Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Homemade Soda Can Camp Stove

After cycling for 2 1/2 months through Colombia & Ecuador last year, I picked up some great tips.  I met cyclists with top of line, expensive gear, like Ortlieb bags, but also met those who had the bare minimum.  Those bare bone cyclists taught me to make some key things from scratch with inexpensive materials to save a bundle of money.

I will share how I made panniers, a handlebar bag & a camp stove for a fraction of the price of what you would pay to buy your own.  These will be three separate posts on my blog.

Third, homemade camp stove:

I met a number of backpackers & cyclists who had bought camp stoves for $100+ and had endless problems with them or they just stopped working completely.  I then met a cyclist, Leah Manning (https://cyclesouthchica.wordpress.com/) who had a Coke can stove and used rubbing alcohol for fuel.

There are a million videos and pictures online if you search "coke can stove", "beer can stove" or "soda can stove".  You will see all sorts of variations.

I saw one video with a guy that put a tin can (with the top & bottom removed) over the Coke can to function as both a wind guard & a means to rest your pot or cup.

Here is everything I carry for my stove:

1. 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol - this pic shows the 16 oz bottle but I decided to get the larger 32 oz bottle instead
2. Tin Can - used a large tomato sauce can (4" diameter x 4 5/8" tall) - read below what I did to it
3. Soda can - cut the bottom 1 1/2" off to make a small bowl/dish
4. (2) 8" pieces of metal clothes hanger
5. 16 oz Olicamp Space Saver Cup (on Amazon right now for $8.90 shipped) - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ODH4O2/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
6. Brown Paper Bag - this stuff gets sooty after one use so you don't want to get that on the everything else in the panniers

The Tin Can!

This was the missing component from when I used the soda can stove last year.  It's so key, both blocking the wind and acting as the means to rest your pot or cup.

1. Open the can, eat the contents & wash it out.  Then fill it with water and freeze it solid.  Freezing it will allow you to punch holes in the can without bending it

2. Use a hammer & Phillips head screwdriver to knock holes around the bottom for air flow.  Also punch out 2 slightly larger holes on each side up top for the metal clothes hanger pieces to slide into:

3. Unfreeze the can with hot water in the sink

4, Cut the bottom lid off so you're left with a cylinder (using the same can opener you used to open it).  Save that lid!  It can act as the lid on your 16 oz Space Saver cup to make water boil faster.

5. Get a bottle opener and make 4 cuts evenly spaced at the bottom of the can for air flow

6. Your can is ready to go.  You want to do a few test runs to burn the inside.  There's a thin plastic film that burns off, lets off black smoke and smells.  My apologies to the environment.

Now you fill the bottom soda can dish with rubbing alcohol and light with a ligher.  It can take like 10 seconds of holding the flame to the alcohol to get it to light.  Let it burn a moment then place the tin can over it with the air holes at the bottom.  Slide the metal hangers through the holes at top.

Fill the cup with 16 oz of water and place on the metal hangers   Put the lid from the tin can on the cup so the water will boil faster.  I timed it and slightly cool water was at a rolling boil after 8 minutes with the cup on the flame.

Pretty damn good for about 10 cents worth of fuel, a tin can & Coke can my roommate put in the recycling, a metal hanger from my closet and a $9 cup.  This thing cannot break and can easily be replaced.  If I end up cooking more, I'll pick up a pot that can sit on top of the tin can.  Right now, 16 oz is sufficient for me traveling solo.  I mainly boil water for coffee, tea & oatmeal.  I also carry a thermos to keep it warm through the night.


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