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I love meths, so when I came across Ethanol gel I couldn’t resist having a play to see whether there were any benefits to be gained by using it. It’s marketed as being safer because you can’t spill it … it’s also marketed as ‘eco’ which is a bit misleading really seeing as meths is also an ‘eco’ fuel but no one makes a song and dance about it.

200ml of gel and 200ml of meths – one’s heavier.

The gel’s packaged in a pouch which contains 200ml of fuel so the first thing I did was measure out 200ml of meths and weighed them both. I was slightly surprised to discover that even though the meths was in a fairly substantial bottle it still weighed 24g less than the gel pouch … bottle 197g v pouch 221g. Lesson 1 – Gel is heavier than meths.

I was a little concerned that the gel would actually be too thick to use in a double walled stove like an 8g, Trangia or Evernew. However, seeing as it’s sold as a meths alternative and the instructions contain such phrases as ‘filling your stove’ I gave it a go. After 10 minutes I gave up, on a couple of occasions I briefly thought we were onto something only to be let down shortly afterwards. Lesson 2 – Gel won’t work in a double walled stove or at least not the ones I tried.

Initial flames – gel on the left.

A quick rummage round the workshop resulted in a matching pair of simple, single wall stoves. I poured 15ml of fuel into each stove and lit it. Both stoves lit easily but the flames were quite different. The meths was doing what I expected and producing a large yellow flame … a sure sign that without the restriction of a pot there was too much fuel for the available air. The flame produced by the gel was all together different, it was smaller and much bluer in colour … uhm.

I waited 40 seconds which is generally enough time for the fuel to heat up to a point where a pot can be placed on the stove without extinguishing the flame. I popped 2 identical mugs on the stoves and once again the stove containing meths did exactly what I knew it would … a moments delay followed by flames from the jets which grew over a few seconds before settling down. The stove with the gel didn’t follow the expected pattern, instead the flames that appeared from the jets were tiny. Rather than getting bigger they gradually reduced in size until all that was visible was a tiny blue glow from the inside of the stove. I lifted the pot off and the flame gradually grew in size, after 30 seconds I placed the pot back on top and nothing. I played this game a few more times thinking that the fuel wasn’t hot enough but each time the result was the same.

Wait 40 seconds, add pots and this happens.

The water in the ‘meths pot’ was now boiling away quite happily so I removed it and instantly the big yellow flame returned. I did the same with the gel mug and while it was still burning, it was pretty uninspiring … there was no jumping back into life just a slightly pathetic blue flickering.

Pots removed. Righthand stove’s already boiled 350ml of water.

I allowed both stoves to burn themselves out and was surprised to see that there was quite a large amount of residue left in the bottom of the gel stove … I suppose in reality that’s possibly the least of its worries!

Guess which stove had the gel in?

So, after wasting half an hour of my life I’m really struggling to find anything positive to say about the gel. I could easily live with the extra weight or the sticky residue IF it worked but unless I’m missing something fundamental then I really can’t see a use for it. Judging by the flame produced it’s possible that it could be used as a substitute for solid fuel tablets (maybe that’s actually the intended use?) but seeing as you can’t spill them either, why would you bother?

If you like carrying more weight than necessary, enjoy scraping sticky stuff off your stove, prefer luke warm tea and are really, really clumsy then maybe you should try it … if not, then I wouldn’t bother.


  1. QDanT says:

    I 3/4 fill a 2oz, round, tobacco tin with fuel gel (sterno) I
    then push 3 or 4 fuel tablets in, this way it's simple to light, just a spark will do, also means it can be snuffed to reuse :-

  2. Unknown says:

    Hi s8tannorm,

    Thankyou for your review,

    I am from Fuel4 and I hope we can help with some of your challenges.

    Methylated spirits as you say, contains ethanol but this is from synthetic ethanol which actually comes from a fossil fuel source. Ours is a Bio-ethanol and made from Sugar Beet.

    Our packaging is designed to save space. By being in a pouch you can put in spaces a rigid container may not fit and as you use it, it is easy to roll up and stow the pouch.

    You are right that the gel is not as good at boiling when put in a traditional trangia spirit burner. We have (in partnership with trangia) created a new burner that allows the gel to perform at its best. When making stoves for the gel, it is always best give the gel a good surface area to burn eg the bottom of a drinks can (coke or sprite size with a side around 1-1.5 cm high) and should also not have a tall burner as this restricts the air able to get to the vapors. I imagine you would have got a long burn time in comparison to the Meths you have used.

    The yellow flame you experience from the meths is absolutely a sign of incomplete combustion but more than that, it is a sign of the harmful gases or residues. You may have noticed an increase in the soot.

    Further to this, you can use the gel purely from a rock or soil and would not need a stove for it. You can also use it as an efficient firelighter (depending on the type of trip you are on).

    Thankyou again for trying out our product and if you should have anymore challenges, please do not hesitate to contact us, either @thefuel4 on twitter or

    Have a great summer,


  3. Thanks for the comments, very useful.

    The only time I suffer any soot build up on the base of pans is generally when using a poorly designed stove that doesn't promote complete combustion.

    I'll revisit this over the next couple of weeks and see if I can make a stove to suit.

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