“Choice overload” refers to the difficulty in making consumer decisions given the myriad options available to us — think grocery stores, your wardrobe, Netflix. It means that in those sacred and peculiar lists of things we deem essentials, fewer and fewer items will continue to make the cut.

For hikers, cyclists, and backpackers, a Trangia spirit (alcohol) burning stove beats back the hordes of competitors to remain a requisite for any number of different overnight excursions. But even so, the variety of sizes, materials and accessories within Trangia’s product line is burdening for anyone in the market, or simply in consideration of an upgrade. As a hiker, I’m usually weary of superfluity, but a soft spot for the brand’s design (little of which has changed since its first conception in 1925) has made my approach to the entirety of their vast catalogue somewhat reckless — in short, I want it all.

Trangia’s main offerings fall into two basic categories according to size: the 27 series for one to two people, and the 25, a slightly larger make, meant to feed three to four. Both are complete, self-contained systems; the cookware, heat source and windshield compact into the protective shell used to transport the stoves. Also available are a number of accessories, like a water kettle, an alternative gas (propane, butane) burner.

But the majority of Trangia systems rely on alcohol as a sole fuel source, utilized through Trangia’s esteemed burner. A pre-dating patent on similar types of burners exists from 1904 in New York City, but Swedish born founder Jon E. Jonsson, familiar to the harsh and windy winter of Trångsviken in the middle of the Nordic country, refined this invention. Alcohol was attractive to Jonsson for a number of reasons: one, it doesn’t freeze; it’s widely accessible; and, depending on purity, it’s clean to burn. Use the system’s proprietary windscreen and dual purpose cookware shell, and you’ve got an easy to transport stove system that Trangia boasts will function and outlast any camper in the worst of elements.

That is until your Trangia rig, like mine, exceeds the practical limit of your camp pack. In an effort to slim down, or at least reassure that the optional upgrades (finish, size, and accessories) were worth it, I put three different versions of the Trangia to the test.

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27-3 HA, 725 grams (25.6 ounces)


Pros: reliable, self-contained, silent, wind-resistant, alcohol burner requires no priming
Cons: slow boil, does not feed more than one person, simmer ring hard to adjust mid-cook
What’s in the Box: spirit burner with flame control, windscreen, two 1.0 L hard anodized pots, one non-stick frying pan (18cm), one pot holder
Boil Time: 0.5 L water, 11 minutes
Wind Test: flame contained

The Trangia 27-3 HA is a small system made to cook for one or two people; its ultralight aluminum is finished with a hard-anodized coating, similar to that of colored carabiner clips, and the lid, which doubles as the frying pan, is non-stick. Trangia claims that the hard anodization makes the pots and pans less vulnerable to long-term wear. Though this option is slightly more expensive, it adds no extra weight, and, as the first Trangia I owned, it’s lived up to my expectations. After many a warm meal, the pots are still in great aesthetic shape, performing as they did on day one, despite the fact that I also frequently use them as a vessel to eat out of. (I skipped the non-stick finish, which is less durable and susceptible to scratches from a fork, spoon or knife.) Because both the hard anodized and non stick finishes are of aluminum, they cool extremely fast when removed from the heat source.

The burner itself is of ingenious design, featuring an adjustable simmer ring to control the flame level. The burner cap utilizes an internal rubber O-ring that prevents any leaks from leftover fuel during transport. My only gripe is that, unlike the the aluminum pots and pans, the durable brass material of both the burner and simmer ring traps heat, a pro and a con, since it heats very fast but must cool before being handled, making adjusting the flame mid-cook somewhat difficult. But it’s worth noting that during the wind test (blowing a hairdryer on the burner from all angles), the flame remained contained and performed as usual in the windiest of conditions.

While hiking alone, I’ve been extremely pleased with the volume of food available through the 27-3 HA’s cookware size. When cooking for extra mouths, though, the 27 series is too small, despite being marketed as a stove for couples. And after I reasoned that the extra weight of the water kettle wasn’t necessary for boiling water, it took just under 11 minutes to heat 0.5 liters of water (enough for a serving of pasta or few cups of coffee), far slower than gas combustion stove systems. Still, the alcohol burner avoids the loud hissing associated with other and provides an overall tranquil cooking experience outdoors.

Verdict: Though still heavier than other ultra lightweight options on the market, the 27-3 HA is by no means heavy, and functions as an exceptional, reliable camp stove for the lone backpacker. Get the anodized-coated version.

25-0 HA (with kettle), 1075 grams (37.9 ounces)


Pros: reliable, self-contained, silent, wind-resistant, alcohol burner requires no priming
Cons: slow boil (kettle even slower), extra weight
What’s in the Box: spirit burner with flame control, windscreen, two hard anodized pots (1.75 L, 1.5 L), one non-stick frying pan (22cm), one aluminum kettle, one pot holder
Boil Time (kettle with gas burner): 0.5 L water, just under 3 minutes
Wind Test: flame contained

The 25-0 is the largest and most upgradeable system Trangia offers. Like the 27-3, both pots are hard anodized and the pan is non-stick. Unlike the 27-3, the windscreen, however, is unfinished aluminum; the signs of wear this displayed after only its first use speaks volumes for the hard anodization.

As for size, the 25 series is noticeably larger than the brand’s other options. Even when compacted the stove is still too big to fit discreetly in a backpacker or cyclist’s luggage. Its pot size cooks enough to feed parties of two or three, but the gas burner is standard across the board (the same size as the 27 series) meaning overall output is exactly the same and you’ll get no heating power advantages by upgrading. The kettle is also troubling. Somewhat illogically, it took 20 percent longer than the pot to bring the water to boil. It might reserve the heat for longer periods of time, but this doesn’t outweigh the extra weight it adds to the overall system.

Verdict: The 25 series system is too bulky for a comfortable backpacking or cycling trip. The kettle adds weight and takes longer to boil. The increased volume does cook enough for two to three people, but the standard output from any Trangia spirit burner means it will take longer. For group or car camping, there are better systems available.

Gas Burner, 180 grams (6.3 ounces)


Pros: powerful output and fast boil time
Cons: loud hissing, heavier than other options
Boil Time: 0.5 L water, just over 2 minutes

The gas burner, on the other hand, performed well during testing. Trangia sells this alternative fuel source for high-alpine hikers and campers who frequently traverse through sub-freezing environments; though the alcohol burner will still function in these conditions, the increased output of the gas burner substantially cuts down on cooking time. Near sea level on a late summer morning, the gas burner reduced the boil time of 0.5 liters of water to two minutes, 10 seconds, a fraction of the 11 minutes needed by the spirit burner.

Apart from its added weight, however, the gas extension produced an obnoxious hissing throughout the entirety of the cook. Though this is a small concession given the leap in output and power, I found it distracting to the overall experience I’ve come to expect from the spirit burner.

Verdict: The gas burner is better for campers who frequent harsher climates or concern themselves more with the speed of a stove’s cook time than its weight.

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