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#98882 - 06/30/08 01:29 PM Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference!
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Ok, after a recent trip on the west coast trail, I decided that I would use one of my smuggled bottles of everclear as stove fuel on the trail - So, basically I was using Ethanol to fuel my stove - Same thing as "Denatured Alcohol" - but without the stuff to make it undrinkable - To me it was simple, as the stove fuel became "dual use" and the excess was consumed as a warm-me-up in a nice pot of pepperrmint tea on a couple of occasions.

I normally fuel my stove on Methanol (methyl hydrate - heet, gas line anti-freeze, etc) and figured there'd be no noticable difference - I was wrong!

Normally, until I get down to around the freezing mark, I don't worry too much about my stove fuel being too cold to light up - The WCT was nowhere near freezing, maybe 10C at night- balmy.

However, retrieving my bag in the morning from the bear box *three times* had my stove not getting hot enough to go! and it was WARM out! just doing my usual prime and go routine. After the first time I thought - something must be wrong here.. Sure enough, it was!

Methanol boils at 64 Centigrade
Ethanol boils at 78 Centigrade

Duh. Chemistry to the rescue. - probably slightly compounded by the fact that I was at sea level instead of my typical 1200+meters.

Anyway, I didn't think I'd notice the difference, but I sure did notice those 12 degrees! While the "dual use" aspect of the everclear was kind of nice, it really didn't warrant the harder starts - and I didn't really carry that much "excess". Anyway, I'm surely back on pure methanol for stove fuel - much easier to get going.


Edited by phat (06/30/08 01:40 PM)
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#98883 - 06/30/08 07:59 PM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: phat]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
My dear Phat,

I feel for your Everclear conundrum, howsomever...There would be no lighting problems or temp. problems if you "saw the light" (pun intended) and burned ESBIT or FireLite tabs. Just give it a full week's try sometime.

I use 2 tabs at once & usually blow them out when they are 1/2 burned. Then for the next meal (usually breakfast) I add only 1 new tab to the half burned ones & I'm good for that meal. My stove is a Vargo Triad W/O the alcohol burner can. However if you and I backpack together I'd carry the alcohol burner & less fuel tabs so I could bum alcohol from you. Heh, heh

Eric
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#98884 - 06/30/08 10:14 PM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: 300winmag]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 997
Loc: Australia
Here Up Over (Australia) we have Ethanol and that fact by itself proves that it is better.
Anyway, Ethanol burns hotter so you may have to kick-start it (not with your boots, with a small Vaseline impregnated cotton ball) in winter but once it gets going it's just the best (if that is all you have). Keep in mind that them Scandinavians have been using Trangias for a few years now.
Esbit
That reminds me that I noticed several dried fish varieties at the local Chinese shop. Must try some of that.
Franco

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#98885 - 07/01/08 06:29 AM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: Franco]
JAK Offline
member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
I like the idea of ethanol also. More BTU per oz, as long as you have a good system, and like a good challenge. I tried isopropyl alcohol, but if you go to that extreme you might as well use canola oil. Now there's a challenge.

Ethanol:
1. More BTU/oz that methanol.
2. Safer than methanol or rubbing alcohol.
3. Useful for many first aid purposes also, more than rubbing alcohol.
4. Yeah, maybe a nightcap now and then.
5. Also lots of fun running from the man. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

I'm going to try distilling my own alcohol just for camping, though I don't think I will trust it well enough for nightcaps. Maybe not at first anyway. I will distill it from mead at first, because I make that now anyway. Maybe potatoes later, but that's alot harder I understand. I could also distill it from cheap vodka I suppose, but that would defeat the whole purpose of avoiding taxes, even if it was cheaper that way by the time I'm done. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

Ordered my first alcohol stove, the ION. I will make my own also, but I wanted a good starting point and I like the Rock's data and philosophy on fuel efficiency. I'm fairly sure its workable with ethanol. We will see. I'm still going to use my Kelly Kettle mostly. I just want to join in the fun.

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#98886 - 07/01/08 09:33 AM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference [Re: JAK]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I've thought about ethanol because of the dual use as a disinfectant (I'm don't drink so the nightcap aspect doesn't interest me). Methanol is quite toxic I understand so you don't want to get it in a wound I wouldn't think. Interestingly Isopropyl alcohol, which is often sold for medical purposes, is also toxic but less so apparently. But it makes a lousy fuel because of incomplete combustion. Ethanol does burn cleanly and (and hotter than methanol I understand).

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#98887 - 07/01/08 09:33 AM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference [Re: 300winmag]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I'd happily use Esbit if there were a reliable source to get it here. But frankly, there isn't, and I can get gas line anti-freeze at any little flyspeck of a town with a gas pump in Canada <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
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Winter list.
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#98888 - 07/01/08 04:48 PM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: Franco]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
Franco,

There are three things in the world that smell like fish and two of them are fish and ESBIT. Hee, hee

Eric

P. S. This is not a sexist joke - I think.
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#98889 - 07/03/08 03:48 AM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference [Re: JAK]
DTape Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 654
Loc: Upstate NY
Agreed with the pros of ethanol. I have never had an issue with lighting ethanol in the cold with certain stoves. Other stoves have more difficulty like what was experienced. As with all my gear, the weather dictates what I bring. One can either change fuel or change the stove (or both).

On a continuum here is a list of ease of lighting in sub-zero temps for some stoves I have used.

Instant light ----------------> serious priming/waiting needed

starlyte, fancee feest, ion, supercat, pepsi(pressurized)

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#98890 - 07/03/08 10:15 AM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: 300winmag]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
I wouldn't have thought about what the third thing was until you included the P.S.
<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
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#98891 - 07/03/08 12:03 PM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: chaz]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
See Chaz, you have a pure mind and now I've corrupted you. My apologies to your Significant Other.

Eric
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#98892 - 07/03/08 07:42 PM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: 300winmag]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
Interesting post. I used a Trangia for ten years almost exclusively and always with denatured alcohol.

I switched to cannister stove quite some years ago, but lately I've been lugging the Trangia in my car, and will probably use the thing again at some point.

I'll try looking for fuel in the automotive rather than paint department.

Ultimately, what you say is a sad sad commentary on reality...............

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#98893 - 07/06/08 07:19 AM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference! [Re: 300winmag]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Not totally pure, but maybe nieave. I can be corrupted until I die. And I ain't dead yet.
Chuck...
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Enjoy your next trip...

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#98894 - 07/07/08 08:31 AM Re: Methanol Versus Ethanol - There's a Difference [Re: phat]
Jim_Wood Offline
member

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 119
It might be useful to remember that Everclear is not pure ethanol.

At 190 proof (95% alcohol), it contains about 5% water, which is probably enough to affect stove performance. Over the years, I've read backpacker reports about certain denatured alcohols that seem not to work very well in stoves, apparently because of their water content.

One example is Parks Denatured Alcohol, which, according to the last MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) I downloaded, contains:

Ethanol 87-92%
Methanol 5-10 %
Methyl Isobutyl Ketone 1-5 %
Ethyl Acetate 1-5%
Rubber Solvent 1-5%
Water 5-10%

Despite the high ethanol content, my recollection is that Parks performed poorly in most alcohol stoves, probably because of the water. Admittedly hearsay evidence, but a possible contributing factor for your results.
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