Bottles from the Nalgene Medium Travel Kit

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Searching for that perfect alcohol fuel bottle? The one that’s non-bulky and ultralight — yet still holds enough fuel for your needs?

Over the past six months of using my Fancy Feast alcohol stove, I’ve researched a number of options for carrying alcohol fuel and tried a few of them myself.

Here’s what I learned:

The best alcohol fuel container for the job depends first and foremost on how much fuel you’ll be taking. Thus I’ve broken this article into how I carry small, medium, and large amounts of alcohol stove fuel.

Let’s dive right in.

For Small Amounts (1-4 fl oz): Nalgene Travel Bottles

Bottles from the Nalgene Medium Travel Kit

If you’re like me, you’re a weekend warrior. The majority of your camping and backpacking trips last two to three days, and you usually don’t need to pack more than a few ounces of alcohol fuel at a time.

For short trips like this, I use the appropriately sized bottle in my Nalgene Medium Travel Kit.

This kit is a fun collection of tiny plastic travel bottles with three different liquid capacities:

  • 1 fl oz (29.6 mL)
  • 2 fl oz (59.1 mL)
  • 4 fl oz (118.3 mL)

(Nalgene also makes a Small Travel Kit but it doesn’t include the 4-fluid-ounce containers.)

The bottles are all compact, durable, and lightweight — the heaviest one I use clocks in at 0.71 oz. I’ve never had one leak before, though I stick to the screw-on caps because the included dispenser caps aren’t leakproof.

The bottles range from 2.5″ to 4″ in height and can fit inside many cook pots including a good backpacking mug and the budget-friendly 1.25-qt IMUSA mug.

» MORE: My DIY Ultralight Backpacking Cookset (4.76 oz, Just $20)

Once I determine how much fuel I need, I simply fill up the appropriate Nalgene bottle and plop it into my cook pot.

For Medium Amounts (5-12 fl oz): Small Soda Bottles

A 12-oz soda bottle

An 8- or 12-oz plastic soda or water bottle has worked perfectly for trips where I need to carry between five and twelve ounces of fuel.

If you don’t have one laying around your house already, just pick up a pack of them at your grocery store. Empty one, remove the label, and voilà — your very own alcohol fuel bottle.

The best part?

This ultra-cheap option is also ultralight: an empty 12-oz Coke bottle weighs 0.88 oz.

I’ve used a 12-oz plastic bottle to carry fuel for my alcohol stove many times over the past six months. Not once did it leak or give me any trouble.

For Large Amounts (13+ fl oz): Large Soda Bottles or Platypus SoftBottles

A 0.5-liter Platypus SoftBottle

I’ve never needed to carry this much alcohol fuel so I did some online research on what people are using. Here are two of the most popular options.

If you need to carry even more alcohol fuel — such as on a thru-hike with few resupply points or when cooking for multiple people — you could carry it in a larger plastic soda bottle or a Platypus SoftBottle. The Platypus SoftBottle comes in two sizes: 0.5-liter and 1-liter.

The Platypus would be my personal preference because it’s lighter and you could collapse it and reduce its volume as you use fuel. Eventually it would reach a point where it’d fit inside your cook pot.

An empty plastic bottle is clearly the more budget-friendly option — all you have to do is pull one out of your recycling bin. It’s tough to beat free.

Many backpackers have had success with both. Choose the one that strikes your fancy.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for the easiest and cheapest option, a plastic soda bottle from your recycling bin will work fine.

If you want to minimize weight and bulk, first determine the amount of fuel you’ll be taking. Then choose the lightest and smallest container that can hold it all. For smaller amounts of fuel, Nalgene travel bottles work great. For larger amounts, a plastic soda bottle or Platypus SoftBottle will do the trick.

Regardless of which alcohol stove fuel bottle you choose, be sure to write a warning on it (e.g. “DO NOT DRINK!”) or attach a warning label. My dad once reached for my fuel bottle, which was unlabeled at the time, thinking it was water. Bad things could have ensued had I not been right next to him to stop him from taking a swig of yellow HEET.

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