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Why does G2SS prohibit DIY alcohol stoves?

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From the spun thread:


In BSA's Scouting Community Richard Bourlon, BSA's safety director, indicated the policy change was due to "high profile" accidents involving alcohol fuel handling. From his comments the policy changes were not made on the basis of material properties like flash point, vapor pressure or combustion product toxicity relative to those of recommended chemical fuel.


I got to thinking about this because recently I slipped on some mud and landed on my backpack. My (commercial) white gas stove must've taken the brunt of the fall (though I could have sworn it was my right hip...) because when I fired it up, there was a leak in one of the bends of the generator tube. Made for some minor excitement, what with pressurized explosive fuel spewing out and all.


I also recently made - with my son as a family activity in no way associated with BSA - a couple different designs of can stoves. We did time trials on them to see how fast each could boil a pint of water, how long it could keep it at a boil, etc. Fun afternoon...


Anyway, I cannot really believe that a Penny Stove holding 1 oz of non-pressurized alcoohol is more dangerous than a stove you have to pump to pressurize that holds 16+ oz of white gas. From the quote above, it sounds like relative safety wasn't part of the consideration.


So, by way of fullfilling all sections of the 7th point of the Scout Law ("A Scout is Obiedient: If he thinks a rule is wrong, he seeks to have it changed in an orderly manner"), does anyone have details on these "high profile" accidents? Seems like the first step in revisiting this unfortunate decision is understanding what fears drove Irving to it.

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A few years ago, there was an incident involving the misuse of alcohol by a scout. It resulted in another scout's death. It was the following G2SS which prohibited DIY alcohol stoves and discouraged alcohol fuel. I always felt this was a liability issue with the use of stove fuels, as alcohol is particularly flammable as it readily vaporizes at most any temperature. Also keep in mind that penny stoves can on rare occasions "burp" with a backpressure. This is rare, but regardless, the "penny" is extremely hot, and therefore a hazard. Also, DIY (reservoir) stoves cannot be "turned off." Also there is a splashing risk, if the stove is tipped or accidently knocked over.


Whether or not these are connected, I have always assumed that it was an issue of liability, regardless of whether the hazard was genuine or imagined.


I use a DIY alcohol stove when I backpack outside of scouts, but when on troop outings, I respect and follow the G2SS, regardless of whether or not I agree with it.


Alcohol is more efficient (per weight carried) in fuel quantities equalling or less than 3-4 day's supply. Beyond that the canister fuels become more efficient. Of course that does not take into account the weight of the stove, which can vary considerably. I think a training program on liquid fuels (like SSD, Climb on Safely, etc.) would be more effective way to dealing with the hazards of fuel handling and usage.


Just my 2.

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There is a commercial manufacture of these stoves



Whitebox stoves are a commercial supplier of soda can stoves.......Also Varga makes a titanium version, I am told that it takes too long to fill.



So if you had to have a compliant stove you could buy a white box stove.

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A few years ago, there was an incident involving the misuse of alcohol by a scout. It resulted in another scout's death.


Thanks Buffalo Skipper. Any further details you can recall?


...as alcohol is particularly flammable as it readily vaporizes at most any temperature...


I'm not sure I'd characterize alcohol as "particularly flammable" in comparison to other chemical fuels like white gas. They're fuels, they're all supposed to be flammable. Especially considering that the non-alcohol fuels are pressurized, they will readily vaporize also. And yes, the penny is hot - so is the burner on a white gas stove. So is, for that matter, the water boiling in the pot above either version.


Stoves get hot, they burn, the fuel they use combusts. I think your 2 cents "...a training program on liquid fuels (like SSD, Climb on Safely, etc.) would be more effective way to dealing with the hazards of fuel handling and usage" is a good idea.


[edit] PS, one of the reasons I'd like more info on the accident(s) is I'd like to know what happened so I can guard against it myself. Absent details, I assume any accident that happened with alcohol fuel is also possible with white gas fuel as well. Something like the on-line hazardous weather training would be a nice resource.(This message has been edited by JMHawkins)

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It was discussed here at length. Here is the thread:




Remember the context, this was not a cooking or stove incident. It was a lapse of judgement and a tragic accident. As I said, it may only be coincidence that I noticed the change in policy on alcohol fuel/stove use after this incident.

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Either the technology is hazardous or not. I do not see how the Whitebox stoves have any 'safety features" different than a well built DIY one.


Had a boy try to light a canister stove by turning on the gas and holding over a fire...and then promptly dropping into the fire. So the canisters got their problems as well.

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Yep I remember reading that story. And it is a coincidence that the fuel policy changed shortly thereafter.


It's like a lot of other things, i.e. no patrol camping without adults, no pioneering projects over a certain height unless inspected and folks are wearing helmets and hooked up to a belay system, etc.

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Whether or we agree with policy changes or not, it is natural to assume that they occur as a response to an incident or incidents. So with the above listed incident, it is not a stretch to connect the two, which makes a policy change understandable, even if a bit misguided.


It has been harder for me to swallow the "Patrol Campout" pill because I have seen no information relating actual "patrol without leader" incidents. I try to follow scout stories (even the tragedies I hate to see smeared in the media), but I have yet to see a headline reading: "Scouts Camping without adult supervision cause 10,000 acre wildfire and die while canoeing away on flood swollen river!" Seems hard to imagine the media not grabbing an unsupervised incident and pasting it across the top of every paper in the country.


But I don't mean to digress.(This message has been edited by Buffalo Skipper)

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Ok... so it's been years since I did anything with white gas, but I know that some forms of alcohol burn invisibly. If I recall my chemistry, the less water in the mix, the less visible.


How does spilled white gas burn? I assume we're talking about Coleman fuel which is actually naphtha, and not white gasoline.


An invisible flame at a campsite sounds a little foolhardy. Probably just me though...

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Ah the clarity of the BSA.....





Prohibited chemical-fueled equipmentEquipment that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed beyond the manufacturers stated design limitations or use. Examples include alcohol-burning can stoves, smudge pots, improperly installed heaters, and propane burners with their regulators removed.


Chemical fuels not recommendedUnleaded gasoline; liquid alcohol fuels, including isopropyl alcohol, denatured ethyl alcohol, and ethanol; and other flammable chemicals that are not in accordance with the manufacturers instructions for chemical-fueled equipment.



So the white box stove is manufactured and sold by a company.....It comes with manufactures instructions as to how to use it. So it is not homemade and comes with instructions.....While the fuel is not recommended it is not forbidden...... My scouts use canister stoves...... Just discussing is all........


What about esbit, Never seen one come with directions?????? While white gas stoves are hard to beat in cold weather, they are messy, stinky and loud.


When the family goes we take three popcan stoves I built....

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Not sure of the reasons behind BSA's policy change, but I would have been more in favor of a training course than an outright "ban". Hard to teach survival skills when the whole "This is how to make an improvised stove" part becomes just textbook and no more hands on training. But alas, it seems the "adventure" of scouting is on a constant downslope to "project management" coursework, but I digress...


As someone who majored in Chemistry in my undergrad days, I see no inherent danger with alcohol over white gas or any other liquid fuel. The danger is in poor construction and no on/off switch and no way to prevent / reverse an uncontrolled burn. Then again, a flame gets to a compromised pressure canister and you don't need worry about an uncontrolled burn, just the big bang and shrapnel that comes with an exploding canister! Then again, the risk of a compromised canister is probably less than a compromised pop-can stove.


Coleman white gas burns pretty much clear if dumped out on a table / ground and lit. I assume it does the same on human skin, much as alcohol does. In fact, it has a higher vapor pressure and boiling point, so in theory it will not evaporate as readily as alcohol. At least with ethyl or isopropyl, if it gets spilled and not cleaned up, it will evaporate given enough time and air current. White gas sticks around a lot longer.


That being said, I like my coleman backpacker whisperlight stove. Its not as small as an MSR, but you carry stove and fuel all in one, it can run on unleaded gas if need be without any conversion kit, AND it doesn't loose pressure / effectiveness at high altitude or low temps. Sucks trying to make coffee on a cold winter morning and the dang mini-propane won't push out enough fuel to keep the burner lit.


Like most things in scouts, DIY stoves, pioneering, patrol campouts, "adventure" and "responsibility" has been shoved aside in favor of litigation avoidance. Hard to build young men of character when they are limited on what they are allowed to "test" themselves. Can't make a hasty fire on the ground anymore (LNT) and can't use a makeshift stove.... guess the survival-man way is to just freeze and go hungry now?

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When the No Patol Camping Policy came out, there was a thread that did have links to a story where scouts did burn several million dollars worth of forest.


HOWEVER it wasn't a patrol camp out with a group of scouts who have been together for a while, know each other very well, and have their SM's approval. Rather it was a summer camp Wilderness Survival MB class that had two Scouts teaching the course, take the scouts on their overniter, and leaving them on their own. And The scouts in charge ignored a fire ban.

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