When stalking in lowland areas I like my tea, and I also like my breakfast. Clearly things are different when hill stalking but if I get up early for some lowland stalking I always look forward to coming back to the car and making my tea and having some breakfast after the morning stalk. On top of all this I like to get my weetabix with some hot milk. I don't ask for much, do I?
Tea from a flask is never great and there is no easy way to carry hot milk so I eventually concluded that I needed some way of boiling my water and heating my milk for breakfast. As many will know there are lots of solutions to this problem but I decided that the most simple was the way I'd like to go and so I got myself a Crusader stove and cup. This isn't really a stove at all and is basically a little dish into which you put something that will burn, often hexamine tablets, and a stainless steel container to hold the milk or water which sits on top of the stove.
The "stove" and cup looks like this:
Over the last while I've been experimenting with this stove and thought to relate my experiences in case they might help someone else out, it will save you having to spend some time experimenting like I've done.
I've found that the hexamine tablets are relatively easy to find in camping stores and the like and they produce good heat but can be hard to light, especially on a windy day. It takes quite a while for them to really get going and so a match is useless for this application as it doesn't burn for long enough to ensure the hexamine will spark up. I noticed that some people were using little plastic sachets of a thing called "Greenheat" which is a sort of ethanol gel sold for lighting a BBQ. If I put some hexamine in the little stove and then empty one of these sachets of ethanol gel on top everything becomes really easy to light even in relatively windy conditions, the gel lights easily and then gets the hexamine going. If I need more heat or to keep the fire burning for longer then it is a simple matter to add more hexamine once things are burning well.
Unfortunately the little greenheat sachets were proving hard to find and so getting a reliable supply was a bit tricky plus some stores were charging a pretty penny for them. After some investigation I discovered that the ethanol gel in them was something that is used in large quantities in the catering trade and is referred to as "chafing gel," basically it is used to keep food warm. It is also inexpensive and very readily available, for example:
I've conducted tests and this chafing gel works at least as well as the little greenheat sachets and a few quid buys you many years supply.
My experience has shown that the best way to go is to use a combination of the gel and the hexamine - put a hexamine tablet into the stove and pour some of the gel on top. Light up the gel and start to make breakfast and if the stove needs topping up then add hexamine. Adding gel, which I decant from the big chafing gel bucket into a plastic bottle for use in the field, while the fire is actually lit appears to carry with it considerable risk unless you were to use a teaspoon or similar to apply it and so it seems much more sensible to add the solid hexamine tabs.
Using this method I can boil water from cold in about 5 minutes or a little more, at least on a calm day, it takes somewhat longer when the wind is blowing the heat away. Getting the plastic lid for the Crusader cup would almost certainly reduce this but I suspect the lid might be prone to melting and so might be more bother than it is worth unless you really are in a big hurry.
So, now you've no excuse for not getting a good cup of tea when out stalking.