Gear Review: Vargo Triad Alcohol Stoves

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I love to cook. I think I was the only one I knew in college who came home from the bar and ate like a king.  I would make real food when I came home and binge eat amazing meals. They also know I don’t like to carry a lot of weight when I hike. Maybe I’m just lazy, or maybe I’m just getting smarter. Nicole and Alex Docta wrote a great article Your Ultimate Guide to Camp Stove and Fuel Options. They discuss all of the pros and cons of each cooking system on the trail. They get into pricing and availability definitely check it out!

However, I want to focus on alcohol stoves, specifically two of the Vargo titanium stoves: the Triad and the Traid XE.

I own both of these stoves currently and they were my personal introduction to alcohol stoves. My canister stove system is an Optimus Crux which I admit, I also love. I have seen mixed opinions on alcohol stoves.  In my experience on the AT with thru hikers it’s been a mixed bag between canisters and alcohol stoves.  I’ve noticed that going without a stove is a growing trend as well.  I would love to see the stats on stove usage with thru hikers this year.

Disregarding the cost and focusing on weight savings alone I decided to wet my feet in the alcohol stove world.  Admittedly, I’m probably the least handy person I know. I can’t make anything with my two hands so I opted not to make a penny stove, soda can stove, cat food can stove etc. and found something that I knew was going to work. As a craft beer snob enthusiast, I recommend checking out this website for instructions on making your own Hop-can stove.

I purchased the Traid XE first for $27(MSRP $35) on Amazon, then the Triad for $23(MSRP $30) on Massdrop. (If you aren’t using Massdrop by now, please do yourself a favor and start!) Always shop around for prices, the deals are out there and NEVER pay for shipping, ever.

I will say up front, that anytime I use either of these stoves I am also using the Vargo Windscreen as well. I got my windscreen on Amazon for $15 with free shipping and the Vargo fuel bottle for another $2.50 as an add on item. Do yourself a favor and save the $2.50 and use something with a more secure squirt top with a gasket. Unless you have something rigid to protect the bottle from being squished in your pack, and subsequently leaking alcohol all over your beautiful blue GoLite Jam….. I’ll leave it at that.  Although I will say it’s graduated and somewhat clear, so it takes a lot of guesswork out of it.  I’m not sure what my next alcohol storage bottle will be, so please let me know what you’re using in the comments below. Alright let’s get at it.

Tech specs:

Triad

Titanium Triad Alcohol Backpacking Stove

Traid XE

Titanium Triad XE Alcohol / Fuel Tab Stove

Weight: 1.0    oz 1.5 oz
Outer canister dia: 3.4” 3.9”
Inner canister dia: N/A 3.4”
Height: 1.1” 1.2”
Fuel cap: 1.5 oz 1.25 oz
Alc. burn time: ~20 min ~15 min
Alternative fuel burn time: N/A Varied(gels or tabs)

The good:

  • Both stoves are incredibly light weight, compact and are quite capable of boiling water.
  • The Triad is very easy to refuel with alcohol and you do not need for it to cool down to open. When the flame goes out simply pour the alcohol into the fill hole on top and relight. There is no wasted fuel on either stove, which is also great. When your water is boiling, you can blow the fire out, allow it to cool and then pour the unused fuel right back into your storage container. I have never used all of the fuel in the stove to simply boil water. With the Traid XE you can also use flammable gels or tablets by flipping the stove upside down and only using the outer canister which makes it more versatile.
  • They are both ultra-light yet still durable. I always keep my stoves inside my coffee mug for additional protection.
  • They both are extremely inexpensive to use. I bought a gallon of denatured alcohol for about $16, and that will last me about forever -1 day since I’m only using it by the ounce. Think about that compared to canisters for stoves for a second…. If you calculate how much fuel you’ll need, you only need to carry that much. You don’t have to carry half empty mixed gas canisters and full ones in case you run out. The fuel used(HEET, denatured alcohol, pure ethanol and good ‘ole Moonshine!)  is readily available anywhere from the grocery stove to Wally World to most gas stations.
  • Finally one of the best aspects of these stoves 2 is the Vargo brand guarantee; “It’s simple. We stand behind any product we make. Forever.”

The not so good:

  • Both stoves take around 6-8 minutes to boil varying amounts of water.  Understand that it does take longer to boil water with these stoves than canister stoves.
  • The Triad XE needs to be cooled down to refuel. This is set back since it’s either on or off when it comes to cooking (welcome to alcohol Stoveland.) So if I need to cook for more than just myself, I have to wait to refuel or use a larger pot.
  • There’s no simmering or temp control with either of these stoves. The options are somewhat limited for food, but most people boil water and rehydrate most of their food. My Toaks 550 ml JUST balances on the pot supports, so it’s kind of sketchy. I plan to get a pot or kettle with a larger diameter soon. Make sure you check the diameter of your pot compared to the diameter of the pot supports before buying.
  • Anytime you openly play with flammable liquids such as alcohol there is a fire hazard.
  • Please be careful when filling or emptying the stoves and always use a secure base. This is especially important during the priming process. Too much spilled alcohol can turn into a major issue. (Ref: black spotted picnic tables and shelter floors) As a beginner to alcohol stove I’ll admit I burned my fingers a lot, but that one’s on me…

Manufacturers Warnings:

  • Use only in a well ventilated area! Never use stove indoors!
  • Only use denatured, ethyl, or methyl alcohol as fuel! Attempting to burn other fuels such as white gas, kerosene, unleaded gas, etc. will potentially cause an explosion and serious injury.
  • Be sure the flame is fully extinguished and the stove is completely cooled before refueling to prevent flare ups!
  • Always anchor stove legs into the ground to prevent the stove from tipping over!

Additional notes:

Overall I have reduced my cooking kit down to a scant 3.75 oz as is. Most likely I will be switching out my 550 ml mug to a larger Ti pot so let’s just call it a kit under 7 oz and be done with it. I try to support QUALITY products not just local ones. Luckily Vargo is based right here in PA and I can do both!

What are your thoughts on these two stoves? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Leave them in the comments below.

Check out the Vargo Triad and Vargo Triad XE for yourself.

h/t to Vargo for the specs and pics!

 

 

 

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