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I'm about to go on a 2 month trip from England to Mongolia via Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakstan to mention a few far flung countries. Ideally I'd want a gas stove top such that refuelling the canister wouldn't be a problem.

Is gas the best solution, or would some sort of alcohol based fuel be better? If I was to use gas, could I take with me a 'universal' adapter of sorts in order to use local canisters?

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Problem with gas is that you can't take the can with you to the plane. I've met a traveller to New Zealand who carried a benzine stove with him. –  Tomas May 13 '12 at 13:52
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3 Answers 3

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A stove that handles multiple forms of fuel is well suited for this sort of travel. I think the go-to one is the MSR Dragonfly which works with white gas (aka naphtha), kerosene, unleaded auto fuel, diesel, and even jet fuel. Another advantage of this setup is you don't have to worry about finding compatible fuel canisters in a foreign country or buying new ones each time you fly, you just use one (or more) fuel bottles and empty it before your flights.

There might be other brands that also do this besides MSR, I'm personally only familiar with the Dragonfly, I've had mine for 10 years and although it's as loud as a jet engine I've never had to do any maintenance on it but am grateful that they offer a service kit so that you don't have to go looking for new stove in Timbuktu.

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I went camping in most of the the stans (not Afghanistan), China and Iran, and we used an alcohol burner. It's obviously slow, but worked well. We used rubbing alcohol as fuel, which we could buy in every country, even Iran, at pharmacies for very little money (the percentage - about 70% - turned out to work well with the burner).

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It's no huge biggie either way, but personally I'd recommend alcohol:

  • You're going to countries with a relatively warm climate - gas in pressurised containers has more potential to go "boom" than alcohol.
  • If the gas does escape in a confined area it makes the entire area highly flammable, again moreso in a hotter climate. If it's alcohol, you can get away from it.
  • Alcohol doesn't need any fancy adaptors or such things, you just buy it and pour it in, end of. (Note: I'm not aware of whether foreign gas cylinders are different and if so what adaptors might be required, but with alcohol this problem just isn't there.)
  • ..and because it doesn't need any fancy adapters that cuts down on the amount you need to carry, weight wise and bulk wise.
  • Alcohol stoves are simpler and therefore generally more reliable too, the trangia being a prime example.

That's not to say gas doesn't have its advantages, it's less messy than alcohol (just screw in and go) and usually gives a much better heat output, therefore cooking more quickly.

Note that I'm not aware of how widely available alcohol / gas are in the parts of the world you're going to, so if one is much more readily available than the other, that may (rightly so) heavily influence your decision.

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I think the biggest question is: how available is alcohol on this type of trip? Most alcohol stoves are only efficient with certain types and in my North American experience, they are generally available only in car part shops and large gas stations. Is the same true in Turkmenistan? –  Ryley May 10 '12 at 17:50
    
@Ryley This is very true, I'm not 100% sure of availability either. Then again, while stoves are often only most efficient with certain types, they'll still work to some degree with other types which is arguably better than nothing. –  berry120 May 10 '12 at 18:16
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My bet would be that gas or kerosene is much more commonly available. Thus, a stove like a MSR Whisperlite International is often the goto for this type of trip. –  Ryley May 10 '12 at 18:34
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