Whilst looking for an inexpensive wild camping cooker and exploring different fuel options, we found these Swiss Army solid fuel ethanol stoves. For around £7, you get the stove and fuel to last around 2 hours, which has the potential to be both cheap to buy and cheaper to run. You even get some free matches, but they weren’t the Fireking brand we expected from the website image. That was thankfully a bonus, as we’d have been asking each other if we’d seen the fireking matches, had we lost the fireking matches again and what did we think we were fireking doing putting rocks in Mark’s pack again.
As it only weighs 190g so there’s a potential here for a stove that, once you take fuel weight into account, provides one of the lightest cooking options out there.
There are some vids on youtube, but they incorrectly cut the inner thick foil seal from the tin, rather than cut across it in both directions and pull the four points upwards as seen in the image which helps direct the flame and heat upwards. You then place the pot stand on top and once lit, you’re away. Unlike Esbit tablets, the gel lights easily and even with a spark. The pot stand also performs as a partially effective wind-shield, but you could certainly improve efficiency by either sheltering against some rocks or fashioning a wind shield from extra-strong foil.
The thing is, the stove is designed for reheating Swiss army MREs, which we expected it to do, but bringing water to a boil for my dehydrated food, or making a proper cup of tea or brewed coffee was another question. I didn’t expect this to bring the water to anything resembling a boil. As I had intended to use it on a trip where space was at a premium and specifically for boiling water for dehydrated meals, I had to give it a proper test first.
Without a wind shield and in calm conditions it surprised us by actually boiling the water for a cup of tea. It wasn’t a rolling boil, but as good as we’ve got from solid fuel Esbit stoves. We had around 500ml of water and it took a leisurely 15mins or so, we didn’t time it exactly! Heating up some beans and sausage, as well as frying some bacon, took no time at all. It produced just about the right amount of heat to warm food quickly but without burning it in the process. You can use the lid to extinguish the stove, so don’t use it as a base like we did above.
While the stove is designed to be disposed of after use, some have suggested refilling it with chafing gel, which is essentially the same stuff if you get the ethanol ones. However, we didn’t find the chafing gel brand we tried out as a stove to be anywhere near as effective as the gel used in this stove. If you could source a chafing gel that burns hotter, then at a couple of quid a pop they could well be the cheapest camping fuels available. We’ll have to investigate further. The only downside was the blackened cookware and the long term cost of what is essentially a disposable, but fully recyclable, stove.