Esbit or Bleuet? Weighing the lightweight solid fuel choices.

I just returned from a 12-day backpack trip (not a bike trip, sorry) hiking the 120-mile Northville-Placid Trail end-to-end through the Adirondacks.  Over the decades, I’ve used a variety of camping stoves and fuels.  This was the first long trip on which I used Esbit/Bleuet solid fuel tablets the whole time.  The reasons were many: difficulty in procuring denatured alcohol and propane/butane canister fuel, the fact I could ship Esbit/Bleuet in my food drop, the ability to burn wood along with Esbit/Bleuet to save fuel, the lighter weight of the solid fuel tablets, and the fact you can “recapture” any bits of unburnt fuel and use it for the next meal.  (By the way, instead of denatured alcohol, Heet was available at “Casey’s Corner,” the deli in Piseco near the NPT.)

Esbit-brand or Bleuet-brand?
I use a Caldera Cone from Trail Designs and, up till now, I’ve only used Esbit-brand tablets.  I found the only drawbacks of Esbit to be the price and the seemingly long time it took to boil a liter of water, compared to alcohol and canister stoves.  As the trip’s departure dated neared, I discovered I could acquire only half the number of Esbit tablets I wanted, so I bought Bleuet tablets for the mail drop — the second half of the trip — thinking they probably wouldn’t be as good.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Bleuet-brand tablets boiled water more quickly than the Esbit tablets.  Though they smelled a lot worse when they burned, left behind ash after they were spent, and weighed a tiny bit more, I appreciated the faster boil times, which meant more hot tea in more scenic places along the trail.  The price difference between Esbit and Bleuet was negligible.  Going forward, I’ll probably buy Bleuet when I have the choice, though I’d recommend Esbit for those concerned about the very nasty smell of the Bleuet flame.

Have fun and stay healthy on the trail,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2012 Robert Matson

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