Thursday, 1 May 2008

Lightweight Alcohol Stoves - Review of the Blackfly 3

Cooking at the end of a long days hiking is all part of the ritual of setting up camp and bedding in for a night on the hill. I suppose it's a little bit about making a space for yourself in the wild environment - harps back to our caveman days I suppose!

As described in one of my earlier posts, I came across alcohol stoves by accident and aside from legitimising fire making in the home, these things work extremely well as part of a lightweight hiking base load. I think that perhaps there is renewed interest in alcohol stoves made from recycled aluminium as a departure from the classic Triangia stoves and kits. My interest was heightened when I noticed these things come in all shapes and sizes, weigh next to nothing and are really efficient to boot. I've made a few of my own and just bought my third from the legend that is Tinny from minibulldesign.

This latest stove is the Blackfly 3 (pictures to follow) and to all intents and purposes is the second generation stove derived from the Blackfly 2.

I bought the Blackfly 3 to replace my Isofly stove. The two common features that these stoves share are the very features that make them completely different! Both stoves use the wicks to provide a variable flame and water bath surrounding the fuel chamber to keep things cool and under control. However, the Blackfly 3 now employs silicone (or at least I think it is) wick holders as opposed to the metal ones found on the Isofly. This acts as a kind of thermal block so that less heat is transferred through the wicks into the stoves. This (in most cases) removes the need to fill the surrounding water bath to keep things cool, but the feature is still there if you want it.

There are now just two thick wick ends, as opposed to having two loops of thin wick on the Isofly, and these are adjustable for a fast boil right down to simmer. This element of heat control on an alcohol stove is really useful for different types of cooking, especially for rice and pasta.

I've not had chance to test this during a wild camp as yet but tests in my kitchen show that this stove isn't really much quicker to boil water than the Isofly. I'm not sure if this is down to me getting used to it or just the fact that its not really meant to be any quicker. I can bring 400ml of cold water to a lively boil in 10 minutes and 50 seconds using methylated spirits. Its not the fastest stove then, but if you haven't got 10 mins to spare on the hill then you're doing something wrong!

Like most alcohol stoves, there is a compromise of one feature for another and so this stove won't suit those who simply want fast boil times but it will suit most of the people, most of the time. Because this stove isn't pressurised its easy on fuel, its not a gamble when using it in a tent and there is far more control over the heat output.

Once I've had a chance to test it on the hill (in little over a weeks time) I'll perhaps do an update on this post if anything new comes up.

The key benefits over the Isofly are:
- Fits inside the Heineken cooking pot - this is just more convenient and space saving
- The non-sealed removable fuel chamber makes life easier during filling, emptying, replacing wicks and allows cleaning.
- Runs cooler (meaning even easier to use inside a tent) and the fuel chamber can be removed from the outer stand and used separately saving even more weight and bulk (of more interest to the gram counters than me personally!)
- Easier to monitor fuel quantities
- The open wick design seems to be more 'wick friendly', so less need for replacement.

Here's a video from Tinny explaining the key features of this stove.

1 comment:

lauran said...

This is a very nice post about lightweight alcohol stoves. I like this post very much.