I spent the morning playing with a couple of alcohol stoves. They are the Esbit Alcohol Burner and the Swedish Army Trangia Stove. Both burn denatured alcohol or methanol. Denatured Alcohol is easy to find and cheaper to use than the alternatives. Alcohol stoves are often used for ultralight and long-distance backpacking. The Esbit stove weights 3.5 ounces, the Trangia 6 ounces. There are no moving parts or burners to wear out or break. Just fill them and light. They can be used alone providing you have some sort of pot support with you. Some ultralight hikers use tent stakes to support the pots to save weight. Do not try to use gasoline, white gas or Coleman fluid in one of these stoves.
A good source of alcohol for stoves is the automotive fuel line de-icer Heet. It is pure methanol, burns clean with little soot and is available from automotive parts stores. Prices range from around two and a half dollars for the 12 ounce bottle to as little as 80 cents each in quantity or on sale. According to the Heet website, it is available from Wal-Mart, AutoZone, Murray’s, Menard’s, Meijer’s, Kmart, NAPA, Walgreen’s, Pep Boys, ShopKo, Ace Hardware, True Value Hardware, Mills, Fleet Farm, Target, Carquest, O’Reilly’s, Fred Meyer, and Blain’s. Denatured alcohol can be purchased at most hardware stores.
Both stoves worked well, although I preferred the Esbit stove because it is a little smaller and it has a second top with a sliding lid that lets you control the heat and stop the burning at any time. This lets you save fuel.
The Esbit stove is distributed in the US by Industrial Revolution; you can go on their website and find the location of a dealer. The Trangia is available in surplus stores. Trangia comes with a stand that I find a bit on the large size. The Esbit stove will work with the stand that is design to fit into the US Army canteen cover. The only problem is that you have to set the canteen cup on the top instead of inside. A commercial stand is available for the Esbit. See http://bit.ly/TTikrR for a description of the US Army canteen, stand and cup. I have never tried it, but it is my belief that alcohol made on a home still would work if it is a high enough proof.