Sunday, November 21, 2010

Solid Fuel Burn Time Test: WetFire vs. Trioxane vs. Esbit

While I'm not really into solid fuel, I thought it would be fun to compare 3 of the top solid fuel tablets for total burn time:  Esbit, WetFire Tinder, and Trioxane.  Here are the results:



Conclusion

Esbit was the clear winner while the Trioxane didn't even burn for a full 5 minutes (certainly not enough to boil 2 cups of water).  Also, the Trioxane burned in a very uncontrolled flame pattern that would make it difficult to cook with.  The WetFire Tinder did better but with an orange flame and shorter burn time than the Esbit, it's probably better suited to its intended purpose as a fire starter (to be fair, Ultimate Survival Technologies promotes the WetFire Tinder as being first and foremost a fire starter that could potentially be used to cook in emergencies and I think that's a good assessment).

One thing all of these tablets had in common was that the effective flame diminished the longer they burned.  For example, while the Esbit tab burned for over 14 minutes, the strength of the flame weakened significantly about 3 or 4 minutes before it went out.  So, I'd say the effective cooking time is actually more like 9-10 minutes.  This was under ideal conditions so in the field, it might be less.  9 minutes is enough to boil water but I just wanted to underscore that there is a big difference between the stated total burn time on the package and the effective cooking time.

Another consideration is that the tablets are different sizes.  The WetFire Tinder is significantly smaller than the Esbit tab so maybe using 1 1/2 - 2 tabs would make it more effective for cooking.  That doesn't eliminate the residue on the bottom of your pot but it might help you out in a pinch.

Overall, I'm still not impressed with solid fuel tablets for cooking but definitely see a need for having a few in your emergency kit for backup or fire starting.  When I need to boil a couple of cups of water for my dehydrated meals, I'm sticking with a good old alcohol stove.  

What's your experience with solid fuel tablets?  Love them?  Hate them? Friends with benefits?
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10 comments:

Izzy G. said...

At least from my point of view as a survival kit guy....the shelf life is a big appeal of solid fuels. But you don't get the "blue flame" that heats your camp cup up as quickly.

JJ Mathes said...

I've used Esbit 10-12 times this year with a Gram Cracker stove for cooking with satisfying results each time. I keep one tab in my fire kit, 1/4 tab goes along way in starting a good fire when tender is damp.

And if I only need hot water not a boil I can blow the esbit out and use any unburned portion later.

Heber said...

Thanks for the comparison. I've always wondered about Trioxane but never got any to play with.

I go back and forth with Esbit. In the winter when I worry my alcohol stove may not prime because of the cold I'll bring Esbit because it always works. My Esbit setup is probably a little lighter than my alky setup actually so it gets points that way too. Then I'll get sick of the residue Esbit leaves behind and the funny "fishy" odor and then I switch back.

stick13 said...

I only have experience with Wet Fire, and to be quite honest, I never really thought of it as a method to cook. I keep a package in my kit when I go hiking and have used it a few times in the field to start a fire. Other than that I tried it out after I first got it. It seems like shaving off little pieces work better than just lighting a chunk, but either way it didn't burn very long at all. And to be honest, it didn't do all that well when I poured a little water over them while lit.

John Roan said...

Esbit has become my fuel of choice. Like JJ Mathes, I use it with a Trail Designs Gram Cracker which helps slow the burn and focus the flame. This greatly helps on fuel efficiency. With the right setup and conditions, I can boil two cups of water with 1/2 a tablet, or 0.25oz of fuel.

I also like the "set it and forget it" aspect of solid fuel, and the fact that it can't spill.

Some old guy said...

I love Esbit -- light, versatile, safe, reliable and relatively cheap. Just have to remember to store it in an outside mesh pocket so it doesn't stink up your pack. The residue wipes off with a few leaves, not really a consideration to me.

When the flame gets low and you want to keep cooking, just drop in another tablet. You can blow it out when you're done and use what's left next time.

It works about as well as Wetfire for firestarting if you scrape off a pile of powder as recommended for the Wetfire.

The Velo Hobo said...

My wife and I used esbit on a bike tour last year with good results Using a windscreen/pot satnd. To bring our water to a rolling boil in a Snowpeak 700, we added a few twigs. I've gone back to my super cat stove. I just enjoy messing around with alcohol stove designs and trying new ones. So like you, I carry one or two tabs as a backup, and rely on acohol as my 'go to' stove.


Thanks, Jack

JoeS said...

I also prefer alcohol to ESBIT, however I am favoring a Caldera Cone with the graham cracker stove for the blow it out and reuse it capability, I wear dentures and have to heat water for the tablets that clean them. Esbit is more convenient for that.

Anonymous said...

Esbit rocks for cooking as far as chems go. Wetfire is NOT for cooking and wasnt designed for that. It is designed to be scraped off to start hot fires (for drying out kindling, etc). It is designed to be wet and light better than dry (now dowse it after it is lit). I carry both in my kit. One to start fires that burns very hot, and one to cook with that burns for a while.

Ramblings, reviews, and other outdoor adventures said...

I use Esbit for three reasons: Reliable, light, and simple