Using an Esbit Tablet with the Caldera Cone Sidewinder

Earlier today a user commented on one of my other posts about using Esbit in a Caldera Cone and using a 1.3L cook pot to bring 4 cups of water to a boil. In short, I have managed to get 4 cups of water to a boil using a single Esbit in the Caldera Cone, however, this was in a somewhat controlled environment, and it didn’t boil for very long. So, to better answer this question, I grabbed up my kit, 4 cups of water and my camera and went to my backyard…

As can be seen in the video, in this instance, a single tablet did not manage a full boil in more of a real-life situation. But it came close, in my opinion. If it were me though, and I was using this in the field and actually depended on it, I would have set the system up in an area that was a little better shielded from the wind, unless there is no wind blowing. (And I don’t mean that as anything bad with this system, but I try to pick the best spot for any of my cooking systems, which is out of the wind and somewhere safe, especially with alcohol or Esbit.) Doing this, I believe, would have improved the performance somewhat, however, I would also have to consider that mountain water would likely be slightly cooler than out of my tap too.

Considering this simple test though, if I knew that I had to use this system and needed to boil 4 cups of water, then I would simply allot for slightly more Esbit. If it were during the summer, I would probably opt for 1.5 tablets per 4 cups, or if colder at least 2 tablets per 4 cups. Also, to keep from breaking the type of tablets I used in my video in half, I would seek out a source which sells the smaller Esbit tablets and use them in conjunction with the larger tablets. Although, I could simply stack up 2 of the larger (14 g) tablets, wait for the water to come to a boil and then blow the rest out. The remaining fuel could remain inside the stove since I store it in a plastic bag, however, to make stacking more uniform on the following boil, I would rather just let each tablet burn completely out. (That’s just my choice.)

So far, I have only used this set-up on one trip in which I used it in wood mode for my dinners each night, and Esbit for breakfast each morning. The system worked well for me in this combination. However, for my breakfast I would only boil slightly over 2 cups of water, but the system worked beautifully. The water came to a boil and stayed at a boil for some time (I did not time these boils though, instead I was busy packing up my gear). All in all though, I am very happy with the way that this system works and look forward to using it on lots of other trips! Granted, at 11.5 oz (counting everything, including 3 Esbit tablets) it may not be “UltraLight” for one, but for 2 people, I think that this is a very worthy “UL” system. (And to be honest, I would carry it all again on a solo hike, if the hike was like the recent one I went on…short miles and lots of at camp time…)

My thoughts on Esbit tablets and my personal expectations of them

I expect a single 14 g tablet to fully boil 2.5 cups of water (at least). So far, these expectations have been well met. Getting 4 cups of water to a boil with a single Esbit tablet is a little different though. Generally, I think that boiling 4 cups of water is the max that a single Esbit tablet can achieve, and this being in optimal conditions. However, there are a number of different stoves out there that burn Esbit, not to mention all the different combinations of stoves, cook pots and windscreens… When considering all of these variables along with each and every situational environmental conditions, it’s hard to make a general assumption. So, what I mean is, I am not an expert in this! I have played around with a few different set-ups, and in my experiences, this is my own personal general assumption.

Thanks for reading!

~Stick~

Disclamier: I won this entire Caldera Cone/Cook Pot set-up in a giveaway hosted on TrailGroove a few months back. However, I am under no obligation to review this system. The statements within this post are based on my own opinions after using the set-up.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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11 Responses to Using an Esbit Tablet with the Caldera Cone Sidewinder

  1. Bob Moulder says:

    I’m late to the Esbit party, but having seen a lot of references to it lately at BPL inspired me to finally give it a try with the Gram Cracker holder that came with my Ti Tri Sidewinder/Caldera Cone combo, using the sample Esbit 14g tabs that came with it more than a year ago. I’m somewhat of a Hot Water Hog — needing water for coffee, dinner and my dog’s dehydrated food — so for me any stove test revolves around a 4-cups-to-boiling test. Anything that doesn’t pass that test just doesn’t end up in the pack.

    Today I burned the 3 sample tabs, using various configurations, with 4 cups of 52°F water in a Toaks 1350ml pot with ambient temperature of 43°F. First test, with the pot nestled right down to the top of the cone, Esbit tab in the recommended flat position exactly per TD instructions, second with the tab in the same position with the pot elevated to the lower set of holes with Ti stakes, and third with the tab standing on end with the pot elevated to the lower set of holes with the stakes.

    The water temperature test results were 181°F, 179°F and 182°F respectively for each test. Although I suppose I could have lived with this, it clearly didn’t meet the above parameters. Using the same set-up with the Starlyte stove easily achieves a rolling boil (and then some) with about 28ml of alcohol. Given that my usual trip is no more than 3 nights out, I’ll take the relatively small weight penalty and go with alcohol. For my typical overnighter, 2 Esbit tabs in their packages weigh 28.8g while 60ml (~2 oz) of denatured alcohol in it’s bottle is 69.4g. So, for a short trip, not such a big hit. I’ve never done any trips more than 5-6 nights (and none at all of that length in the last few years) but if I did a longer trip or a section or a thru I suppose I’d re-evaluate the possibility of using 14g + 4g tabs to get a 1-quart boil. In that case the weight of Esbit might make a difference.

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  2. David says:

    Stick,

    Do you have a breakdown of all the weights for this setup? I would take either the Gram Cracker stove or the 12-10 stove, but most likely the former.

    Thanks,
    David

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    • Stick says:

      David,

      Here is a breakdown. Keep in mind though that this is now a well used system, complete with baked on soot from wood fires as well as Esbit, and what not. So while a brand new, clean set-up may weigh a little less, once used, these weights are more accurate:

      Evernew 1.3L “UL” ti cook pot w/ lid & handles: 4.6 oz
      Sidewinder Ti-Tri Caldera Cone w/ Tyvek sleeve: 1.6 oz
      12-10 Alcohol Stove: 0.5 oz
      Gram Cracker: 0.1 oz
      Inferno set-up (grate w/ tyvek sleeve, stand, cone & ground protector): 2.2 oz

      Hope this helps some.

      ~Stick~

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  3. Mickey McTigue says:

    Stick- My experience with Esbets is laid flat they burn longer but many times got close to boiling but not quite there. Set on edge on the long side they burn faster and hotter and boiled every time. I haven’t tried them set on end but that may be the fastest yet. More surface area means bigger flame. I make a holder for the Esbet from the flat side of a rectangular food can. Cut a square and then cut out the corners and bend opposite sides down and the other up. Size to meet your requirements. Ghost Ranger

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    • Stick says:

      Mickey,

      That is true, the more exposed area, the faster and hotter an Esbit tablet will burn. That is interesting though that you can’t get the water to boil, even with the tablet laid flat. How much water are you boiling, and what is the distance between the tablet and the bottom of the cook pot. I have found that a distance of right at 1.75″ between the tablet and the bottom of the pot will generally provide the best efficiency.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      ~Stick~

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  4. hikinjim says:

    Hi, Stick,

    On my Ti Tri set up, which is identical to yours, the directions suggest using Ti tent stakes to elevate the pot while using ESBIT. Have you tried that, and if so, how did it compare to not using tent stakes?

    HJ

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    • Stick says:

      Jim,

      You made me nervous…I thought I had done it wrong… 🙂

      I went back and found the instructions that came with mine just to make sure. According to the instructions, when using Esbit, it is suggested to allow the pot to sit into the cone as I did, letting the lip of the pot rest on the cone itself. When using the 12-10 alcohol stove, it is suggested to use the pair of ti tent stakes in the holes closest to the ground, elevating the cook pot slightly. For wood mode, you need to use the holes closest to the top of the cone.

      (Here is a video in which Rand shows how to set-up the same cone for each system.)

      Saying that, I have not tried to elevate the pot on the ti stakes and use Esbit with this system, and considering the distance already, I feel like doing so will lessen the efficiency of the Esbit tablet. But, that is strange that your instructions say opposite that, is yours also the Sidewinder? Have you tried yours in the same set-up configuration using Esbit as I have done?

      ~Stick~

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    • hikinjim says:

      Hi, Stick,

      I’ve just got it backwards (embarrassed look). I was at work when I wrote that and was going by my (rather poor) memory. You’ve got it right.

      Actually, in my experience, you don’t really need to use the Ti stakes with a 1300ml pot for alcohol either. I talked to Russ at Trail Designs about it, and he said that the bottom of the 1300ml size pot is big enough that you aren’t losing a lot of heat up the sides. They’re just using the same basic set of instructions for the 900ml Evernew and the 1300ml Evernew, so they just left it at “use stakes.” Stakes or no stakes, the 1300ml set up is a great system.

      Have you tried “simmering” with ESBIT? If you put the ESBIT *under* the gram cracker, you can effect a sort of simmer.

      HJ

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    • Stick says:

      Jim,

      Gotcha…and I know the feeling…I do the same things often… 🙂

      That is good info though about not using the stakes with the cone for alcohol…I am actually going car camping htis weekend, and out of pure joy I will be bringing the Sidewinder…not to cook in, but just to boil some water in for coffee and stuff. I will give it a try with and without stakes though so see how it does.

      As far as simmering, I had read that but have not tried it. I have wondered about it though…does the entire tablet burn up even under the gram cracker? Or would I have to leave one end sticking out a little and then ever so often kind of nudge it along some more? I would love to figure out how to simmer with this set-up so that I could bake some with it…

      Thanks again!

      ~Stick~

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  5. Jolly Green Giant says:

    My stove of choice….

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    • Stick says:

      You have had me thinking about this thing all day…then when I got home I found a question from someone else asking me about this stove system and Esbit… I had to break it out just to play with it…but I agree, it is a very nice system!

      Like

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