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Monday, November 14, 2011

Stove of the Week: The Trangia 27

Let's say you wanted a reliable stove.  A really reliable stove.  A stove where there's nothing to go wrong.  A stove that's going to work in any conditions, no matter what.

What's  that?  It's a trick question?  No, there really is such a stove, the Trangia.  The Trangia alcohol stove system is, simply put, the most reliable backpacking type stove in the world.
A Trangia 27
Now here's the funny thing about what is possibly the world's most reliable backpacking stove:  It's relatively unknown in the United States.  Alcohol stoves have long taken a back seat in the American outdoors scene.  However, in the last decade or so the ultralight movement has swept over American backpacking, and alcohol stoves have exploded on the scene with a vengeance almost as though making up for lost time.
One little problem for the Trangia:  it's hardly ultralight.  So, even though alcohol stoves are all the rage in the US backpacking community right now, you may not see more of the complete Trangia system, at least in the US.  I am seeing the excellent Trangia burner used in a variety of configurations including the excellent Clikstand set up.  Internationally though, the Trangia has an enduring reputation for reliability and the ability to function under any conditions.  The Swedish call it a stormkök -- storm cooker.  The name says it all.  Though the Trangia is a bit bulky and heavy, particularly for an alcohol stove, there are many who swear by it and will bring nothing less into the back country.


Somewhat unusual for an alcohol stove, the Trangia is actually able to simmer with the use of a "simmer ring" (see more below).  The Trangia is therefore an alcohol stove that one can do real cooking on and not merely just boil water.

The Trangia stove system came out in 1951.  Rather than replicate here what is more than adequate elsewhere, I provide you with the following link on the history of the Trangia company for those who are interested.

There are three basic models of the Trangia:
The Trangia 25, which comes with 1.75 L and 1.5 L nesting pots and a 22cm diameter fry pan/lid and is intended for three or four people.
The Trangia 27, which comes with two 1.0L nesting pots and an 18cm diameter fry pan/lid and is intended for one or two people.
The Trangia 28 (aka the "mini Trangia"), which comes with one 0.8L pot and a 15cm diameter fry pan/lid and is intended for solo use.

The Trangia 25 and 27 are essentially the same stove except that the 25 is larger and the 27 is smaller.  Models 25 and 27 are complete in and of themselves and need no additional components in order to function well.  The Trangia 28 (the "mini Trangia") needs a windshield (not included) in order to function well.

Models 25 and 27 are available in "ultralight" aluminum or hard anodized aluminum.  Several configurations of models 25 and 27 are available.  The configurations include such things as non-stick coatings and an optional tea kettle.  I won't try to list all of the possible combinations, instead, I encourage you to head on over to the Trangia website where all possible combinations are listed. There is only one configuration available of model 28.  The alcohol burner is the same across all models and configurations of Trangia stoves.  An optional gas burner is available for some configurations of the Trangia as is a multi-fuel burner.

Now, then, this week's stove is the Trangia model 27.  My model 27 Trangia was built in the late 1970's or thereafter but prior to 1988 based on the information provided at the above history link.  Today's Trangia 27's are nearly identical to mine but do have some differences such as a lighter weight modern alloy and openings for use with a gas burner.

So, let's have a look at this famous stove. The Trangia 27 consists of six main components:  A lower windscreen/base, an upper windscreen, two pots, a lid, and a burner.  The Trangia also comes with a strap to hold everything together and a pot gripper/pot lifter.

One of the wonderful things about the Trangia is that all of the components nest together in a nice package.
All of the Trangia 27's components fit neatly together.
A strap secures everything together.  This strap is of the period but is not original and is not a Trangia product.
  Let's take a look at what's inside the package.
A Trangia 27 with the lid off but still all nested together.
Inside my Trangia 27, I carry the burner, a lighter, a pot gripper (not original), and a fuel bottle.  There's also room for a spoon, tea bags, or other items.
A closer look at the contents of my Trangia 27
Now let's take a look at the base (lower windscreen) of the stove.  Note how there are ventilation holes on one side of the lower windscreen but not the other.  Note also the air holes that surround the large central hole.  These air holes are a key component in the Trangia's design and what allow it to function in heavy winds.
The base (lower windscreen) of a Trangia 27.
Take a look at this diagram of the air flow within a Trangia stove.
A diagram of the air flow within a Trangia stove system.
The air holes in the lower windscreen are faced into the wind.  The air is then forced up around the burner in a controlled fashion.  The wind acts just like a bellows, oxygenating the burner.  The air is heated by the burner.  The heated air is forced up through the gap between the upper windscreen and the pot.  The narrowness of the gap prevents too much air, air that might rob the system of heat, from flowing through.  The air that does flow through is forced to stay close to the pot which increases heat transfer.  In short, you've got a very efficient stove capable of operation in heavy winds.

The burner mounts in the base.
The Trangia burner mounted in the Trangia base.
The upper windscreen is then emplaced on top of the lower windscreen. 
Upper Trangia windscreen mounted on lower windscreen
Note in the photo above that the put supports are flipped up into the "up" position.  When the put supports are in the "up" position, the lid may be used as a fry pan.
A Trangia 27 in frying mode
A Trangia 27 with the pot supports flipped up

A Trangia 27 with the pot supports flipped down.
With the pot supports down, a pot fits neatly inside, suspended at the ideal height above the burner.
A Trangia 27 with a pot in place.
 Now, let's take a look at the two pots.  The two pots nest neatly within one another.
The two pots of a Trangia 27 nested together.
The two pots of a Trangia 27 separated.
The two pots fit together only one way.  They both have the same volume, but one is tapered differently than the other.  Put the more tapered pot on top, and it nests neatly in.  Put the more tapered pot on the bottom, and the two pots stack in such a manner that both pots can be used simultaneously.  Ingenious!
The two pots of a Trangia 27 in stacked one atop another ready for simultaneous use.
One of the pots is inscribed with volumetric markings.  Wisely, the markings can be read not only from the outside but from the inside of the pot.
One of the pots has 0.3 L and 0.5L markings.
With a pot in place, the lid fits neatly on, sealing in the heat.
A Trangia 27 fully set up, with one pot.
It doesn't look quite as neat with two pots, but we're here to cook, not look good, yes?  We could even turn the lid over and cook some meat balls or something in the lid while the pasta cooks in the bottom pot and the sauce warms up in the top pot.  Pretty slick!
A Trangia 27 fully set up, with two pots in place.
OK, so now let's take a look at the burner.  The burner consists of three pieces:  A simmer ring, a lid, and the burner itself.  Only the burner itself is required.  The lid and the simmer ring may be left behind if so desired.

The simmer ring is a ring shaped piece of brass that fits over the burner.  Attached to the ring is a "door" that can be slid back and forth opening up or restricting the burner which causes the flame to correspondingly increase or diminish.  When you want to extinguish the flame completely, simply close the simmer ring door completely.
The simmer ring of a Trangia burner.
A simmer ring in use on a Trangia 27.  Can you spot the flame?
The lid of the Trangia burner is threaded such that it forms a relatively tight seal on the body of the burner.  A rubber "O" ring is emplaced at the end of the threads so that a really good seal is made.  Because of the "O" ring, alcohol can be carried in the stove.  So, if at the end of cooking you still have alcohol left inside the stove, no worries, just leave it there.  There's no need to go through the hassle of trying to drain the stove.  Simply let the stove cool and cap the stove.  Off you go with no hassle.  Be sure to let the stove cool first before putting on the cap or you'll melt the "O" ring.  DO NOT use the cap to extinguish the stove. You'll melt the "O" ring for sure if you use the cap to extinguish the stove.  Use the simmer ring to extinguish the stove.  If you've left the simmer ring at home, you could yank the "O" ring out of the cap and then extinguish the stove, but that's a bit of a hassle.  If you do melt the "O" ring, not to worry.  Replacements can be had easily, and your stove will still work without an "O" ring (or without the entire lid for that matter).
The lid of a Trangia burner.  DO NOT use the lid to extinguish the flame.
As for the burner itself, the Trangia burner is an open jet style of burner.  The open style of the burner means that it's very easy to add fuel; simply pour it in.  Except in cold weather, no priming is required.  Simply apply a flame from a match or a lighter to the center of the open cup, the alcohol will ignite, and the stove will prime itself.  In no time at all, the alcohol will be hot enough to vaporize, vaporized alcohol will be coming out the jets, and the stove will be up and running properly.
A Trangia burner.  Note alcohol inside the burner.
The Trangia burner is a good compromise between speed and efficiency.  The Trangia burner is not the fastest alcohol burner out there in terms of boil times, but faster isn't necessarily better.  Faster burners tend to require more alcohol to do the same amount of boiling.  A more efficient burner like the Trangia means that you don't have to carry as much fuel.  But the Trangia is by no means slow.  As I say, the Trangia strikes a very good balance between efficiency and speed.

A Trangia 27 just after being lit.  Note flame (a bit hard to see)
As I have said, the Trangia is no slouch when it comes to boiling up water.  It's not a gas or liquid fuel stove, but it takes only a minute or two longer than petroleum fueled stoves.
Passing the "tea test" on a Trangia 27.
Water boiling on a Trangia 27
Now, of course, the whole point of a stove is to have a warm refreshing beverage or something nice and hot to eat.
Cooking oatmeal on a Trangia 27
My assistant seems to be getting the point, don't you think?  :)
My assistant is ever so helpful when it comes to the eating portion of my stove hobby.  :)
The Trangia stove:  Good to the last drop.
Good thing I brought an assistant.  ;)
I hope you've enjoyed this Adventure in Stoving.

HJ

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14 comments:

  1. Jim, great write up as always. A quick question on cold weather and priming.
    On a recent trip I had difficulty lighting my Pepsi can type alcohol stove in sub-freezing temperatures and ended up using a small scrap of paper to kick start it. Even then, it took a good while longer for the fuel to vaporize and get going. I would assume that keeping the fuel bottle warm e.g. in a coat pocket would help, but do you know of any other tricks to priming this type of stove?

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  2. Hi, Andy.

    Yes, I can recommend at least four "tricks":
    1. Definitely keep your alcohol in a coat pocket or something where it will stay warm.
    2. For cold weather use, switch to methanol such as comes in the yellow bottle of HEET that can be had at Walmart, auto parts stores, etc. Methanol generally has a higher vapor pressure than denatured alcohol and will work better in cold. DON'T drink methanol, don't breath the fumes, and don't get it on your hands. Methanol is toxic.
    3. Use a priming pan. I use the lid from an old tin of tea. The lid is slightly bigger in circumference than my stove. Pour some alcohol in the priming pan and ignite. The alcohol in the priming pan will warm the stove and provide for vaporization.
    4. Insulate! Put something like some closed cell foam cut from an old backpacking pad under the stove. You don't want snow or cold ground sucking the heat out of your stove. I wrap my closed cell foam in duct tape to a) protect the foam and b) prevent spills from getting into the foam which could catch fire while operating the stove. Don't ask me how I know that last bit. ;)

    HJ

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  3. Thanks Jim,
    I did find that the flashpoint of pure Ethanol is around 55F so I can see where any warmth and insulation would help a lot.
    On a side note, I have to admit I laugh a little every time I read the "do not drink or consume" warnings on yours and others literature. I understand the precaution BECAUSE people have done just that, its just scary that we have to be reminded of such things. Kind of like a "No Smoking" sign at the gas pump eh?

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  4. Yeah, Andy,

    And I apologize. I realize I'm just belaboring the point for the vast majority of people. Most people would never drink some form of alcohol not intended for human consumption, but man! the consequences of drinking wood alcohol (methanol) are so severe (permanent blindness, even death) that I thought I'd better say something just in case.

    HJ

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  5. Hi Jim,

    Thanks to you and your assistant for another great review.

    I have only seen this review as I have just come back from a few days tramping in the South Island of New Zealand.

    The Trangia 27-1 was my first bushwalking stove, I purchased mine new, around 25 years ago. Trangia stoves are very popular here in Australia and are nearly exclusively used in the outdoor education industry as you have mentioned, they are very safe and nearly fool proof. Even though canister stoves are becoming more popular here, I see many walkers still using Trangia’s. The canister gas conversion is also becoming popular here. In the 25 years I have owned my Trangia I have had to replace the o-ring only once.

    I used my 27-1 for many years but found it struggled in cold temperatures, on one winter snowshoe trip my Trangia took over 30 minutes to boil enough water for two cups of coffee, sadly this was the last time I used my Trangia in the field, I then purchased a MSR Whisperlite, which I used for several years before switching to canister stoves.

    A few years ago when I was looking at going lightweight I purchased a Trangia 28 stove, at this time I was just starting to get into stove testing, I found the 28 was very susceptible to loosing its efficiency in windy conditions and I have never used the 28 in the field.

    With the 28 stove came a so called new and improved burner, the only difference I could find was that it had one extra burner hole, 24 holes, the old burner has 23 holes. After building some stove testing gear, using the 27-1 kit, I ran some tests on the two burners to see if I could validate Trangia’s claim, after many tests I found the old 23 hole burner was more efficient than the newer burner that came with the Trangia 28, but this was in a windless testing environment.

    Tony

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  6. I really must give all the credit to my assistant. All I really do is drive the car to the trailhead. She's the brains of the operation. :)

    Interesting that the newer Trangia burner varies little from the prior version and that the prior version was actually more efficient. The really old Trangia burners did not have a screw cap, and the simmer ring was quite primitive and really didn't work very well.

    Your Trangia 27 is a classic. It's the version that came out prior to 1988 from the look of it. Solidly built albeit a tad heavy in the rucksack. If you got a gas burner for it, it would make a nice family car camping or picnic stove. I'd love to get a Trangia gas burner, but they're quite spendy. I may rig up my Optimus Nova in a Trangia configuration. I've modified my Nova so that it can run on canister gas if I like.

    The Trangia 28 doesn't have a very good reputation in stand alone mode. It really needs a supplemental windscreen to make it work right.

    HJ

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  7. In my field experience the Trangia 28 works well with an DIY aluminum foil windscreen. All Trangias are very reliable. In freezing cold weather I sometimes throw the match or a little bit of paper or a twig in the burner to ease ignition.

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    1. That's an excellent point that the Trangia 28 (the mini Trangia) needs a separate windscreen to be added to what comes with the set. A Trangia 28 does not work well unless one augments the set up with a windscreen.

      HJ

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  8. Indeed, the Trangia (any Trangia) is very reliable. They're very good stoves, and you can do real cooking on them -- not just boil water.

    That's a good tip on using a match or something to facilitate wicking to get the stove started in cold weather. I've had trouble getting them to light before.

    HJ

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  9. Nice write up. I do like the old Triangas even amid all the new technology and designs. Maybe that's just me, for example I prefer external frame packs over all this internal frame business.
    I've used several stoves over the last couple decades. A few reasons I can always count on my trianga include...

    Strength. My 150# great dane has stepped on it twice. It's fine. I can crush alum stoves w.2 fingers in comparison. I've destroyed gear accidentally just by over compressing my rucksack.

    Weather resistance. I've used it in a few rainstorms. U couldn't tell it. Looks badly tarnished but looks don't amount for much. My buddy lost his on the beach for 2yrs. We found it after a flood with the cap on. Refueled it and it works fine. Brass is what we use on water lines underground at work so go figure.

    Conserve fuel. Trianga is heavy but a threaded cap has saved me more fuel than any other alcohol unit. It's nearly impossible to get all the fuel out of a can stove so overages go up it smoke usually. Some guys measure it by the milliliter so I know my savings add up over a long trip.

    Output. Triangas put out some decent BTU's. Of course a windscreen is always key.

    It never breaks down. I've cleaned the vents out with a stick and rinsed it clean with a hose. My canister or pressure-pump stoves have all had mechanical breakdowns whether it be valves, seals, or bad/rusty gas cans.

    Price. These things are everywhere. Just saw 1 at a garage sale for a few bucks. Replacement lids and rings are cheap and easy to get.

    Fuel. I use only HEET anymore. Cheap and easy to obtain. Once we ran out and all we did was find some day hikers and trade them some beefjerky for a couple 1/2 bottles they had in the glovebox.
    Weight. Ok, it is heavy. If I put it in a sock I could probably KO someone with a head shot. Other than that heavier isn't so good.

    Simmer. I cook like a trail chef. No dehydrated food for my team. Our foods have to be COOKED, not just hot water. The simmer ring works! Very ingenious. I only have 1 other alcohol stove that actually simmers (via air holes on windscreen)
    I use this very little in the winter (I use a Kifaru tent) but I recall if I spill extra fuel on the top edge rim and lite it worked just fine. Some ppl I recall set it in a little alum coaster and pre heat it w.a few teaspoons of heet.

    For the price the Trianga is an awesome deal and a great first time or backup unit. I recommend.

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    1. Here, here, Treadz. The Trangia is perhaps *the* most reliable stove system known to man. Robust, reliable -- and yet simmers like a champ.

      That's a great story about your friend losing his at the beach and then finding it. My Trangia 25 was made in the 1960's. The original burner still works but is corroded. Pop in a new burner, and it's nearly as good as new.

      HJ

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  10. Not sure how my comp dictionary decided to autospell TRANGIA wrong. WTF is a trianga lol.

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  11. Thanks for the review, very helpful, and everyone should be so lucky to have a good assistant! I am in the market to buy a Trangia stove, but can not decide on which model I should get. I am looking at the 27-1 UL HA and the 25-1 UL HA. It's hard to tell how much it really cook? It will always be used to make food for two rarely three. I'm wondering if you can tell me if the 25-1 can cook enough food second servings? I will be using it for cycle tours, backpacking and car camping. Thanks!

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  12. Great review and an impressive site all round. Here are just a couple of additional points from the perspective of UK centre use. Trangias are brilliant stoves, especially for kids - it's almost impossible to do anything wrong with them. However, using the simmer ring then wanting to extinguish the stove is a pain, as the ring is red hot and can't be handled or even removed easily (flicking it off with a pan gripper is easiest). More importantly, as the stove doesn't run for long on a fuel fill, you may need to refill while the food is half cooked. Alcohol burns almost invisibly so it is not always easy to see whether the stove is actually out, and I have seen children pour fuel into a burning stove by accident. I believe that there has been at least one fatality in the UK caused by flame travelling up the fuel and into an almost empty bottle full of alcohol vapour. For that reason UK groups now recommend flash-proof bottles for alcohol fuel (heavy but safe). I hope this info is of use. Gareth

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