The White Box Alcohol Stove Review
Denatured alcohol has seen a growth in popularity in recent years as a stove fuel for a reason. It is available all over the country at most every store that has a paint or automotive section, such as Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Home Depot. It is not prohibitively expensive, evaporates quickly when spilled and stores well. Stoves that run on it, like the White Box Alcohol Stove, are sturdy, easy to pack or store away, have no moving parts to break and they cook very quietly.
The White Box Alcohol Stove, is not the first or the only alcohol stove option, though. Small alcohol burners were part of the old Swedish military cook kits that showed up on the US surplus market by the truckload. Companies like Trangia have been making commercially available alcohol backpacking stoves for years. It is even possible to hack your own burner together out of a few Coke cans. But, having had the chance to use all of these, the White Box is the best little burner we’ve seen yet.
The White Box stove is designed to run with the cook pot sitting directly on top of the burner. This eliminates the need to pack and carry a stand or try to hunt around for a few flat rocks that are almost the same height. It is also made out of aluminum, instead of the brass, as found in some of the older, classic designs. This keeps the weight of the stove itself down to just about one ounce.
I’ve tried my hand at making a few soda can stoves and, although they do work, they were somewhat finicky. Although it is hand made out of recycled aluminum, the White Box is not your typical soda can stove, since the owner of this cottage business has over 13,000 stoves worth of experience. The parts are machine sealed, not just glued, taped or jammed together. The box that shows up at your door includes the stove, a windscreen, Ziploc style carry bag and directions.
Although the design is simple, the stove is strong enough to stand on and will support the weight of any full pot that would make sense for a burner this size. Fuel is added by just pouring it into the open top of the stove, up to the marked fill line.
If you’ve used white gas stoves before, working with a good alcohol burner is a pleasure. Except for in very cold weather, where your fuel bottle should spend some time in your jacket before cooking dinner, there is no manual priming. Fuel is just poured into the top of the stove and then lit. Alcohol also lacks the lighting “Kawoomph” of isobutane type canister stoves that seem insistent on taking the hair off of your fingers. Once the stove is lit, it takes just a minute to warm up. Once the flame is shooting out of the holes on the sides of the stove, you are ready to put your pot on top and start cooking.
In contrast, since alcohol burns so cleanly, it is not always easy to tell by looking if your stove is lit during the daytime. One option is to just waive you hand at least a foot over the top of the stove a few times and feel for the heat. If it is running, you’ll be able to feel it. Or, another tip we’ve had good luck with is to hold up a piece of aluminum foil, etc to make a little shade, which makes the flame much more visible. Also, if your are outdoors, don’t neglect the windscreen with this stove. It really does help to keep the heat from being blown away, which saves both time and fuel.
With the White Box Alcohol Stove we were able to get two cups of water to a rolling boil, as shown above, in four minutes, sixteen seconds. Four cups of water took eight minutes, forty seconds to boil. This was with with about 1.5oz of fuel in the stove and starting with room temperature water.
Cooking food, not just boiling water, is an option when taking the White Box stove out to the woods. We had no problems cooking down refried beans without making a burned mess, as long as someone was around to stir the pot.
Just like with any stove, you’ll quickly gain expertise with a little practice. To save you some time, here are six tricks and pointers that we picked up along the way:
1. Although you can put about two and a half ounces of fuel in the stove to fill it up, you might very well be able to get away with about half that if you’re just heating something up, once you get a feel for your stove.
2. Flip up spout type fuel bottle lids can want to start leaking alcohol out with a fair change in altitude. This is annoying. We had better luck with squeeze type bottles. Consider reusing something like an empty contact lens solution bottle, just make sure it is clearly labelled.
3. Set up the stove, empty pot and windscreen before you add food and fuel to get everything easily adjusted and tweaked out.
4. Carry a small lighter and just pick up a few dry twigs when needed, instead of using your supply of matches.
5. Stoves, lids and pots can all stay quite warm a little longer than you expect. Using a pot holder of some type can make this less surprising.
6. The Stanco Grease Strainer Pot is as light as some of the fancy and much more expensive mountaineering cookwear at your local outdoors store. The strainer works like magic to drain the water off of hot pasta. It can also serve as the pot lid if you cover it with aluminum foil, so you can leave the pot lid at home. As a bonus, the White Box stove and windscreen fit nicely inside.
We tried multiple setups with this stove, until we found, what we think, is the perfect combo. Here is what you’ll need to make a top-notch and inexpensive cook kit for your closet, bug-out-bag or car trunk which only weighs about 7 ounces, not counting the bottle of fuel:
The White Box Alcohol Stove comes with the stove and a very functional windscreen. Add the Stanco Grease Strainer Pot, but leave the lid out if you are trying to save space and weight. A small lighter should be in the same Ziploc freezer bag as your cook kit, but do make sure to have another lighter, matches or ferro rod, etc stored separately, just in case. Reuse a free plastic bottle for fuel. Add in a folded up piece of aluminum foil and rubber jar opener as a pot holder to complete the package.