Esbit Solid Fuel Stove and Cookset Review

Esbit Solid Fuel Stove and Cookset Review

The Esbit Solid Fuel Stove and Cookset is a complete and inexpensive backpacking cooking system including a combination stove, pot stand, and windscreen with an anodized aluminum cook pot that has insulated folding handles and a lid. Weighing 7.7 ounces / 218 g, the entire unit nests inside the pot for easy packing together with the fuel cubes you need for your trip and a mini bic lighter.

Specs at a Glance

  • Actual Weight: 7.7 oz / 218 g (minus cloth stuff sacks)
  • Material: Anodized aluminum
  • Pot capacity: 20 oz
  • Liquid measurements: Yes, embossed on pot
  • Pour spout: Yes
  • Lid handle: Yes
  • Fuel required: 14 g Esbit fuel cubes (not included)
The lid has a special hook which lets you prop it on the edge of the pot when you want to simmer.
The lid has a special hook that lets you prop it on the edge of the pot when you want to simmer.

If you’ve never tried an Esbit stove for backpacking, you might be surprised by its simplicity, ultralight weight, and convenience. It’s perfect for short 1-2 night trips when you just need to heat up water for rehydrating food or to cook up a simple one-pot meal. I just pop a few Esbit fuel cubes (sold in packs of 12) into my cook kit (usually 2-3 cubes per day) instead of hunting around for a partially full gas canister (for a canister stove) and trying to figure out whether it has enough fuel left in it.

There’s no waste after using a cube, other than a foil package, and you can even simmer food, by breaking a fuel cube into smaller pieces so they generate less heat. You can also blow out the flame if you don’t need an entire cube, and save the rest for later. While it takes about 8 minutes to boil a cup of water with a single cube, you can speed that up by breaking a cube in half and standing the pieces up vertically (See How to Speed Up Esbit Cube Cooking).  Perhaps most importantly, this Esbit stove will never fail and you never have to worry about stove/canister compatibility since Esbit is not mechanical at all. Esbit also makes a decent campfire starter, or so I’m told.

With Esbit, you only carry the fuel you need and not a heavy container
With Esbit, you only carry the fuel you need and not a heavy container

The pot in this cooking system has a lid with a handle, long insulated folding handles, embossed graduated liquid measurements, and a pour spout. The lid can also be propped up on the side of the pot to allow simmering. The stand is a combination windscreen, pot stand, and stove, holding the Esbit fuel cube at the proper distance for cooking.

The stand acts as a wind screen and stove, positioning the fuel cube at the optimal distance below the pot.
The stand acts as a windscreen and stove, positioning the fuel cube at the optimal distance below the pot.

This cooking system also comes with two cloth bags, one for the pot stand and one for the pot. While the system nests completely in the pot, I’d hold onto those bags and use them because it stops any rattling sound that the components make when carried together. A small piece of towel also works.

You can assemble an Esbit cook system that’s a few ounces lighter weight than this, but you’ll have to shell out a lot more money for a titanium pot, a titanium pot screen, a wire pot holder, and a fuel cube stand. That is certainly an option, but I still think the Esbit Solid Fuel Stove and Cookset is an excellent value and one that’s convenient to use out of the box.

Disclosure: The author owns this product.

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35 comments

  1. There aren’t too many bad things you can say about Esbit stoves. I have been using the pop-up stamped steel Esbit stove for several years and it’s still the mainstay in my backpacking kit. The stove, a few fuel cubes, lighter, small plastic spoon, aluminum foil wind screen, a couple of small take-out salt & pepper packs, a few bags of Twinings Earl Grey, and a paper towel sheet or two all fit into my Stanley 24oz stainless steel Adventure Camp Cookset. The residue left behind on the camp cup by the fuel cubes is easily removed by scrubbing with a used tea bag or just some wet leaves from the forest floor. The reviewed Esbit cookset here looks like a winner, too!

  2. An Esbit “stove” was my first personal backpacking stove, and I think that is where the system really shines.

    It has an extremely low up front cost. The system you reviewed here includes the stove and pot, but costs less than the MSR Pocket Rocket stove alone. Alternatively, you can buy an Esbit stove that costs $10-15 new. If you’re just trying out backpacking, it can be very expensive, which is frightening when you’re not even sure it’s something you want to do.

    Esbit stoves are foolproof. If you’ve ever lit and blown out a candle, know how to operate an Esbit stove. You don’t have to worry about measuring the right amount of alcohol or figuring out how much fuel is left in a canister.

    For a 1-3 night trip (which is what most beginners will be doing), the Esbit is really light because it’s easy and intuitive to bring the right amount of fuel.

    Esbit is a beginner-friendly option that is also cheap and light. It’s the equivalent of an internal frame, 2.5 lb backpack for $70, or a 2-person, freestanding, 3 lb tent for $90.

  3. I have a thing about stoves. Multifuel, petrol, gas, alcohol, gel and esbit. Haven’t tried the stick ones yet though. I never any fuel for them where I go.
    For esbit, I have the traditional fold out cooker and the crusader cook system. The crusader is quite heavy but it does work and is pretty bombproof. Trouble is getting fuel at the moment. I have a few tablets left and that is it.
    Usually I prefer alcohol stoves though. At the moment I’m using a speedster no-spill and wire stand with my own windshield. Quite impressed by that and the burner fits in the crusader if I want to take that.

  4. For $55 you could buy the Trail Designs Caldera Sidewinder Solo that’s 2.6 ounces / 75 grams lighter (in stripped-down Esbit mode), with a 500 ml larger pot. I’ve found similar TD systems *very* wind resistant.

    How wind-resistant is this Esbit stove?

    • Well, it is fully enclosed. Probably as good as a cone.

      • Nope…..the Caldera Sidewinder completely covers the pot, and funnels all the heat to the sides of the pot…..more efficient…..more wind resistant.

        Editor: the comment author co-owns Trail Designs, the manufacturer of this product.

        • …..none of which alters the laws of physics.

        • As I said below – too much faff with the Caldera system. If packed space is your biggest priority, you’ll be hard pressed to get much smaller than this Esbit cookset. The Caldera plastic caddy is considerably larger (on the units that use one) as I recall, and you get a cook pot with built in folding handles instead of a pot gripper. But everyone has different priorities.

        • Literally hundreds of variations of the cone systems, many that pack in the pot, come with the pot, pot has handles….in addition to the added efficiency, wind protection, more stable base, etc.

        • But none that pack up as small as this Esbit system or as inexpensive. Give it up Rand.

  5. I have a titanium Esbit holder with pot stands—an extremely light setup. I sure wish something could be done about the penetrating Esbit smell.

  6. I have the Esbit stove set reviewed here, although I usually use a stove I made from a couple cat food cans, along with an Olicamp pot with head exchanger. Sometimes the pot just goes on the campfire, if we have one. My biggest issue with Esbit in the last year is that I couldn’t find it anywhere prior to my last section hike. Fortunately, my hiking buddy had enough for me.

  7. Bill in Roswell GA

    I knew of Esbit from years ago. The local military surplus sold them. But I knew nothing ABOUT Esbit until Philip mentioned a few years ago that is his winter go-to. In the meantime I got a Caldera Cone setup for summer short trip use. Though it can be efficient, there is a lot of faff to deal with as the Brits say. Esbit tabs are much easier to get the right amount to boil 2 cups of water than dealing w alcohol measuring. Two halved cubes burn very efficently. Like w alcohol, the trick is to get the distance from flame to pot just right. I found 1.25 inches to be ideal with my cut down Cone and Evernew .75 pasta pot. Great setup for short trips!

  8. Kathy from NH (AT, IANST, SHT, Great Eastern Trail)

    I’ve used Esbit tabs exclusively for 11 years of long-distance backpacking, and I have never—repeat, never—crossed paths with anyone else who uses them. My complete cook kit comprises ti pot and lid, DIY aluminum-flashing windscreen/pot stand (which uses two titanium tent stakes to hold up the pot), plastic cup with lid, mini-lighter, pot scraper, and Lexan spoon—all nested in a DIY cozy and in a drawstring bag. Total weight 11 oz. Can’t be beat and have never been tempted to switch to anything else.

    I only do long trips; using home-dehydrated dinners in my Esbit system ensures that I get a hot, filling, interesting meal at the end of every hiking day.

  9. You (wisely) probably did not want to get lost in details but you use of Vaseline cotton balls to help get the burn started is worth mentioning. I used to use a few drops of Colman fuel but your way is better

  10. I’m glad you like it. As far as I’m concerned, using Esbit would be its own punishment.

    I tried Esbit about 15 years ago and immediately wrote it off. Huge disappointment after reading about it for a couple of years before that. It did not work for me in any way at all.

    Issues:

    1) It did not bring 16 oz of water to a boil. Not with one tablet, not after using a second tablet immediately following the first, not with two tablets together. I tried this in my kitchen sink. In calm, room temperature air, using not-freezing-cold tap water.

    2) It left a seriously revolting and gummy residue on the pot’s bottom. It would not scrub off. It eventually mostly burned off.

    3) Hugely expensive, at least half a dollar per tablet as I recall. Maybe more. Crazy.

    Alcohol has worked far better for me. Cheap, clean, easy to make a variety of stoves to suit one’s needs using almost no tools. And I have no issues with carrying or measuring alcohol.

    “You don’t have to worry about measuring the right amount of alcohol or figuring out how much fuel is left…”

    No, you don’t.

    I carry alcohol in a clear Platypus half-liter bladder, so I always know what I have, and the bladder’s cap (and also a standard soft drink bottle cap) measure 1/4 ounce, or close enough that it doesn’t matter. And you can always measure out fractions of that. Totally simple: Measure, cook, done.

  11. That is a nice turnkey kit for new Esbit users. The review was very balanced and fair: great job!

  12. I took them on a hike and absolutely hated them. It was windy, and even with a windscreen, I could barely get a warm meal. I bought them as they are light and cheap and I got what I paid for. I wouldn’t recommend these to an enemy. As soon as I got home, I threw everything related to them out.

    I’d put this in the gimmick category. For those that like them, I respect that, but I’m not one of you.

  13. Speaking of leftover Esbit to be used later, I found that putting the remaining Esbit in an airtight container as soon as possible will help to light it easier.(maybe open air adds moisture to the Esbit).Also tar paper makes a pretty good fire starter.

  14. Bill in Roswell GA

    Per Mr. Sailer and Mr. Manning, my first uses of alcohol and Esbit were similar. Then I discovered bespoke windscreens for various pots. Only then was the lower BTU output of alcohol/Esbit efficient enough to boil a pint of water in 5 min or less. The Caldera Cone shape added further efficiency. This has been shown by objective testing by some highly qualified people (real world and academic). Iso-butane has a far higher BTU value that can overcome some stove/wind inefficiencies. At the moment I’m not inclined to look up the BTU values of common backpacking fuels but they are widely published. The point being, apply efficiency principles to most any fuel and you can have a viable cook system. Things now are not what they were 15 years ago if you are willing to look forward in cooking system thought and design.

  15. The pictures make it look like you could add a few twigs to that stove and get some extra heat or even use it for cooking if you ran out of esbit tabs. Have you ever tried that? It might add to the appeal of that set up.

  16. Nice setup but once again I think the Trail Designs Caldera Cone is more efficient.

    • P.S. Not to mention lighter and more compact when stored.

      • The only times I have gotten a full boil from Esbit was using a Caldera Cone. I use a measuring cup from a liquid medicine bottle with alcohol. My canister stove wouldn’t work this spring even though I slept with the canister. I’m glad I brought the alcohol to try out.

  17. Hi Philip, Thanks for the good article. How does his Esbit pot system compare to the Flat Cat Gear Esbit tray system? I realize it may be more expensive, but I believe it fits into an Evernew pot with one of the Flat Cat windscreens.

    • I don’t know what that is. Maybe Jon can respond since he owns the company!

    • The OP is talking about an inexpensive and complete Esbit Cooking System and as far as that goes, It can’t be beat (completenes & Price). It will be heavier and less versitile than other systems. With respect to our system (Flat Cat Gear), the key advantage to our Epicurean Stove is that it has 2 heat outputs: Boil & simmer/bake. This stove is deal for people who want to do more than just boil water, we routinely bake burgers and pizzas on the trail. BEst regards.

  18. Great review. I’m a fan of Esbit, but that smell (ack). Good thing there are smell proof bags. I’m hoping some day there will be a more eco-friendly substitute that can match the weight and efficiency of Esbit. I’m a bit turned off by the formaldehyde and cyanide that burns off. I think BCB Fire Dragon’s alcohol cubes (British military) is close, but they are heavier and clunkier than the compact Esbit – a reliable heat source used the world over for decades must be doing something right. Always a pleasure reading your experienced point of view

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