Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cheap, quick, homemade backpacking stove.

I had been reading for some time about various backpacking stove designs. Some were based on pop cans, tuna cans, cat food cans, etc. I made my own design out of an empty chafing dish warmer (75 cents at the local dollar store). While it may not be the most efficient, compact, or sleek design, it is fairly lightweight and durable, is more than hot enough to fry meat and boil water, and can be made in less than 5 minutes.

I punctured a row of 8 holes 3/4" down from the top, and another row, staggered, 1" from the top, with the smallest precision screwdriver that I have in my toolbox. After trying rubbing alcohol and acetone, I quit messing around and finally got real denatured alcohol, which burns MUCH better. The small holes make for more of a jet effect, too. The upper holes do most of the heating, while the lower holes keep the sides of the container hot, which vaporizes the alcohol inside and forces it out of the jets to keep the cycle going.

First, though, you have to prime the stove by lighting it with the cap off and letting it burn that way for about a minute, or until the alcohol inside boils. Once you hear it hissing, drop the cap on and run a match around the outside holes. No wicking inside, as this seemed to decrease the reliability of the stove. I just pour denatured alcohol into the bottom of the container. A small amount (about half of a normal sized shot glass) burns for about 6-7 minutes.

The heat is even and reliable. It boils water with a couple ounces of fuel, and with the right sized pots and pans, you can easily cook on this stove.

EDIT: I made a new version of this stove. I only made four lower jets (I call them "priming jets", because they keep the sides of the can hot so that the alcohol vaporizes). Also, I moved the "cooking jets" closer to the top. The tips of the flames just make contact with the bottom of the pan. This works MUCH more efficiently. With a lidded pot, it will boil about 2 cups of water in 4-5 minutes.

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