I first heard about SNCTOOL gear through a comment that was left last year on a blog post teaser of the Kupilka 21 cup giveaway. Curious about this new manufacturer I followed up via email to find out more about the gear and the person behind it. I’m so glad that I did.
I discovered that SNCTOOL Outdoor Products was the brainchild of experienced machinist and avid outdoorsman Steve Carothers. For years Steve has been following the lightweight backpacking trends and watching with interest the evolution of backpacking alcohol stoves until he reach that inevitable tipping point where he thought he had a better idea and could make something every bit as good as those other cottage manufacturers – or better. I personally think he’s pulled it off.
SNCTOOL Universal Alcohol Stove Kit
The very first thing I noticed about the SNCTOOL stove kit was the amazing quality and finish. It was immediately clear that Steve knows how to do exceptional machining work. The stove kit comes in a high density white polyethylene container with bright red screw down lid designed to protect the contents and keep them dry.
Despite the size of the container, the contents are a tight fit and require a little practice to put back in once taken out. There’s definitely a right way or order to putting the stove back into the container, so pay attention to the order when you first take it out :)
The SNCTOOL Universal Alcohol Stove Kit includes the following components:
- Machined aluminum top-jetted stove – 32.2g
- Three-piece aluminum pot stand – 50.9g
- Stainless steel windscreen – 57.2g
- Primer pan – 15.8g
- Simmer ring (aluminum) – 3.7g
- Snuffing cap (also waterproofs burner) – 11.8g
- High density polyethylene container with lid – 73.2g
- Fuel bottle with flip-top – 16.3g
- Hair pin (to use as a tool) – 4.9g
- Instructions (not weighed)
- Total weight: 266g (9.38 ounces)
- Weight without container: 192.8g (6.8 ounces)
Just look at the main alcohol stove. It’s constructed from three separate pieces of Bud Light beer bottles, that are assembled in Apple-like fit perfection, it’s a thing of beauty – no rough edges of sharp burrs to be seen anywhere. The same is true of all of the pieces of the stove set.
The three-piece triangular pot stand has precise notches cut into each side that allow the stove to sit securely into place. It puts me in mind of the Trangia stove system. Despite being well made, the three-piece pot stand and combined stove holder is one of the heaviest components to the set and would be my first target for making lighter. This is one of my few criticisms of this system. There’s definitely room for reducing the overall weight of the pot stand, either by drilling holes, using thinner gauge aluminum, or by switching to titanium - any of which may impact the cost.
- Top of pot stand: 85mm (3 5/16″)
- Top of stove: 55mm (2 3/16″)
- Top of simmer ring: 72mm (2 13/16″)
- Stove clearance from ground: 10mm (6/16″)
There is no wiggle or movement of any kind once the stove is inserted into the pot stand, it fits perfectly. This provides additional stability to the stove, no more blowing over in high winds or tipping over accidentally as you try to fill it with fuel, or light it. The snug fit also guarantees an optimum and consistent height from the base of your cooking pot or cup. The stove is held slightly off the ground making this a completely “cool touch” (to the ground) alcohol cooking system when you are not using the primer pan.
The wide double-wall construction of the stove body allows you to add quite a lot of fuel without over filling it. I thought it would barely hold one full fluid ounce, but after pouring in two ounces it was only about two thirds full. I tend to measure my fuel before I fill the stove, but if you were to fill it up and not use all of the fuel while cooking you can empty this stove once it has been snuffed out and cooled down. An advantage of the placement of the fuel jets. And talking of jets, this is a top-jetted pressurized alcohol stove, not a side jetted one like just about every other version like this. The flame pattern is narrow enough for my SP600 and doesn’t wrap around the sides like other Bud Light stoves.
Burn Tests and Results
I’ve been using this alcohol set during many of my day hikes and short overnighters for a few months now and the results have been surprisingly consistent. I have only tested the simmering capabilities a handful of times, so that’s an area that I’m going to continue to play with and something I’m looking forward to.
The wide base of the pot stand causes the windscreen to be very wide in diameter. As such, this would be a superb set for anyone using a wider pot like an Evernew Titanium 0.6L because there would be less open space between the windscreen and the base of the pot, trapping in more heat and making the stove more efficient. I’ve actually been using this set with my favorite Snow Peak 600 Ti cup and it still works extremely well even if it does make my cup look tiny in comparison to the pot stand and windscreen.
The windscreen itself is made from stainless steel foil and as you can see in the photo above, has a simple double fold method for joining the two end together. Simple but very effective. About one third of the bottom edge of the windscreen has V-shaped notches cut into it to allow just the right amont of air flow underneath. Obviously air flow was not problem using my SP600 cup, but with a larger pot or even a shallow pan, those air notches will become critical to providing air to the stove inside the windscreen.
I’ve been very pleased with my boil times on the trail, but didn’t keep very accurate records of how long it took to plume or come to a rolling boil, so I decided to run similar tests at home to validate the times and confirm by means of my trusty notepad and stopwatch. Stove testing at home in the NC heat can be thirsty work, but someone has to do it! All test results were using 2oz of fuel (denatured alcohol) and my Snow Peak 600 Ti cup.
The stove takes approximately 1:40 minutes to plume from cold. It takes about a third of that (35 seconds) if you use the primer pan underneath the body of the stove. I get consistent burn/run times for 2oz of fuel in the range of 19:43 minutes - 22:15 minutes Those times are taken from when the stove has fully plumed. The best time achieved for a full roiling boil for 2 cups of cold water was 5:18 minutes with the slowest being a whopping 6:38 minutes.
- Plume time: 1:40 minutes (35 secs with primer pan)
- Burn time for 2oz fuel: 19 – 22 minutes
- Rolling boil for 2 cups cold water: 5 – 6 minutes
The times above are in line with just about every other good alcohol stove on the market, so nothing especially exceptional there. Yet there is one thing that stands the SNCTOOL alcohol stove apart from many others and that is its ability to simmer effectively.
The separate simmer ring fits perfectly into the rolled edge of the stove and encompasses all of the fuel jets inside it cone shape. I’m not science expert, but this seems to concentrate the flame pattern, close the gap between the underneath of the pot and the top edge of the simmer ring, and reduce the amount of air getting to the stove resulting in a slow burn that lasts for well over an hour using 2oz of fuel. that’s right, over an hour of simmering for 2oz of alcohol.
Just imagine the possibilities that you would have with this capability! Baking, slow cooking, frying, and just about any form of real cooking, that is not just boiling water as fast as possible, becomes a reality. I’ve tested Esbit stoves that can simmer for long times, but this is my first simmering alcohol stove.
Finally there’s the snuffing cap. As with all of the other components, the snuff cap fits perfectly over the top of the stove and slots into the three notches in the pot stand. There is a small wire loop that can be used with the supplied long hair grip to pick up and place the lid over the hot stove without burning your fingers. For those of you that prefer to eyeball filling up your stove with fuel and who typically end up with fuel in the stove long after your water has come to a boil, you now have the option of snuffing it out, waiting for the stove to cool (I recommend 10 minutes to be safe) and pouring the excess fuel back into your fuel container – waste not want not.
The SNCTOOL Universal Alcohol Stove Kit is hands down the best made alcohol stove system that I have ever seen. The precision of manufacturing and overall quality is second to none. The burn times are not that amazing compared to many of it competitors, but is has the huge advantage of being able to simmer for over an hour on 2oz of fuel. Each stove is hand made in USA by a one person cottage manufacturer who clearly takes enormous pride in his work. Priced at only $37 and available via the SNCTOOL website, I anticipate these becoming a very popular stove option for people who want to be able to “cook” in addition to just boil water.
- Immaculately constructed with attention to detail
- Sturdy enough for large pots or small cups
- Reasonable plume and boil times (5-6 minutes)
- Can simmer for over an hour on 2oz of alcohol
- Stove can be snuffed & emptied to save unused fuel
- Comes with fuel bottle and waterproof container
- Great value at only $37
- Three-piece pot stand could be lighter weight
- Wide pot forces windscreen to have large diameter
Related Posts You Might Like:
- Full Flickr photo set for SNCTOOL Stove Kit
- Baking on an Ultralight Esbit Stove
- Flat Cat Gear | Snow Leopard Cook System
- DIY Titanium Foil Esbit ‘Tray’ Stove
Disclosure: Steve Carothers at SNCTOOL provided Brian’s Backpacking Blog with a complementary stove system for the purpose of this review.