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Milo Stove: chicken tin and mesh stand

August 17, 2023 — BarryK

I thought maybe call this "Barry's Milo Stove", but just "Milo Stove" is enough; named after the Milo tin.

This is post #3 of the Milo alcohol stove project. Previous post:

The stove will be built on the same principle as the Packafeather stove, with burner inside, covered with a tin that has a hole in the top for the flames to come out. Here is the Packafeather XL stove:


I looked through the shelves at Coles for a suitable tin to go over the Speedster burner, and found this:


This is Podravka Chicken Spread, made in Croatia. Outer diameter at the widest is 75mm and height is 32mm, which is a bit smaller than I was looking for; however, the next size up was fish tins, that are a bit too big. It's OK, the chicken tin will work.

After removing the ring-pull lid (and cleaning it out), there is a ridge all around the inside, where the ring-pull lid was attached:


The Milo Stove will have air flowing in from underneath, and due to the rather small diameter, needed to get rid of that ridge. A small grinding wheel worked. The electric drill was clamped onto the bench, and it was easy to grind the ridge down:


...still to be done, a 25mm hole in the top of the chicken-tin.

I also constructed a mesh stand, on which the pot will sit. Bought this from Bunnings:

The idea is that when everything is packed into the stove, the TOAKS pot will be inserted inside the Milo tin, and the mesh stand can be either inside or outside the pot.

Cut out a piece of mesh, 25 segments, each segment is 12.7mm:


Here it is wrapped into a circle. Circumference is 318mm, diameter 101mm, height 56mm. There are hooks to hold it together:


...the stand looks OK, but not necessarily the final design. Also, will be considering the alternative method, of a round grill mounted on the sides of the Milo tin, as shown in post #1 of this stove project.   

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Milo tin for alcohol stove project

August 15, 2023 — BarryK

Continuing the alcohol stove project:

Well well, I found a tin exactly the right size, at the local Coles supermarket. It is 700g "Milo Pro":


I used to drink Milo as a child. Have transferred it into a jar, now looks like will have to get into drinking it again. As a hot drink in the evening will be nice.

The Milo tin dimensions are perfect. The tin is slightly higher than the aluminium construction, but that is exactly what I want. Serendipitous!

Have drawn up the plans for the construction, using SolveSpace. This will be a complete DIY alcohol stove with simmer adjustment. Had to order a few bits and pieces off eBay, so will be about a week away before can commence the build.

Those Speedster alcohol burners can easily be constructed, so also have ordered some ceramic wool, fine stainless steel mesh and 30ml aluminium cans. There are YouTube videos that show how to do it:

Here is the Speedster 30ml burner:


Up until recently, I went along with the established doctrine that these simple burners are the least efficient, despite my own tests showing otherwise. Then I saw this video, that finally has thrown out the false information about efficiency:

...testing an X-Boil burner, which is same principle as the Speedster. The simplest burner is great!    

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Experiments with an alcohol stove

August 13, 2023 — BarryK

Several days ago, I posted some thoughts about alcohol stove design:

So, considered testing with the combined Speedster burner and Packafeather adjustable stove. Also, I wondered how close the windshield could be to the pot and still draw the fumes upward ok.

So, I constructed an aluminium windshield tube, with brackets inside to hold a grill, on which the pot will sit. The gap between pot and innner-side of windhield is only 5mm (using my TOAKS 1000ml titanium pot). The aluminium sheet is 0.5mm thick. Photo shows the constructed windshield/pot-stand, alongside the Packafeather stove:


That grill is actually a fan grill. They have welded joins and will withstand considerable heat -- in fact, while testing it was glowing red hot and held together. I bought it from here, the "120mm" size, which is actually 115 wide by 115mm high:

With 500ml in the pot and the Packafeather vents wide open, it burned very hot. Here is a snapshot with the lights out:


From the post several days ago, I had the idea of combining the Packafeather with the Speedster, so set that up. Started with 500ml water -- a US cup is 238ml, so a bit more water than many tests on YouTube where they use two US cups for a boil test. No lid on the pot.

Winter here, cool evening. Didn't measure the temperature, but estimate ambient and water to be about 15 degrees C. With the Packafeather vent wide open, boiling was starting to happen after 10 minutes, became vigorous at 12 minutes.

At that point, I wound the Packafeather vents down to fully closed, and the flame became small. This is what we want for true cooking, to leave on simmer, so that the beans, seeds, legumes, or whatever, have fully cooked. Then waited until the flame went out...

The Speedster burner is "30ml" and at the start I put as much in until it was full. Didn't measure, but it would have been about 30ml. After a short time, turned the vent to be very slightly opened, then waited...

The flame went out after 48 minutes and 45 seconds!

Wow, that is a long simmer. That was yesterday. Today investigated the other idea from the post several days ago, of placing an aluminium doughnut-ring over the Packafeather stove. Also, instead of the grill, decided to use the Packafeather mesh stand:


Still using the Speedster burner, again filled to the brim. This time, it caught me by surprise. I looked at the pot after 8 minutes and 48 seconds, and hey, it was already boiling -- very vigorously. I don't know when it started boiling.

I immediately turned the Packafeather vent to closed. A couple of minutes later, the flame went out and I checked, all of the fuel was gone.

The lesson here is that the Speedster was getting too hot, boiling the alcohol too fast. Yes, got a very fast boil, but not so good for simmering.

Interesting, it is a balancing act. We don't want the burner, that is, whatever is holding the alcohol, to get too hot. Nor to cold -- which is why those who go camping in alpine areas carry some foil to put under the burner, as insulation from the ground.

This is all "fuel" for further thought. It would be nice to publish a DIY design that has adjustment like the Packafeather -- but doesn't require an actual Packafeather, given that they are no longer available.

And, I wonder if there is a tin can about that size. The aluminium tube that I constructed is 130mm outside diameter, 125mm high. Will go hunting the shelves at the local supermarkets.   

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Some thoughts about alcohol stove design

August 04, 2023 — BarryK

I posted recently about planning a new windshield and stand for my titanium pot:

There are two little stoves that I own and love. The Speedster stove:


And the Packafeather XL stove:

img2 can see, it is just a cup into which alcohol is poured, and an outer part goes over it to control the airflow. The great thing about this is it can be adjusted down to simmer, which allows to cook food, not just bring it to the boil.

Zen Stoves is a wonderful site for those interested in the design of alcohol stoves. This page explains that the simplest type, like the Speedster stove, is slightly less efficient that one with an outer air control like the Packafeather . That's the "Open Flame Alcohol Stoves" and "Chimney Alcohol Stoves":

The greatest advantage of the Speedster stove is that it is spill-proof. The fuel can be left in it and the lid screwed on. Even with fuel in it and the lid off, it can be turned upside-down and no fuel comes out.

Why can't the two, Speedster and Packafeather, be used together? Replace the cup into which alcohol is poured, with the Speedster. Yes, I tested it and it works great. The flame is controllable right down to a simmer.

So, have decided to go for that combination. Then, watching some YouTube videos, came upon what this guy did with his Packafeather stove:

He created an aluminium foil ring, that fits on top of the stove, then the windshield is placed around it:


Note, his Packafeather stove is a different model than mine, different brackets on which to place the pot. The little brown part is the handle for a cap used to extinguish the flame. The foil ring placed on the stove:


...that is very interesting. He is restricting the airflow that comes in through the windshield holes, so that most will go via the holes in the Packafeather. I'm going to try that!

Unfortunately, Packafeather stoves are no longer manufactured. It was a one-person cottage industry. It's a shame when innovative little products like that just disappear. It's the same with websites; my blog for example has years of informative posts, but after I die or go gaga, the domain name will expire and that's the end of it. Anyway, that's the way it is, time marches on.   

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Idea for a stove windshield and stand

July 28, 2023 — BarryK

For many years have hiked with my great little titanium 1 litre cooking pot. However, to cook a hearty meal at end of a day of hiking, would prefer a slightly bigger size. So, have ordered a 1.3 litre pot. It is TOAKS brand, same as before, same height at 100mm, just a slightly bigger diameter:


Ordered it from here:

Then had some thoughts about the stove. My favourite stove is from Speedster Backpacking Products (SBP). Fantastic little stove. Purchased in 2021 and posted about it here:

To digress, over the years I have tested many ultra-light camping stoves. It was a thing with me, would see something new and had to test it. Here are some posts:

Back onto the SBP stove, it is great, but the tiny stand not so good:


Granted, it is very light, great for backpackers. However, I found it to be a bit tricky with a heavy pot on top, especially if the stand is sitting on soft ground.

Sometime hopefully not to far into the future I plan to tour with my recumbent trike, so extreme light weight is not so important. Want to keep that SBP stove, it is great, but can re-think the stand and windshield...

I'm planning to use a cheap aluminium camping pot as the windbreak and stand.

The plan is to drill a row of holes around the base of the aluminium pot, where the air gets drawn in. And remove the handles and dump the lid. The SBP stove will sit inside on the floor of the pot, and there there will be some brackets 45mm above the floor of the pot, on which the TOAKS pot can sit. Thus, the TOAKS stove will be nestled in the aluminium pot and there will be a chimney effect. The wind-shield and chimney-effect are key to the SBP stove working well.

This proposed design would be very stable, the main point of the exercise.

I have edited this post, removed some proposed details, as a bit premature. There are various ways this can be implemented, so better to do a later post with details after it is actually done.   

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What kind of people ride recumbent trikes?

May 17, 2023 — BarryK

Interesting question. We see these slim athletic lycra-attired riders zipping along on their racing bikes.  Do recumbent trikes attract a different sort of person?

I wanted to find out if there are any cycling groups in Australia specifically for recumbent riders, and discovered yes, in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. The Adelaide group looks most active; I watched a video of one of their outings:


...they are not slim lycra-clad athletes!

Quoting from here:

Recumbent trikes are designed for comfort. They make cycling a more relaxing activity, while also preventing pain in the back, shoulders, and wrists. Many people find they can cycle greater distances because their body is so relaxed. Because the seat is ergonomically correct, recumbent trikes keep your head in a natural, erect position. You enjoy greater visibility, a bonus when touring new areas or taking in the beauty of nature on cycling trails. Facing forward also means you are more aware of your surroundings so you are less likely to have accidents. You can sit back and enjoy a comfortable ride.

There was only one guy in that outing who had a two-wheeler recumbent, shown in the above photo -- looks dangerous. I notice a lot of them are electric-assist.  

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Outback adventure solar-powered recumbent trike

May 14, 2023 — BarryK

This is something that I have dreamed about for years. I have an e-bike with a 200W motor, and there are 200W solar panels available, so it seems like a good match.

It is a question of implementation. How to mount the solar panel on the bike?

For sometime I have had in mind that it would be feasible with a recumbent bike, as the rider sits very low. A canopy on top could have one or more solar panels. Surely someone, somewhere, has thought about this and actually built it?

Yes, they have. A few people have built canopies over recumbent trikes, with solar panels. I found a young couple who built a canopy over an Azub recumbent trike, about a year ago, and traveled outback Australia. Youtube video:

The guy is riding a trike without suspension, while hers has full suspension, front and rear. As far as I can make out, they built a custom solar canopy and charging on an Azub trike.

I was using keywords to search in Google, and came across this, made by Motrike:


...somewhat different, but the same idea.

Azub have documented the young couple's trike adventure around Australia. Here is a blog post, Feb. 23 this year:


Real nice that it isn't required to be registered, so no expense in that regard. If the sun is shining, well, no fuel or recharging required either, just keep going all day.

Now that is something I would love to do!

EDIT 2023-05-14:
Here is a photo from 7 months ago, Motrike have modified the framing of their Trikexplor 320E-Solar trike:


...that has a 500W motor, which is not legal in Australia. They also sell a quad (4 wheel) variant, which would also be illegal in Australia (though I am not sure about all States). In Australia, an unregistered bike must have pedal-assisted motor up to 250W. Apart from starting off, it is illegal here to be cruising along solely powered by the battery -- the rider must be seen to be pedaling, even if only applying nominal extra power -- the police have actually fined people for not pedaling! The police have even been known to check the power rating on motors.

Here are some videos of the TrikExplor 320E-Solar:

And the older design:

It looks like it only has rear suspension. I have contacted the company and asked if it is possible to build one with full suspension, front and rear. About 3 years ago, they did have a S320E variant, electric with full suspension -- the "S" means suspension, it is not the solar model. Maybe they won't be interested in doing a one-off build, as it might require some retooling. I want to be able to ride it on rough gravel roads, and I suppose front fat tyres might be an alternative.

EDIT 2023-05-14:
The young couple started their Aussie adventure in 2021 and finished in February 2023 in Albany Western Australia, having traveled 11,000km! News report: 

EDIT 2023-05-19:

Here are some follow-up blog posts:       

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Helena Campsite and Speedster Stove test

September 10, 2021 — BarryK

Last weekend, went for a hike. Usual stamping ground, Mundaring locality. Caught train then bus to the town of Mundaring, which is in the hills just outside the Perth metropolitan area. Then walked south on the Mundabiddi Trail to the Mundaring Weir Hotel -- as usual, had lunch there. Then walked approximately East, on the Bibbulmun Track, and camped overnight at the Helena Campsite. Next morning, ambled back along old fire trails, to the Mundaring town, then public transport back to Perth.

Lovely Spring weather, a couple of sunny days, though the nights were cold. I was surprised, about 20 people stayed overnight at the Helena Campsite. Some used the internal bedding provision, some, me included, pitched tents. Yeah, we did the sitting-around-the-campfire thing at night. Even somewhat-anti-social-me sat there for awhile.

Here is a photo just after 6.00am, before the sun has appeared on the horizon, but is starting to light the sky:


When I arrived at the campsite on Saturday evening, my legs were knackered, so the walking had degenerated to a slow shamble. Don't have an app for measuring distance, but it would have been about 23km.

Chatted with one young fellow who had run all the way from the Mundaring Weir Discovery Centre, he said it took him about 1 hour. The trail is up and down rocky terrain, and I took about 4 hours to walk that same path. Oh well.

Next morning, followed lovely old fire-trails, here is a photo:


Legs were knackered, but walked slowly and it was very pleasant.

Main reason for this post, is want to report on using the Speedster Stove, and the new "kitchen kit". I used it on the hike, to rehydrate a veggie & couscous packet for the evening meal. Firstly, about the stove, this is it:

...oh, the site is currently offline, say they are off backpacking and will be online in 4 days.

Anyway, that's what I bought, 30ml spill-proof methylated-spirit (alcohol) stove, with a matching folding stand. They hardly weigh anything. The stove burns for about 18 minutes. No priming required, immediately usable. It won't spill, just screw on the lid and fuel can be left in the stove.

I had great fun putting together the "kitchen kit". I own a Toaks 1000ml titanium pot, and was able to put everything into the pot, including the meths. Here is the pot, total weight with everything inside is 498g:


Toaks do not sell the 1000ml size any more, they do have a 900ml and a 1200ml. But there are other manufacturers, look on eBay and Aliexpress. Open the lid, everything packed neatly inside:


The bottles are each 50ml, to hold the meths. Some meths can also be held in the stove, so potentially can carry 230ml. The weight that I measured, 498g, was with all bottles filled and the stove partly filled.

The big question is, how many days will 230ml of meths last? Hold that thought, for now, presenting everything packed into the pot:


...on the left is a collapsible silicone cup, a funnel, matches, sponge, folding knife, pill-holder, titanium wind-shield, folding titanium spoon, and the Speedster Stove and folding stand.

All of these items are available on eBay and Aliexpress. The bottles are these:

They allow precise application of the meths, with a narrow opening, see this photo of the 100ml bottle:


The titanium windshield is readily available also. Mine was originally 110mm wide, but I cut it down slightly so as to fit underneath the pot handles. It is extremely thin and can be cut with scissors. Weight, after cutting, is only 11g. I use a paper-clip to hold it in place around the stove.

The titanium folding spoon is Keith brand, which I chose as it is slightly wider (41mm) than other brands. Got it from Aliexpress.

Here is the stove and stand:


The windshield is absolutely essential. It shelters the flame from breezes, but also acts with the chimney-effect, drawing air from holes at the bottom and focussing the flame onto the pot. With the windshield in place and the pot on the stand, the flame is hardly seen:


If the pot is removed, the flame is quite yellow, and high:


I would never have thought that this is efficient combustion, but it is. With the pot on the stand, there is hardly any tar residue deposited on the pot, and water is boiled remarkably fast.

In fact, side-by-side tests with other meths stoves, the Speedster boils the water faster. There are some comparisons on YouTube, such as this one, using the smaller 20ml Speedster:

...3 minutes versus 4½ minutes, the Speedster won. Also, the Mini Trangia stove has to be primed, which wastes more fuel and time -- he did not include the priming-time in that 4½ minutes.

As can be seen in the above stove, I set it up on top of my kitchen stove (with ceiling extractor fan running). I also tested the boil time. 400ml took 6 minutes.

My "cooking" on the trail is really just heating up food then eat, such as baked beans, or boil water to rehydrate a meal. And, boil water for coffee. Prolonged cooking is not required, as if required can use my insulated pouch to complete the cooking process. I have one of these, weighs just 43g:

So, back on that question, how many days can I hike with 230ml of meths? According to the Speedster Stoves website, the 30ml stove will burn for 18 minutes. I would probably only need to boil about 600ml per day, which will take 9 minutes -- pour some out for the coffee, the rest to rehydrate a meal. That would mean 15ml per day, so the meths will last for 15 days!

Others might have heavier usage, such as make coffee in the morning, but even if the meths lasts for only 7 days, that is pretty good.

It would be interesting to compare with a gas setup. A 230g gas canister weighs 230g plus the steel container, a small gas screw-on burner is about 75g. They would probably fit in the pot OK. All-up weight is probably going to be higher, plus those gas canisters are not environmentally-friendly.

The motivation behind checking out this meths stove, is previously had used a wood-burning stove, but there are fire restrictions for much of the year here in Western Australia. Gas and meths stoves are allowed all-year round.

A few years ago, I was camping on the South Coast of WA, at a CALM campsite, and was cooking in a camp kitchen. I had a Vargo alcohol stove, and was cooking on a stainless steel bench. This stove: is not very stable, and I accidentally tipped it over. Meths ran over the benchtop, and the flame followed it.

The Speedster Stove, on the otherhand, really is spill proof, see this video:

...he is showing the carbon one, I have the "normal" one, presume that is also just as spill proof.

I was wondering what the weight would be if went for a gas canister solution, instead of a meths stove...

Looked up the calorific value (heating power) of butane gas versus ethanol, and it is about 50Mj/kg versus 29.7Mj/kg. However, that is for 100% ethanol. Methylated Spirits sold in Australia is 95% ethanol and 5% water, with a bittering agent to render it undrinkable. So meths is going to have lower calorific value -- let's estimate around 25Mj/kg.

What that means is half the weight of butane to get the same amount of heating power as meths.

Very roughly then a 100g butane gas canister will be the same heating power as my 200ml bottles of meths.

OK, a 100g gas canister from MacPac weighs 190g, costs AU$10.99. A screw-on burner is $67.46, weighs 72g.
4 litres of methylated spirits from Bunnings is $15.72, which is $1.58 for 200ml.

So from a cost point of view, the meths is far cheaper. What about weight?

My kitchen kit, without the meths parts, packed with a 100g gas canister and screw-on burner, will weigh 488g. This is the base weight of 226g, +190g, +72g

Very similar from a weight perspective. So the choice really comes down to cost and environmental impact. Well, not entirely -- if you are only going hiking for a couple of days, then only one 50ml meths bottle is needed, so can reduce the carrying weight: 498g, take off three bottles at 58g each, the total weight of the kitchen kit becomes 324g.

Another consideration: how do you know how much gas is left? You might have to carry a spare canister just in case.

Just remembered something: if you buy the Diggers brand of methylated spirits here in AU, there is a warning on the label not to use it in alcohol stoves. The reason for this is the company is covering themselves legally, see this forum thread:

Interesting topic, gas versus alcohol!    

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