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[pct-l] Re: pct-l-digest V1 #388

Original question from Tom Best- 
> Some people used a tin can and some alcohol for a stove.  How did they 
> work?
Hi Tom-
I used a "trail" made tin can alcohol stove through the State of 
Washington on my PCT thru hike this past summer and was so pleased 
that I do not see the need to ever again use the heavier, more complex white gas 
stoves, with the exception of winter trips.

During my PCT thru-hike last summer,  and after protracted and 
recurring discussion with Jeremy Wilson about how to reduce weight 
and bulk of gear during the remainder of our treks, we finally made alcohol stoves out of tin cans and were very 
satisfied with the performance. They weighed in at ~3 ounces compared 
to 1 pound for a MSR Whisperlight International. Jeremy had been 
testing and successfully using a Trangia alcohol stove, that weighed 
6.5 ounces, from Echo Lake/S. Tahoe City through N. California and 
Oregon. (MSR distributes the Trangia alcohol stove - cost about $20 - see 
Jeremy's post to this list in December 97 on the web page with the PCT-L 
archives - I have been to this page in the past, but just now could not find 
the link to it from the PCTA home page as I remember previously - 
perhaps Brick can provide this information to the list and on the 
PCTA home page, if the archives are still in existence).

We compared the Wisperlight (using white gas) to the 
Trangia and tin can stoves (using denatured alcohol {ethanol}). We found that, 
even at colder summer temperatures (30-40 deg. F) and at 
higher altitude (as I remember without checking, the trail N of Tahoe 
does not exceed 8,000 or 9,000 feet), the alcohol stove took only 1 
minute longer to boil 3/4 liter of water. Cooking a meal (boiling 
water, adding food, reboiling and cooking for up to 3 minutes 
rarely consumed more than about 1 ounce of denatured alcohol. 

The only criticism I had of the 
system was that it tended to soot up the bottom of the cook pot (we 
used the ultra-light and ultra expensive 1.3 liter titanium pots -no noticeable
difference in performance compared to aluminum or stainless steel). 
The sooting occurred because it was difficult to provide an even 
distribution of air across the alcohol to support complete 
combustion. However, this was only a minor problem and the soot could 
be easily scrubbed/wiped off.

We used denatured alcohol (100% ethanol - denaturing makes it 
poisonous to drink so it can be sold in a less restricted 
'non-spirits' category). Denatured alcohol can be purchased either in a 
pharmacy or hardware store (at least 2 times cheaper in the hardware 
store). Jeremy spoke with other 97 thru-hikers who used rubbing alcohol (70% 
isopropanol) with their Trangia stove through the High Sierras and on many 
other trips in the Rockies. They claimed that it performed less 
efficiently than does denatured and results in a longer boil time, 
but that it was satisfactory as a substitute when denatured is not 
available. You can also mail alcohol in resupply parcels without ground 
transport restrictions.

We made two tin can stoves in the Columbia Gorge using a small 
(~2" diameter) Hershey's chocolate syrup can to hold the alcohol 
and a larger (~4" diameter) red kidney bean can as the pot support 
that was placed around the alcohol can.  
Both cans were cut in half with a hack saw (thus yeilding two 
stoves). The 1/2 Hershey can was used as is. 
The pot support was made from the 1/2 kidney 
bean can by removing the ends and using a large nail to punch holes all around 
it to provide an air supply to the alcohol in the 1/2 Hershey can. 
Then I found some stiff 1/8th inch diameter wire (stiff enough to 
hold a 1.3 liter pot of food) outside a hardware 
store, hack sawed three lengths (~4-5") per pot support can and bent 
the top 1" of each wire to a right angle. The straight end of each of 
these 'pot support' wires was threaded downward through two vertically aligned 
nail holes in the pot support can so that they extended about 1" above 
the pot support can.

I would encourage anyone to try out home made tin can alcohol stoves 
for themselves. They are easy to make, materials are readily 
available, they are cheap, durable, efficient enough for one person, 
and, best of all, extremely lightweight.  

Best wishes to you PCT '98ers, as well as the PCT '97ers I met.
-Bob Betz

Robert J. Betz, CHMM
Environmental Scientist
LTI Environmental Engineering
501 Avis Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan  48108 
Facsimile (313) 332-1212
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