I’ve talked about field stoves before, in general terms, but as the cold weather settles in it’s worth having a more specific look at one type of stove. The modern standard for stoves is a gas one in the Jetboil class or a liquid-fuelled model like a Coleman Peak, but solid fuel ones still have a place- maybe not as your main way of supplying hot meals and drinks, but definitely as emergency kit.
Solid fuel stoves have three major advantages: simplicity, light weight and low bulk. Even the largest of them, the classic British Army hexi burner, is the size of a couple of cigarette packs and weighs less than half a pound with a full pack of fuel folded away inside. There are much smaller models available, plus the web is full of instructions on how to make an ultra-light one yourself from a cut-down soda can. It’s easy to have a compact survival stove, or a backup to your regular one, that can tuck away in a pocket and weighs just a few ounces with fuel.
These stoves will burn a wide variety of fuel. The most common is probably hexamine, which comes as hard, wax white tablets. These have an extremely high energy density, so a couple of tablets will boil a decent-sized pan of water. It can be burned in a folding metal stove, a can-style stove or directly on the ground, with the pan supported on tent pegs or rocks. On the down side, it releases toxic fumes as it burns- so it shouldn’t be used in a confined space. It can also be hard to light when it’s damp or in windy conditions. Large tablets like the British Army ones can be broken up to give more surface area, so they’ll burn faster. The traditional method of doing this is to hold the tablet in a cupped hand and smash it against your kneecap, which is effective but often painful. Break yours with a rock.
Alcohol gel is a safer alternative to hexi and won’t coat your pan with an impregnable layer of black gunk, which hexamine is prone to doing in windy weather. It has lower energy density, though, so you’ll need to carry more of it. Gel traditionally comes in cans, like Sterno, but is now also available in sachets that are easier to wedge into your kit. Like hexi, gel can be burned in any lightweight stove. It also makes a great firelighter; dip dry twigs in it and ignite them, and they’ll light up very nicely.
In an emergency, a folding stove or the larger kind of can stove – an old soup can with some holes punched in the sides is ideal – will burn natural fuel more efficiently than an open fire will. Dry twigs and pine cones make particularly good fuel, and while you’ll need to clear out the ash every so often it will still get the job done.
If you’re going into the woods or hills this winter, even if you only plan to be out for a few hours, it’s worth taking a compact solid fuel stove with you. With that and a steel mug you can quickly make a hot drink if you feel the urge, and if something goes wrong and you find yourself stuck out overnight it could be a lifesaver. For such a small, cheap piece of gear it’s incredibly valuable, and there’s no reason not to have one with you.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.