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Is there a camping stove that works with fuel you are allowed to take on a plane?

Often I fly somewhere without possibility to buy any fuel for my stove after landing. In those cases I take an Esbit stove with me. The Esbit tablets are not allowed on a plane, but don't stand out when going through the scanner so they almost always pass without a problem.

However, illegal is illegal and I would feel better having an option that will not get confiscated when detected. Does such an option exist?

I realise that there is a very bad fit between the words "flammable" and "airplane", but hoped that someone knows an option that I didn't think about.

Border condition: regular commercial flights where you have to go trough a security check at an international airport. Liquid fuels and camping gas are usually mentioned in the pictograms with forbidden objects. The time that my Esbit tablets were caught the discussion was over when the flammable icon on the package was spotted.

Problems that I've encountered with gas/diesel:

  • I usually depend on public transportation. A pump is often not exactly within walking distance of the airport. Especially troublesome if you have a limited connection time to get the bus or train.
  • Pumps often don't like filling my small bottle. They want a minimum amount (usually solved if you pay for that minimum amount) and I've had cases where filling a metal container was not allowed. I've solved that by buying a bottle of some drink, drinking it, filling the bottle and pouring from drinking bottle to fuel bottle.
  • Messy to get rid of the remainder when flying back. The best way to do that would be another question.

By taking my fuel with me I basically want to eliminate a factor that is largely out of my control, not always predictable and a potential time sink. I often fly somewhere for 2-4 days and then you don't want to burn that time running errands.

  • 2
    In Alaska bush planes deliver fuel/gas - it might be better to include in this question, what the restriction you are trying to overcome are. – James Jenkins Sep 5 '16 at 19:54
  • Use a liquid fuel stove. I don't believe gas/diesel/kerosene is unavailable wherever you are headed – whatsisname Sep 5 '16 at 20:33
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    Where specifically are you landing where there is no possibility of fuel after arrival? – wallyk Sep 5 '16 at 20:50
  • I agree that it can be a major hassle, but I think the basic answer to your question is no. Problems that I've encountered with gas/diesel [...] Messy to get rid of the remainder when flying back. What's worked for me is just to give it as a gift to a taxi driver. They appreciate it, and it's environmentally neutral. – Ben Crowell Sep 5 '16 at 22:34
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    just for the heck of it, what about a solar cooker? tho it might be a bit bulky... – HTDutchy Sep 6 '16 at 9:44
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The short answer is "not really". At least within the US, liquids with an alcohol content of 70% or greater are not permitted in checked bags or carry-on, and those are the most likely of the fuels you might have been able to get through. (Gasoline, kerosene, etc. are certainly not permitted.) You may wish to experiment using 65% ABV beverages to fuel an alcohol stove.

However, there are two non-standard options: wood or twig burning stoves, and ethanol. (Yes, I know ethanol is an alcohol, bear with me...) A twig burning stove can be fueled on-site if you're in a forest, and you can similarly carry large amounts of "fuel" on the plane with you. The ethanol option will be available to scientific researchers. To quote from the FAA's Pack Safe site regarding "Biological specimens, non-infectious, in preservative solutions":

Quantity limits: No more than 30 ml of free liquid solution in each inner packaging and no more than one liter in the entire outer package.*

Inner packagings must be placed in a heat-sealed plastic bag.

Heat-sealed plastic bags must be placed in another heat-sealed plastic bag with enough absorbent material to absorb all of the contents of the inner containers. That bag is then put into a strong outer packaging with sufficient cushioning material.

The outer package is suitable marked "Scientific research specimens, 49 CFR 173.4b applies."

For complete packaging requirements and options see 49 CFR 173.4b(b).

See the regulation: 49 CFR 175.10(a)(22) and 49 CFR 173.4b(b)

*Liquids, gels, and aerosols in carry-on baggage are further limited to 100-ml (3.4 oz) containers at the TSA security checkpoint.

As you can see, this is likely far less convenient than attempting to find fuel locally.


Finally, one other point you should be aware of. Fuel vapors are cause to reject a stove or empty fuel container, meaning if the screener smells white gas, out it goes. Using denatured alcohol to clean the container and leaving it in a warm spot to "bake" dry may help. For a stove, running it for a time on butane might similarly help, as mentioned in this thread.

An alternate option to consider is shipping fuel to your destination ahead of time, particularly if you'll be staying at a hotel upon arrival. Having someone at your destination who can obtain or hold the fuel for you is also useful.

ref: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/hazmat_safety/

  • 1
    +1. I like the idea of wood burner as a correct answer to the question - BUT they may fall foul of some countries biosecurity rules and you could loose them at the other end of the flight. – user5330 Sep 6 '16 at 3:32
  • I agree with @mattnz, you can't even take firewood across state lines in the north eastern US. – plast1k Sep 9 '16 at 16:28
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I would avoid man-made fuel based stoves all together and just use a titanium wood burning stove. They are also great for areas were large fires are prohibited, but you just want the comfort of a very small well contained fire. They may not work well in some areas that are low on wood or other burnable resources (e.g. dry leaves, tinder, paper, etc.), or where those resources may be prohibited from use (i.e. protected areas). I've traveled once on a commercial and once on a private aircraft with a titanium wood burning without any issues.

Here is an example from REI: https://www.rei.com/product/829302/vargo-titanium-hexagon-backpacking-wood-stove

2

If it is going to produce enough heat to cook a plane is going to have problems with it. A solid fuel is very stable and not likely to cause a problem. For sure don't cheat with a compressed gas like propane or butane that could go pissss at low pressure.

A liquid fuel like white gas in a high end bottle is a safe bet but may still be confiscated. Put wine in two and hope they don't check the third? Sneak with a plastic container is a no. Sneak is no - they may put you on a dangerous passenger list.

There are multi fuel stoves like a MSR® XGK. If you are dropped in the middle of now where with absolutely no fuel I would hope you would have a sympathetic pilot to white gas.

2

Fuels tend to be prohibited on commercial flights, by definition.

There are a variety of solid fuel stoves which are popular with bushcrafters and day campers although these tend to be relatively heavy and bulky and rely on you being able to find suitable fuel at your campsite. Their major downside is that they may not be allowed in some areas depending on local definitions of an 'open fire' and they are certainly not as convenient as most liquid or gas fired stoves.

Multi-fuel stoves are a good option for this sort of problem as you can get ones which work with gasoline, diesel and kerosene eg the priumus omnifuel. These generally work very well and are light and convenient and you can get the fuel pretty much anywhere (although obtaining small quantities can sometimes be a problem). One downside is that if you use automotive fuel the smell tends to permeate everything and for obvious reasons gasoline needs to be handled with some care. Although the stoves which connect directly to the fuel bottle are a lot better in this respect. Any stove which works with gasoline should also work with naptha ie lighter fluid (expensive as stove fuel but easy to find) and in larger quantities it is used as panel wipe by automotive paint shops.

Another option is alcohol. Something like a Trangia is very reliable and not at all expensive so even if it gets confiscated on the return flight its not too painful. The traditional trangia set is very bulky but all you really need is the burner, a cooking pot (or mug) and something to support it and you can get aftermarket lightweight supports and heat shields. In most places some suitable fuel is reasonably easy to obtain either as denatured ethanol (methylated spirits in some countries) or isopropanol (aka rubbing alcohol).

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