Chafing Fuel as a Camping Stove Review

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Chafing fuels are cheap tins of ethanol gel that are used for keeping food warm during buffets and the like. They were so cheap to buy at not much more than a pound each by the dozen or so, or only a £5 for three when you don’t, this was something we had to try out.

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We had intended to use a mesh pot stand, but the tin was too high. Instead, we used the pot stand from a Swiss Army M1 Gel Cooker which rested on the tin. You will need to improvise a pot stand. You will also need some tool in order to lever the tin open, though a key would do at a push.  At just ov er 200g it appears heavy, but that includes 6-8 hours burn time which makes it a true lightweight option once you take fuel weight into consideration. It also has the potential to be one of the cheapest, depending on whether it’s actually any good for the job!

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Try one – backyard, occasional breeze but sheltered. In 20 mins it brought only 400 ml of water to very hot, enough to extract something from a teabag. Purists will say it was probably the wrong temp for a proper cup of tea, but at least you know that you can get a hot drink, if not a particularly great one. I certainly wouldn’t risk making a dehydrated meal with it.

To be of any use, this would clearly require some coaxing. So with a foil wind-shield and a lid on the pot we gave it a second go in the field.

At the very least, if you just want to heat up a tin of beans, Some MREs or fry an egg then this is a cheap and cheerful option. It isn’t any good at boiling water, but good enough for a hot drink, eventually. The other downside is that the brand we tried out has a rather soft lid. This makes it suitable for a few uses, but you might find the lid difficult to open after that. We can’t recommend this as an alternative for camping, where the usual gas, petrol and meths are a much more reliable option. Where we think this has potential is possibly as a secondary burner for any outdoor gourmets out there. You can use this flame to keep food warm or fry, while you do your main cooking on the gas stove. The gel in the proper gel stoves burns hotter, which is to be expected as these are designed to keep food warm and could begin to burn the food if they burned hot enough for boiling water.

As an aside, we’re awaiting a delivery of Sterno chafing gels which are meant to be more effective. We’ll update the review once we’ve given that brand a go!

On our outing, it turned out a bit on the slow side cooking the bacon for some people’s taste:

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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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