Stoves? What you can use.

WhisperliteAs with many other things in Scouting, some “rules” get made up as they go.  Cell Phones?  NO.. No electronics on Scouting Outings.  Not written down anywhere from the BSA, but ask many Scouters and they will proclaim this as gospel.
Knives, same thing.  Throw that subject out at a Round Table and you will get 50 different “policies” on what can and can not be used.
So, lets talk about one of my favorite subjects.  Stoves.  According to my wife, I have a stove addiction.  I have many makes and models.  Various fuel types and uses.  Yeah, I like stoves.  My go to stoves are the Fancee Feast stove, the one I am using now is from Swankfly, but now that he is out of the stove business Zelph at Woodgaz stoves is the guy to get them now.  My other go to is the Solo Stove wood gas stove.  I absolutely love this stove.
I also have the MSR Whisper lite, a great liquid fuel (multi fuel) stove.  Then there are a few more alcohol stoves.  The Trangia, which is an indestructible stove.  Its Swedish construction is second to none.  The Mini heat from  Smokeeater 908.  Cool remote feed stove that is build like a tank, but so light you don’t know its in your pack.  Tato Gear’s AB13 Hybrid alcohol stove is another stove that I like to throw in the pack from time to time.  Great for baking, the remote feed allows for hours of cooking on a single light.
I have a collection of canister stoves, the Snow Peak Giga Power, MSR Pocket Rocket, and a few Jet Boil systems along with Esbit solid fuel stoves.
So I like stoves.
But what am I allowed to use in the BSA?  All of the above.
The official BSA policy is simple.  As long as you did not make it, you can use it.
You can use alcohol, as long as you use denatured alcohol.  You can use White gas, Diesel, kerosene, and solid fuel like the Esbit fuel tabs.
You can not make a pop can stove.  I suppose the BSA is leary of Scouts not doing it right.  In fact the policy says you can’t make your own stove period.
Fuels are to be used as intended and carried in a fuel container that is designed for that purpose.  For example, if you are using Denatured Alcohol, you need to carry it in a fuel bottle.  Putting your fuel in an old pop bottle or generic bottle is not authorized.
So the myth of Alcohol stoves being banned is just that.. a myth.
The myth that you can not use wood stoves.. just that… a myth.
Liquid fuel stoves too dangerous for Scouts and therefore banned.. a myth.
I was told that wood gas stoves can not be used because you can’t turn them off.  Huh, what?  Can’t turn them off?  You can put out a fire in a fire pit right?  Then you can put out a wood gas stove.
Alcohol and wood stoves can not be regulated.. they are on or off.  Ahhh.. again, nope, not in all cases.  Trangia, Esbit, Solo, and remote Feed stoves all can be snuffed out and regulated for temperature.
So again.. myth busted.
In my last post I encouraged you to allow alternative gear to be used.  Allow the Scouts to seek adventure and try new things.  When it comes to stoves, really there are not many restrictions other than making your own.
Here is what it comes down to.  Training.
You teach the Scout to use the Coleman two burner stove right?  Then teach him to use an alcohol stove properly.
Teach him to use his MSR pocket rocket or Dragon fly the right way and it will serve it’s purpose without anyone getting hurt.
When the Scout is properly trained and trusted, he will do the right thing and have fun in his outdoor experience.
Technology and research have produced some really cool stoves.  Let them try it.
Many Scouts in my Troop have started using the Vargo Titanium stove.  They are available at REI and other out fitters.
They are solid as Sears and work great.  They can be turned off (or put out) and get a good boil or simmer if you need it.
They are nice an light and you can cook what ever you would cook on your Coleman stove with them.  And we allow them to use them because they can.
I highly recommend this as a great stove to get Scouts and Scouters into using Alcohol Stoves.
Here is the Vargo Official Video for the Triad Alcohol Stove.

So that’s what you can use… Stoves.  Most all of them are available to your Scouts.  Do not make up policy because you are afraid of change.  Do not be set in your ways so a Scout does not get the chance to explore.  Don’t give in to the myths that have been passed down from one old Scouter to the next.
The fact is, there are lots of choices out there.  Exploring is part of the Scouting way.
Give them a try.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

11 comments

  1. Great post. I’ve heard things like “scouts can’t light stoves” or “stoves can’t carry matches or lighters” as well. Who cares that matches and/or firestarters are part of your ten essentials.

    Keep posting the good articles!

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      1. I actually heard they can’t light stoves by a guy giving my IOLS course, and read the no matches/lighters on a local troop’s website. Just shake your head and carry on.

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  2. Hi Jerry,
    I saw the Facebook post where some guy said that we could not use wood stoves in the BSA because the heat of these stoves could not be regulated. That was funny. I wonder if he can use a campfire to cook his food. I never figured out how to regulate the heat from that either. Except to let it burn down.

    Good article. Thanks.

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    1. You are correct. And it used to be a second class requirement to cook over an open fire.. it is now a option to cook over an open fire in the First Class requirements. I am sure those Scoutmasters just sign it off as complete.
      You regulate the flame by adding or not adding more fuel. It’s pretty simple, we have been doing it that way since the cave men cooked in their caves.
      Thanks for the comment.

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    1. It is pretty simple.. although the policy as written is not as cut and dry as stated.
      “Chemical Fuels not Recommended— Unleaded gasoline;liquid alcohol fuels, including isopropyl alcohol, denatured ethyl alcohol, and ethanol; and other flammable chemicals that are not in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for chemical-fueled equipment.”
      Denatured Alcohol would not fall under “not in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for chemical- fueled equipment” as it is a chemical fuel to be used in marine stoves as well as other applications, according to most manufacturer’s of Denatured alcohol.
      I personally use the Klean Strip brand available at Home Depot. According to the manufacturer’s web site; The Klean Strip Green 1-qt. Denatured Alcohol can be used to thin shellac, clean glass surfaces and as a clean burning fuel source. Use this denatured alcohol inside and outside of your home. http://www.kleanstrip.com/product/fuels http://www.kleanstrip.com/product/denatured-alcohol
      In so far as wood burning.. It is not considered a chemical fuel. It is Bio mass and is not prohibited. For that matter Denatured Alcohol is not prohibited either, just not recommended by the BSA.
      I will continue to use it as will my Scouts.
      Thanks for the comment.

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  3. There is no recipe for troop culture, yet in my opinion it’s the most important thing a leader can contribute to in Scouting. My grandmother was a great cook who seemed to follow no real recipe. A pinch of this and a bit of that cooked at around 350 for a while described most things that came out of her kitchen and the outcome was great. I think the same goes for Scouting. The troop I enjoyed as a boy was large for our area with around 40 boys. Our culture was amazing yet I’m not sure which rule book we really followed. When a scout earned his first class rank at the court of honor he got his new rank patch and a hatchet. The hatchet was the badge of honor as much as the rank and when we were on campouts we didn’t need a uniform to see who had the rank. I have never seen that in the rule book but it was an honor in our troop to see it. Same for Order of the Arrow. We only sent one boy per year and only if all the leaders agreed to it unanimously. During the 5 years I was in scouting our troop had maybe 8 boys with the flap. Did we deprive some deserving boys of the experience of OA membership? Maybe. But that was our culture and we protected it. As an adult I understand the importance of culture. I do IT work and I have worked for 3 companies in my career. Some I am very proud of, some not so much. The culture of the company played a huge part in that. I think the same goes for troops. I have always been wary of people outside of a troop deciding what was bad and what was good for a troop. I see many things as guidelines and less like rules the older I get. There is no recipe in scouting for success. Be careful of those who say they have one. Good troop culture is cultivated over years and if done properly will turn out outstanding men regardless of the “guidelines” followed or ignored. The goal of scouting is something I don’t think anyone would argue, the road to get there is up for debate. I enjoy your blog posts, especially the ones that clear up misconceptions that some troops seem to have. Be careful not to throw the rule book at a troop for a cultural choice. Thanks for the wonderful Blog. Keep up the good work!

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    1. I would be the last one to throw the rule book at a Troop. I am the one that wants Scouts to have the ability to enjoy Scoutings many opportunities. It is the “Made up” rule book that I caution leaders to stop using. Making rules up is not an issue of culture. Delivering the Promise of Scouting is the culture of the Scouting Program. Yes, there are many trails that will get you to the destination. I would not consider withholding program opportunities and making up restrictions that do not allow the Scout to enjoy Scouting to the fullest.
      No matter what the Troop culture is there are some things that every Troop should not compromise.. that would be the Aims and Methods of Scouting. The program is designed to lead the Scout to achieving those Aims through the methods. So when we decide that our “culture” is this or that at expense of the Aims and Methods we do the Scout and Scouting a disservice.
      Thanks for the comment. Keep ’em coming!

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    2. Michael,
      A secret I have found is that while there are rules in the BSA, there is very little enforcement of the rules. I could take my unit out camping using homemade alcohol stoves, and no one would know. No one from the council checks up on us. The only way they have to enforce anything is by using the threat of denying health or litigation insurance if something goes wrong. The only thing I have heard adults be kicked out for is youth protection issues. In my council, we do not have to even file a tour permit any more if we are camping in the geographical area of the council (or we are using firearms.)

      Troops get to run their programs any way they want. No one from the BSA will stop them from having an adult run program with a substandard advancement system and a bunch of made up rules. The only recourse of a scout or parent is to vote with their feet, and leave the unit. I hear all the time about adult leaders becoming “tin horn dictators”, and there is not way to stop it..

      So it is up to the integrity of the adult leaders, or the lack thereof, to deliver the promise of scouting.

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  4. Guide to Safe Scouting prohibits equipment that is “handcrafted, homemade, modified …”.
    I would argue that any stove made out of a pop or cat food can would fall into that category whether or not you paid for it. The Vargo stoves do not fall into that category.
    Personally, I don’t think a cat can stove is any more dangerous that a Dragonfly stove. I’ve never singed my eyebrows on an alcohol stove. (Don’t ask).
    I’ve made a bunch of alcohol stoves over the years, I just don’t use them on Scout outings.

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