I’ve been a fan of Hexamine cookers for many years now. My first was the old-style army “Tommy” cooker. This consisted of two side pieces hinged on a baseplate. When folded, it was about the size of a cigarette packet with the fuel tablets contained inside it. It could be folded out to make a H shape for larger pots or the sides angled together for smaller pots. Light, simple and really cheap to buy. It was surprisingly stable in use and worked reasonably well if a windshield was used in addition. They are still made and I can recommend them for hikers wanting to try hexi for the first time.
But time moves on. Esbit, the brand leader in Hexamine stoves, have two really nifty designs that have become my favourites. The first is the Esbit Stainless Steel cooker. This consists of three roughly square pieces of steel that interlock to form a triangular pot stand/ windshield. There is a circular fuel stand that fits into slots in the pot stand.
The stove comes with a nice fabric carrying bag that has room to carry 6 large Esbit tablets as well. The stove weighs 93g so it’s light and very easy to pack. In use, the stove works really well for a stove using Hexamine fuel. One thing to watch is that the heat from the tablets can cause the stand panels to warp so it’s worth checking before use. Simply bend then back to stop the fuel support dropping out.
The second stove is a titanium minamalist stove weighing a mere 13g. It consists of three legs riveted to a fuel plate. When packed the legs fold together but in use they rotate to form a very capable pot stand that can take both small and larger pans. I’ve used it to boil one litre of water so the pot stand can support 1kg (2.2lbs) without struggling. More than enough for most backpacker’s needs. A windshield is a necessity for this stove. I use a takeaway foil food container with a few holes made in it on one side to let the air in. I doubt the whole kit weighs 20g. Here’s a picture of the stove.
A few general points about Hexamine fuel:
- It is very safe to carry, use and easy to extinguish.
- Partially used fuel tablets can be used later on.
- Hexamine can be hard to light in wind so I use a windproof lighter or impregnated paper to help get the fuel burning.
- It works well in hot or cold conditions and requires no priming.
- It does leave a sticky residue on pans and the fuel holder. I place a tiny piece of silver foil on the fuel holder to stop that happening or just scrape it off with a penknife. To clean the pot I’ve found a used teabag or wet grass cleans the soot off easily.
- Some brands of Hexamine do give off a chemical smell when lit. It doesn’t bother me although some people don’t like it.
- Hexamine isn’t a hot fuel so it only heats relatively slowly. I’ve found it roughly comparable to meths (denatured alcohol) stoves in heating times. A windshield is a good option but I’m not that bothered about a fast boil time – I can spend the extra few minutes admiring the view where I’m camping. Expect a pint (600ml) to boil in 10-12 minutes.
- Fuel usage is comparable to meths in terms of weight.
For me, Hexamine stoves are a good stove for backpackers to use, especially for trips of a few days when time is not of the essence. The 13g titanium stove makes an ideal back up stove with minimal weight penalty or if you fancy a hot drink on a day walk.