in compromised Trangias.

All the best,

Dan.

mickeg

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2017, 08:24:51 PM »
Some older Optimus stoves (111 model) could run on alcohol, possibly some of the Primus stoves too.  But needed a different jet plus had a separate sleeve that was added to reduce airflow into the combustion area.

The jet size is used to control the air to fuel ratio.  The heavier fuels like kerosene have smaller jets than are used for fuels like Coleman fuel.  For example, my Omnifuel has a jet that is size 28 (I have no clue what the unit is, perhaps it is hundredths of a mm?) while the Coleman fuel jet is size 37 and an even larger jet at 45 for butane. 

Alcohol has a larger jet than for Coleman fuel or kerosene for those few stoves that were designed to burn all three fuels because it needed more fuel to air ratio than the other fuels.  (Exception, Optimus says that the Nova does not need a jet change, they claim it works well on Coleman fuel and kerosene but that stove works poorly on kerosene in my opinion.)

Also, some plastics degrade when in contact with alcohols, so if you put alcohol in a stove that had any O rings or other parts that were not safe for alcohol, you could have a real problem.  So, don't try it on a stove that was not designed for that fuel.  For example in the mid 80s in Minnesota, they started adding ethanol to gasoline and within a month my pickup truck gas tank was leaking and one of my carburetor jets dissolved. 

The few stoves that would run on alcohol were quite heavy, so I think you would be better off not trying to find one for bike touring.  I have an Optimus 111T which can use alcohol but I do not have the alcohol parts for it, I only use coleman fuel in it.  But I recently bought the kerosene jet for it, so I might dabble with that.  Kerosene is much cheaper than Coleman fuel in my area.

The photos are my 111T running on Coleman fuel. 

pavel

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2017, 10:27:01 PM »
This place is an incredible wealth of information.  I take it that such a nice stove as this shown 111T is not manufactured any more?  It just has an old time quality look to it.

I don't like the idea of the volatility of gas, and also white gas, but kerosene seems like a nice sort of fuel.

mickeg

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2017, 11:13:15 PM »
This place is an incredible wealth of information.  I take it that such a nice stove as this shown 111T is not manufactured any more?  It just has an old time quality look to it.

I don't like the idea of the volatility of gas, and also white gas, but kerosene seems like a nice sort of fuel.

I have no idea how long ago the 111T was taken out of production.  I bought mine used, I think I paid about $100 USD.  It might have been former military in Scandinavia.  I bought a new 111B in the early 70s, the T came along after that.  I do not think the T was ever sold retail in USA, I think anyone that has one got it used from a military surplus dealer.  A lot of the Ts came with an O ring pump instead of a leather pump washer, I think I paid about $20 for a leather conversion.

This whole discussion started with you proposing the International version of the Whisperlight.  That stove can run on kerosene, but keep in mind that kerosene does not readily evaporate.  Thus, if you get it on stove parts or on the outside of your fuel bottle, it is still there hours later.  I usually have carried my fuel bottle in a bike waterbottle cage if it had kerosene in it, but coleman fuel evaporates so quickly that I carry those fuel bottles in the panniers.  Some people prime their kerosene stoves with other more volatile fuels.  When I have used kerosene, I usually had a bottle of coleman fuel to prime the stove.  When I did my Pacific Coast tour, my touring partner brought his International Whisperlight and he primed it with kerosene. 

A gallon of coleman fuel usually costs me about ... ... ... , I just checked REI and they only sell the quart (~liter) size now (Crown brand, not Coleman) and they charge $7 USD for a quart.  But I can buy kerosene at the farm supply store (I have a kerosene labeled fuel can) at the dispenser for less than $5 USD per gallon.  That is what tempts me to use kerosene more.

Kerosene in my stoves usually leaves a blackened bottom on my cooking pots, but I don't worry about that.

I probably use more kerosene for cleaning really dirty bike chains than I use for cooking.

I have heard that some people have very good luck mixing fuel, about one part coleman fuel and three parts kerosene, I have not tried that but I think that might make my stoves less sooty.

John Saxby

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2017, 04:40:30 AM »
Pavel, I've used MSR multi-fuel stoves since the early 1980s, and still have my original G/K as well as a 20-year-old Dragonfly.

These things burn just about anything that will burn. (I've used diesel, aviation fuel, benzene, variants of gasoline [which terrified me] kerosene, and on a "what'll it do?" sort of dare, peanut oil. I seem to remember using alcohol at some point, in Southern Africa, but that was long ago, and maybe I was jumbling up stoves, eras, etc., etc. See below, however, on gasoline with ethanol.)

All things considered, Coleman fuel/white gas seems to be the best all-around. Kerosene requires priming with some other kind of fuel, but it is stable, and it's widely available around the world. BUT it can be of extremely variable quality, and if it's dirty, it can easily clog your jet, even if you have a shaker jet like the Dragonfly, or if you're a dab hand with the tiny wire jet-poker-thingy. It's also very stinky if you get it in your clothes, if that sort of thing matters to you, or to your nearest and dearest.

Visiting & then living in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, I did find that burning gasoline with 30% ethanol corrodes rubber or neoprene O-rings, so don't go to those kind of mixtures. (It also wrecked the neoprene tip of the carbuettor needle on my Toyota Corona, a problem fixable only by a brilliant back-streets shop in Harare, which put a wee dab of stainless steel on the tip of the needle, a permanent fix for $30.)

I've found the Dragonfly to be dead reliable and very efficient--an 800 ml bottle would do me for a full 5-day canoe trip, with some left over. (That was enough for two cooked meals a day, and several cups of tea each day.) The simmer control is wonderful; it also calms down the noise of the stove. (Then again, I've always assumed that the noise of the Dragonfly, full-on, and even more the G/K, which is essentially a compact, ground-mounted blowtorch, keeps the bears away.) The only downside for me is that it's bulky and heavy, compared to the Trangia (but not to other multi-fuels I've used). OTOH, on my canoe trips where there ain't no cafés/diners and such like, my meals are much better than the basic one-pot affairs I make with my Trangia when I'm bike-touring. The latter are OK, but because I usually go touring where I can find a café at least once a day, the Trangia meals are really a backup. If I were bike-touring in remote country, I'd probably use the Dragonfly, and economize on weight and volume somewhere else in my gear.

Hope that's helpful,

Cheers,  John

mickeg

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2017, 04:26:38 PM »
One more consideration, if you are getting on an airplane (especially in USA) the airport security personnel can be very nervous about camp stoves if they can smell any fuel.  It is common (according to comments on the internet) to have camp stoves confiscated by TSA (the USA airline security agency).  No stove fuel of any kind can go on an airplane.

I brought a Optimus Nova to Iceland, but cleaning the fuel bottle before I got on each flight to and from with soap to the point that there was no odor was a lot of work.  I found that the stove canisters that have a butane/isobutane/propane mix were readily available.  If I get on an airplane with my camping gear again, I plan to just buy those fuel canisters upon arrival. 

I have heard that the closer you get to France, the more likely you are to find the canisters that do not have the threaded valve that you thread your stove onto.  Rest of world uses the canisters that have the threaded fitting that MSR, Snow Peak, Primus and most other stove brands work with.  I saw both types of cannisters in Iceland on the free shelves at some of the campgrounds, I took a photo (attached) to show the difference.  The canister on the left is unthreaded, will not work with most stoves.   I think that some Primus stoves will work on both kinds of canisters.  But other than that I think only Gaz makes the stoves that go on the unthreaded canisters.

If I flew to Europe, I would just bring a canister stove that threads on to the canister, and if I was close to France I would assume that I would have to buy the other kind of canister stove while I was there.

I have heard of canister stoves also being confiscated by TSA, but I am not sure if that was in a carry on or checked luggage.  I had my Optimus Nova in my carry bag, TSA took it out to inspect it and they concluded that the saw tooth pattern on the pot supports were not sharp enough to be a weapon, so they let me keep my stove.  After that I decided I will always put my stove in my checked baggage.

But, for bike touring where I am not getting on airplanes, I prefer liquid fuel stoves.

There are also the puncture type canisters, but I do not think a stove has been manufactured for decades that uses those.  I still have a few such canisters, I bought several a couple years ago at a garage sale for very little cost because I still have an old Bluet stove that will use them.

pavel

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2017, 06:04:09 PM »
Those travel tips are things I would never have thought of. Now that you've mentioned it mickeg, I do recall reading something once about how if there is the smell of fuel then it can not go on the plane and neither will the post office here in the US ship it.

I spent a good bit of time yesterday looking at various sites and doing re-search on multi-fuel stoves. So far I think I'd want one that is multi-fuel and for sure one that simmers. I didn't realize that many designs don't allow easy low heat. So I've got a lot to digest and learn about.

I've had a long standing bias against canister stoves, though I don't know why. Somehow here in the US I feel that it could be difficult to find replacements at an affordable price, but I have no idea if I'm right on that score. And of course they are so easy to use that I may have nothing to fiddle with, optimise and complain about.  It almost feels unmanly - like staying at the Hilton. Can't have that. :)

On top of my own desires to improve my abilities to feed myself on the road, my teen daughter has recently expressed a desire to start doing a bit of camping again.  What a relief, I was worried she would turn into a completely modern person and forget the joy of outdoor adventuring.  I'm pretty sure that for her, manly is not required, and so I'm going to expand my research into propane powered stoves as well.

I'm grateful for all this info.

John, despite my intentions otherwise, i too find that the Trangia has been mostly backup to restaurants and for boiling water for coffee in the mornings.  That's been the case in the Summer heat and humidity which I've travelled in thus far.  It's so hot that I can't even look at a plate of poorly cooked hot food. Mexican restaurants it has mostly been instead.  Cheap, air-conditioned, and staffed by cooks who actually know more than how to pour boiling water onto grits or oatmeal.  I even once had the heretical thought that I should just leave the stove behind. But that would be like letting go of a security blanket and long held beliefs about self-suficiency.  So I'm going to go in the opposite direction here.  Besides, the tour that is most likely to happen for me is the Southern Tier, or a good portion of it, and that will be in September through to about November. I hope that helps my appetite and thus my budget.

But from reading these posts by you all who are more experienced than I, I can see one trend developing.  Just like with bicycles, it would seem that one stove only, is never optimal enough.  The N+1 factor seems to be in play, I as grasshopper now see.  :D

mickeg

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2017, 07:06:23 PM »
The propane canisters are very heavy, propane is stored a very high pressure.  The butane/isobutane/propane mix stoves that I referenced use much lighter canisters, there is not much weight of metal left when empty. 

You are correct that canisters are quite expensive, I only buy them on sale and since I mostly use liquid fuel, I rarely need to buy canisters.  I think it has been over eight years since I bought a canister.

If you decide to go the canister route, the canister stoves heat much slower when the canister is over half done because the fuel in the canister cools as it is used and also because of Raoult's law, which I assure you, you do not want to know anything about.  BUT, canisters when nearly empty can produce a good amount of heat if you put the canister in a pan of water, only about 8 to 10 mm water depth is needed, that water keeps the fuel warmer.  I have done this with my pot lid which was pretty shallow but was deep enough for adequte water depth to keep the fuel warm.

There are lots of good multi-fuel liquid fuel stoves out there. I like the Primus Omnifuel.  The Omnifuel that is sold today looks quite different from mine, so I have no idea if the new ones are as good as mine is.  MSR stoves also get high marks but I get nervous about a plastic pump so I chose Primus or Optimus.  Optimus says that you can run the Nova on kerosene, but my Nova had very yellow flames with that fuel so I would not call the Nova a multi-fuel stove and I only use it with Coleman fuel.

On my Florida trip this past February, I brought one canister stove with one and a half canisters (one was half empty) and a liquid fuel stove.  For large amounts of heat like pasta noodles, etc., we used the liquid fuel stove.  But if I only wanted enough water for a cup of coffee I just fired up the canister stove to get the job done faster.  Also canister stoves simmer much better as a general rule.

Good luck with your decisions.  If I think of anything else, I will add that, but that is unlikely.

Attached photo is one of my pasta meals in Iceland, one stove but I moved the two pots back and forth every minute or two to keep them both warm.

Danneaux

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2017, 07:15:19 PM »
Quote
If I flew to Europe, I would just bring a canister stove that threads on to the canister...
So true, George. That's what I did: Brought a stove burner-head used ithreaded iso-butane cartridges and brought an empty Trangia burner, combining the two with a folding windscreen and my Mini-Trangia 28T cookset. Thanks to AndyBG's knowledge of a sports shop in Veliko Tarnovo, I bought one large and one small cannister of Optimus iso-butane. It wrked great and was my primary fuel. Secondarily, I found I could burn Everclear/vodka/rakia/Šljivovica/Śliwowica/Slivovitza/Schlivowitz, or Slivovitsa (homemade distilled monshine) in the Trangia well enough to get by when needed. Some mixes amounted to the heat output of a tea light, while others worked remarkably well.

I washed out the Trangia burner with rubbing alcohol before my flight to remove any trace of odor from the moonshine. No problems, but in both Paris-Orly and in Los Angeles, I saw large tables piled high with confiscated camp stoves that apparently did not pass muster and smelled of fuel.

At home (US) I rarely use cannister/cartridge stoves because of the need to pack out spent cartridges. Yes, they can be punctured for recycling later, but are still difficult to crush smaller in the field for compact transport once spent.

Best,

Dan.

mickeg

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2017, 11:33:47 PM »
...
 I found I could burn Everclear/vodka/rakia/Šljivovica/Śliwowica/Slivovitza/Schlivowitz, or Slivovitsa (homemade distilled monshine) in the Trangia well enough to get by when needed. Some mixes amounted to the heat output of a tea light, while others worked remarkably well.
...

What a waste of a valuable resource.  That is almost criminal behavior.  Even if you do not partake, there are those of us that would be happy to dispose of that fuel for you in a more productive manner.

...
I washed out the Trangia burner with rubbing alcohol before my flight to remove any trace of odor from the moonshine. No problems, but in both Paris-Orly and in Los Angeles, I saw large tables piled high with confiscated camp stoves that apparently did not pass muster and smelled of fuel.
...

Thanks for pointing that out, I thought it was mostly a problem with TSA in USA, but if the French are also inspecting luggage that closely, that probably is universal.

I have three Optimus Nova stoves, so I chose the Nova to bring to Iceland, as if I lost a stove I would not notice the loss of a Nova that much.  I also brought a canister type stove as a backup in case I lost the Nova to TSA.  But since I found canisters on free shelves at a couple campgrounds, about half the fuel I used in Iceland was the butane/isobutane  mix that I obtained for free from campers that left their half full canisters for others to use when they flew home.

The caution of TSA and other security personnel is overly zealous in my opinion.  The human nose can smell petroleum compounds in air at a few parts per million (ppm), easily at less than 10 ppm.  But the lower explosive limit of gasoline is about 1.4 percent, or about 14,000 ppm.  Thus the smell test is a very poor test of actual danger.  But, they are in a job where you won't get into trouble if you are too careful and too overly zealous, so the result is a lot of campers lose their stoves.

When I flew with my liquid fuel stove, I also packed my fuel bottle, my stove burner head, and the pump unit separately.  My thinking was that if the inspectors saw only a pump or only a burner head, they were less likely to confiscate it.  Bottles are cheap, I would not get too upset if I lost just the fuel bottle.  But I was thinking if all three were packed together, that the odds of losing all three at once would be increased.  The bottle, I packed it with no lid.  But considering the time it took to clean it, next time I will just bring a canister stove and avoid the hassle.

While writing this, I was reminded of a website that I found (again) with a quick google search, this is worth reviewing if anyone wants to travel with a stove:
https://thesummitregister.com/flying-with-a-camping-stove/

And I wrapped my fuel bottle with this.
https://thesummitregister.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/TSA-Travel-Document-Backpacking-Stoves.pdf

Danneaux

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Re: Do multi-fuel stoves include alcohol for fuel?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2017, 12:43:49 AM »
Quote
What a waste of a valuable resource.  That is almost criminal behavior.  Even if you do not partake, there are those of us that would be happy to dispose of that fuel for you in a more productive manner.
  ;D ;D ;D Ah, put it down to the sins of a non-drinker.  ;)

All the best,

Dan.