When I was first asked to review the Esbit Solid Fuel Cook Set I said sure. I like reviewing cookware and Esbit has some pretty neat things. I don’t know why, but I was expecting something like a sauce pot for the home stove. When my cook set arrived and I unpacked it, my first thought was “OH MY GOSH! That is so cute!” It was, well, tiny compared to my imagined 2 quart sauce pan preconception. It also weighs well under one pound. In fact, even with the entire box of solid fuel and the cook set in the box, it weighs 15.9 ounces. Adorable and very, very easily carried.
So in reality, the Esbit solid fuel cook set (CS585HA) is a 400 ml (16 oz) capacity compact aluminum cook pot. The set also includes a lid, windscreen/pot stand with integrated tray for the Esbit solid fuel cubes (sold separately) and a mesh carry bag. Packed up, the set and fuel cubes measure 6” high and 4” wide. The fuel cubes I received came in a pack of 12. Each cube is packed in a waterproof package. These .5oz cubes will burn for around 10 minutes and according to the box, will heat 2 cups of water in about 8 minutes. After reading all the warning and directions, I tried it out.
First, I took out the fuel cubes and because I’m all scientific-like (read: weird and slightly nerdy) I smell them to see if I can figure out what these cubes contain. They smell like the oxygen-type laundry booster/ stain fighter (I’m not sure if I can use a brand name here, so I won’t, but I hope you know what I’m talking about). I am sure a little digging “in the google” will provide a more accurate answer. For now, I’m going to focus on the cook set. I put the fuel tablet in the tray, filled the pot to the top line marking (16 oz/400ml) and made sure the flip out handles on the pot were, indeed, flipped out. You don’t want to wait until the pot has been over the heat for any amount of time. The handles will get hot (surprise) and they are coated with a rubbery type (possibly silicone?) coating and while I didn’t try it out, I didn’t want to take the chance it might melt. So flip the handles out before you cook. I then lit the fuel tablet from the “cut out” in the base. I’ve seen and heard of other folk lighting the tablets from the top of the unit, but that looked like a good way to get burned. I don’t need help getting hurt, so I used a grill lighter. It took about 15 seconds for the tablet to ignite. It was hard to see the flames at first as well, but after it caught, the tablet took on a toasted marshmallow look. I want to note at this point that the wind was pretty steady at about 5 miles an hour, but gusted to about 10 mph. The flame danced around and licked up the sides of the pot, but showed no signs of going out.
After lighting the tablet I put the pot on the base and waited. Also, there is a flip up handle on the lid that goes on the pot. I flipped that up before putting the pot on the base. (Interesting that while the pot itself got hot, the lid handle remained cool.) My water was out of my tap and very cold today, in a canteen or Nalgene bottle in your pack or tent it may be warmer and take less time to heat. My actual time was close to 20 minutes and I used two fuel pellets. I really think the high wind and cold water played into this time. Also, lifting the lid to check the water will increase the time it takes to boil. Also to note, don’t use this on wood. I’m not saying I did, but uh, my friend did and she has a burn mark on her deck because the stove is hot. Hot things burn wood. Did you know that? I didn’t, err, my friend didn’t. Now she can explain the burned spot to her husband. Ahem: Moving along now.
I usually (ok, never) do not camp alone so this little one-man stove didn’t seem to be much more than a novelty review. When I then thought about my actual camping experiences-it turns out that, I am by myself quite a bit. With my two children that is, as my husband is usually off beating the tar out of his friends in the middle of a field at Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) events. For fun. While the hubs is off defending whatever it is he’s defending, I am usually defending myself against the onslaught of two hungry kids. We do Mountain House meals, mac n’ cheese cups, and ramen noodles for lunch most of the week we are at camp. I also could use a really strong cup of coffee at this point. Of course they get hungry when the person who is trying to get dinner for 40 ready is starting her prep work. So do I feel comfortable waltzing into the kitchen to take over one burner from the stove to heat TWO CUPS of water? No, I do not; but I do it because hungry kids terrify me. The adorable (I did mention it’s adorable, right?) Esbit cook set is going to be a rock star of a mothers little helper this year. Kids fed + mom who is properly caffeinated = success. I am sure the majority of you who are reading and hopefully using this little wonder are not acquiring it for its peace keeping properties, but for some of you, it will be a fabulous bonus.
At an MSRP of $29.95 and online prices as low as $22.00 for the set (fuel is sold separately-that price runs between $5 and $8 online for 12), it makes a nice addition to your family camping equipment. As a solo camper I think this will fit the bill for a lightweight, compact, affordable (and adorable, don’t forget adorable) cook set.