Been thinking about a topic to post here at massdrop/ultralight/talk and decided it might be nice if we talked about some of the safe non canister, non heet/alcohol stoves, that are out there.
Obviously there is the good'ole option of just going no-cook, something I have done a good part of the last few years, but sometimes, even when going no-cook, it is just nice to have a way to heat up some hot chocolate or some hot coffee or hot tea every so often. Or, even to heat up a no-cook meal on a super cold morning or night.
The topic of safer cooking systems comes up every year, especially here on the West coast of the USA, just before thru-hiker season starts up. With all of the huge wild land fires that have resulted in some pretty major detours to have to be made around the traditional PCT route, California, and other Western States, (perhaps to be accurate here, it is typically individual agencies, and not the State(s) themselves) have put into place laws that prohibit stoves such as the cat can + heet style stoves. So, this has caused a lot of hikers to migrate back to canister stoves. They are great of course, and not all that heavier, especially with the likes of that BRT-3000 or the gold standard canister stove, the Snow Peak Litemax.
So taking a look at the ones I have used the most, that are non canister, and non-heet, stoves, I think probably the one at the top of such a list is, of course, esbit. This is a super safe cooking method. UL hikers can go with the standard tablets, and we sul/xul hikers tend to go with the 4g tablets, due to the smaller size cup/pots we carry, but regardless of which size tablets/pots, esbit, with the one or two negatives it has, is probably at the very top of the "safe" list, I feel.
Next up on the system I have been using, is one that I am not sure anybody else has given any real long term use with, is using Swissmar Fire Gel. This is probably the safest liquid feel I have ever used for hiking. I have been using it for about six months, and have fallen in love with it. It negates the downsides of esbit, but is heavier, obviously, due to the fuel container (use the same ones from when I used heet for fuel). I first came across the use of Swissmar Fire Gel from Jon over at Flat Cat Gear in a video he did. One downside to using this Swissmar Fire Gel is that it does not work very well in most cat can style stoves, and not at all in some of the fancier heet stoves out there. Probably the best stove I have found for using it is the Flat Cat Gear "Multi-fuel stove" which is actually designed for use with isopropyl alcohol.
Speaking of isopropyl has a fuel source, it too falls (I feel) into the "unsafe" category, along with heet, because it can so easily spread if you tip over the stove.
There are, of course, fuel sources such as candle stoves, but they present the same downsides as esbit, and are nowhere near as efficient and are larger in pack volume - but, they are super cheap to build and the fuel source is obviously crazy cheap, and just as safe as esbit, perhaps even a tiny fraction safer as they are easier to blow out.
Anyway, suppose the purpose of the /talk/ here at Massdrop is for us to discuss stuff, so, yeah, I would love to hear about other types of fuel sources (and related stoves) that are non-canister, non-alcoholic and non-wood burning, that you'all have used!