DISCLAIMER: Evan, Jeff and I are firm believers in ultralight backpacking and bugging out. We feel that anything over 15 lbs. TOTAL WEIGHT ON YOUR BACK is a huge risk factor when your life depends on it. If you’re a big-pack I-can-carry-anything guy, be prepared to roll your eyes repeatedly!
I’ve tested and compared most stoves and I feel that Butane/Propane is best for your VEHICLE bug out kit because the gas is contained, it doesn’t leak and because Butane/Propane is faster. If I’m bugging out in a vehicle, I don’t want to wait for my water to boil. I want to get on the road.
At the same time, even the best butane/propane backpacking stove (I prefer the JetBoil) doesn’t stack up well to alcohol stoves. It’s not a gaping difference in weight (depending on your pot, etc.) but it’s worth it to make the move to alcohol. Here’s the cost/benefit analysis:
Fuel: butane/propane boils water faster, but it’s only about 4 minutes difference at 6,000 feet altitude. But you don’t know how much fuel you have left in your sealed butane/propane canister. When you come home from a trip, do you toss the used canister? Do you keep it and take two next trip? With alcohol, you know precisely how many burns you’ll be doing and you can carry exactly what you need. That alone is a huge weight savings. The hybrid/white gas stoves, like the MSR WhisperLite can carry just what you pre-fill, but it’s also much heavier than an alcohol stove (11.5 ounces minimum versus one ounce for your alcohol stove.)
Weight: Our favorite alcohol stove (Evernew) weighs one freaking ounce. If you add the cross stand (necessary) and a wind screen (optional) you’re around two ounces. Denatured alcohol weighs a little under one ounce per ounce and can be carried in plastic bottles – that weigh much less than the butane/propane or white gas canisters. A JetBoil isn’t horrible heavy, 12 ounces without gas but including the pot, but when you’re shaving ounces, it’s a boat anchor.
Side-by-side, the Evernew plus the cross stand plus a windscreen plus a titanium pot weighs about 5.4 ounces. The JetBoil, like I said, weighs 12 ounces with the pot, etc.. Plus, the JetBoil gas is heavier because of the metal canister. In the mind of an ultralight guy, six and a half ounces amounts to a third of a UL sleeping bag.
Another thing I like about alcohol is that it cooks fish and pancakes better. Cooking pancakes on a JetBoil is super-hard because the heat’s so fast and concentrated. Alcohol takes more time, but the heating’s more even. Plus, it’s less likely that you’ll warp your ultralight titanium pot and pan.
So, I would definitely trade an extra four minutes boiling my water to drop six ounces on the trail — lightness that makes it easier for me to haul balls on the trail. Evan did a full test of alcohol stoves and arrived at the conclusion that the Evernew heats faster, primes more easily and works better with a partial fill. It’s our choice for “Best UL Stove.” We haven’t tested the Evernew One Liter Pot, but we have high hopes — it’s light and it eliminates the need for a pot lifter (Yeah! That saves another ounce!)
So where does the ReadyMan Pocket Stove fit into this comparison? Configured the way I like it (above) with one panel removed and the arrowheads gone, the Pocket Stove weighs in around 2 ounces. That configuration has evolved over much testing (allowing the perfect amount of ventilation and ease of feeding fuel into the bottom.) Despite the ultralight-crushing weight of two ounces, I don’t leave home without my ReadyMan Pocket Stove. If the alcohol leaks out of my bottles or if I miscalculate the number of burns for my alcohol stove, I have a wood-burning alternative. Typically, if my hiking buddy’s still asleep, I’ll boil my coffee or cook my breakfast on the ReadyMan stove. It takes longer, and requires constant tending, but the fuel is “free” — it’s just tiny twigs found on the ground around my camp. I like to conserve alcohol fuel when I have time to micro-manage the burn in my ReadyMan stove. So, it’s my backup to the Evernew, and a damn-good backup it is!