Yes, mine’s not an official Trangia, but a very well-made copy that you probably wouldn’t be able to tell apart from the original. Why did I get a copy? Easy – I wanted just the stove, and didn’t want to spend much, as this will be my backup stove.
Why a backup stove?
I had an incident where Coleman Performance Gas (supposedly rated to work at -5 degrees Celsius!) failed completely at an ambient temperature of 7 degrees. That meant I was unable to cook a warm meal, and unable to have a hot drink. I never again want to be in a similar situation, so the obvious solution is to get a backup stove. Equally obvious was that the backup stove couldn’t be a gas stove, else that too could fail to work.
The design is extremely simple: you pour liquid fuel into the stove, and light it. The stove has double-walls, and as the fuel heats up, it turns to gas. Soon after lighting the stove, the flame will change from a lazy flame in the centre, to the circle of smaller holes igniting as gas jets. Most people tend to use methylated spirits (meths) as fuel, but meths has a pungent odour that you can often taste in food cooked over a meths burner. Meths also risks burning your pot black underneath, and I wanted to avoid that if I could. Trangia, who designed the original stove, say that bio-ethanol is the best fuel to use, so I got some of that. It has a far less offensive smell, and burns cleaner, too.
There are plenty of guides on how to make your own spirit burner, but the home-made ones tend to me made from empty drinks cans, and are quite flimsy. I wanted something I could chuck in my pannier, trusting that it’d take a beating. Also, I wanted a stove with a screw-on lid, so any unused fuel could be stored inside the stove till next needed. None of the home-made stoves offer that as an option. However, that doesn’t mean the home-made stoves aren’t any good, as we’ll see.
What I got
As you can see from the pics, my little stove came with a pot stand, and a nifty carry pouch. The stove has a screw-on lid, and another piece that can be used to slow down the burn rate, of snuff out the flames altogether. The pot stand has 3 pot supports, and 3 flanges that I had to bend a bit. The stove has a rim around the outside and is meant to sit on the 3 flanges. This leaves the stove clear from the (possible) cold ground. Overall, I’m happy with it, though the pot stand is too wide to fit my camping mug. There’s a simply solution to that: I just ordered a square of metal gauze, meant to be used with a Bunsen burner.
When you get new kit, you always need to test it! Untested kit is untrusted kit – it really is that simple. Now my little Vango gas stove is rather excellent, and I never expected the spirit burner to remotely as good. Remember, this is an emergency backup. A bit like some cars have an emergency spare wheel as wide as a biscuit, the allows you to limp along to the nearest place of repair.
Obviously, I had to see what the new little stove could do, so I set up a test. First, I filled my favourite camping tin mug with cold water from a jug, and times how long it took to start boiling on my gas stove. Turns out that took 3 minutes and 17 seconds. Next, I emptied the cup, and poured some cold water over it to cool it down, then filled it to the same level with more cold water from the jug. I lit the spirit burner, and waited for the “gas ring” to light, then placed the mug onto it.
As the mug’s slightly too small to fit the stand, I had to improvise and place a fork across, as an additional rest. That worked, but also meant the mug wasn’t directly over the flames, plus the fork absorbed some of the heat. Despite all that, the spirit burner boiled the water, too. As expected, that too far longer: 9 minutes 38 seconds. Once you ad the roughly two minutes for the gas ring to light, you can see the spirit burner took four times longer to boil the water.
Well, if speed is your primary concern, this spirit burner won’t be your choice at all. As explained above, to me it’s a good-quality, practical and sturdy backup option, and as that I’m perfectly happy with it. Whenever possible, I’ll continue to use my Vango gas stove, but having a backup means that I also can cook on 2 burners at the same time. That’s not an option I had before. Most importantly, I now know that, when camping in weather far too cold for my gas stove to work, I still have the means of cooking a hot meal, and making a hot drink. Yes, even f that takes four times longer.
Watch this video by Kajsa Tylen, where she demonstrates making a spirit burner. Her home-made spirit burner outperforms the one I bought, so you may want to give some serious thought to following her clear directions, and make your own. While you’re at it, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her excellent YouTube channel.
2 thoughts on “Kit Review: A Trangia-copy spirit stove”
The upside to the slower boil means it is better for actual cooking where you need to simmer the food. Gas stoves especially the jetboil types can cremate food on the bottom of the pan whilst the stuff on top is raw.
I guess I’m not familiar with your specific model of stove, but I’ve used an MSR Whisperlight and more recently a Dragonfly in temperatures as low as -30 C and never had a problem. I’ve been using this kind of stove for about 30 years. I can tell you from experience trying to melt snow or boil water below 0 C with a spirit stove is an incredibly frustrating experience. The liquid fuel, separate tank stoves are expensive and a little bulky, but probably lighter than having to carry a second stove and second type of fuel.
I’ve had mixed luck with canister stoves, I find they only work below 0 C if you preheat the canister and they are self priming. I used one for a while but I won’t ever go back.
I occasionally take a light weight spirit stove on warm weather bike trips for coffee and I used a Trangia a lot when I was young and broke. These days I mostly take it on family car camping trips when I want to boil water for tea or coffee without waking everyone up.