When going on a long bike ride, it’s nice to stop along the way and enjoy a hot cup of tea or, if I’m feeling decadent, a hot chocolate. But who wants to pack a big, heavy stove?
My backpack stove, above, is relatively light and compact. The lid doubles as a pot and the little brass fuel tank is downright pretty. I’ve brought it on a couple rides, but doing so seems silly. If I’m going to carry something on a bike, it needs to be small enough so that I can tuck it away in a corner of my bag and not notice it. Not only must the stove be small, but so must everything else, including the cooking pot, fuel, etc. Space is at a premium. Oh, and so is money.
I began researching stoves on the internet and was intrigued by Esbit solid fuel tablets. They’re little squares made from some kind of alcohol substance. I went to buy some tablets. They cost about $7.50 for eight of them. Or, for $9.99, I could get eight tablets and a German-made Esbit stove. The Esbit stove is bigger than what I wanted, but for a couple bucks extra I figured I would have something for my survival kit. I’d use the fuel tablets to design and test out my own homemade, custom bike stove.
I came up with a neat concept – my stove should be so small that it fits inside a small mug. The mug would serve as a cook pot.
The tiny bag on the left contains the entire stove and “cook set.” Nearby is my retirement account and some other crap to give you a sense of its compact size.
Here’s the stove in pieces. I made it out of an old aluminum Sterno can. The Esbit fuel tablet is in the middle. To the left is a small metal stand that the fuel tablet sits on top of. I tried the stove Monday night and it didn’t work very well. So I added a foil “windscreen” with the idea that it would direct the heat upward and heat the sides of the mug.
I filled the mug with delicious MCSD tap water, lit the stove and slapped everything together. After about 9 minutes, the entire tablet was burned up. The water was warm enough for tea, but it never boiled. That wasn’t every impressive, especially considering I used the stove under optimal conditions in my garage. Are Esbit tablets a crappy fuel source, or is there a flaw in my stove design? One way to find out was to test the German Esbit stove that came with the tablets.
Here’s the stove. It measures 4” x 3” x .75” and weights only 3.5 ounces.
Here’s the stove unfolded.
I placed a pot from my mess kit on the stove, filled it with water and lit the mother up. In about four minutes I had boiling water. I only burned about 10 percent of the tablet, which I was able to blow out. It can be reused. If this test is any indication, I could heat several pots of water with a single tablet.
So, the Esbit fuel is excellent and heats water quickly. My homemade stove is a disaster. Back to the drawing board.