A short while back there was a thread on stoves and cooking while stalking and may people expressed the view that they didn't like using the hexi tabs. Personally I don't mind them but they can smell a bit and I can understand why some dislike them. I am out a lot over the year and have spent a long time looking for a solution to brewing up so I'm going to relate my ideas on fuel here as it might save some folks having to experiment. My approach will not suit everyone as our needs all differ but if it saves a few people spending time testing solutions then it is worthwhile...

When out and about, either fishing or stalking, I like using my Crusader stove and cup because it is such a simple device - all you have is a stainless cup for whatever you are heating and a little "dish" that sits under it for fuel. There is a MkII Crusader now available and first reviews are not positive so I'm only commenting on the MkI. There is nothing to go wrong and it is easy to carry and use and although the cup might appear to take up a lot of space in your bag you can fill the cup with "stuff" when in transport so in truth the only space it occupies is the thickness of the metal. For the most part I use my Crusader only for making tea and don't cook on it as I use the self heating meals from the Hot Pack folks, while I know some may have had previous bad experiences with MRE type food I think these are tasty and they get really hot plus there are a selection of menus and I enjoy my lunch when I'm out.

There are a range of solutions to the hexi tab problem, assuming you don't like them, and some seem to create more problems than they solve. However I have found that the simplest solution with the least disadvantages is simply to use chafing gel. Chafing gel is ethanol with some colouring and something added to turn it into a gel rather than a free flowing liquid. It is, basically, meths in a gel form without the meths smell and no added methanol to make it undrinkable. It burns clean and with little or no smell but I suspect that it doesn't burn quite as hot as hexi and so for a rapid boil you need to use a good sized amount of the gel. The other advantage with the gel over hexi is that it is really easy to light - it lights as easily as meths.

It is possible to buy the same stuff in tiny little packets called something like "green heat" these are expensive for what they are and there is barely enough in a packet to make a cup of tea. If you are using hexi it can be handy to have a few of these packets in your bag for when the hexi is proving hard to light but in my view you'd be mad to pay for these when you can have the same stuff for a fraction of the cost.

Chafing gel is used in hotels and the like to keep food warm - they light it under the food in little tins. The advantage of this to us is that refill gel for the tins is available in catering sized amounts for little money. At the minute a 4kg tub of chafing gel costs between 10 - 15 and a simple internet search will turn up a supplier who will deliver to your door, even Amazon and ebay can be used. Clearly it isn't handy to carry such a big tub of gel so I decant my gel into the half liter plastic milk bottles - unscrew the lid, give the bottle a squeeze to dump out some gel and then light your stove. If you don't like hexi but would like a simple tea making solution this is the best that I've found so far.

Now the downsides: when it has finished burning the gel just goes out with no smoking or other warning like with hexi. For this reason I always put some hexi in the bottom of my stove to "keep the fire in" and give me warning of it going out but this is not necessary if you are smart enough to keep an eye on things and refill if necessary. Also the gel does leave a little bit of residue on the bottom of the stove - mostly I suspect this is the binding agent used to keep it in gel form plus the colouring as the ethanol will all burn off very clean. The residue is less than with hexi and I can't see how you can have a fire without leaving something behind but some get excited about it. I suspect that the gel has less energy per unit weight than the hexi and so you have to carry more weight of gel than you would of hexi to boil the same amount of water. Unless you go on multi-day stalking trips living out of your backpack this is unlikely to be an issue for you.

There are a range of new "bush craft" type fuels coming onto the market including the BCB Dragon Fuel but most seem to have a range of disadvantages and no significant advantages over the chafing gel - the dragon fuel is, I suspect, just the same ethanol but somehow incorporated into a solid form. The Americans seemed to use trioxane much like we did hexi and they are going to something called DEG which also appears to be, basically, chafing gel.