Sterno stoves are cheap and lightweight. The stove also packs to a very small size.
I got the stove at ChinaMart for about $5; the fuel cans come in a 2-pack for about $3. Each can is good for about 2 hours of burn time.
The cans are filled with a purplish gel that is flammable but does not burn quickly. It puts out a visible flame and a good amount of heat. Both go straight up. There's very little spread. This is good for heating a small item, but if you want to cook in a larger container, you have to either move it around or get creative. Archaeus took a coathanger and got creative... so I can cook toast in camp using a sterno stove now. It still takes a bit of watching and moving to get it evenly toasted (as opposed to heating) but it works.
They're great for heating or re-heating items. They're not so great when it comes to actual cooking. I put a quart of water in a pot, and put it over an lit sterno can inside the stove. After about 30 minutes (I walked off and forgot about it), the water was steaming quite visibly. After 50 minutes, the water was steaming even more, but still had not come to a boil. I might have had better luck with a smaller container with a lid on it... but the stove is not as effective as many other stoves on the market for actually boiling large amounts of water. The heat output isn't great enough.
They're good for heating food, and for and light-duty cooking, but if you want a long-term cooking solution, you'd best look elsewhere. For a packable stove to heat food, they can't be beat as long as you don't need to do any serious boiling or high (200deg+) temperature cooking. The cans weigh next to nothing, as does the stove.
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