Urban Velo

Trangia Spirit Burner Alcohol Camping Stove

As much as we at Urban Velo are focused on city riding, each of us have a certain love of the woods as well. In my case I’m quite into bike camping trips, the more primitive the overnight camping situation the better. After much research on my end about stoves, including just using other people’s for a couple of years, I decided on the simplicity of alcohol burners as my cooking solution. Pictured is my ultra-light Trangia Spirit Burner setup, showing the burner itself, the simmer ring, the screw cap, Liberty Westwind slide together windscreen and fuel bottle. Altogether it is about a $40, nearly indestructible stove system.

Since there are so many different windscreen designs and preferred ways to carry fuel, I’ll concentrate on the stove itself. A scant 115 g without fuel, the Trangia is for all intents and purposes a high-quality “beer can stove” or open jet alcohol stove. The advantages of such stoves are their simplicity and easily obtainable alcohol fuel—even in the most remote towns denatured or rubbing alcohol isn’t far away. No pumping, no small parts to break, and no proprietary fuel only available at outdoors stores. The main downside is fuel efficiency, compared to other camp stoves the Trangia uses far more fuel per meal necessitating either carrying a fair amount of it to begin with or planning on finding some along the way. Alcohol burners like this won’t win any speed contests boiling pots of water, but I’ve never complained about the cook time of rice or coffee in the morning. Stove use is simple, just fill it up with alcohol, light the surface of the alcohol with a match and let it go. As the stove and fuel heat up and vaporize in the hollow outer wall the jets eventually light and give it a Bunsen-burner effect. People who’ve not seen one are usually impressed. The simmer ring, and pliers to hold it, allow you to adjust the size of the flame to prevent burning or the pot boiling over.

In the field there are a few things worth noting. I’ve never found the screw top lid to hold fuel securely enough for me to trust it—no matter what, new o-ring or not, it has a tendency to leak so I always make sure the stove is empty before stowing. While alcohol fuel is safe as far as flammable liquids go, the flame can be very hard to see in daylight and you need to be cautious when first lighting the stove. When I buy fuel at home I always use denatured alcohol for the clean burning flame, but often on multi-day trips I end up refueling with common rubbing alcohol which burns just fine but leaves behind a nasty black residue on the outside of the pots, and then your hands. The only problem I’ve had in use is that the alcohol fuel can be hard to light in cold weather—storing the fuel bottle and stove in your jacket for a bit or otherwise warming up the kit solves the problem easily enough though. After a couple of years of use and quite a few days camping the Trangia stove system has never let me down. One of my favorite camping gadgets honestly. Highly recommended for the minimalist kit.

11 Comments

  1. larryNovember 29, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I’ve been using one of these Trangia stoves for about 15 years now – and it is amazing! Overnighters, weekends, a week on Isle Royale, as well as in my Carradice bag for long days in the saddle. Highly recommended.

  2. TedNovember 29, 2011 at 11:32 am

    The Trangia has been around for a long time and I think it’s as popular today as it’s ever been. I’ve found gas-line antifreeze in the yellow bottle (methyl alcohol) works well and is usually cheaper than other alcohol. Also check the “Emberlit” stove. It can be used as a windscreen for the Trangia and it’s also a wood burning stove, carries flat and it’s available in titanium or stainless steel.

  3. WesNovember 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I don’t use rubbing alcohol as it soots leaves a sooty deposit.

  4. Doug@MnBicycleCommuterNovember 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    A couple of year ago I bought a Trangia alcohol burner for the many solo adventures I’ve been doing. I absolutely love the simplicity of the stove. I’ve spent many years int he backcountry backpacking with my wife. We have put our MSR Dragonfly stove through 4,000 miles of adventures. It’s a great stove. But when I’m on solo bikecamping trips, nothing beats the Trangia.

  5. davidDecember 1, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Good review. I too highly recommend this stove. The Trangia is beautiful and useful and reliable because you cannot break anything on it. There are no moving parts. The O rings can melt, but they are cheap and you might use 4 per year if you are particularly unlucky. The kit I use includes a cookset, solid windscreen/pot holder and a drilled and vented stand. It has never failed. Grant Peterson likes them too, if his sage, curmudgeonly opinion matters to you.

  6. rogbieDecember 1, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Two beer cans, a small nail, some fiberglass, and some alcohol; for the DIYer. This looks like a nice option, though.

  7. dpowDecember 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I carry one, and I love it. So light, so quiet, so dependable.

    Highly recommend.

  8. Doug@MnBicycleCommuterDecember 3, 2011 at 11:26 am

    @david

    Melted O rings? You’re not doing something right if you are melting your O rings. The O ring is there to keep the lid sealed when not in use. You never use the lid with the O ring while the stove is hot or in use.

  9. davidDecember 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I have also used these stoves for years with great success. I have never had the burner leak fuel around the o ring and have neglected o rings for as long as 7 years thru heavy use.Make sure your burner and its threaded cover are not dinged.

  10. BioLite CampStove « Urban VeloDecember 12, 2012 at 4:05 am

    [...] better. Stoves are an important part of primitive bike touring, and last year I wrote up the simple Trangia stove I rely on. The BioLite is intriguing and makes a strong case as a replacement however, not only [...]

  11. daveMay 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    I have never been one to rush a good cup of coffee or meal as well. Although I have always used a faster burning MSR stove I am looking into the alcohol and wood stove burners.

    The weight savings is just such a benefit and I think it will pay dividends down the line. Looking forward to putting together more extended trips but has been difficult with the growing family.

    Thanks for the tips on usage!

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