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Can You Take Esbit Fuel Tablets on a Plane?

Esbit Fuel Tablets

I’d always heard that you can carry Esbit Fuel Tablets on an airplane in checked baggage. It’s one of the main arguments people use to recommend them for international travel.

While that may have been true before 9/11 and the creation of the TSA, it’s not true anymore. TSA rules prohibit you from carrying Esbit Fuel Tablets onto an airplane (in their jurisdiction) or from checking Esbit Fuel Tablets or any kind of cooking fuel in your luggage.

No – you can’t bring Esbit Fuel Tablets on an airplane.


TSA Explosive & Flammable Materials, Disabling Chemicals & Other Dangerous Items
TSA Explosive & Flammable Materials, Disabling Chemicals & Other Dangerous Items
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  1. The real question is, why bother? Ultra light alcohol stoves put out more heat with less weight for the entire kit and burn Heet, (in the yellow bottle) or grain alcohol. The former is available at any gas station or convenience store and the latter is available in most states with the exception of Maine and possibly Utah. The stoves made by a professional stovemaker out of recycled aluminum beverage cans or machined aluminum are dependable and very lightweight. Furthermore they can actually boil water, (ie, purify) or melt snow. Just sayin’………

    • The real question is, why bother, with alcohol?

      Consider the following cooking strategy which I am taking on my next backpacking trip. Wood stove with esbit as a backpup for wet days. That vitually eliminates the need for me to carry any fuel and if I really wanted to I could skip the wood stove too and just cook over a fire and some rocks. Carrying alcohol is such a bother, especially on trips where there is no way to resupply. Esbit is a good alternative backup fuel and much easier to pack/transport than alcohol.

      • Can you by Esbit at 1 AM when your plan landed at 11:30 PM? IMHO sooty pans suck.

        • The soot is not too bad and can be washed off. Skurka’s persuaded me that fire is a viable cooking strategy on a long hike without resupplies. No problem resupplying wood after you get off a plane.

  2. Would recommend that people read the source material……especially the first item listed here:

    • Given the ban on cooking fuels, which is unambiguous, I think it would be dangerous to suggest that a gel-type candle and Esbit fall in the same category. I wouldn’t risk the fine or jail time for $6 worth of fuel. What do you recommend to your customers on the subject of flying in the US with Esbit?

    • Was looking into this and found the TSA site frustratingly ambiguous until I found this page…

      and if you open up the section entitled “Security Violations by Individuals for Prohibited Items Discovered at Checkpoint/Sterile Area/Onboard Aircraft”

      you will find this statement…

      “Any flammable liquid or gel fuels, including but not limited to gasoline, lighter fluids, cooking fuels; turpentine and paint thinners
      $350 – $2,050”

      Esbit is a “gel fuel” …end of story. Don’t fly with it.

      • Oh and yes, I know that technically Esbit is not made with a jelling process but it has the same general purpose and similar properties to products that are, like sterno. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then to a non chemist (and the TSA) it is the same thing. Plus the actual chemical, Hexamine, is a precursor to an explosive which makes it likely to set off sniffer alarms and the like. They didn’t say “solid fuels” because wood is a solid fuel.

  3. I just got back from a trip to the Whites. My wife has always loved her clunky propane stove and this trip I got her to try a small butane stove and a White Box alcohol stove. She wasn’t too impressed with the cheap butane stove I brought (the burner was too concentrated) but really liked the wide even flame from the White Box. The White Box will also stay lit for 15-18 minutes for scrambling eggs, doing pancakes, etc. For our next adventure, I’ll introduce her to my wood stove. I have to do things like this gradually. Since I’m the dish washer, I’ll be the one to deal with soot.

    I met a section hiker on Franconia Ridge who uses Esbit because “I always know how much fuel I have.” He says a tablet boils a half liter for him, which handles his usual meal needs.

    Speaking of TSA, I usually wear my Ribz front pack when checking in and stuff it to the gills to cut down on weight and bulk in my other luggage. On this trip, someone in the security line decided my Ribz looked too much like a suicide vest and singled me out for extra special attention. He demanded I hold it in my hand and not wear it, wanted to know the contents (small pillow, rain jacket, batteries for cell phone, etc.), sent it through X-ray by itself, personally inspected the contents, swabbed the vest and all that was in it, swabbed my hands and wallet, and sent everything I had back through X-ray again. It’s a good thing I didn’t have anything prohibited with me.

    Next time, I’ll just have the Ribz slung over my shoulder.

    I hear Guantanamo Bay is really nice this time of year…

    • Rand – what Grandpa is saying is that you “really want to fly under the radar with the TSA.” No need to aggravate them by arguing about what’s a candle and what isn’t.

      • Yeah, I don’t really like getting into “discussions” with people who carry guns, know how to use them, and are paid NOT to have a sense of humor!

  4. Good timing. Going on a hiking trip to Iceland soon. Will take the matches out of my backpack. But, good to know I can bring a snow globe :)

  5. I use the Webber Grill starters. Orderless non toxic. Light when wet. Not saying i buy it here, but a good description. Cut them in 1/4’s for just a fire starter.

    Can be used alone, but I use them in my Kifaru stove. Never have to worry about the wet stuff Phil talks about all the time. I sleep in a tipi also with my stove. Stuff dreams are made of. Amazing how the hardest rain for days you can still stay dry, and start every day fresh and dry with a stove.

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