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Friday, November 18, 2011

A Look at the Trangia Alcohol Burner

People have asked me what I think about the Trangia burner in and of itself.
A Trangia alcohol burner
I think the Trangia burner is a good one. It's meant to be used in conjunction with other components, but if we consider the burner alone for a moment:
1. It's brass. Can you say solid? Yeah, you can still break them, but the chances of it crushing in your pack are pretty much nil unless you fall off a cliff or something (in which case you probably have more to worry about than what shape your burner is in). ;)  Brass conducts heat well which is an advantage in cold weather where alcohol sometimes can be difficult to vaporize. Titanium burners, while lighter, do not conduct heat well.
2. It's an open design. You just pour your alcohol in. To light it, you flip in some sparks with your fire steel or use a lighter or match. The point being that it's really easy to work with. There are some alcohol stoves where you've got to get the alcohol in a tiny little hole, and you have to prime them even in warm weather, all sorts of fiddly stuff like that. No thanks. The Trangia burner is a practical, easy to use burner.
3. The Trangia burner is a nice balance between speed and efficiency. The Trangia isn't the fastest out there -- but that's a good thing. The faster burners tend to eat through your alcohol which means you're running out of fuel when the guy next to you still has a couple of days supply of fuel. Yet on the other hand they've got enough power that they aren't at the mercy of the slightest breeze. Some really efficient burners are such low power burners that unless you set the windscreen up perfectly, your pot will never boil.
4. The Trangia burner has a lid that can be sealed. Ever try to get left over alcohol out of a burner? It's a pain in the butt. Most guys either burn it off (i.e. waste it) or manage to recover only a portion of it (again, wasted fuel). With the Trangia burner? No problem. Just seal it up. Next time you need the burner, it's already fueled. As a precaution, I put my burner inside a Ziploc bag, sometimes two. They do leak a few drops some times.
The lid of a Trangia burner has an "O" ring which forms a tight seal so that alcohol can be carried in the burner

5. The Trangia burner can simmer when the simmer ring is used. Relatively few alcohol stoves can really simmer. Simmering means you can cook real food not just "boil in a bag" type meals.
The simmer ring of a Trangia burner (sitting in a pan).  The "door" can be nearly shut to get a low  flame or completely shut to extinguish the stove.
So, you've got a really solid burner that conducts heat well, that is practical and easy to use and is a balance between speed and efficiency that can be sealed so you don't waste fuel that can simmer. That's a half a dozen reasons why the Trangia is one of the most popular alcohol burners out there and why so many systems are built around a Trangia burner (Clikstand, Trangia Triangle, WestWind, plus dozens of home made ones).  For the weights of each component, please see the Technical Appendix below.

It's a good burner.

HJ

Related posts and articles:
Technical Appendix (with weights of all components)
  • Trangia Burner:  67g/2.4oz
  • Trangia Burner Lid:  21g/0.7 oz
  • Trangia Burner Simmer Ring:  23g/0.8oz
  • Total Trangia Burner Weight:  112g/4.0oz

11 comments:

  1. Hi HJ,

    The Trangia burner is a well tuned device, sometime ago I rans some tests with the simmering cap, no matter how slow it took to boil the 500 ml of water it used the same amount of fuel.

    Tony

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    1. yes BTU content and the transfer of it to water would use the same amount of fuel. It's about energy transferred from fuel to food. Not necessarily how long it's under heat.

      What a simmer setting would do is allow you to cook at a lower temperature, you wouldn't steam rice at the same temperature you'd try to boil water at.

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    2. Trevor,

      Actually it's pretty unusual in my experience for a stove to be so well tuned. Typically slow burns are more fuel efficient, allowing the heat to be absorbed into the pot and contents. Fast burns tend to have a lot of wasted heat.

      HJ

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  2. Hi, Tony,

    How was Rees-Dart?

    Yes, after doing quite a lot of testing (nothing as rigorous as you're doing though) on various burners, I'm quite impressed with the Trangia burner. It's steady, steady, steady under a variety of conditions. Good to know of your test results.

    HJ

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  3. In my long field experience the Trangia burner dosn't leak any rest alcohol when I ceap the area with the holes clean so that the lid can fit tight.

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  4. I just picked up my first Trangia, mostly because I liked the ability to store alcohol in the stove. But just now I read on the mfg's faq (http://www.trangia.se/english/2937.faq.html):

    8. If there is some residual alcohol in the spirit burner after cooking, can the alcohol be saved in the burner (with the lid closed) for the next day?
    The fuel can be stored inside the burner for the next day (or the next couple of days), provided that the lid is properly closed and the o-ring is undamaged. However, it is essential that the burner has cooled down completely before the lid is closed. Please note that the alcohol must not be stored in the burner for a longer period of time.

    Any idea what the issue, if any, might be with storing fuel for more than a couple of days? Degradation of the o-ring? Corrosion?

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    Replies
    1. Chris,

      I don't know Trangia's official answer, but I would think that the issue is corrosion. Alcohol in particular is hydrophilic, which means it tends to absorb water. Having metal continuously exposed to moisture is never good. Now, brass will do better than say steel, but it's better just to store the stove dry if it's going to sit for more than a few days.

      HJ

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    2. That makes sense, especially since some folks are reporting corrosion issues. I would love to see an updated model in titanium, for corrosion resistance as well as weight savings. There's the Evernew burner, but that doesn't have a sealing lid.

      Right now, most of my outings are spur of the moment one nighters, so having the stove ready to go, and not having to carry a separate fuel bottle, are pluses. I can easily cook dinner and the next day's breakfast, for two, on one Trangia filling. But I guess for now I'll still be bringing a fuel bottle. Not a big deal. But it does mean the Trangia doesn't rise above my other alcohol stoves.

      Thanks for your help!

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  5. The Trangia tests were done with 3-Spoke Bicycle Spoke Pot Stand in a Simmer Length (1/2") and in a Fast-Boil time (1") height, consisting of 3, S/S bicycle spoke segments with a U-shaped bend made at the top of each spoke segment for the pot to sit on, and a 90 degree off set horizontal bend made on the bottom, also looped back on itself to hopefully keep the S/S split ring from sliding off of the spoke segments. The split rings were pilfered from an old, no longer used, fishing plug but can probably be bought where fishing lure making supplies are sold - Cabella's comes to mind. The purpose of the ring is to keep the spoke sections together and make them more stable as they rest in the fuel well of the Trangia burner and on the underside of the pot. This makes a tripod for the pot to sit on and the spacing is one spoke every 8 jets. Setting the spokes in between two of the jets instead of on a jet hole keeps them cooler and robs less heat from the burner. A spoke in the flame will turn cherry-red but does not deform under the weight of two-cups of water. Shortening the pot stand from 1 to 1/2 an inch lengthened the boil time from 5:30 to 14:00 minuets, with a run out time of 23 minuets being recorded on 1 oz of denatured alcohol. These pot stands do not weigh much or take up very much room, and can be carried in a plastic bag in your preferred cooking pot. Just some food for thought.


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  6. For those who might be interested, I thought it would be good to provide some information on the cost, materials, and construction of the Trangia Bicycle Spoke Pot stands.

    1. The stainless steel bicycle spokes cost a dollar a piece from a bicycle shop a few days ago, plus tax of course. I asked for 14 gauge, straight, not budded. Which was enough material to make 3 complete pot stands, so if you make a mistake on your first try it is not the end of the world. The bicycle axle Hub end of the spoke already has a flange 90 degree bend in it that can be used as the pot support head, the other end of the spoke is threaded, and if you got the spoke nuts to join the spoke to the bicycle rim, they might also have some other stove related uses.

    On my first stand, I used a brass tube provided by a ball point pen ink refill to make the JB-Weld on feet. Subsequent stand's heads and feet were made out of the spoke material itself, which is probably a bit heavier but also a simpler and more elegant solution, I believe. We are not talking about much weight here anyway.

    2. The Simmer Stand measures about 3 inches long over all.

    3. The Fast Boil Stand measures 3 and 5/8ths inches long over all.


    4. Later, I figured out that wood meat skewers cut long and easily cut to length and tested for burner to pot flame height made a great non-material wasting way to determine the pot stand shank length. Of course you have to add in the bend, head, and foot pot support material needs to the shank length, which adds on about another inch or so of total material length needed.

    5. All the bends were made with the aid of vice-grip pliers and hand pressure, and two pairs of pliers were better than only one, with the second pair having a narrower set of jaws. A hammer was also useful to tighten the bends and flatten the stands after bending. Laying the stand leg on a flat surface allows you to check the straightness of the bend in one plain. Gripping with both sets of pliers and twisting in the direction needed trues things up. I used the back blank portion of a big file as an anvil, lacking the real thing.

    6. Once the stand has been used, the head end will change color, making it easy to tell the top of the stand from the bottom. To set the completed stand into the burner fuel well, slide the split ring up toward the head end above the half way point. Then splay the feet slightly apart as you lower the stand into the tank. The feet will probably not all come out properly aligned. If not, pull the offending leg up slightly through the split ring by the head and rotate it back into the proper alignment, then lower it into the wall/bottom juncture of the fuel well and space it out properly, repeat as needed with the remaining legs. It may take a bit of fiddling to get all 3 legs properly aligned. But once you achieve alignment, the stand is surprisingly stable and secure. By now the need for the 90 degree foot offset bend should become readily apparent, which is another way to tell the heads from the feet on these pot stands. And I tried to curve the foot bottoms to match the curve of the tank wall curve. Here, shorter feet are easier to make and steady than longer ones are.

    Conclusion: There you have it. Probably more than you ever needed or wanted to know about how to make and use Trangia Bicycle Spoke Pot Stands.

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