Alcohol stoves are ultralight stoves, usually homemade from aluminum cans, that burn denatured alcohol, Yellow HEET, grain alcohol, and even rubbing. I would recommend using denatured alcohol as it has a good heat output and can be found easily at any Walmart neat the home improvement section.
There are a lot of advantages to using a homemade alcohol stove rather than a commercial backpacking stove: weight, simplicity, reliable, quiet, odorless, fuel can be bought anywhere, little to no maintenance, and very low cost. It may take a little longer to boil water than other stoves, but what else do you have to do while sitting by your fire after a day’s worth of hiking? I would say spare a few extra minutes and save a few extra ounces.
All you need to make this stove is a can of Fancy Feast cat food and a hole puncher. After washing out the can, punch a single hole just under the rim of the can. Next, use a marker to mark the center point for your next holes a half-inch apart all the way around the can. There should be 15 holes. Should look like this:
Next, punch a single whole in the bottom row equally spaced between two of the top row holes. The center of the bottom row holes should be spaced a half inch, diagonally measured, from the top row and also a half inch apart all the way around. When finished it should look like this:
You are finished. It is in fact that easy.
Operation is one of the best aspects to the cat can stove. There is no priming and no pot stand. Fill the stove up to the holes with your fuel, light it, wait 30 seconds, and then place your mess kit on top of the can. If flames are licking up the sides of your pot, then you should use a wider pot because you are losing heat.
In relation to other alcohol stoves, I prefer the cat can stove because it is the simplest design and has no moving parts. If your stove does get crushed or lost, they are very easy to make on the trail. A hole puncher will cost you less than overnight shipping a commercial backpacking stove every time. To increase stove efficiency, you should use a wind screen. This can be made easily by folding aluminum foil over three times or four times.
Enjoy your new backpacking stove!
- In colder weather, be careful not to spill alcohol on your hands. It vaporizes very quickly and will make your hands very cold.
- Do not try to pour more alcohol into stove while lit
- The flame can be hard to see in daylight
- Always test you gear at home before relying on it on the trail.
- In temperatures below freezing you may have to sleep with your fuel inside your sleeping bag to keep it from freezing.