Reposted from Hikin Jim (Adventures In Stoving)
Are alcohol stoves safe?
So, first issue: Are alcohol stoves safe? I mean is the fire shown in the video (http://vimeo.com/42292090) just a fluke?
I think it depends a bit on the design of the stove. I’ve personally never used a “tippy” or unstable alcohol stove — but not all alcohol stoves are equally stable and safe. Note: An alcohol stove that uses an absorbent wicking material (e.g. carbon felt or similar) would probably be safer, depending on how much alcohol was added to the stove.
I’m always very careful about how I use a stove. I’ve never felt like I was endangering the forest (that I love), but realistically not everyone is as careful, and, even if I’m careful, no amount of care is ever 100%. What if I knock it over? What if a strong gust of wind tips it over? Flaming alcohol everywhere. Sometimes I’ll use a full ounce (~30ml) of alcohol at a time. If spilled, that could spread over an area that I might not be able to extinguish. Some fellow hikers have challenged me on the safety of alcohol stoves. I have to admit that I don’t have a good rebuttal.
There’s another hazard besides simple spilling: refueling. The flames of alcohol typically cannot be seen during daylight hours. Stories abound of people trying to refuel a stove that they thought was no longer burning only to have huge flames burst out as they poured alcohol into a burning stove. And where does that now flaming container go when things catch fire? Most of us would drop it or throw it, which could be a real disaster. Always feel for heat with your naked hand before refueling an alcohol stove. Do NOT depend on being able to see the flames.