Invented in 1936, the Esbit solid fuel tablet is a compact and quick alternative heat source to white gas and cartridge-fueled camp stoves. The tablets -- based on a chemical compound called hexamethylenetetramine -- ignite at the touch of a match and burn a near-invisible blue flame for 15 minutes at a pop.

Pair the tablet with the company's classic Esbit Pocket Stove, a $10 foldable shell of galvanized steel, and you have an easy way to heat water or soup outdoors with little fuss. Simply unfold the stove, insert a tablet, set a pot on top, and light.

Convenience and light weight -- not heat output or performance -- are the main advantages to the Pocket Stove, which is distributed in the United States by AGS Labs (www.agsbrands.com). There are few moving parts, zero mechanical components and nothing much to fail.

For all these reasons, plus the cheap price, I am a fan of the Pocket Stove for wilderness trips. On the downside, there is no temperature adjustment or heat regulation -- the tablets burn at one steady temp until they're done. You can't simmer a pot of stew on low flame.

But for quick heat with little fuss, Esbit offers an affordable camp stove beyond compare.

Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.