Monday, August 18, 2014

Product Review - Trangia Alcohol Burner

Last year, I found a treasure at Goodwill - an antique "motoring" basket.  It was beautiful, mostly complete and in remarkably good condition - especially for its age.  Motoring baskets are very difficult to come by.  They hail from the halcyon days of motoring - when the journey itself was the true adventure and the destination was merely a pleasant diversion.  The baskets came equipped with everything a proper family would require to enjoy their tea time whilst traveling - tins for sandwiches and biscuits, tea cups and saucers, plates, silverware and a kettle and burner for brewing tea.  Even the basket itself was designed for the in-basket heating of water with nickel clad wicker around the burner assembly.

As I said, the basket was very nearly complete, but not entirely.  One enamel tea cup was missing, but, more importantly, the tea kettle was missing.  The original burner and water tank were in tact, but without the kettle, my basket was sorely lacking. 

The water tank nestled over the burner
I spent the better part of a year searching in vain for a kettle that would work for my basket.  It had to be small, with a folding handle.  It required a lip around the bottom of the kettle so that it would sit securely atop the burner assembly without slipping and I preferred stainless steel to aluminum. 

One day, flipping through The Sportsman's Guide, I came across what looked to be the perfect kettle.  It was small, stainless steel, had a folding handle and best of all, it was inexpensive.  I ordered the kettle and anxiously awaited its arrival. 

My new kettle - it is a perfect fit!

Once the kettle arrived, I pulled my basket down from its perch and with Sir Knight's help, readied the burner for our first test run.  I filled the water kettle with water, just to make sure that it didn't leak and proceeded to rinse out the alcohol burner.  Water gushed out of the bottom of the burner!  I had never closely inspected the burner - if I had, I would have noticed that there were numerous tiny areas that had small holes.  These holes rendered the burner assembly useless.  I was crestfallen!  My beautiful basket was nothing more than a pretty face - and although I am a hopeless romantic, I expect everything I have to be not only beautiful but practical.

It was Sir Knight who saved the day.  He suggested that we buy an alcohol burner.  He knew of one that was based on a hundred year old design with a proven track record.  The burner was small, so it would fit tidily into the basket and may even fit under the water tank just like the original burner.  We ordered two burners (Sir Knight had always wanted one for his multi-fuel stove) and waited to see how they would work.

The Trangia Spirit Burners arrived within the week.  At first I was a little concerned, thinking they were only designed to be used in a specific lamp or stove, however, my misgivings were unfounded as they performed admirably as a stand-alone unit.

The burner is made in Germany

Sitting in my burner assembly
These little burners don't require wicks of any kind.  They burn denatured alcohol, which burns incredibly clean - no black soot on the bottom of the kettle!  What really surprised me was how hot they burned!  We filled the burner with alcohol, took the top off, placed the burner in the basket assembly and touched it with a lighter.  Blue flames began to grow and as the burner warmed up the flames grew.  We positioned the kettle over the flame and waited.  Within 12 minutes steam was shooting from the tea kettle spout!  We had attained a full rolling boil.  Tea was served!

Merrily heating away

They burn denatured alcohol
The burner comes equipped with a screw-on cap so that you can leave fuel in it and transport it without any leakage.  The cap does have a gasket, however, the gasket must be removed before extinguishing the flame.  Once the unit has cooled, unscrew the cap, replace the gasket and screw the lid back onto the burner.  Quick, easy and painless!

Sir Knight tried his burner in the multi-fuel stove and was equally impressed.  It was easy to start, compact enough to transport and provided an instant, reliable cooking method while in the bush.  Denatured alcohol is inexpensive and stores well, making it a solid preparedness essential.  This little burner, in concert with a multi-fuel stove, would be a perfect cooking back-up during a power outage or other natural disaster, not to mention being just the right size to tuck into your first line gear or hiking pack.

Burning in a multi-fuel stove

We are now equipping all of our packs with these spirit burners.  They are inexpensive, lightweight and reliable - just right for your pack, your car or your house.  And, if you're a romantic survivalist - just right for your motoring basket!


  1. You can also make one that works quite well, although maybe not as packable.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, denatured alcohol is ethanol with benzene added to make it (theoretically) undrinkable. You can also run ethanol or lacquer thinner in it. Years ago, I bought a small two burner alcohol stove at a flea market that worked far better than I would have thought, with very little odor even if used indoors(which I did)-the only time you smelled alcohol was when you first lit it or capped it off. The story I got was that it was a 1930s marine (as in boat) stove. I don't know if that was true or not. I didn't realize alcohol stoves were still made-I thought everything had gone to propane or butane.

  3. I've been using these for years, I love them no moving parts and they are built like a tank. You don't have to use the screw cap to out it out , just close the simmer ring all the way and cover up the flame, it will go right out. As you noted though let it cool completly before handling it and don't get in a hurry. It stays hot longer than yo would think.

  4. Oh you lucky ducky-to have found such a gift! Doesn't it amaze you what people think of as old, useless, and unwanted junk is a diamond in the rough? I did find a real English tea hamper, filled with utencils, lovely china, and loads of room for goodies. However I didn't get lucky enough for a kettle and its own burner. I wonder if I could add them? Enjoy your lovely motoring basket-it is a wonderful find! -Stealth Spaniel

  5. I have owned a Trangia for many years and am still happy with my stove. A few additional pieces of advice:
    Do *not* store the burner loose against other metal, his causes them to corrode, store in a little plastic bag to stop the metal touching.
    Adding 10% water to the alcohol helps it burn cleanly and less vigorously.
    It’s best to extinguish the burner with the simmer ring, let it cool and then screw on the cap.

  6. If I may ask, what brand of multi-fuel stove is that? It looks very sturdy and handy.

  7. When I was a kid (in the 40's) my parents worked all summer on a carnival. We would move from town to town and to home the entire summer. We kids would often sleep in the car while our parents slept outside. My father and mother would set up a metal container with a casserole dish inside of it on the exhaust manifold of the car to cook our dinner while driving to the next setup. Sometimes over or underdone.

  8. I burn only Everclear in mine. Works great!

    Defrosts a frozen tractor distributor, de-greases anything, add it to your morning coffee to take care of aches of sleeping on the ground in the woods, disinfect / clean cuts or wounds, have a party, or heat up the coffee / tea... A million uses and burns great in a trangia!