Esbit - the Lightweight Backpacking Stove Option
                                                                                                 by Sue & Rich Freeman

Have you ever been on a backpacking trip and thought, “this pack is too heavy?” With us, it was a daily or maybe even hourly thought. In our pre-enlightenment days we carried a MSR Whisperlitek stove. It was a trusty friend – firing up to heat our dehydrated meals, making its signature sound, which is more like a freight train than a whisper. Then there’s the “lite” part of the name. The Whisperlitek stove along with its small fuel bottle with 5 days’ supply of white gas weighed 28 ounces. That may not sound like much, but when you get into long-distance backpacking you learn that every ounce counts and 28 of them became heavy.

What we discovered was the “Esbit alternative.” Esbitk is the brand name of a solid fuel cube. It’s similar to, but burns cleaner than, the old Army fuel tabs made of Trioxane and Hexamine. Esbitk offers a stove for use with their fuel tabs. But, it weights 3 ounces and basically functions to hold the fuel tab and cooking pot and allow air circulation.

We decided to try and save even more weight (and money) by making our own stove out of heavy-duty ¼ inch hardware cloth. First we bent the screen to form a 2½  X 4-inch platform with ¾ inch high sides. The tab sits on top of this so it can get adequate air circulation.

Esbit tab on platform


Next, we made a round piece of screen with bent ends that hook together to encircle the platform.

With pot stand

 The pot sits on top of the stand.

2-Quart pot on stand

with windscreen

The final touch was surrounding the entire works with the MSR windscreen to conserve the heat. This is essential if you want a ½ quart of water to boil with one tab.

Our stove, with windscreen, weighs 2 ounces. Together with 5 days’ supply of fuel the entire setup weighs 9 ounces, assuming we use 2 fuel tabs a day plus a few extras.

We aren’t gourmet chefs on the trail. We use dehydrated meals, or Lipton noodle or rice dinners and boil water to rehydrate & warm the meal. We use one tab to boil water for hot drinks and a second tab to cook the meal. The Esbitk cooked meals take a bit longer, are more expensive (tabs cost about $0.25 each) and you can’t prepare fancy meals that require simmering. But if you’re looking for a lightweight, easy option for hot meals, Esbitk tabs may be your answer.

You can find Esbitk tabs at Campmor (, expensive), REI (, (1-800-234-8654), Vertical Escape Outdoor Center 1-812-479-6887, MPI Outdoors 1-978-685-2700, or Outdoor Store 1-888-605-2470.


Lightweight Backpacking E-Mail List

Interested in learning more about how to lighten your pack load? Join the BackpackingLight e-mail list and you’ll be able to read posts from experts and post questions of your own. Dropping the list is very easy if you decide it’s not for you.

1.  Go to

2.  Register as a new member (upper left area of screen) by entering a Yahoo ID word and a password

3.  Search on:  “BackpackingLight”  (all one word)

4.  Double click on the “BackpackingLight” list which appears

5.  On the left of the screen will be a line for “Subscribe.” Double click on it and you’ll be taken through the steps to subscribe.



To Footprint Press