Musings on IT, data management, whitewater rafting, and backpacking

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Problems with aging Esbit tablets

Esbit tablets are popular with lightweight backpackers for cooking. Some people keep them in survival kits. Esbit claims:
When properly stored, Esbit solid fuel maintains its full functionality for many years.
I'm not sure what Esbit means by "properly stored", but I had trouble with 5 year old Esbit tablets.

For my 2003, 500 mile PCT hike, I bought several dozen Esbit tablets. I didn't use most of them.

The tablets were stored in their original blister packs, inside Ziploc freezer bags, inside a sealed 5 gallon bucket, in a 55° F basement. Pretty good conditions, in my opinion!

In 2008, I pulled some of those 5 year old tablets out for a trip.

While cooking the first night's dinner:
  • The tablet "popped" repeatedly, like popcorn.
  • Each pop threw off small, flaming bits of tablet
I cooked meals successfully, but I watched each cooked meal carefully after that, to avoid burning nearby items.

At home, I tried some of the remaining tablets. More than half popped and splattered.

Throwing dozens of Esbit tablets in the garbage is a bad idea.

I piled the tablets up in a back yard covered fire pan, and burned the entire pile at once.

Lots of popping and splattering, safely contained within the mesh cover.

Now, I buy just the Esbit tablets needed, and buy fresh tablets if I have any doubt about the age of stored tablets.

I recommend replacing stored Esbit tablets every few years.

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