A Portable stove is a stove specially designed to be portable and lightweight, as for camping or picnicking, or for use in remote locations where an easily transportable means of cooking or heating is needed – in situations as diverse as a field hospital or for food service and catering.

Since the invention of the portable stove in the 19th century, a wide variety of designs and models has seen use in a number of different applications. Portable stoves can be broken down into several broad categories based on the type of fuel used and stove design: unpressurized stoves that use solid or liquid fuel placed in the burner before ignition; stoves that use a volatile liquid fuel in a pressurized burner; bottled-gas stoves; and gravity-fed “spirit” stoves.

Campers use portable stoves when campfires are forbidden.

Solids or Liquids Portable Stoves Edit

The simplest type of stove is an unpressurized single burner design, in which the burner contains the fuel and which once lit burns until it is either extinguished or the fuel is exhausted. There are both liquid-fuel and solid-fuel stoves of this variety. Because they are extremely small and lightweight, this type of stove tends to be favored by ultralight backpackers as well as those seeking to minimize weight and bulk, particularly for extended backpacking trips. Solid-fuel stoves are also commonly used in emergency kits both because they are compact and the fuel is very stable over time. The Trangia stove is a popular commercially-made alcohol stove, which is available in many different models, from a single bare burner to an integrated expedition cooking system. Some of these come with a sealing cover, allowing the burner to be packed while still containing fuel, although putting the lid on while the stove is hot can damage it. An even more “bare-bones” system is the Sterno heater, in which the can that contains a jellied fuel also serves as the burner. Homemade beverage can or “Pepsi can” hobo stoves are similar. These are made from discarded aluminum soda or beer cans, and come in a wide variety of different designs.

Liquid FuelEdit

The traditional “spirit stove” (alcohol or “methylated spirits”) consists of a small reservoir or fuel tank raised above and to the side of the burner. The fuel tank supplies the methylated spirits under gravity to the burner, where it is vaporized and burned. The gravity-fed spirit stove is still found in many pleasure boats, although it has largely replaced by compressed gas stoves.

Lighting a gravity-fed spirit stove is similar to lighting a traditional Primus stove. Around each burner is a priming pan used to preheat the burner. To light the stove, the burner is first turned on to allow a small amount of fuel to pass through the burner and collect as a liquid in the priming pan. The burner is then turned off, and the fuel ignited to preheat the burner. When the fuel in the pan is almost all gone, the burner is turned on again, and fuel passes into the burner where it is vaporized and passes through the jets.

These stoves look and even sound a bit like pressurized-burner stoves, but the fuel tank is under no pressure. They remain popular for small boats owing to the minimal fire risk they pose in a confined space.

Solid FuelEdit

A solid-fuel stove may consist of no more than a metal plate to hold the fuel, a set of legs to keep it out of contact with the ground, and some supports for the cooking vessel. This design is scalable, and may be used for anything from tiny backpacking stoves to large portable woodstoves. More complex stoves may use a double-walled design with a chamber for partial biomass gasification and additional mixing to increase BTUs and provide a cleaner, more complete burn.Among compact commercially-available models, the Esbit solid fuel stove burns small tablets of hexamine or trioxane in a folding stand made of aluminum or other base metal, and is a German design that dates from World War II. Generally intended for use by a single person, the fumes will tend to taint food if exposed to the burning tablets, and will also leave a messy residue that may be impossible to remove from cookware.

The single AA battery-operated, fan-driven Sierra Designs Zip stove burns small twigs, pinecones, bark or other small flammable items. The fuel is placed into a small damper and, with the fan turned on, burns at a very high heat output of 15,000 BTUs, about twice that of typical gasoline stoves. Because the wood burns quickly in a Zip stove, it needs to be constantly refueled during cooking. However, because of its ability to take advantage of whatever small bits of wood that can be scrounged from the forest floor, the additional weight and bulk of packing additional fuel supplies is avoided. Ed Garvey, the noted Appalachian Trail benefactor and multiple A.T. thru-hiker, carried a Zip stove with him when he hiked trail at the age of 75.

A simple hobo stove is constructed out of a discarded tin can of any size by removing the top of the can, punching a number of holes near the upper edge, and punching corresponding holes in the opposite base. Wood or other fuel is placed in the can and ignited. A pot (or larger tin can) is placed on the top of the can for cooking. Stoves of similar design can be made out of materials other than cans, such as discarded duct pipe.

While simple, solid fuel stoves have several disadvantages. In most cases, the burn rate may be controlled only by varying the amount of fuel placed on the fire, while fluid fuels may be controlled precisely with valves. In addition, no solid fuel burns completely. It produces considerable amounts of ash and soot, which soils both the stove and the cooking vessels. In addition, because some of the chemical energy of the fuel remains locked up in the ash and soot, solid fuel releases less heat, gram for gram.


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