Tuesday, 28 July 2009


I was ordering some stuff from Germany a while back and had added a 20 pack of 14g Esbit solid fuel tablets to try. I carried some on my April Cairngorms trip as a back up but I only used them once simply to make a cuppa and they seemed to work fine although I didn't investigate any further. I'd seen the Tibetan Titanium branded Esbit burners online and recently added one to an order I'd placed with Ultralight Outdoor Gear, they cost £6.98 and shipping is free.

Mine weighs about 11g which is pretty light as it incorporates a pot stand and the Esbit tablets weigh 14g each packed which makes for a very light set-up. The question was how well they would perform and how many would I need to use to heat 500ml of water.

I've started using a Cone style windshield/pot stand but decided to try a basic foil windshield as the burner itself supports a mug/pot. The windshield was pretty short to be honest as I was using a 750ml Mitymug and the results weren't all that spectacular. The 14g tablet burned for around 18 mins but I couldn't get the temperature above 96 deg C. Obviously that's close enough to boiling for most purposes but I wanted to try again with the Cone style windshield. This was much better, it took around 11 mins to reach 99 deg C but more importantly there was still about 1/4 of the Esbit tablet left.

I would rarely need to boil 500ml at a time, in fact my new pot only holds 500ml so it it looks like a viable alternative to meths. There are pro's and con's though, some that I've though of are listed below but there are sure to be things I've overlooked.


Pro's, Reasonably Clean, Easy To Meter, Reasonably Efficient, Stove is Light, Little or no smell, I can use mine in the porch with doors closed.

Con's, Fuel needs a suitable container


Pros, Lighter than my Meths Set-up, Easy to store/carry, May not need a burner as you could prop the mug on some stones and use a flat stone as a base for the tablet.

Con's, Acrid Smell, I wouldn't want to use it in the porch, Leaves Residue on the pot.

I'd be tempted to use it in preference to Meths but for me it's important to be able to use my stove under cover if the weather is bad. I could carry a few Esbit tablets as back-up or looking at it another way I could consider the esbit set-up as the main stove and carry the meths burner and a small amount of fuel in case I needed to cook under cover.

Weight Esbit Set-Up

Burner - 11g
Fuel - 140g (10 x 14g tablets sufficient to boil approx 5.0L water)
Tibetan ti 550ml Pot - 88g
Cone - 27g

Total - 266g

Weight Meths Set-Up

Burner (inc Measure) - 23g
Fuel (inc Bottle)- 224g (sufficient to boil approx 5.0L water)
Tibetan ti 550ml Pot - 88g
Cone - 27g

Total - 362g

For comparison my gas set up weighs,

C-3 Mini Stove (same as Markill Peak Ignition/Gelert Blaze) - 89g
Fuel - 100 Cartridge - 194g (sufficient to boil approx 5.0L water)
Tibetan ti 550ml Pot - 88g
Windshield - 40g

Total - 401g

I haven't looked at my gas set-up recently but I must admit that when I totaled the weights it surprised me how close the gas set-up is, a lighter windshield or stove would make the difference negligible.

There's been a real upsurge in interest regarding solid fuel, Esbit in particular this week, in fact 3 other people have posted on the subject. In the interests of spreading the information I'm adding links to the other posts.

Darren at 'Whitespider1066'

Baz at 'Baz's Backpacking Blog'

Phil at 'Phil Turner'


  1. Meths advantage: fuel can be picked up locally (outdoor/diy/chemist in UK, bricolage in Frnace).
    Esbit: from specialist outdoor shop or resupply from forwarded parcel drop?
    Depends on how long you are out for...

  2. Very good point Rob.

    Availability - Advantage Meths.

  3. I think a couple of esbit tabs stored in your emergency/first-aid kit would be a great idea. I think I'll pick some up this weekend.

    Neat windscreen Richard. Is it home made?

  4. You should/ could also have included eg the BushBuddy. You don't need to carry fuel but can collect it on the trail, and you can get it anywhere, no dependence on parcels or trying to find some abroad in a shop.

    Otherwise very nice comparison. I still have the standard Esbit stove they give you at the German Army, but besides a road trip in Norway a few years back I haven't used it at all. Might be tempted to pick up that 11g Esbit stove on my next order, as its cheap and could be a useful back-up.

  5. Holdfast, I made the cone using a program written by a guy who posts on Outdoors magic, goes by the name of Captain Paranoia. The program is available free for non commercial use.


    The program allows you to alter the parameters to suit the diameter/height of your pot, the height of your stove and the distance required between stove and pot among other things.

    I buy my foil from,


    0.200mm, I normally buy the 2m by 300mm sheets, works out at about £5 per 500mm x 300mm

    I highly recommend using the Clone cone.

  6. Hendrik,

    I didn't include woodstoves but my own woodstove weighs in at 90g minus windshield. It is however quite small and tricky to operate.

  7. Good info on that Clone Cone, was going to ask that next =)

    I got a BushBuddy Ultra, 134g iirc and easy as pie to operate. This seems like a reasonably light and easy back-up system for the BBU in case it rained for days or I am to tired to look for fuel.

    Esbit in the 1st Aid Kit is a good idea. Will implement that.

  8. Meths does come into it's own when compared to gas on shorter trips as you can scale back the fuel which you cant with a gas cylinder. The same with the esbit stove. And that wins out over meths because of the weight of the fuel.

  9. No doubt about that Baz, if I expected to need to boil up to 2.0L then it would come in at

    4 x 14g Esbit Tabs - 56g
    100ml Meths Bottled - 100g

    A full 100 gas cartridge is about 194g. You could reduce that by taking a used cartridge but even allowing 11g gas per 500ml water you're looking at approx 130g as the canister weighs about 90g empty. I say approximately as the performance drops off rapidly once the cartridge is less than 1/2 full.

    That said I don't think anyone who prefers gas over meths/Esbit for whatever reason is going to suffer from a massive weight disadvantage.

    Fortunately I like using meths :-)

  10. Not a massive weight penalty but still one :)

  11. I used a home made esbit stove in Scotland May 2008. Light and worked in the garden. In the highlands with strong winds despite the windscreen it did not perform so well. I like meths and gas more to be honest. But playing around with stoves is fun. Two esbit tablets is handy as a backup for a emergency brew if the gas cannister runs out. Small hole - lay across two tent pegs to support the pot and it boils a brew. Informative post Mac and thanks.

  12. Good point Martin, stove tests conducted in the garden/garage are a bit like sleeping bag reviews in the living room :-)

  13. I enjoy trying out new bits of kit but as Martin has stated I'll stick with gas or meths, when I cant get to use the Bush Buddy.

  14. Wonder how the 'gel' tablets compare.. yeah, it's 2 yrs on.

  15. Hi, Gel tablets? I haven't seen those do you have a link?