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Thread: Gel or spirit

  1. #1

    Default Gel or spirit

    Hi, I've got a mini trangia I use when wild camping. It currently has the standard spirit burner. I was wondering are the gel burners any better? How much of a space and weight saver is carrying gel over a spirit bottle?

  2. #2
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    None. If the gel is based on the same alcohol = same energy output = same weight used to achieve the same temperature.

  3. #3
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    There's not a lot in it really as basically they are the same stuff, though depending on the brand & additives energy per gram varies between 27-30 kj/g
    Methylated spirit is a mixture of ethyl alcohol aka Ethanol (95%) and methyl alcohol (%5) to make it undrinkable.
    Fuel gel is just ethanol with a chemical thickener, typically Calcium Acetate.

    Gel of course is typically sold in pouches and that does make them easier to wedge into a tightly packed rucksack but as always you pay for convenience.
    A one litre pouch of Vango gel fuel will set you back about £10, by contrast Five litres of Methylated spirit will cost you only £15 or less.

    If I'm relying on meths for a trip then I will split it between several smaller bottles. It helps with daily rationing and packing, the little 100ml travel bottles work for me plus I don't have to worry about losing the lot in the event of an accident. Came awfully close to ripping open a 1L gel pouch a few times shoving them into the pack. On the flipside, gel is a far superior accelerant for kickstarting a woodstove in damp conditions as unlike meths it stays put and there is less of a vaporisation zone so the heat is more concentrated. (this is why magicians can burn meths on their fingertips and napalm is is so deadly )
    It may seem like a good idea at the time but never open a tin of beans with an axe

  4. #4
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    If I wanted to use gel I would buy ’chafing dish gel’ at a restaurant supplyer like Nisbets.
    They sell it in small cans with a screw top. Once you finished coking, estinguish, let cool and close.

    A pouch is vulnerable.

    Btw, being anal here, you mean ’gel or liquid’ I assume?

    Denatonium is added to make it undrinkable, as the other alcohols spart from Ethanol makes it poisonous.
    Denatonium tastes incredibly bitter, which we all know after suffering even the tiniest drop in our food...

    Methanol tastes fine.
    Last edited by Janne; 07-10-2017 at 03:07.

  5. #5
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    Aye Up Gen81

    I've just conducted the following tests using a standard Trangia meths burner and a gel burner.

    Test One -
    30g by weight each fuel - meths and Green Dragon gel
    500ml H20 @ 14.5C
    AMG titanium pot set
    Outside temp 15C
    Timed to a rolling boil
    Alcohol gel - 6mins 30
    Methylated Spirits 7mins 30 (Bloom time 1 minute)

    Test Two -
    60g by weight each fuel
    1 litre H20 @ 14.5 C
    Outside temp 15C
    Timed to a rolling boil
    Alcohol gel 11 mins 30
    Methylated Spirits - Surprisingly - 13mins 52s! (Bloom time 1.06)

    Weight of fuel left after 2nd test in each burning receptacle -
    Alcohol gel – 19g
    Meths - 30g

    All items were brought to approx the same temp after each test by immersion in H20 @ 14.5C

    Gel-v-meths.jpg

    Conclusion –

    As Janne and Bishop have stated both fuels do give similar performance - for a short burn time with a smaller amount of H20 (500ml) but the advantage of gasification of meths in the burner although slightly slower than the alcohol gel seems to win out for a larger amount of H20, not by way of the boil time but by the lesser amount of fuel used.

    And this was at a comfortable ambient temp (15C). My experiences with alcohol gel when temps get way lower are far less favourable than with meths, although I do carry alcohol gel with me as a quick starter for my BRS wood burner.

    And of course you do have to take the other issues re handle-ability mentioned into account.

    Hope this helps.
    Free-State Yorkshire Now!

  6. #6
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    Excellent practical tests!

    Jaeger, the two burners, are the openings the same size?
    On the trangia burner, you have two fire areas, one from the central pool of the alcohol, that produce yellowish, cool flames and then the rim perforations.
    Those produce nice hot, blueish flames.

    The soot is mainly produced by the central pool flames.

    I have noticed that different brands of meth burn differently. My latest one I bought in Nirway, is the worst I used ever. Difficult to match light, yellow flames, loads of wet oily soot.

  7. #7

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    I don't think you will ever get a definative answer as the two burners are not interchangable. If you think of a weekend camp with 4 main meals (i.e. test two done 4 times ) would 40gms of fuel saved make that much difference. A 3 month trail walk maybe but I would suggest take both burners and buy what fuel you come across. Seems to me there is NO clear cut winner. Good test mind, Thanks

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    Of course there are variables, but if the flame area is the same then the boiling time should be very similar.
    I yhink the difference in calorific content varies not only between the two fuel types, but also within the same fuel type, depending on the composition.

    True, if you go for a weekender summertime it does not matter, but trust me, a week wintertime in Norrland in Sweden - it matters very much.

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    If "methanol" burns badly, there's water in it. You can't fix it.
    The best I can get is sold in the solvent section of the house paint stores.
    What I don't like is that the flame is nearly invisible on a sunny day.
    My old eyes need some yellow carbon to keep track of.

    I'm mostly a car-stop lunch camper these days until I get my legs sorted.
    Coleman fuel in the classic 2 burner gas/petrol stove. Wide open and we will have a boil in a minute or two.
    Coleman gas isn't cheap but the result is reliable and I'm too old for guess-work.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janne View Post


    Methanol tastes fine.
    But will kill you.

    Denatonium is added to make it undrinkable, as the other alcohols spart from Ethanol makes it poisonous.
    Denatonium tastes incredibly bitter, which we all know after suffering even the tiniest drop in our food...
    add sugar
    A man can do no sin with his own wife,
    Nor can he hurt himself with his own knife

  11. #11
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    It will kill in larger amounts. Smaller will only make you go blind, damage your liver and kidneys.

    The hardcore drunks in Sweden used to drink some, a small amount, then go to ER. The treatment is to give IV ethanol, as the liver metabolises Ethanol first so the body can get rid of the Methanol through the kidneys.

    They ‘filtered’ the meths through a bread called ‘Siraps limpa’, a bread sweetened with treackle.

    Which makes sense with your sugar info!

  12. #12

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    Aw that's amazing thank you! I've only ever used meths. I'm going to give gel a go while I'm out and about. I know it'll certainly take up less room in my bag lol. I've cooked on all sorts. My trangia is definitely definitely my favourite though 😊

  13. #13
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    Aye Up,

    Janne - no, the diameter of the gel dish is probably the same as the outer diameter of the meths burner and whilst I appreciate that my tests were not exactly comparing like with like due to that burner difference - as you say yourself - practical tests in line with Jen81's question I would suggest.
    Re the pool flame and the jets flame - you've got me thinking - would the jet/gas effect still occur if the there was some way of blanking off that central pool after blooming and any value apart from less soot?

    Hammock_man - you may be right about that (frugal? - I'M FROM YORKSHIRE, PAL!) saving but if you have ever deployed with the standard SAT meths bottle over a number of days, eeking out your fuel can matter! (Ever seen two blokes fight over a hexe block? - I have. )
    As an aside I wonder how long kero and meths will be available to us in the UK so I am very careful with my stocks (kero is more expensive than petrol now and I can remember a time when we used it to heat our house!

    Jen81/Hammock_man - When I deploy with my SAT I do take both the meths burner AND a stainless steel, coffee-caddy lid which serves as both a pre-heat tray for the meths burner in cold weather and as a gel burner if required.

    PS - Jen81 - in case you hear of/think that you can use gel inside the meths burner beware - the residue from the gel may well clog the burner jets. I have used the gel on the preheat rim of the meths burner without probs but not inside.

    Robson - Coleman Fuel in the UK is ridiculously expensive - Aspen 4T cheaper. I haven't yet resorted to panel wipe which I believe is cheaper still, although it may not contain relevant components.
    Free-State Yorkshire Now!

  14. #14
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    To answer your question: first the background:
    In my unit, we had to carry Meths for our cooking, one liter per week. During winter, when the temperature went down to -30C and lower, we had problems melting snow. We used too much fuel to last us, as much of the heat escaped on the sides. We were unable to melt enough snow to drink, rehydrate and cook the freeze dried stuff. One full Meths fill was not enough for one meal., Also the pots went horribly dirty. We could only wipe off the outside sides with snow. Result was the inside too became sooty, which gave a hortible taste of the Meth to all food and drink
    We made a blanking disk, think a thin copper disk with some cork glued on so it just floated.

    Result : less heat escaped, less soot. Took longer to melt and cook though, but one fill was more than enough.

    The flame was coming from between the disc and the burner, plus those holes in the rim.

    The burners were supplied with a ring that covered the rim, it did slow the heat escape and burn, but did the sooting worse.

  15. #15
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    Aye Up,

    I only ever had the experience of using meths at well below zero temps on leave in the Alps and the Cairngorms.

    Militarily, in the arctic we used petrol stoves - N07, Coleman and the big No1 petrol burners.

    I'll be in the man cave tomorra experimenting with that copper disc idea!

    PS - As much as I love the SAT - you're military/government must have really disliked you to have saddled you with them in that environment!
    Free-State Yorkshire Now!

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    If that "panel-wipe" is a straight run, simple petroleum distillate, I would not hesitate to try to run my old Coleman with it.
    Outdoor, back yard "smoke test."
    I don't doubt for a minute that all you're paying for (and me too) is the name.

  17. #17
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    Jaeger, we had no choice. In our unit, all of us, officers and down, were outdoor guys, before we joined.
    Used to the Trangia. The model we received was developed for my unit and out brother unit, I22 in Kiruna. Lats Fälts unit. It was smaller than the standard one, but with the same burner. Also made from thinner aluminium.

    It later was sold to the public with the name Jägarköket.
    I checked their smallest model made today this summer, very similar size, but the metal is thicker.

    If you experiment, the disk has to float just about the surface. A couple of thinnish wine cork pieces cut from a wine bottle cork.

  18. #18
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    Sometimes we had to cook the crap rapidly. We increased the buring flame with a bunch of matches placed inside the burner ( without the disk).
    They act as extra wicks as soon as they carbonize.

    Test that!

    But do it outside, if a soaked burning match falls out you might torch your house.

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