An alcohol stove can be a great addition to your backpacking, bikepacking or kayak touring kit. Depending on the type of alcohol stove you choose, they can be one of the lightest options around. Fuel for these stoves can also be found in what seems like almost everywhere.
One of my favorite alcohol stoves is the trusty cat food can stove. This sideburner system uses the cat food can as a stove and as a base for your cooking pot too.
Making your own cat food can stove can be very satisfying and fun. It is also pretty simple to do. Below I will share the steps with you for this DIY project as well as some advantages and disadvantages I find to using this specific stove.
- Super lightweight (a small cat food can weighs about 0.3 oz)
- Cost effective (About 60 cents for the can and $2-5 for a hole punch)
- Fuel is low cost and easy to find (Denatured alcohol can be found in many outdoor shops and hardware stores. HEET, in the yellow bottle only, can be found in gas stations and some grocery/retail stores.)
- No parts to fail, break or clog
- Stove is also used as a base
- Stove is great for shorter trips, but may end up weighing as much as or even more than a canister stove system (with fuel included) during longer trips
- No valve regulation means no OFF switch or simmer control
- Can only accommodate smaller pots due to size, though larger pots can be used with a larger can stove (tuna can, bean can, etc.)
- Stove takes longer to boil water than canister stoves (Canister: about 3-5 mins to boil a cup of water. Alcohol: about 6-9 mins to boil a cup of water
- Windscreen is needed almost every time
- This specific stove would not be a good winter option, though there are great alcohol stove options out there for the specific season (ie. wicking stove)
What You'll Need:
- 1 can of cat food
- 1 hole punch
- 1 Sharpie or marker
- 1 multi-tool or pair of pliers
Empty the cat food can and give the food to your favorite feline or throw it out.
Round out the rough edges with a pair of pliers, multi-tool or even your hole punch to ensure you don't cut yourself when using the stove.
Next, I like to use a marker to mark a close proximity of where the holes will be punched to avoid possibly making them close to the point they compromise the stove. Start with one mark on the can, go directly across from it and create another. From there, make another mark halfway between the two you just created and then another directly across from it. Continue this process two more times. In total you should end up with 16 evenly spaced marks.
Begin punching holes under the rim of the can and markings you made with a marker. You want to aim at making 16 holes all about 1/8" apart from each other.
Next, punch another row of holes under the row you just created. Make sure this row is offset from the first, where each hole lines up between two holes above.
You now have your own personal sideburner alcohol stove. Fuel for your stove can be found in most outdoor shops, hardware stores and even gas stations.
You can carry the fuel in basically anything you'd like. I like to use a small water bottle like the one pictured above to carry my fuel. This not only cuts down on weight, but also allows me to save space by carrying just what I need for a couple of days out on the trail. Fuel usage can vary due to things such as your stove, cook system setup, location conditions and the type of fuel you use. Windproof/waterproof matches always seem to do the trick to, allowing the flame to touch the fuel and ensure it ignites.
Depending on the conditions of where you want to use your stove, you may also want to consider a windscreen to help keep your stove going in windy conditions. This can be done by simply folding some aluminum foil you may already have at home. I like to fold the foil a couple of times and add bends at each end. This provides the windscreen with a little strength and stability (as pictured above). I also like to keep my windscreen lengthwise about 1/2" away around my cooking pot and close to the top of it heightwise.
Have you made one of these stoves or something like it? What has your experience been when using it? I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to share by posting in the comment box below. If you have any questions, you can always reach me through the contact page on the website.