Canteen Cup Stove Fuels

The fuel supplied to individual soldiers for ration heating (with the Canteen Cup Stove or otherwise) has evolved since World War II as more suitable fuel chemicals were developed. The small containers provided enough heat for a single ration can, to boil one cup of water, or just to help keep warm.

Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating, Size A, World War II vintage fuel. Photo:  eBay seller ericmango
Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating, Size A, World War II vintage fuel. Photo: eBay seller ericmango.

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Individual or Small Unit Ration Heating

The following sections describe the main types of fuel for the Canteen Cup Stove and how they were packaged for issue. The Canteen Cup Stove was originally designed for use with wood alcohol heating tablets, but was later used with Hexamine (yellow flame) and Trioxane (blue flame) compressed fuel bars. In addition to the fuel packages here, there were others for individual or group use, particularly during WW II. Examples would be small candles (wax and wick in a topless tin, round and flat), small paraffin candles packed in square boxes several inches on a side that could be directly ignited, and more.

Wood Alcohol Fuel Cans

Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating
Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating.

During World War II, a common source of heat for limited tasks was small olive drab cans of jellied wood alcohol (same as the product trade-named Sterno). The nomenclature was Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating. The packaging was varied, both in diameter and height of the can depending on the intended use. One small can (1.5 oz.) would adequately heat a ration can or even boil water for coffee. A larger can would prepare the 5-in-1 Ration for a tank crew. The cans could be partially used, then put out by replacing the lid, saving the balance for later use. These fuel units were packed with rations and also issued separately. In emergencies, they were used for general heating of tents or foxhole enclosures created by blankets.

The Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating was made of wood alcohol, poisonous to consume. Each package was so labeled, but there were many incidents of wood alcohol consumption and consequent poisoning among the soldiers. When burned, a toxic buildup of fumes was possible if the heated space was not adequately ventilated.

Hexamine Fuel Tablets

Fuel, Ration Heating, (Individual) Hexamine
Fuel, Ration Heating, (Individual) Hexamine.

A more compact form of fuel was the Hexamine tablet. The most common package during World War II was an olive drab tube of six tablets, although other packages were issued. The Hexamine olive drab tube had nomenclature Fuel, Ration Heating, (Individual) Hexamine, Stock Number 51-F-2073, described by MIL-F-10805 (QMC). The tube was a little over 3 inches long.

Hexamine fuel tablets were invented in Germany in 1932. They can be lit with a match or lighter, burn hot and clean, with little smoke and no ash. However, the fumes from burning Hexamine can be toxic so care must be exercised to provide adequate ventilation when used.

When used, one tablet is removed from the tube, inserted into the Canteen Cup Stove or other arrangement. When lighted, the single tablet is sufficient to heat up a can of rations or boil a cup of water.

Trioxane Fuel Bars

Box of three of Fuel, compressed, Trioxane Ration Heating
Box of three of Fuel, compressed, Trioxane Ration Heating.

Single tablet package of Fuel, compressed, Trioxane Ration Heating
Single tablet package of Fuel, compressed, Trioxane Ration Heating.

Trioxane was announced in 1944 as an alternative to the existing methods of ration heating. Due to its superior qualities, Trioxane replaced wood alcohol and Hexamine soon after World War II, although supplies did not disappear for decades.

Trioxane heats faster, is lighter in weight, more compact and has a blue, less visible flame. It is formed into flat tablets,of about 1.25 ounces in weight. The tablet is sized to be broken into three equal pieces along snap lines. One piece will burn for six or seven minutes to heat a ration can or boil water.

Like Hexamine, Trioxane has toxic by-products when burned and has been implicated in nose bleeds and other illnesses suffered by exposed troops. Trioxane should never be used in a closed environment such as a tent, small building, cave, etc. even if ventilated.

Trioxane vaporizes at room temperature so must be securely sealed to prevent loss of the whole tablet. The tablets are packaged in individual waterproof foil wrappers (one tablet, three pieces) that are further packed in cardboard boxes of three.

Due to problems with toxicity, Trioxane fuel bars were discontinued in the U.S. military.

The nomenclature is Fuel, compressed, Trioxane Ration Heating. There are two NSNs assigned to Trioxane:

Item NSN
1.25 oz. tablet, one box of three tablets 9110-01-518-9201
6 oz. bar, each 9110-01-518-9219

See also Flameless Ration Heater (FRH).

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