I did an over night trip last night and used an alcohol stove for the first time. It is 1 ordered off the internet called the go bag stove. It boiled 2 cups of water in the same amount of time as my pocketrocket using a snow peak trek 700 pot using heet as fuel I was pretty skeptical about alcohol stoves. It was awesome It only seemed practical for rehydrating meals though or ramen. Seems hard to cook on it but i did make some popcorn
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Alcohol stoves certainly do work, but my experience has basically been the reverse of yours. I got one of those 25 gram canister stoves for Christmas, and I'm loving the convenience of it. I have made fried foods in the back yard over an alcohol stove though. It took a long time and multiple fuel loads, but it was a fun experiment.
Alcohol stoves differ greatly in their design and thus performance. I have alcohol stoves that worked fine at minus 22*F, and some which struggle in the positive 20s. In general, a stove requires the least amount of alcohol to be at vaporization temp will work best at the lower temps. This means a wick based stove. The most difficult in the cold are pressurized.
Loc: Washington State, King County
You can use an alcohol stove in the snow, and I've done so more than once --- out of necessity. You can also use the butt-end of a screw driver to pound in a nail (well, if the wood is soft enough ...). But it's not the optimal tool for that.
I think the fuel-type of a stove is at least somewhat analogous to picking a gasoline powered car vs. an electric vs. a diesel vs. hydrogen ... yes, there are variations (sometimes large variations) in various parameters between cars of the same fuel type, but the fuel type itself optimizes for certain uses.
Ditto for stoves; I think it's about knowing the major pro and con factors of each stove type to pick the best fuel source.
Alcohol stoves are pretty lightweight and can be inexpensive or essentially free, so thus I suggest a simple homemade one to new backpackers before they spend money on a stove or stove system --- that's one "pro". The fuel source is the most widely available, especially in parts of the country that get cold enough weather so that gas stations stock gas-line antifreeze. This is why long distance hikers tend to use them. And they don't suffer from the "partial canister" problem --- you just fill your own ad-hoc plastic bottle with as much fuel as you need for a trip/stretch. And finally, you don't have an empty or (sometimes worse) partially full fuel canister to somehow dispose of at the end of your trip, a particular problem if you fly somewhere to backpack.
But alcohol is an inefficient fuel, so you need to carry more of it (or cook less); other things being equal, I find that I start out a resupply stretch (or a 'trip') somewhat heavier with an alcohol stove and at some point as I use up the fuel I break even and then end up lighter towards the end. It's also slower to cook and more fiddly to set up and get burning, you can't see the flame and sometimes can't hear for sure if it's burning or not, and as has been discussed, it doesn't work well in colder temps.
So if you backpack a lot, you might have a reason to own more than one stove type (a lot cheaper than owning several cars ... :-) ). Even if you're not a stove geek. But for most people, owning just one stove is plenty IMO, that being whatever stove best fits the type of backpacking that they do --- and --- there's a reason that canister stoves are so common.
“I hear about people using alcohol stoves in colder temperatures. when is it too cold for an alcohol stove?” Well the alcy stove is what the arctic dog sled teams use since it will always light. My White Box is similar to the OP. I melt snow with it. No wick needed. If a wick is needed, then I think there are better designs. In fact I test my alcy stoves at 0F at sea level and if they boil with no help (no wick or priming), then it’s a good design and will work at all altitudes and temperatures. Some tips of the winter trade: 1. When boiling water, start a seed of snow first and then add to it. 2. Use a > 2” x 2” foil (aluminum flashing is strong) under the stove to reflect heat back up. Put the foil on a small section of CCF pad. It will melt to the pad but then it will become a great insulator from the cold ground. 3. Above 40F an alcy stove will light just by getting the match flame close to the alcy fumes. However, at 0F, the match flame must touch the alcy. For the White Box, that’s why I prefere a match over a cig lighter. 4. You can keep your alcy and stove in your pocket to keep it warm before using. Howver, I kept them outside at 0F and it still lit up. Regardless, warmer fuel does work faster. 5. The White Box (or the OP’s stove) is great for melting snow since it holds more alcy. But be careful with these stoves that are their own pot holder. When you life off the pot, the flame will follow the pot for quite a distance (like a foot). The pepsi stoves that have external pot supports do not exhibit this phenomena. Also pepsi stoves will bloom faster than white box stoves since they have thinner aluminum walls (just something to note). 6. Use a wind screen. Of course that’s true all year.
I just love alcy stoves because 1. I know exactly how much fuel I have; no need to take a backup. 2. Can store in cheap plastic bottle 3. The cheap container is light! 4. Easily refillable. 5. No landfill hassle 6. If it leaks or spills, it doesn’t eat your pack; it cleans your pack! 7. I use the soda can stove the most. It’s only 1/2oz! 8. No moving parts. Thus no tools or spare parts to carry. Nothing to get plugged up. No threading. 9. It has a 0% failure rate on the AT.
What takes a little more skill with an alky stove is determining how much alcy to pour in. This comes with practice at various temperatures and altitudes. And it’s not problem for me. Or you can be clever like our scout master. He snuffs his out with a cupcake foil and pours left over fuel back into the container. To me that requires patience.
Congrats on your alcy addiction, -Barry -The mountains were made for Tevas
You can put an alcohol stove in a single pit or Dakota fire hole. You can dig that pit with a digging-stick, which you can cut from a branch, with a sharp knife or wood-saw. Line the pit with aluminum foil for better heat reflection.
Burning alcohol can be hard to extinguish, if it spills indoors while burning. So put the alcohol stove in a metal pot, on a safe place.
Filling the alcohol into the alcohol stove, is safer with a spoon, than with the bottle, since the flame is hardly visible.
Loc: Eastern MA, USA
One thing I noticed about alcohol stoves is they tend to be sensitive to cold surfaces, especially cold rocks. These tend to be small, thin-walled aluminum cans with a small amount of fuel. The alcohol has to be warm enough, at least at the surface, to vaporize in n order to sustain a flame. To counteract the heat sink effect of cold surfaces, I carry a small piece of aluminum foil-wrapped corrugated cardboard, usually just about the size of my pot, placing it under my stove. In addition to insulating the pot from its support surface, I protect that surface and get some heat reflected to the pot. This solution is lightweight age cheap, two of my favorite gadget attributes. Unlike foam, the cardboard doesn't melt and i can set the pot onto it for bottom insulation, yhen slip my cozy over the pot to allow the food to finish redhydrating.
I had my love affair with alchy stoves but decided some time ago to use Esbit or tiny popsicle stick size cook fires (where legal). Thang is, Esbit tabs are lightweight and take up very little space. Sticks take up no space. I use alcohol as a fall back to Esbit. Alchy stoves are fun and work great, no doubt.