QuietStove.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hexamine (ESBIT) Stoves

Hexamine (such as ESBIT brand) stoves are very interesting.

Ultralight hikers prize them for their light weight, but they can be a nice addition to any kit as an emergency stove. They've got about the most stable fuel around. The fuel doesn't evaporate or go bad. You can generally burn 40 year old fuel that hasn't been sealed without problems. I keep mine sealed and protected (they can be crushed or chipped pretty easily), but I've seen some old hexamine fuel that burned just fine. They're great for long term storage in a kit that you don't plan to touch often.

The down side is that they don't put out a lot of heat, can be hard to light (particularly in wind), and the low velocity flame really needs a windscreen. They also leave a residue on the bottom of your pot.  I usually keep my pot in a plastic bag if I'm going to be burning hexamine.

One trick for lighting them is to set the tablet on the edge of the stove at first. Get your flame under the tablet. Once it's lit, then move it to the center of the stove with a stick or something. This trick is a little easier with the larger ESBIT brand rectangular tablets than the smaller "pill shaped" tablets that some companies produce.

Hexamine's not bad stuff, but it's not particularly powerful either. It's worth playing with it a few times in order to get used to its quirks. Don't set it down in the bottom of your pack untried and then expect to pull it out and be comfortable with it out on the trail. It's no big deal, but it's worth getting used to how to light, how to cook with, how to extinguish, etc. before you head out.

Despite the fact that hexamine is not volatile, hexamine is not permitted on airline flights. Hexamine is a precursor to explosives such as RDX/Cyclonite. You wouldn't want to go into an airport with the scent of hexamine about you.

HJ

10 comments:

  1. I've used an Esbit stove on and off for years. I bought some bigger govt surplus heat bars to run on it and the work fine. Much cheaper that the actual Esbit tabs too.

    One thing I do is to gather a handful of TINY sticks to supplement the flame. The sticks should matchstick size or smaller, broken into stove type lengths. You would be surprised at how easy tiny sticks are to find pretty much anywhere you are.

    Light your tab and when it's about 1/3 done, start piling on the sticks. You'll make a tiny "campfire" in the stove. The tablet keeps the sticks going, and the heat of the tab makes them burn clean and hot. This really stretches your fuel and make the water boil quicker, plus it gives you something to do while you wait for the water to heat.

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  2. Nice. I've never tried that. Sounds like a really good synergistic idea.

    HJ

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  3. After reading this I've wondered, have you ever tried "soaping the pot" for easy removal of the residue? A little dish washing soap is spread on the bottom (and sides if necessary) before putting on the fire. When you are done, a damp cloth will normally remove the soap and any residue left.

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  4. Hi, Bill,

    Actually, the residue wipes off pretty easily as is, but the dish soap idea is a good one. I know the dish soap technique is common with wood fires, so I'm sure it would work with hexamine.

    HJ

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  5. Jim, have you ever done a comparison between the esbit brand and the stansport pill shaped ones?

    Excellent blog, by the way.

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  6. Hi, David,

    I've found that gram per gram the various brands are pretty comparable. I notice that Coghlans tends to leave more residue on the bottom of a pot, but it's been a while since I've played around with the various brands. I'll have to do some more formal testing and write it up some time.

    HJ

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  7. A few drops of hand sanitizer helps start 'em up ...

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    Replies
    1. I would think so. If one didn't have any, a lighter works better than a match. On can also shave off a pile of "dust" with a knife and that dust will ignite more easily.

      HJ

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  8. How does it light up when hexamine is in plastic bag?

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    Replies
    1. Kelly, it's better to take it out of the bag before you light it.

      HJ

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