What are Esbit Fuel Tablets? How to use them.

Esbite fuel tablets

Esbit Fuel tablets are made by mixing a Methenamine (Hexamine) with wax and are compressed into a tablet. It burns smokeless, doesn’t liquefy when burning and doesn’t leave ash. It produces 30 megajoules of energy per Kilogram and burns between 5 and 15 min.

My first encounter with this form of fuel was in 1997 when I joined the military, and we went out on overnight exercises. We were issued our rations and a hexamine stove that we would use to cook our meals ready to eat for our overnight exercises.

Having small cooking set with a tablet that could heat everything blew me away. Before, I was used to cooking over open flame campfires or using gas. This new way of carrying a small all-in-one cookset would influence my outdoor cooking for years to come.

Even years later, now that I am a professional chef who still loves to cook while camping outdoors, I always remember how great this little cookset and tablet is. Read on while I go over what Esbit fuels are and give you information on their use.

Camping outdoors

What are Esbit Fuel Tablets made of?

As stated above, Esbit tablets or hexamine tablets to some, are small compressed tablets made up of was combined with powered Methenamine. Compressing these ingredients together gives you a solid tablet fuel that won’t melt and doesn’t smoke when heated. Esbit fuel tablets don’t make any ash once burnt but will leave behind a sticky residue on your cooking equipment.

Esbite Fuel tablets are great for outdoor use because they take a flame effortlessly. They are excellent to use in bad weather conditions such as windy days and also work well at high altitudes and in the cold.

These compact forms of camping fuel are highly safe; they don’t create sparks and won’t cause any risk of exploding. If stored correctly, they can last for an almost infinite amount of years.

How long do Esbit Tablets burn?

Esbit tablets can burn between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the type of Esbit fuel tablets you use. Using Esbit tablets, you can’t control the temperature of the heat, so these fuel tablets are best suited for heating. They are perfect for heating water for ready-to-eat meals and work best for reheating food rather than cooking it.

The following is a list of burn times for each tablet size. Keep in mind that burn time may differ depending on weather conditions and the stove you use:

  • Esbit Tablet 4g: 5min
  • Esbit Tablet 5g: 7min
  • Esbit Tablet 14g: 12min
  • Esbit Tablet 27g: 15min

To extend the cooking time, all you need to do is add more Esbit tablets to the end of the burn time. This will ensure you always have enough heat to cook. From personal use, the 27g tablet is perfect for nearly all needs and you never really need anything more.

How do you light an Esbit Fuel Tablet?

Before attempting to light your Esbit fuel tablet, you must first prepare the base where you want to put the fuel. Traditionally, Hexamil stoves were used with Esbit Fuel tablets. These stoves pack flat, and to use them; you open up two doors hinged at each side, creating a pot stand with a base. You then place your Esbit Fuel Tablet or Hexamine block onto the base and light it.

The best method for lighting an Esbit Fuel Tablet is to use a lighter or match. These fuel tablets will take a flame pretty fast, but they do need a flame to get them going. You could scrape some of the Esbit Fuel Tablet at a push to make some wax shavings. You then use a Ferrocerium Rod to create a spark onto the wax shavings to get it lit. Doing this will reduce the burn time on the Esbit Fuel tablet but use it as a last resort only.

What are Esbit Fuel Tablets
Hex Stove

Can you use Esbit Fuel Tablets Indoors?

Esbit Fuel tablets are non-toxic and are classed as safe to use. They are at their most toxic if consumed; it’s highly recommended you don’t do this.

Being made of Hexamine, when burned, the fuel tablet will release formaldehyde, ammonium, Carbon oxides, Nitrogen oxides, and Hydrocyanic acid (hydrogen cyanide) (taken from Esbit Safety Data Sheet). They also recommend taking precautions and using adequate ventilation, so I would highly suggest you don’t use the Esbit fuel tablet indoors.

What type of stove can you use with Esbit Tablets?

The best type of stove to use with an Esbit Fuel tablet is a portable folding stove. Often known as a hexamine stove, Hexi stove or Hexi cooker. This stove allows you to place the Esbit tablet into the base tray while using the foldable sides of the stove as a pot stand.

This stove is perfect for those looking to pack small and carry a camping stove that takes up very little space and weight as little as possible.

A great thing about the hex stove is that you can carry your fuel tablet inside the stove, and you can close the sides down.

You can also use the Esbit stove in any camping stove where there is space in the bottom for the fuel tablet to burn or if you can raise a pot above the flame. Using an Esbit fuel tablet will leave behind a sticky residue after burning, so it is best to keep this in mind.

ALTERNATIVES to Esbit Tablets.

There are various forms of the Hexamine fuel tablet which go by different names such as Esbit Fuel tablet, Coughlans Fuel tablet etc. All are made similarly, and burn time may vary from product to product.

A great alternative to using fuel tablets is to use a camping fuel gel. These gels are easy to carry and store and can be used in various camping stoves, such as a spirit stove. Can be poured into a small metal container and placed into a Hexamine Stove, the same as Esbit tablets and are safer than liquid fuels.

If you find the information in this article of interest read my article on how to lighting Camping stoves.

Another light alternative that takes up very little space is to use a spirit stove. These can be filled with Alcohol or spirits, and is very portable and will heat your food the same as an Esbit Fuel tablet.

trangia fuel spirit burner

Esbit fuel tablets are an excellent fuel source for packing light and heating liquids or reheating food. They are a great bit of kit for short hikes and take up very little space in your back. You could carry a Hexamine cooker in your pocket; they are so compact.

If they were good enough to use when I was in the military, then they are good enough to use for camping. You just have to keep in mind; they come with some limitations, like not being able to control the heat, and they might take a little longer to heat your food.

I hope this article gave you enough information and answered any questions about the Esbit Fuel tablet. I hope you get a chance to get out into the wild and try these fuel tablets out for yourself. They are a fantastic little bit of kit for the size and get the job done of heating your food.

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