Alcohol Stove vs. Jetboil – Pros & Cons

Today, making gourmet dishes on the go has been simplified greatly through the use of portable, compact backpacking stoves. Backpackers have a large array of stoves of different designs to choose from for their backpacking escapades ranging from alcohol stoves, canister stoves, wood stoves, and white gas stoves, among others.

In this piece, we will focus mainly on two of the most versatile backpacking stoves: the Alcohol stove and the jetboil stoves. For those new to backpacking stoves, you might desire some information on what these two are exactly.

To put you up to speed, an alcohol stove is simply a backpacking stove that uses alcohol as its source of fuel, while a jetboil stove makes use of fuel that is in gaseous form carried in special canisters. These two have many differences, pros and cons that might make each better than the other. To find out more, stick around.

Efficiency

To understand how the two stoves compare in terms of efficiency let’s look at the following features;

  • Cooking Speed
  • Lighting Speed
  • Fuel Use
  • Usage

Cooking speed

A jet boil stove is more efficient in terms of boiling speed, it boils water with less fuel consumption, and thus backpackers spend less time waiting for their meals. An alcohol stove, on the other hand, is not as quick as a jetboil stove; you may wait longer to boil water and will consume a lot of fuel at the same time.

Lighting

Lighting a jetboil stove is also very easy, and some types do not even require a lighter to put on; they are self-igniting. Contrastingly, Lighting an alcohol stove needs to be more lightweight and sometimes, during the day, it might be difficult to tell if your stove is lit or not as the flame might be invisible.

Fuel use

The jetboil stove uses fuel more efficiently; it is made of a corrugated metal heat exchanger on its base, which protects the heat flames from the blowing wind and makes it a bit easy to use on those windy days.

For the Jetboil stove, unfortunately, this is not the case; the heat is exposed to wind, and in the case of very windy days, it might be challenging to use or might require setting up away from the wind.

Usage

Alcohol stove use is restricted by the weather; the alcohol stove is not efficient in sub-freezing weather. It performs very poorly and is not recommended for winter trips.
The Jetboil stove, on the other hand, is an all-weather stove; its use is not limited to certain weather conditions. It can be used in winter as well.

Weight

In regards to weight, the Alcohol stove beats the jet boil stove. It is very lightweight. Most Alcohol stoves only weigh between 0.5 ounces to 2 ounces. For any backpacker, gear weight is always a huge factor to be considered because it will significantly impact your backpack’s general weight. The alcohol stove can easily be slipped inside a pack without making much difference in the overall weight.

On the other hand, though the Jetboil stove is compact, it is quite heavy. Most weigh between 7.5 ounces to even 13 ounces or more. This might be a considerable downside for backpackers.

If covering short trail distances, then the weight might pose a problem, but when going for those long backpacking escapades for those backpackers considering using a jetboil stove, you might want to settle for one with the least weight. This might be at the expense of the stove’s sturdiness and convenience because the stove will be able to boil or make small meals for only two people.

Travel restrictions

The use of backpacking stoves is usually not restricted. A backpacker can go camping with their stove wherever though in some areas in the USA, one might require a permit to use their stoves or in some places, they don’t allow usage of particular stoves completely.

The use of all stoves is, for instance, restricted in Southern California. Other forests in California allow gas stoves, liquified stove or jar stoves with a permit only.

Therefore, in most cases, alcohol stove use in many areas is restricted because the alcohol can spill and, in dry conditions, cause a fire that might spread real fast. Alcohol stoves have been noted to start fires a lot. So, you won’t be allowed to use it in some areas.

The jetboil stove use is not restricted in many areas because its fuel is held tight in a canister and is less likely to cause any catastrophic fires or be a danger to its users. Hence when it comes to picking a stove which you will have freedom and feel safe using, go for the jetboil stove.

Accessibility of fuel

When considering which stove fuel between the two is easily accessible, then the alcohol stove fuel is easily accessible compared to the jetboil stove canisters.

Alcohol stoves can be fueled with various types of fuels which are readily available at your nearby store. The most commonly used are methanol, or clean-burning denatured alcohol. Though the fuel for the alcohol stove is easily accessible, its usage is quite tasking. After cooking, if fuel remains in the furnace, you must leave it to burn out or cool and pack it into its container. Also, if the fuel burns out during cooking, you must wait for the stove to cool before adding more fuel.

In contrast, the jetboil canister can be challenging to find in small sizes, depending on the location. The large canister can be quite heavy as well for backpacking.

Sound

An alcohol stove does not produce any noises when lit. After lighting and putting off the stove, it will produce a hissing sound and then go silent.

For those who prefer quiet stoves, then this is a perfect choice. The only problem with this is where there is light, and the flame is not visible; it is hard to tell if the stove is lit, which has led to catastrophic endings multiple times, especially for those users who are new to it. The stove must be used cautiously.

The jetboil stove, on the other hand, can be loud on the camping ground. When boiling, the stove releases some jet-like noise, which will go on till it is put off. So, if you want a silent stove, then the jet boil is not for you.

Maintenance and repair

Alcohol stoves do not have any moving parts like pumps, hoses or fuel lines; hence they are maintenance-free. It doesn’t need to be repaired, cleaned or maintained. When used for backpacking, you do not have to worry about displacing some items. Also, you do not need any particular container or canister to carry fuel.

The jetboil stove, however, can be fragile when used inappropriately. The canister can rust anytime and will need to be replaced. It may also need some cleaning and proper handling to avoid displacing items. Also, with time the lighter might get exploited or stop working and hence you might need to use a lighter instead or repair it together.

Best Alcohol Stove

  • Esbit Alcohol stove

Best Jetboil

  • Jetboil MiniMo

To wrap up, both the Alcohol and jetboil stoves have their pros and cons. So, when choosing which of the two will serve your purpose well, it is proper to research for background information about each and find out if it will be able to suit your needs.

Sources

https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/backcountry-basics/fire/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9bJLFV2ZqM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYyzuFyZRUY
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3844091.pdf