A good backpacking stove can be expensive. Not to mention, finicky, hard to clean, and not always ultra-light. Lucky for us minimal, budget travelers, there is an alternative stove that works wonders, is light weight and more compact than any stove you can buy, and costs just a few cents.
Meet The Soda Can Stove.
Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve doubted it’s abilities. Well, it’s time to put your doubts to rest. Below is a quick demo of how it works and why it’s great.
My Soda Can Stove is made out of two beer cans. Your can do it yourself, and if it gets lost or damaged, it’s easy to replace. Just recycle the cans of your next six pack!
The soda-can stove is simple – no bells or whistles, no finicky engineering. At the end of a long outdoor travel day, this simple crafted stove will get the job done.
Once the stove is made, you need a burner grate. I used a piece of thick chicken wire. To make the wind guard, I used another piece of chicken wire, wrapped it in extra thick tin foil, and secured it with electrical tape. The pieces roll up for easy packing purposes. Together, they are nearly weightless.
Next, you need fuel. Specifically, denatured alcohol that can be bought almost anywhere they sell fuel. I got a big bottle for $6.99 at Walmart. Fill the stove halfway and light it. If you’re cooking in the day time, the flame is invisible, so listen for a “pop” to know that it’s lit. When the stove warms up, the flames will start to come out of the little holes. You’re good to go!
The fuel will probably run out while your food is cooking, so keep a close watch to know when to refuel. Wait until it all burns out before you add more fuel.
Denatured alcohol burns so clean and evaporates so quickly, making the stove low maintenance and safe. Always cook on durable, fire-safe surfaces like a rock, a table, or sand.
Want to make one yourself? Follow instructions here. There, you will also find YouTube tutorials.
As for a cooking set?
I almost bought a two-person cooking set for $70 at REI. So glad I passed on that. Sorry REI, but that’s a bit too much for me. Instead, I bought one at Walmart for $25. It comes with a pot that easily feeds two (Taylor and I made a comfortable double batch of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese in it the other night), two bowls with lids, a spatula, and a ladle. The spatula and ladle clip together for snug packing, and can also clip like this:
Pretty cool, ay?
So no need to spend crazy money on a stove you can build yourself for a few cents. Plus, the soda can stove is so cool, it makes good conversation with other backpackers. It will become your best friend and proud possession. Go and get crafty! What’s better than something you make yourself?