My recent short stay at Maeneira gave me a chance to play about with some stoves. Although I’ve tinkered with meths stoves in the back garden, I’ve always used a gas stove on trips. The smell of meths turns my stomach. However, the introduction of Fuel4 Bioethanol meant access to a fuel with the same calorific value as meths, but without the noxious smell.
The other issue with most meths stoves is that you either waste fuel by letting them burn out or have a tricky job pouring the fuel back into your fuel bottle. However, a number of people have been raving about Zelph StarLyte stoves, which have some absorbent wadding to contain the meths. This means they are spill proof. They also have a lid, which means you can extinguish them and store the excess fuel in the stove.
Anyway, I prevaricated about ordering one (or two) from the US. Then I came across Speedster Backpacking Products. The stoves are very similar to the Zelph ones but made in the UK. Not only that, I was attracted to the folding windshield and pot support. My order was fulfilled quickly. I was impressed with the quality of both the stove and the windshield/pot support.
My day lazing around Maeneira meant I had plenty of time to play about with both the Speedster and a BushBuddy Ultra that I had bought second-hand on OM. As you can see above, the stove is simplicity itself. A screw top tin with some wadding and a wire mesh retainer (weight 14g).
The screen is a six-sided concertina with a cutout for a pot handle and ventilation slots at the base. There are three wire fold out pot supports. It weighs 72g including a small pouch for storage. I also used a foil base (wt 32g) to avoid scorching the grass.
To complete the setup, I had a Tibetan pot (wt 148g), which came with the BushBuddy. I took a pot grab, in case the handles got too hot. However, this wasn’t necessary for the Speedster setup. I took a “snuffer” to extinguish the stove, which was the top of a Trangia gel stove (wt 7g). An old tin lid would do as well. I used a Torjet lighter (20g), which has a strong flame and I carry in my toilet kit.
Instead of taking the 750ml bottle of bioethanol, I decanted some into a Vargo fuel bottle, which was lighter and easier to fill the stove from a closable nozzle. So how did it do?
My first boil was in dead calm conditions and it boiled 400ml of water in less than five minutes. Not bad at all. There was next to no soot deposit and no smell either. The snuffer made it easy to extinguish as well. Later on in windier conditions, it took a bit longer to boil, emphasising how sensitive ethanol/meths fuels are to breezes. I used the Speedster several times and quite liked it.
Would I be a convert to a liquid fuel stove? I can see some attractions, but overall, I think I prefer gas. Gas is quicker and instant. It’s also easier to do more than one boil. With liquid fuel, it pays to boil all the water you need in one go. I took an Aladdin insulated mug (wt 148g) so that my post meal tea could stay hot while my food rehydrated. Bioethanol is cleaner than meths, but there’s still some soot, whereas gas is totally clean.
In terms of weight, it depends what you take. the Speedster setup of stove, screen/support, foil base, snuffer, pot and mug weighed 432g. My TGOC setup of Snow Peak GST 100, Primus windshield, canister feet, Evernew Pasta pot (doubles as mug) weighed 267g. If I substituted my Evernew 600ml pot plus MSR Mug (with cosy), the total weight rises to 344g. A 100g gas canister weighs 190g and lasts about one week. My TGOC setup with a 100 gas canister weighs only marginally more than the Speedster setup without fuel.
In the end, I think there’s not a lot in it, but for me the convenience of gas wins for most situations. That’s not to say I won’t use the Speedster again. I think it has it’s place in certain circumstances.
I also had the opportunity to try my BushBuddy Ultra. I was really lucky to pick up one of these as they are no longer made. The Ultra is the lightest BushBuddy, weighing 140g. It’s a simple but robust wood burning stove consisting of a double walled burner base and a pot support.
The first thing to do was to get some wood to burn. I graded it into three thicknesses: small twigs for kindling, medium-sized twigs to get the fire going and larger ones to feed it once the fire was established. I also had Hammaro card as tinder. I protected the BushBuddy from the wind with a fold out aluminium screen (208g) that I’d bought ages ago.
I had read that it can be tricky to light wood burning stoves, so I was careful to layer the stove with small twigs as kindling before adding the medium-sized twigs and tinder paper. Because the wood was so dry, it caught very easily and soon the twigs were alight.
Once the stove was burning well I put on the pot. I fed the fire with the larger pieces of wood. I didn’t do any timing, but the pot came to the boil quite quickly.
I was glad I’d taken a pot grab as it made removing the pot a lot easier. I found the BushBuddy very easy to use and surprisingly quick and efficient. Once the fire got going, it was also relatively smokeless (not that you would use it in a tent). There wasn’t a huge amount of soot on the pot, either.
I can see the attractions of the BushBuddy in wilderness situations where wood is obtainable. Supplemented with a meths stove when wood is either unobtainable or wet, it would be a good choice. If fuel is plentiful, then the extra weight would be offset by not having to carry much or any fuel. Additionally, running out of fuel is less of an issue and there’s nothing to fail or break.
In summer, I could see myself taking the BushBuddy and the Speedster stove as a change. However, I think gas remains the most convenient option. It’s cleaner and probably slightly lighter under most circumstances.
Diclosure: all products used were purchased with my own money. I have no affiliations with any of the manufacturers mentioned.