Trangia Alcohol Stove
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Below is my info and experience, your mileage may vary!
updated 16 Jan 2007

Here is my definitative collection of stuff on this very light and small Trangia stove. [And note that I personally have switched to the less ecological but more convenient Snow Peak GigaPower, which actually weighs less for long trips because the fuel goes further than alcohol does cooking exactly the same food, and I think Snow Peak has a more stable pot support than any other micro-stove.]

Click here for a GIF image of the blueprint that I created to make a ONE OUNCE pot support in about 10 minutes, or click here for a picture of the stove components.

I proudly use my 25-year-old Optimus 111B for winter camping when I'm melting quarts of snow per day and failure means death, because it has only failed once in the field (when I tested an MSR windscreen on it and blew the pressure cap). For light summer camping the Trangia is less than half the weight of the stock MSR or Svea stoves... so why hassle with sharing when you can cook for yourself just about as fast? (see below for a discussion of why you should NOT boil a quart at a time on the Trangia)

I threw away the standard (heavy, bulky) pot support in favor of a MUCH lighter and smaller homemade one that requires only aluminum roof flashing and scissors or tin snips. The stripped-down burner weighs 3 oz, the flame adjustment piece weighs 1 oz, and the pot stand they sell you for $5 weighs 6 oz.

Use an MSR-style windscreen around the whole thing, but cut some slots in the bottom of that also so you can let in more air. When the wind is blowing, tighten things up a bit. When it's NOT blowing, if you smell alcohol during cooking, that's a sure sign the stove is not getting enough air. It burns MUCH hotter when there is some draft over the burner unit, but also burns off the fuel much faster. With too little air, the flame gets really tall and blue, and you get the smell of unburned fuel being boiled off and wasted. The Europeans call this a "storm cooker", and in a windstorm it really DOES cook!

As of 1996, MSR was the only US importer, but they tend to avoid selling it for some reason. MSR will sell direct, but they warn you that their shipping delays and prices are higher than normal retail channels (see links above).

Prices for the Trangia stove seem to be based partly on the cookware that is bundled with it, and partly on the retailer's profit margin. THE BURNERS ARE ALL THE SAME - the only difference between models is the pot support and cookware. I've seen as high as $84, and as low as $10, but MSR assures me that Trangia only makes one model of burner. Piragis/BoundaryWaters calls what I bought the "Trangia 23", as opposed to the "Trangia 28" that Campmor sells. The "28" includes a 0.8 liter pot, while the "23" is just the burner and a circular pot support that packs poorly.

MSR said that what Piragis/BoundaryWaters described as the "23" was really the "Westwind", so you should make the seller be very specific about what is included in your order! MSR says the basic burner weighs 6.6 ounces, and the triangular support weighs 2.8 ounces. Nope. That's not what it weighs on MY scale! (3 ounces for the burner) By comparison, an MSR XGK (with pump and 0.5 liter fuel bottle) weighs 15 ounces or more.

Home Depot (or any other hardware or paint store) usually has denatured alcohol by the gallon in the paint thinner section. "Denatured" just means it's 100% (200 proof) grain alcohol that's been poisoned with a bit of petroleum so you'll get sick if you drink it. Quarts are sold also, but they are MUCH more expensive. If the gallon size is not in stock, yell at the front desk and wait. A gallon is roughly the price of two quart cans ($7).

Some literature says it will only burn long enough to boil 1 qt of water with the normal 3oz of fuel it holds. Bunk. Boil one cup at a time. MUCH more efficient - doubling the amount of water will TRIPLE the boil time. This is a personal stove, not a group stove, so just do what you need, then use that while the next cup is heating. Put the top ramen or minute rice in the water BEFORE it boils, and you won't have to simmer after it boils. Get an MSR windscreen or equivalent, and size it to just fit around your pot. Using tricks like that, I got thru a 3 day trip with hot breakfast and dinner on 3 ounces of fuel... and on extended (9 day) trips I average 2 ounces of fuel per night cooking real dinners (angel hair pasta) each night and having a couple cups of hot drinks each morning and evening.

Questions and Answers

>REI sells them for $25. They state boil time is 12:35 minutes

Losers on both counts. Their price is way high, and their
boil time doesn't agree with MSR or my own observations.

The problem with "time to boil a quart" is that use of different
size pots and different windscreens has a HUGE effect on an
alcohol stove - there is no pressure chamber, no pump, no jet
to atomize the fuel. A small crosswind and it NEVER boils
without a good windscreen. I'm guessing that's why some
websites show 7 minutes to boil a quart, others show 22.
REI is in the middle, but that doesn't make them accurate.

>REI's comparison chart is revealing.

OK, but remember it's also wrong. And keep in mind that REI
bought MSR the same month they dropped the big Optimus stove.
You won't find a Trangia on the shelf at REI, at least not
in the stores I've visited. Piragis sells them for $10, REI for $25.
How much do people pay for MSR stoves? What's REI's profit margin?

>Trangia can boil 3.6 liters of water using 100g of fuel, while, for
>example, the MSR Whisperlite can boil 7 liters on 100g

Don't believe it! Try boiling gallons at a time on both,
then try boiling cups at a time on both... you have to use
the stove for the RIGHT size of pot or it's not efficient.
Think of it this way:
 - If you try to boil 50 gallons on the MSR, it will never boil.
 - If you try to boil 1 teaspoon on the MSR, it will be gone
   before you know it's boiling.
Somewhere in between is the most efficient amount of water to
boil at once on each stove. What makes you assume the Trangia
should have the same optimal pot size?

Don't forget that most people start a stove several times a day!
The Trangia has no preheat time, and no priming (although in
cold weather you might want to stick it in your jacket while
you get out your food bag). The fuel you use starting an MSR,
and waiting for the flame to go out after you shut off the valve,
should be counted PER CUP in a test rigged to favor the Trangia.
Heat a cup, shut down the stove. Heat a cup, shut down the stove.

If I rigged a test using single-cup heating increments, the
MSR would be no more efficient than the Trangia, maybe worse.
Using quarts, it's the other way. Using gallons, the g/oz spec
from REI's chart won't even be close. It's a personal stove,
so start with assuming it should boil half the water in the
same amount of time to be equally "good" as two people sharing
an MSR stove. Look at the weight benefit and it's even better.

>in about 1/3 the time of the Trangia per REI's "controlled" specs.

Again, don't believe it! If you start your MSR with enough
water for two people's dinner at the same time I start my
Trangia with just enough for my first course, I'll be eating
before you are. The tea can be heating while I'm eating my
main course. The Trangia simmers well, also.

Real world vs. controlled specs - if you OWN MSR, as REI does,
you will try to distort the specs to favor your own products.

>So, theoretically, you wouldn't need to carry as much fuel if
>using the MSR in this example. On a long trip, this could be

Forget the specs! I use 2 ounces of fuel per day, either white
gas (in my Optimus) or alcohol (in my Trangia), on 9 day trips.
I do a couple of long trips each year, and I've been keeping
careful track. My Denali partner, who also does a LOT of camping
and climbing, uses 4 ounces of white gas per day in his MSR for
a summer trip... because he boils over a quart at a time and
lets the stove run longer than he needs to. There is more
variation between people than between stoves. Much more!

So forget the specs and do some testing in the field...
How much fuel do you carry for a 9 day trip? I take one pint,
which allows hot drinks with dinner and breakfast PLUS real
dinners like ramen and capellini. No freeze dry.

>For one or two nights for one person, I speculate the Trangia is ideal
>for most "good weather" trips. If nothing else, certainly, the price is
>attractive for both the stove and the fuel.

The fuel is about the same price as white gas, $7/gallon.

>How long will it burn on a fill of alcohol?

I've never tested that. I'm not sure it would be a good metric of a stove.

>Maybe a better question is how many
>cups of water you can boil (one at a time) on one fill?)

That's a PARTICULARLY bad way to choose a stove. Reported boil times
for one quart of water on the Trangia range from 9 minutes to 25 minutes...
but boiling a whole quart at once on a Trangia is like boiling a whole
gallon at once on an MSR. You need to match the amount of water to the
heat output of the stove before you compare utility of stoves, and you
need to start and stop the stove as frequently in testing as you do in
the real world (MSR wastes a lot of fuel stopping and starting since
the fuel line has to empty after you shut it off).

Here's how I look at stoves: 
1. WEIGHT: My share of any MSR stove weighs more than my entire Trangia
stove, so even if it uses slightly more fuel it's still a weight savings.

2. COOK TIME: Note that I didn't say "boil time", since most of what
you're doing in the backcountry is rehydrating stuff and that DOES NOT
need to be done with boiling water. I put about half the water I'll
actually need into the pot, light the stove, add the food, and add more
water as the muck in the pot warms up. It never boils until I've got all
the water in and I'm ready to simmer. Some people boil water instead of
filtering it, but the filter is much faster. Since you're boiling water
for 2 or 3 people on your MSR, you can't put the food in the pot unless
you all eat the same thing. I cook in my pot AND eat out of it, saving
at least another 4 or 5 ounces. By the time you boil a quart of water
and wait for your freeze dried food to rehydrate, I'm already eating
my freshly cooked angel hair pasta. Really. Plus you don't all have
to eat at the same time or even camp close together. Trangia wins.

3. FUEL USAGE: Alcohol doesn't have the same energy content as white
gas, so you'd expect to use a bit more for the same amount of cooking.
It turns out, however, that I use 2 ounces per day (summer only!) on
extended trips whether I take an MSR or my Trangia. This is NOT a
hardship trip, since I'm having a hot drink with breakfast, almost
a quart of tea with dinner, and I'm cooking things like angel hair
or top ramen or minute rice each night for dinner. (The trick with
the tea is to boil half a cup to get the tea bag started, then dump
in the rest and just warm it to drinking temperature - saves a whole
bunch of fuel over boiling the whole quart.) This one is a draw.

4. RELIABILITY: This one should have been first. I've seen one Svea
fail in the field, I've seen close to a dozen MSRs fail in the field.
Too many moving parts! One way to evaluate reliability is to go to
your favorite backpacking store and look for spare parts. They don't
stock what they don't sell, and they DO stock LOTS of MSR repair kits.
The Trangia has no moving parts, and I frankly can't think of any
failure mechanism other than a bear carrying it off in your food bag.
For winter camping, I use my 25-year-old Optimus, sort of the big
brother to Svea, which has been used to thaw out several iced-up
MSRs and Colemans. The only field failure with the Optimus whas when
I tested an MSR wind screen and blew the fuel tank pressure cap. Oops.

>Does it close/seal such that you can pack it away if you haven't
>burned off all of the alcohol?

I made the mistake of putting the (rubber gasketed) lid on while the
stove was too warm, and it seeps a bit now. Can't buy new gaskets,
but the stoves sell for $10 so one day I'll buy a new one. I carry
my fuel in those tiny 2 ounce and 4 ounce lexan bottles you can buy
at REI. You can do that with alcohol, I wouldn't do it with white gas.
(Also, don't put alcohol in a white gas container, because the rubber
seal tends to deteriorate over time.) Before I screwed up the gasket,
I didn't take a separate fuel bottle on single-overnight trips and
it never leaked.

>What are the approximate dimensions of the stove?  (I'm wondering if
>it will pack inside a 1.5-liter pot)

It will fit inside many cups, much less pots! Just under 2" high,
just under 3" diameter.

>being non-pressurized (I assume) and burning EtOH instead
>of white gas, it would be safer as something to start teaching [snip]
>and the other Boy Scouts about stove-based cooking, as well.  (BSA now
>requires that the kids be taught safe stove handling, since wood fires
>are prohibited many places they go camping and backpacking.  That's a
>good change...the rules back in the "dark ages", at least here in the
>midwest, specifically FORBADE use of liquid fuels for cooking.  However,
>it means you're putting stoves in the hands of 11-to-15-year-olds, so
>some very careful training needs to go into the care and feeding of the
>stoves so you don't injure anybody.)

The biggest risk is kicking over the stove: The fuel can be sloshed
out, unlike an MSR, which could really be nasty if you're camped
on pine needles. The "shaker jets" in newer MSR encourage people to
actually pick up and vigorously shake a running stove, which works
even though it looks dangerous. Doing anything similar with an
alcohol stove could be fatal.

>I manufactured one of your custom pot stands last night and noticed the
>height of the pot over the stove is now about 1.25".  The pot stand that
>comes with the stove places the pot .75" above the stove. Did you purposely
>design the pot stand with an additional .5" of clearance or maybe has the
>design of the pot stand that comes with the stove changed?
>Boil times in my kitchen at 5300 feet here in Denver were:
>2 cups H2O - 5 minutes
>1 cup H2O - 2 minutes and 15 seconds

I moved the pot up and down until I got what seemed to be maximum heat
transfer. I think it's different depending on how much air flow there
is between the stand and the pot, and my stand restricts that air more
than the original. The short answer is 'yes, the height is intentional'.

Your pot may be a different size than mine, and your windscreen may
fit differently, so the optimum height may be different also. Don't
forget that the stand tends to dig into the duff or sand, and the stove
doesn't, so err on the side of a little extra height for the stand!