Fuel4: A safer, greener alternative fuel for backpacking?

Fuel4 Bio-ethanol gel fuel
A new alternative backpacking fuel?

One of the most exciting things I’ve seen in recent months as far as outdoors gear goes, is a new type of camping fuel from a British company that AMG Group Ltd will soon be distributing in the UK. Why am I excited?

It would appear to offer a great alternative to meths as a fuel for stoves or for use in emergencies when enjoying the great outdoors. The only mention I’ve seen of it in the outdoors press was via Chris Townsend, TGO Magazine’s gear editor. We both saw the product in action at a recent outdoors trade show we both happen to be attending for work. Sadly, neither of us took pictures but we’re both surprised no one else seems to have noticed it!

Fuel4 is a bio-ethanol gel fuel developed in Africa to tackle problems of indoor air pollution and accidents related to unsafe fuels. It uses the properties of bio-ethanol to create an environmentally friendly gel fuel that is purportedly safer than other substitutes such as wood, methylated spirits, hexamine, kerosene and butane/propane.

You can use the gel with meths burners folks! Granted, out of the above alternative fuels, most use gas when backpacking. Probably followed by meths.

Fuel4 is the product of Sheffield based Geco Industries who were set up to make alternative energy solutions affordable, accessible and sustainable after it’s Managing Director, Lewis Bowen who studied business at the University of Sheffield saw an opportunity in such a product while travelling around the world.

The gel fuel comes in flexible pouches. They appear robust and can obviously be squeezed to fit in any spaces you choose to place it within a backpack. They’re meant to be re-useable too. So once the gel is gone, you re-fill.

I hope to have some in soon to test on camps (and Mr Townsend will also as you can imagine). I’ll definitely be giving it a go during the winter months when using gas for cooking et al at camp can be somewhat a pain in the arse in cold temperatures – hence I prefer to use meths. Each to their own of course. But I like using meths in winter because I can see how much fuel is left and make it last on long trips.

I know some folks say meths is hard to light in real cold temperatures and it is. No doubt about it. But I get round that by lighting a waterproof match and popping that in my stove with it’s measure of meths. Boom! It’s primed and light and good to go. And of course the match ends up as ash.

But meths can stink. A sweet smell, it has to be said.

Anyway, I haven’t used Fuel4 in vain yet. One thing I didn’t get to find out at the trade show was how efficient the fuel is. How well does it burn for when one wants to boil water and so on. At first glance, at the show it appeared to light as quick as meths does. And it doesn’t stink! Or give off smoke, is non-toxic, spread and much more.

Of course, there is the initial disadvantage that while on long trips you can’t just pop in a village shop and pick some more of this fuel up if you’re running low. But for weekenders, 3 nighters and so on it be spot on I reckon. But if you’re using a meths stove and using this gel anyway, well….picking up some more meths is there as an option.

Either way, I’m keen to give it a try and see how it performs in action on the hills. I like the idea it’s a rather ‘green’ product and is non-toxic. In winter, it’s not unusual for me to be cooped up in a tent for many hours – heating up water without having to open vents to let air circulate and not kill myself on fumes is a bonus in my book.

Proofs in the pudding, so they say. Will chuck some in my Trangia.

Here’s some of the benefits of this new fuel below and you may see why it piqued my interest on the Vango/AMG Group stand at a recent trade show. Of course a good old field test will show it’s true colours, but at least on paper you can see why I’m rather excited about it.

  • Non Spill
  • Non Toxic
  • Non Pressurized
  • Smokeless
  • Long Burning – 200ml burns for 60-90mins
  • Renewable
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Easy to use flexible pouch
  • Works at altitude

Safer than other alternative fuels such as:

  • Butane/Propane (explosive of course, and gives off carbon monoxide)
  • Meths (toxic etc and spills easily)
  • Hexamine (emits toxic gases again and absorbs moisture)
  • Wood
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