So here we are then, 2 meths stoves, the first made from Coke cans and costing £0 whatsoever. The second constructed from titanium *by virgins in the low lying valleys of southern Tibet and costing around £25. Which one should you take on your next trip? Should you invest your money and go titanium or invest your time and slum it? ... lets find out.
I first (tried) to put 20ml of meths into each stove. Can stove was no trouble, the Vargo stove however would only hold 15ml before it started to look full, so we left it at that and carried on. I was interested to see how long each stove would take to 'bloom', once bloomed you can then start to cook but not before. From past experience, I knew the Vargo stove wasn't the quickest but I'd forgotten just how slow it was.
Coke can: Lighting to blooming 1min 37sec
Vargo: Lighting to blooming 4min 16sec
Next I wanted to see how long each stove would take to boil 450ml of cold water. The same pan was used each time, the pan was also fitted with a lid. I wanted to see a rolling boil not just little bubbles.
Coke can: 5min 16sec
Now, I'm sure you're all finding this most interesting but what can we deduce from these riveting results. Well, firstly the Vargo stove is much more efficient. There was enough fuel in the stove after it had boiled the water, to boil another pan. The can stove on the other hand only just managed to bring the water to a rolling boil before running out of fuel (remember it also had more fuel to start with). It's also possible to blow the Vargo stove out when you've finished, something that's not as easy with the can stove. That is a bit of a double edged sword though ... you can conserve fuel by putting it out once you're done - bonus. If you're trying to cook somewhere breezy your stove keeps going out - not a bonus. The Vargo is also slower, not much in boiling time but when you add on the time it takes to bloom, then the can stove is almost twice as fast. Real world experience tells me that the big trouble with the Vargo is keeping it lit, it's not unusual to light it, let it bloom, start to cook and the next time you look its gone out. I have found that raising the pan a few mm above the inbuilt pan supports on the Vargo helps it to burn fiercer and stay lit more of the time. The can stove is pretty much the exact opposite, once it's going you'll have a hard time to stop it, until it runs out of fuel.
I'm not going to say that one stove is better than the other, they're just different. Each has pros and cons. The can stove is cheap and pretty fool proof but there is a certain something about the Vargo, you just need time to get to know it ... or perhaps I'm just trying to convince myself.
*This is a lie.