Ultralight Cooking without a Stove

How would you like to eliminate the weight of your backpacking stove and the fuel container (canister, liquid fuel bottle, or alcohol bottle) that you use to carry your cooking fuel on backpacking trips while still being able to boil water and cook meals? What would that save you? Anywhere from 3 to 8 ounces, or even more?

ESBIT Solid Fuel Tablets are the way to go! These 14-gram solid fuel cubes don’t require a fuel bottle or a stove to use. They’re super reliable, easy to pack, cost-effective (about $0.50 per cube), they have a shelf life of 10 years, and you always know exactly how much fuel you have left.

Each ESBIT cube burns for 13 minutes at 1300 degrees. The average boil time for 500 ml of water is 8 minutes, making them perfect for rehydrating freeze-dried dinners, dehydrated meals, or freezer bag cooking. A stove is completely optional when cooking with ESBIT fuel cubes. I use the top of a small can to avoid burning the ground. Add in a small wire screen to hold your pot over the flame, a titanium foil windscreen, and a small titanium cook pot and you have an ultralight cooking system without a stove or fuel bottle.

A titanium foil windscreen significantly improves ESBIT cube performance and reduces cook time
A titanium foil windscreen significantly improves ESBIT cube performance and reduces cook time

More Advantages of ESBIT backpacking fuel:

  • ESBIT will burn in very cold temperatures at any altitude since it doesn’t rely on canister pressure
  • ESBIT is easy to light
  • ESBIT makes a great campfire starter when broken up into smaller pieces
  • You can blow out the unused portion of an ESBIT cube and relight it later
  • Very compact to carry
  • Only carry the fuel you need, not extra as you do with canister, alcohol, or white gas.

Disadvantages of ESBIT Backpacking Fuel

ESBIT also has a few minor disadvantages, but I feel that these are minor compared to its benefits.

  • Leaves a residue on the outside of your cookpot, similar to soot from a wood stove
  • ESBIT cubes smell like cat piss and are best carried in a Ziploc baggie
Complete ESBIT cooking kit including vaseline dipped cotton balls and three ESBIT cubes for a fast overnight 1 night backpacking trip
Complete ESBIT cooking kit including vaseline dipped cotton balls for easy fire starting and three ESBIT cubes for a fast overnight 1-night backpacking trip

Complete ESBIT Cooking Kit

Since switching to ESBIT solid fuel cubes from a collapsible wood stove, I can fit my entire fire starting and cooking kit inside my titanium cook pot which makes packing a breeze. Gear compactness is one of the cornerstones of ultralight backpacking, but it can be difficult to achieve.

My cooking kit consists of:

Minus consumables, that puts the total weight of my entire cook system at 194g/(6.85 oz). I could easily chop even more weight from this system if I really wanted to, but I’ve owned these components for several years and like my setup as it is.

Still, at 6.85 oz., compare the weight of my cook system with the MSR WindBurner Cook System (16.75 oz. not including a gas canister) or the Jetboil Minimo (15.6 oz. not including a gas canister), and you can see how big these weight savings are.

If you want to slash the weight of your cook system without eliminating it altogether, try ESBIT Solid Fuel Cubes.

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  1. ” ESBIT cubes smell like cat piss and are best carried in a Ziplock baggie”

    This is what I love about your reviews Philip: You tell it like it is.


    • I love ESBIT cubes and have been carrying them for years. Another advantage, if you’re flying to a location to backpack these can go on the plane and you don’t have to worry about finding camping fuel once you arrive. The smell is the only downside- though I think it smells more like fish or whale oil (easily resolved with ziplock baggies). One cube will heat enough water for my dehydrated mean and for a hot beverage.

  2. I have been using Esbit for several years and find the weight savings worth the small downside.
    To save even more weight, I use a GRAM CRACKER stove ( DIY plans are on the internet)
    Made from aluminum flashing about 3 grams.

    My wind screen in custom to fit my pot, 1/2″ in diameter larger than the pot.
    Notch the screen to fit the pot handle. The pot is supported by a cut off bicycle spoke inserted through the screen and the notch in the wind screen. This eliminates the need for the wire screen.

    2 cubes per day is also all I need the cook breakfast and dinner.

  3. I’ve gone stoveless, but I carry an emergency stove & several cubes in case I absolutely need something hot. It’s worth the few ounces to reduce The Hubs’ fear I’m going to freeze to death.

  4. Are you actually using the “Evernew Titanium (Medium-sized) Pasta Pot (110g)” which is 1 liter? If so, why not a 500/550ml pot?

    • More accident than not. I bought my first Evernew pasta pot 9 years ago and liked the size because I could fit a large canister and a small inside. Since then I’ve replaced it after crushing it in a fall and still like that size even though I rarely use a canister now. For one, it fits my fire making kit really well and two, I like to boil more than 500 ml of water at a time for the soupy meals I eat in the morning and night and the massive pot of coffee I make for breakfast.

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