Alcohol stove fuel comes in two principal types: ethanol and methanol.
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol) is what we consume in beer, wine, and liquor. Pure ethanol burns the cleanest of any fuel, but is expensive and hard to find.
Denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) is ethanol that has been rendered undrinkable (and thus exempt from alcohol taxes) through the addition of methanol and other chemicals.
When shopping for denatured alcohol, look for a minimum of potentially toxic additives; versions sold as marine stove and lamp fuel are a good bet. Avoid varieties that leave a solid residue after burning.
Methanol (methyl alcohol) is commonly used as gas-line antifreeze for engines. Gas stations sell it under the brand name HEET.
Methanol contains 30 percent less energy than ethanol; you need more of it to boil the same amount of water.
Methanol and denatured alcohols are toxic. Keep your stove and fuel separate from your cookware to prevent contamination.
Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.