Monday, June 3, 2013

Mini Trangia Mess Kit and Esbit Potstand

Trangia Mini 28-T, plus MSR alcohol bottle
I love my full-size Swedish Army Mess Kit with Trangia stove (it's actually a SVEA burner); but sometimes it is just too big and heavy to carry on a solo backpacking trip.  I often use the SVEA alcohol burner with various other pot, potstand, and windscreen combinations - trying to find the perfect setup to cook for one.  The old Trangia/SVEA stove is a classic, proven diehard burner that works in all weather conditions and is a real miser on fuel use.  That being said, I've many times looked longingly at the newer commercial Trangia burners with their included simmer rings, which make them that much more useful (since I like to actually cook on the trail, as opposed to just boiling water).

Well, thanks to Christmas, I've gotten the opportunity to test out the Mini Trangia Mess Kit.  This kit has the same basic components of its bigger brothers, including the venerable Army kit - it has a potstand/windscreen, the Trangia alcohol burner with simmer ring, and a pot grabber - all which nest inside the aluminum cooking pot with its frying pan lid.  The pan lid has a non-stick inner coating and an anodized outer; and the pan stacks on top of the pot when cooking to act as a lid, and to allow heating of food or sauces simultaneous to boiling the pot.

Mini Trangia Kit, with firesteel, spork, and plate
Many of the other cooking pots in my collection are taller and narrower than the Trangia mess kit - including my Snow Peak Mini Solo, and my Stanley Camp and Cook Set; but, Trangia has a reason for everything they do, and the low, wide aluminum pot definitely heats up and boils quickly (good heat distribution).  The little pot grabber is thin and light - it feels a little flimsy at first, but it gets the job done well and without a weight penalty.  The wide mouthed pot is also easy to clean when done eating, as is the non-stick coating on the pan.  I also like to have a wide pan for use in frying eggs, cooking flapjacks, or heating up various scrambles.  The potstand is pretty stable/sturdy, and surprisingly light; but it is not the best at blocking wind.  In a windy environment, it might be desirable to use a separate home-made windscreen around the potstand.
The Mini Trangia packs up small

I've used this mess kit on three trips, so far; and I'm impressed.  It may not look very unique, or have a 'super-cool' factor (other than the Trangia burner itself); but this mess kit 'just works' and works well.  Now for the specific details...this is the Trangia Mini 28-T mess kit, complete with the commercial alcohol burner and simmer ring.  The aluminum pot is 0.8 L, and comes with an aluminized potstand/windscreen and the aforementioned non-stick frypan lid.  With the ultralight pot-grabber handle, the whole package nests together into a less than 12 oz kit (approx. 6" dia x 2.5" high).  Note that the burner weighs only 3.5 oz by itself - it can boil 2 cups of water in about 7 minutes, and it has a total burn time, when full, of about 25 minutes.  Like all Trangia stoves, you can store unburned alcohol in the stove thanks to the o-ring gasket on the threaded lid.  Using the simmer ring to limit the flame from the burner jets both allows for extended burn times, and for simmering/baking with the stove.  For about $30, you really can't go wrong with this mess kit.  This is destined to become my solo mess kit of choice.

On the trail - Mini Trangia and Esbit stand
One thing that I still questioned though, was the potstand/windscreen performance - it works well as a stand, and is fine in calm or slightly breezy conditions.  Once the wind picks up, however, the windscreen is less effective and the flames start licking all about.  There are a number of alternative windscreen/stands for use with the mini Trangia, including the Westwind, the Clickstand, the Esbit potstand, and Trangia's own Triangle.  All of these stands are fold-up 3-piece designs, to be used as a potstand and windscreen.  I'm not a fan of the Westwind design, as it doesn't look like a good windscreen and I've read reports of less than stellar boiling performance (it acts like a heat sink).  The other three designs are all very similar - they are three-sided, interlocking, stainless steel windscreens that the Trangia nests inside of and pots rest upon at the correct height.  The Clickstand and Trangia Triangle are slightly wider that the Esbit model, with the former versions using and inner tray to hold the Trangia burner, while the Esbit allows for the Trangia's lip to lock into place.  I opted to try the Esbit potstand.
Esbit stand/windscreen with Trangia
The Esbit windscreen is only 0.3 oz.  It comes with 3 rectangular flat pieces of stainless steel that interlock to form a triangle.  The Trangia burner snaps into place within the potstand, nestled about an inch below the top of the potstand.  The Esbit stand also comes with a center plate that can be used instead of the Trangia, if you wanted to use it for burning their own Esbit tablets instead of alcohol (a nice add-on, if you can stand the smell of Esbit).  When not in use, the disassembled stand fits in a nice black nylon pouch.
Boiling water for oatmeal

I must say that the Esbit is a fantastic windscreen.  I used this screen in some very blustery wind when backpacking in the Bighorn mountains of WY, and the flames hardly flickered.  The flames licked nicely at the bottom edge of the Trangia pot, and it boiled quickly.  The only issue in windy weather is that the flames tended to chase your fingers when checking the pot, and I managed to singe the hair on my knuckles (doesn't smell as bad as Esbit tabs though).  One concern that I have with this screen is that it seems less efficient in warm and non-windy conditions.  It blocks wind great, and keeps heat focused on the pot when temperatures are cold; however, when the weather is warmer and there is no wind, the small sized windscreen seems to concentrate the heat a little too much, and it rapidly boils away alcohol - in as fast as 10 minutes when around 3/4-full.

Now that I look back at the original Trangia potstand, I'm thinking that Trangia's plan was to give up some wind protection in favor of more efficient overall fuel use.  Perhaps the Clickstand or Trangia Triangle might be a little more efficient.  The Clickstand is about $10 more expensive than the Esbit (<$25), and the Triangle is somewhat difficult to find in the US.
For the 0.3 oz of extra weight, I'll carry both the Trangia and Esbit potstand/screens for a while and confirm their performance in various conditions.  I'll report back with what I find out. 



  1. Good review and your observation about the windscreen/heat concentration trade-off. To complicate things even more - another variation Trangia pot stand and wood burner is the UK made "Pocket Stove". I use it, the Triangle, and the Kunzi Magic Flame depending on where I am going and if I plan to "cook" or just boil water for some noodles.

    1. I'm interested in picking up a Triangle because it will work with the military Trangia/SVEA, too. I'm not familiar with the Kunzi; I'll have to take a look.

  2. Old post, but for your military version, Tatonka makes a stainless steel simmer ring which fits perfectly on the old burner. And if you want to carry it in its own bag, you can use a Swedish leather gas mask bag, almost as if it was made for the cookset.

  3. I remember seeing that from Tatonka. I'll have to pick one up, although even with my commercial Trangias, I never seem to simmer. Does anyone routinely use the simmer ring, and if so, to cook what?