Having owned the Bushbuddy, and being very satisfied with it, I had no intention of getting another backpacking stove, particularly a spirit burner as I had been coming across information on the Net that getting meths in India is difficult if not close to impossible. Besides, here it is also an “offence” to carry any flammable stuff in public transport. However over time, I realized that if my bug out strategy was to be effective, then I’d need to have some other source of cooking fuel as a backup -such as a meth stove or something that burns fuel tablets. Living in the capital of India and having a wood burning stove in your bug out bag is not exactly an ideal solution as finding wood for burning could be quite difficult even though there is a lot of greenery around.
Delhi has a large population of squatters and migrants who use wood for cooking. A meth burner with a few liters of methanol or a stove that uses Hexamine fuel tabs would be necessary in addition to the wood burning Bushbuddy. In case of a fuel or food crisis, I expect that all available wood to disappear due to hoarding or re-selling at exorbitant prices.
The necessity of this also hit home on two other occasions, -once when I was at the Christian Ashram in Sattal for our office picnic and once at Herbertpur (between Dehradun & Chakrata). On both these occasions, I procrastinated in collecting twigs for the Bushbuddy as I had a heavy backpack on and for a tall, lean person, stooping with a heavy backpack to pick up sticks, is at best a recipe for a serious case of back ache. Needless to say, once I reached the guest house I forgot all about collecting twigs. Then I learned my first survival lesson -Do not procrastinate -as it poured and drizzled for the next few days that left nothing suitable for burning any more. In addition to this, there are an increasing number of “protected” green places where in a knee jerk reaction, even picking up fallen twigs is prohibited. Even though burning wood is natural, sustainable and non polluting. As a law abiding citizen, I would need something of this sort even though the same law making authority also prohibits carrying meths by any public transport
The four stages of my Trangia burner when using Indian meths
To start off with the Trangia, you don’t need to drop a match into the meth well of the stove as some videos on the Net show you or you’ll end up with unnecessary debris in the meth well. Touching the match to the meth or bringing it close is sufficient depending on the ambient temperature. I noted four distinct burn stages for the Trangia (probably good for any other Meth burner as well). In the first stage, when you touch a match to the fuel well in the center of the burner, it lights up with an unsteady blue flame. As the burner heats up (and the Methanol in it which has now started vaporizing) it enters the second stage where it starts jetting and lights up like a gas ring with nice blue jets of flame. It also makes a small noise, sounding like a small explosion when the vaporised meth catches fire. BTW, I bought spares of the Trangia from an online shop in the UK as I didn’t want the whole package. The Trangia in the photographs here is seated in the Clikstand collapsible stand which comes with an optional windshield (shown in the third pic above) and a plate in case you need to burn fuel tabs.
I’m not sure if other users have experienced the third and fourth stages, these might well be due to the adulterated/substandard meth available here which was not designed for burning, but for diluting paint. The third stage is immediately noticeable as the flame turns from blue to yellowish-reddish-orange resembling the output from the afterburner of a fighter jet. The fourth stage is scary, the meth starts boiling and the angry flame resembles that of a refinery blaze. This is when I freak out and drop the simmering ring onto the burner. This tames the flame which reverts back to a single tongue of blue flame worming itself out of the adjustable hole of the simmering ring. If these stages are not due to a meth problem, then this must be the correct way to operate the burner. I can’t see any other way of stopping the flame from running away. Heat causes the meth to evaporate, this increases the size of the flame and that increases the heat and this goes on like a chain reaction. However it is possible that the meth here is too potent, so I tried out various meth:water ratios. The results of the test can be found at this link.
I usually fill the burner to about 3/4th full and that is good enough for general purpose cooking. I’ve managed to cook modest quantities of potatoes and rice with it. Unfortunately, due to the (excellent) rubber gasket on the lid (which makes the burner leak proof in transit), you cannot screw it down when the burner is hot. Most of the hot methanol vaporizes by the time the burner returns to room temperature. I’m always left with about 3-4mm of meth at the bottom of the well. I need to keep a record of approximately how much meth is used for cooking different stuff and at what ambient temperature and pour in a measured quantity of meth into it. However it is better to err on the higher side and waste some meth instead of running out of meth, as pouring meth into a hot burner can have disastrous consequences -especially as in sunlight, the flame can become nearly or completely invisible. I wonder whether pouring out the hot meth into another sealed container is a better idea.
I got 36 minutes of useful burn time at stage 4 (refinery fire mode) with the burner filled slightly above 3/4th’s at an ambient temperature of 13.5 deg C indoors in New Delhi in winter (It was 7 deg outside). Expect this time to reduce in the summer, outdoors or in windy conditions. Add the simmering ring and the timings become pretty respectable… probably an hour or so.
Its time to list out the pros and cons for the Trangia burner…
- Well designed, compact and easy to carry
- The simmering ring is innovatively designed and when closed completely, works to extinguish the flame. (Practically, Sometimes the flame continues to burn from the single hole (eyelet) which also acts as a hinge for the ring cover. This typically happens when the stove has run very hot. It can however be easily blown out like a birthday candle). Without the simmering ring, the Trangia would be good enough only for boiling water -the flame thrower that it is. I doubt whether other Trangia clones are any good without a simmering ring.
- Can be used as a hand warmer in an emergency. [I tested it at home by using it after I did the dishes this winter. Remember that my house is well ventilated. I do not recommend this to anyone as it is very easy to spill/tip over the stove on the floor accidentally and end up with an uncontrolled blaze. I tipped it over slightly when lifting it up and set the Clickstand on fire!! Besides it uses up all the meth in about 36 minutes (at 13.5 deg C indoor temperature) and the fumes are poisonous. This can however be used for an emergency]
- The paint on the simmering ring top (brown) scratches off very easily.
- Doesn’t seem to have any provision to open up and clean the burner of any sedimentation etc… from bad meth. (Maybe just poking through the blocked holes and shaking it out works?)
- The circular edge of the brown top is shoddily finished and abrades the finish on the simmering ring. (From previous machine shop experience, it appears that the punching tool used for punching out the tops from sheet metal was probably blunt and needed to be re-ground/sharpened -unless it was a deliberate, poorly executed plan of increasing friction to force the lid to remember its position)
- When pouring in the meth for the first time and storing it overnight, the meth turned yellow and some greyish-brown patches appeared on the inside of the spirit well as the brass plating(?) gave way. The meth also turned cloudy and was filled with debris, probably from the patches that came
away and probably also from some wicking material used inside the stove wall. However this corrosion could also be due to the bad quality of meth available here. The greenish patches are apparently the natural oxidation of brass, but the fact that it can happen overnight on first use is unnerving… however it is comforting to read that it (the oxide) works to some extent as a barrier to corrosion…. hope it is true. When I strained the used meth from the first run, the cotton plug I used turned golden yellow with white flaky deposits on top. Thankfully this did not recur.
Overall a very good piece of equipment to have in your backpack or bugout bag if you are looking for a meth burner. I highly recommend the Trangia burner and would gladly buy it again.
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