We’ve used a Trangia for years. There are lighter, smaller stoves around, but the Trangia set gives a lovely stable base, with a built-in wind shield, and the two pots, frying pan and kettle all pack away into the base and windshield (along with herbs, spices, salt & pepper, lighter and spoons) and the whole package takes up about the same space as a normal cooking pot. The Trangia set comes with a meths burner, which we have long since discarded as it was slow and very difficult to regulate. But with the right burner, Trangia cooking systems are just brilliant. They are always stable and the pot has never accidentally slipped off the side of the stand (as I have seen happen all too often with other stoves) as the pot sits deep within the windshield held securely on shaped pan-supports. Even when using the frying pan, which sits high above the flame on the upturned pan-supports, the shaped supports hold it firmly in place. The two pots are more than big enough to make a good sized meal for 2 hungry cycle-tourists and have been used to feed 3 on more than one occasion. The little kettle actually holds one litre and the frying pan is normally used as a lid over the pot and this also improves performance as very little heat escapes.
Trangia Gas Burner
The Trangia gas burner is bought as a separate item from the main unit – our gas burner is more than 15 years old and works as perfectly as the day it was bought.
Up until 2011 the gas burner was the only burner we used with our Trangia. It’s a neat, tidy and robust unit, but when packing it away, you should position it carefully so that its square & sharp edges don’t puncture something else in your pannier or rucksack. The picture of the burner & gas-canister, show the large-size canister – 500ml (approx). The gas canisters come in 3 different sizes – 125ml, 250ml & 500ml – but to double the size, actually gives you much more than twice the amount of fuel. A 125ml canister will be enough for 2 or 3 meals; a 250ml canister would last us about 5 to 7 days, while a 500ml canister will last us nearly 3 weeks (having a kettle full of hot water with breakfast and cooking rice or pasta and a main-course in the evening every day). The gas is easy to get hold of in the UK in basically any camping shop, but finding it abroad can sometimes prove more difficult, or as difficult as it is to find any camping shop.
– Easy to light (sparks off a flint cigarette-lighter are enough)
– No pre-heating required – full working temperature available practically straight away
– Very controllable heat range, and a good low simmer point
– Very clean fuel – absolutely no sooty deposits anywhere
– No jumping big yellow flames, always just a tight blue flame down on the burner
– To pack away, just unscrew from the gas, and pack – no fuel-pipe to be emptied
– Gas can be hard to find and in some countries, gas will not be available, so not a global solution
– Gas cannot be taken on board any flight so if flying on holidays, you must first find gas on arrival
– Gas is actually quite expensive when compared against liquid fuel options – 500ml canister is about 8 to 10 Euros (giving approx 3 weeks cooking)
Optimus Nova+ Multi-fuel Burner
We bought this burner before setting off on our 2011 cycle-tour (read blog for that trip here) with the intention of using it whenever we were unable to find gas. We chose the Optimus Nova+ as it’s possible to buy an attachment to allow you to fit it into the Trangia base. We’d also read a load of good reviews about it.
Sadly our experience was somewhat different to the experience of other reviewers. The Nova worked reasonably well for the first couple of uses, but after that it became increasingly difficult to light, and, once lit, would sputter and pulse, and the flame would go out every few minutes.
We stripped, cleaned and lubed everything, but saw no improvement. We wondered if it was the fuel we were using (98% paraffin) and switched to unleaded petrol. Still no improvement. We took the filter out and it worked a bit more reliably, but running it without a filter clearly wasn’t going to be a good long-term solution.
After some further, frustrated rummaging around the internet we discovered to our annoyance that our pre-purchase research on multi-fuel stoves had missed the bit about Optimus being taken over by Katadyn and the quality of their stoves taking a nose-dive. Reviewers reported that the Katadyn-era stoves are unreliable and not a patch on the originals, so we’ve now given up on the Nova+ and replaced it with a Trangia-branded multi-fuel burner.
– Came with a neat zipped canvas pouch complete with funnel, spares & tool
– Badly designed adaptor to make the burner fit into Trangia base … badly
– Position of fuel regulator on the fuel-pipe meant that it was necessary to have the Trangia base, and the fuel bottle sitting at the exact same level, with the fuel pipe running as straight as possible between the two but the fuel pipe was quite long, so this was a pain
– Difficult to light
– Would continuously cough & splutter and then put itself out and need to be relit as quickly as possible to avoid the fuel smell and the need to pre-heat all over again
– Didn’t work
Trangia-branded Multi-fuel Burner
We bought this burner just before setting off again in 2012. We got a reasonable deal from the retailer as it was old stock and they no longer listed the item and this one had been knocking around their distribution network for over a year. So although a very recent purchase, it does differ in specification from the current multi-fuel burner being marketed by Trangia. This one was actually made by Optimus, but we’re pretty sure it was made in the pre-Katadyn days (see note about Optimus Nova+ above).
On one particular afternoon at the end of May 2012 in eastern Germany, when our 1st gas canister was nearly finished, we spent far too long checking every likely shop in every town & village that our route took us though for a new gas but failed to find one. So the next day, when we were in the supermarket, we decided to buy a bottle of barbeque lighter fluid for our new multi-fuel burner. Although multi-fuel burners can burn unleaded petrol, manufacturers recommend that you don’t burn it too often as it is full of additives which can block your burner’s jets. Meanwhile barbeque lighter fluid is low odour, not as explosive as petrol and yet is petrol based (rather than alcohol based), so we decided to give it a try and that’s what we used for most of the summer of 2012 (apart from on a few wet days where we used a gas that we bought about a week later). The lighter fluid worked well and throughout the summer, it was very easy to find in the supermarkets and relatively cheap – 1 litre costs between 1 & 2 Euros and will last about the same length of time as the 500ml gas, between 2 & 3 weeks.
Lighting a multi-fuel burner is something that needs to be practiced, and the behaviour of the burner will differ slightly with different fuels. About 75% of the time I can light it without any jumping yellow flames or flares, but as a result of this potential behaviour, it should not be lit anywhere close to the tent. To light the burner, first I release about 5 to 10 seconds worth of fuel (less with more volatile fuels) and also try to get some of the fuel onto a long cardboard or wooden taper (you could always buy long matches, but we haven’t). Light the taper with your cigarette lighter and then use that to reach down into the lowest part of the burner to light the pre-heating pad. This will then burn the fuel you released earlier, but the flame at this point is a very sooty yellow flame, so it is best to do the pre-heating with the upper half of the Trangia body removed to avoid coating the whole thing in a thick layer of black. As the released fuel burns off, just as the flame dies down, you can then start to open the valve slowly and the liquid fuel in the bottle will be turned into gas by the hot body of the burner and it is ready for cooking.
When you get to the end of cooking, you need to empty the fuel pipe before you can disconnect the fuel bottle and this can take a further 2 minutes of cooking. This can be done quite easily when you are only boiling water as you just add a further 150ml of water to the kettle and roll the bottle to the off position, but it is a bit more difficult to predict when you want to switch off when you are cooking a meal.
– Cheap fuel (1 to 2 Euros buys 1 litre of barbeque lighter fluid (giving approx 3 weeks cooking)
– Wide variety of possible fuels making it easy to find something that will work
– Burner fits firmly and easily into Trangia base as it is well designed for this
– Good controllable heat range, but simmer point is not as low as with gas burner
– Fuel pipe is short, so the fuel bottle is not too far from the unit
– Valve for fuel outlet, is at the stove-end so easy to use (easier than Optimus Nova+)
– Can be a fiddle to light (but experience helps)
– Pre-heating can be a pain but should only take 2 to 3 minutes
– You can’t switch off mid-cooking and then fire it up again a few minutes later without needing to pre-heat again
– Yellow flames are full of soot and if you let it touch anything, it will be covered
– Until you are familiar with the burner & fuel, you will have big yellow flames from time to time during pre-heating
– You can’t just switch off and pack away, you must first empty to fuel pipe
During 2012 we used the multi-fuel burner most days, mainly as it was cheaper but also because it was working easily & reliably, so there was no need to use up the gas which was just time consuming to find a replacement for. I’m sure if we looked hard enough in any city, we would manage to find a good camping shop with camping gas, but the time needed to do that was just off putting. So we would normally travel with one gas canister plus liquid fuel and the gas would get used when it rained and we wanted to cook inside the vestibule of the tent. We also have 2 fuel bottles, one for attaching to the stove and one for carrying up to 1 litre of spare fuel. When using fluid, you cannot fill to full the fuel bottle, you must leave space to enable you to pressurise the vessel, but that means topping it up can be troublesome if you only have one bottle, thus carrying a litre bottle for spare fuel and then a 500ml bottle for attaching to the stove, works well as about 4 or 5 days after the big bottle gets emptied, you then start to think about getting it refilled.
Overall, we’re pleased with the performance of the Trangia multi-fuel burner and are glad we bought it … but if gas was cheaper and always available, I’d use gas every day.
2013 Update – cold weather and new adaptor
We bought our last barbeque lighter fluid in Kyrgyzstan in September 2012 and as soon as we got into China, that was no longer available so we switched to unleaded Petrol which needless to say was easy to find, although when a large bicycle pulled up at the petrol pumps, it sometimes confused the pump attendants. Without the 2nd fuel bottle that we carry, buying petrol would have been almost impossible. So during October, we cooked with petrol and that worked fine, but as the weather in northern China got colder, the reliability of the multi-fuel burner deteriorated significantly. At first I didn’t make the link between the colder weather & the bad performance and thought that I must have damaged the head of the burner or moved the position of the burner-plate such that the distance from the jet to the plate had been altered, so I first fashioned a protective hood for the burner from a small tin-can to protect the burner-head when packed into the trailer bag and then started to bend things to try to improve the performance, but it didn’t help much. Anyway, by November, it was just about freezing every night by the time we had the tent up and were cooking our dinner, so it was preferable to cook inside the tent, thus we started to use gas again which was thankfully easier to find in some parts of China so we bought 2 big tins at a time.
In 2013, once we got to the warmer weather of southern China and south-east Asia, the multi-fuel burner was in use most days again, burning petrol all the time as it is the easiest fuel to find. The performance of the burner has not been as good as it was during early 2012 (perhaps I have damaged it after all) but it has worked adequately. I have also had to strip the burner a number of times to clean carbon deposits from all around the hot area, and on more than one occasion, the dismantled parts have been left overnight in a mug of coca-cola to help break down the carbon. By mid-2013 when we were part way through Vietnam, the weather was becoming too hot to camp anymore and when we were finding a guesthouse for the evening, it wasn’t always possible to get one where we could cook outside (I won’t light the petrol burner inside as I fear it is more likely to set off fire-alarms or just smell much more with the sooty smoke kicked off during the pre-heating stage) so we started to use the gas again but it remained difficult to source … that was until we reached Thailand and to Bangkok.
Most of the big supermarkets in Thailand sell a compact gas bottle, but the valve (or nozzle) on the bottle is not compatible with our Trangia gas burner, so not much use to us … or at least that was until we found an adaptor in a camping shop in Bangkok. Now we can buy bottles of gas for less than ?1 and we can cook indoors with ease.
Eating out is much cheaper in China and south-east Asia than anywhere else that we’ve been, so we would normally buy our lunch in a little cafe, but when it comes to a good sized meal at the end of a hard cycling day, it’s hard to beat cooking for yourself.
End of 2013, we are staying on the Thai island of Koh Tao and the stove is being used very little as we can buy a cheap local meal for nearly the same as it would cost for us to make it ourselves and since we are not cycling every day, the smaller portion size of a restaurant is helping us keep our weight under control.