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Based on extensive field and lab testing, I believe that the Trail Designs Kojin Ultralight Alcohol Stove is the best alcohol stove system for ultralight backpacking (when paired with a Caldera or TriTi Cone). The new Kojin stove is incredibly fuel efficient and easy to use but best of all it boils water fast! And that’s rare for an alcohol stove. As such, the Kojin stove has earned its place in my pack as “most favored stove.”
Test setup (lead pic): TD Kojin Stove, with Toaks 1350 ml Ultralight Titanium Pot and TD Ti-Tri titanium cone.
Highlights of Trail Designs Kojin Ultralight Alcohol Stove
- Fast boil times. Just over 5 minutes to boil a pint! And that’s ripping fast for an alcohol stove.
(Faster than the previous stove I used, the Standard Zelph Stove1.)
- Fuel efficient. Uses less than ½ fluid oz (13.8) ml to boil a pint.
[Many (most?) alcohol stoves use approximately twice that amount of fuel, especially when windy.]
- No wasted fuel waiting for stove to burn out. No need for precise fuel measurement and waiting for the stove to burn out. Just pour an ounce of fuel in. When the pot boils, snuff the stove out and cap it. Unused fuel is saved and ready for your next cooking session.
- Safe. Fuel will not spill out of stove. (fiber filler material captures alcohol fuel). Great for safety. You really don’t want to spill alcohol fuel.
What are the Advantages of an Alcohol Backpacking Stove?
Note: If alcohol stoves aren’t your thing, this is an equal opportunity website. So check out my post Best Backpacking Stove System | Trail Designs Caldera vs. JetBoil. Then you can decide which stove is best for you. And yes, the JetBoil is a great fuel-efficient stove system too! Just a canister one.
Quick Specs Kojin Stove
Link on Trail Design’s Website: https://www.traildesigns.com/products/kojin-stove
- Weight: 16g, 0.56 oz
- Material: Aluminum body with proprietary fibrous filler
- Dimensions: 62mm diameter x 22mm thick, 2.4 in x 0.87 in
- Fuel Capacity: 40 ml, ~1.3 fluid ounces
- Fuel efficiency*: ~14 to 15 ml to boil a pint at 70°F/20°C at sea level
- Time to Boil 16 oz*: ~5.5 to 6 minutes – with wide bottom pots of 0.9 to 1.3 liters
- Operating temp: I’ve used the stove to 12°F (-11°C). Stove lit right up & boiled water without difficulty
* when paired with a Trail Designs Caldera or TriTi Cone.
Note: While the Kojin is primarily for use with the Caldera/Ti-Tri systems, it can also be used in conjunction with your own pot stand and wind screen.
The Details – Kojin Ultralight Alcohol Stove
Trail Designs Kojin Ultralight Alcohol Stove is composed of an aluminum screw top “pill case” style housing. Inside is a proprietary, white fibrous filler that acts both as a wick and as a fuel stabilizer to prevent spills. You can turn the stove on its side and the fuel won’t drain out. It is designed by Trial Designs to be used inside their Caldera or TriTi Cone systems. [See lead picture for an example of a TriTi Cone system.]
Note: pour fuel slowly into the stove’s fiber compound. If you pour too fast some of fuel may run over the side before it completely absorbs in to the fiber compound. I find that the stove is most easily filled using the Liberty Mountain Twin Neck Fuel Bottle (see right). With a squeeze the bottle easily measures out 1/4 or 1/2 oz of fuel. And a flip top spout on the reservoir side is great for precise pours. I find that its 8+ oz capacity works for a 7-day trip (at least for me). A testament to the stove’s efficiency.
After that put the stove in the cone and carefully light it with a match or lighter [some light the stove an then put the cone over it]. When your water boils take your pot off the cone and blow the stove out (it isn’t hard). Then you can gently place the cap loosely on the stove being careful not to touch the hot stove [but don’t screw it down]. This prevents heated fuel from rapidly evaporating.
After the stove has cooled sufficiently to safely handle! (~ 5 minutes) you can screw the cap down to seal the stove and save the fuel for your next cooking session.
While the Kojin Stove will work with many pots and stoves, I find it works optimally with wide bottom pots of 0.9 to 1.3 liters. E.g. Evernew and Toaks 900 and Toaks 1300 pots (the Toaks Pots are a particularly good value). With these pots you get fuel efficiency of 15 ml fuel to boil a pint or better! And the fast burn rate of the stove, and wide heat transfer are of the pot bottom gives you fast boil times. You can buy these pots at Trail Designs or Amazon.
All of the stoves below are similar in weight (15 to 17g) and work well with the TD Caldera or TriTi Cone system. They are discussed below from left to right:
- On the left is my well used May 2017 prototype stove. After a ton of use it still works great. The cap shows the grey sealing material.
- Next is the production Kojin Ultralight Alcohol Stove. Mostly cosmetic changes, altho the finish on the production version makes the cap easier to screw on and off. I find this stove excellent for solo use. But it’s also my stove of choice for my wife and I to share where we use it with a Toaks 900 or Toaks 1300 pot.
- 1 Then the Standard Zelph Stove with the steel mesh covering its proprietary filler compound. The Zelph is a good stove with similar fuel saving properties. But a smaller surface area and the steel mesh slow the Zelph’s heat output for slower burn times. And I find the plastic sealing cap (green) tends to loosen up over time and not seal as tightly.
- Finally the Classic Trail Designs 12-10 Stove. Still a great stove and it boils a bit faster than the Kojin (but it’s close). It also holds more fuel so it’s better if you boiling a lot of water/cooking for multiple people. Downsides are: 1) the stove won’t easily fit in a pot with a sidewinder cone like the Kojin and Zelph stoves. 2) you can’t save fuel—you have to let the stove burn out after it boils. And 3) you have to use stakes, inserted into sidewinder cones to raise the pot up in the cone for optimal operation. So in my opinion, the Kojin is a far better stove than the the Classic 12-10.
What could be Better
- The filler material doesn’t absorb fuel quickly as you pour it in. If you pour too fast some will run over the sides. Having a slight lip on the stove above the filler material would fix this. [Right now the filler material is flush with the top of the stove]. Workaround, for now, is to use a flip spout cap on your fuel bottle. This will give you the control necessary to easily fill the stove. Again, the Liberty Mountain Twin Neck Fuel Bottle is the best for this purpose.
- I could wish for a bit more capacity than 40 ml. My biggest problem is over filling the stove after 3 to 4 uses. At that point I don’t really know how much remaining fuel is in the stove, and I can over fill if I don’t watch carefully. Even 50 ml capacity would be a help. Again the work around is to pour carefully from the spout of the Liberty Mountain Twin Neck Fuel Bottle.
Since the first prototypes in May 2017, I’ve been field (and lab) testing the new TD Kojin Ultralight Alcohol Stove. After many weeks of use in the field, the stove has performed almost flawlessly. This included using it down to near single digit temperatures at 11,000 feet in the Sierras. The Kojin stove lit right up in the morning with no issues and quickly boiled my water. Because of this, the Kojin stove now goes on every trip with me — whether I am traveling solo or with my wife.
- Best Backpacking Stove System| Trail Designs Caldera vs. JetBoil
The best alcohol stove system, Trail Designs Caldera, and the best canister stove system, JetBoil. What makes both these systems “best” is that the stove, pot and windscreen/heat exchanger are an integrated unit, thoughtfully engineered for…
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This post contains some affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a small portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.
Trail Designs provide samples of the Kojin stove and Toaks 1350ml UL Pot and Sidewinder Ti-Tri.
To keep things short and simple, here are the two best backpacking stove systems:
The best alcohol stove system, Trail Designs Caldera, and the best canister stove system, JetBoil. What makes both these systems “best” is that the stove, pot, and windscreen/heat exchanger are an integrated unit, thoughtfully engineered for:
- Fuel efficiency (they both have heat exchangers to increase the percentage of heat actually transferred to the pot to boil water). For JetBoil this is a ring of fins on the bottom of the pot, FluxRing®. This increases the surface area for heat transfer—similar to a car radiator operated in reverse. For the TD Caldera, the entire pot and stove are enclosed in the heated Caldera cone. Thus the whole surface area of the pot, including the sides transfer heat. The cone also reduces convective heat loss (chimney effect) by trapping the heated air in the cone and a slowing the heated air from rising away from the pot.
- Stability (you can’t knock the pot off the stove, or easily knock the whole shebang over). Both systems lock the pot to the stove system so it can’t be knocked off the stove (a big problem with standard canister stoves). The wide base of the Caldera cone and low height makes the entire system almost impossible to knock over. JetBoil provides a plastic “stabilizer tripod” that fits onto the base of the fuel canister, making it harder but not impossible to knock the whole system over.
- Wind resistance The TD Caldera is the most wind resistant. The stove is completely protected by the Caldera cone. The JetBoil stove burner is partially protected by the FluxRing and a metal shroud at the base of the stove burner. In a strong wind it will loose efficiency.
- Compact Storage both neatly nest into a small compact unit for storage
Best Backpacking Stove – Comparison Trail Designs Caldera vs. JetBoil
Below are the essential Pros and Cons for each system. While I clearly prefer the Trail Designs Caldera alcohol system, there’s no wrong choice. They are both good cooking systems. Systems compared are for two people for a long weekend. See below for all the gritty details.
|Trail Designs Caldera – alcohol stove||JetBoil Zip – canister stove|
* Lower cost Caldera systems with similar weight and performance are available. The system above is the titanium Ti-Tri Sidewinder Cone, which supports alcohol, Esbit, and burning wood fuel. The pot is also titanium. An aluminum dual fuel (alcohol & Esbit) cone and aluminum pot option costs $55 Caldera Sidewinder Solo. If you already have the pot the titanium Ti-Tri Sidewinder Cone is $80 without the pot.
*Note: Dealing with partially used fuel canisters is a pain. And if you use a JetBoil you will likely end up with a boxful of partially filled canisters that do not have enough fuel for another trip. Disposing of the canisters is a big production. One option is to put them in hazardous waste. The other option, per JetBoil, is to first a) burn all the unused fuel, and then b) use a CrunchIt tool to puncture the “empty” container. This renders the canister suitable for metal recycle. (Both burning the unused fuel, and puncturing the canister must be done outside.)
Which Stove is Best for You?
Alison and I and most backpackers we know prefer the the Trail Designs Caldera alcohol system. It’s half the weight of the JetBoil and greener with no partially used fuel canisters ending up in waste. Alcohol fuel is readily available worldwide. We have no difficulty using the Caldera. One of the advantages of the Trail Designs Caldera is that I can light it and leave it unattended to boil water while I perform camp chores. It is near impossible to kick over. It is almost impervious to wind—remaining fuel efficient even unprotected from strong wind. In about 7 minutes, when I’m done setting up camp, I come back to boiling water for dinner.
But my guess is that many readers will still end up getting the JetBoil canister system. It is the best selling backpacking stove of all time. Most people just take a liking to it at first glance and never look back. It’s easy to use, boils water fast, has an appealing slim form, and has that wow-cool-gizmo! factor going for it.
Unless you are a details maven, you need read no further. You have all the information you need.
The gritty details for those that care
Cooking for a long weekend for two people
Total weight is: stove, cookset and fuel container + fuel to boil 8 pints. Enough for a long weekend trip for two people. A long weekend trip is three days and two nights = cooking for two dinners and two breakfasts. (90% of backpackers take 90% of their trips for 3 days or less.)
2 dinners @ 16 oz water to hydrate meal + 4x @12 oz for hot drink = 5 pints water boiled
2 breakfasts @ 2×12 oz water for coffee or tea = 48 oz boiled water = 3 pints water boiled
Trip total for two people = 8 pints water boiled
Basic System specs
|Trail Designs Caldera – alcohol stove||JetBoil – canister stove|
|9.7 oz – $120 tested – options to $55 available
Boil time for a pint = ~7 min
Stove/pot/cone = 5.4 oz
Fuel specs: 4.3 oz container and fuel = 0.8 oz plastic fuel bottle + 3.5 oz-wt alcohol fuel
(efficiency ~0.4 oz-wt alcohol fuel to boil a pint)
|19.5 oz – $80
Boil time for a pint = ~3-4 min
Weight: Stove/pot = 12.5 oz
Fuel specs: 7.0 oz container and fuel = 3.5 oz metal can + 3.5 oz-wt isopropane/butane fuel (100g)
(*efficiency ~0.2 oz-wt fuel to boil a pint – but doesn’t include wt of canister)
*Note: ~0.4 oz-wt alcohol vs. ~0.2 oz-wt propane/butane fuel for a boil. This is because alcohol has 1/2 the energy per weight of propane/butane. So it takes twice the weight of alcohol to boil a pint vs. propane/butane. Alcohol does not require a heavy metal canister for fuel storage, and has a lighter stove. So in the end, alcohol is the lighter overall system.
Options for the Trail Designs Caldera
Now updated with the better Trail Designs Kojin Stove. This burner eliminates most of the drawback of alcohol stoves:
- No need to “estimate” how much alcohol fuel to use for a boil. Use a bit more (20-30%) than you’ll need & when the pot boils, blow the stove out & cap it (when cool) to save unused fuel. Brilliant!
- BTW the Caldera boils a pint on about 15 ml of alcohol fuel
- Burner will not spill lit fuel if it is knocked over, so safer than the burners without the fibrous fillers
- Its more compact and fits inside the pot with the Caldera cone
- It doesn’t require the use of titanium tent pegs that are needed to raise the pot when you use the Trail Designs 12-10 burner
Optional Fuel Container This Twin Neck Fuel Bottle (1.2 oz) both stores and measures fuel.
Alcohol Fuel Sources/Options Denatured Alcohol (aka clean burning marine stove fuel, methylated spirits, shellac thinner, liquid fondue fuel, chafing dish fuel). It is available world-wide in hardware stores (and in the US at Walmart or similar stores). In many countries like France it is sold in grocery stores as a fondue or chafing dish fuel. First choice in US is Klean-Strip Brand, likely labeled S-L-X “Clean burning fuel for marine stoves.” But I have used many other brands of denatured alcohol with no problems.
In a pinch, you can use HEET (Yellow label, not the Red label HEET) which is sold at all auto-supply stores and many gas stations and convenience stores like 7-11. HEET works fine, but has more residue than plain alcohol fuel.
Pot Cozy Anti-Gravity-Gear Pot Cozys are lightweight and efficient cookpot insulators which allow you to save fuel. The cozy traps heat, so food continues to cook long after you have taken the pot off the stove and will keep it warm for nearly an hour. Especially useful for hydrating meals.
For Going Really Light! For soloing I take a stripped down version of the Caldera Keg-F Stove System. The stove, windscreen and pot are around 3 ounces!
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Disclaimer: Posts on this site contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products I review. Unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, reviews express my own independent opinion.