The easiest, cheapest stove ever?

Posted by: Sweerek

The easiest, cheapest stove ever? - 05/17/14 06:20 PM

= pop can + tomato paste can + windscreen

Faced with the task of getting 34 young Scouts backpacking stoves + pots (to only boil water), a couple hours to do it, $ones per boy not $$hundreds, BSA's alcohol fuel ban, and knowing how boys simply can't maintain or tune stuff, I combined lots of postings to create a very simple, quickly built stove consisting of:

1. Soda can (emptied by Scouts) as pot for boiling 1 cup water (it fits 1.5 cups but these are boys so you want less spilling and they eat smaller amounts.
2. 6 oz tomato paste (emptied for pizza) as the burner & 'pot' stand
3. 10" tall aluminum flashing as windscreen
4. Hexamine fuel tablet (~1 Coghlans tablet boils 1 cup water)
5. Handkerchief, cloth, pliers, etc as pot holder

Burner & Stand. Using a church key opener, punch 4 triangles on bottom of tomato paste can, plus 4-6 on top. This focuses flame upward to & around pop can and offer a bit of a standoff from the ground. The can's bottom holds the solid --> liquified fuel well. Use a long needlenose pliers to hold the can next to where you punch the hole (else can bends too much). Later, you'll burn the plastic liner outta it.

Windscreen can be many things, but aluminum flashing seems best cuz its lightweight, easily cut with scissors, leaves few sharp edges, holes punched with cheap paper hole punch, and comes in right size from Lowes, Home Depot. Foil works but tedious to maintain. Galvanized steel (HVAC duct) stronger & cheaper but edges sharp, need tin snips, and hole punched w/ a hammer & punch. Big beer cans then cut apart work, but metal is thin and not quite big enough.

On bottom of windscreen put many small holes. Roll flashing tight to fit around the pop can -- if tighter than can, then cut a 1/8" notch on top & bottom to keep it open. 10" is a bit taller than burner & can stacked, but it really keeps the heat in, protects everything when jammed into the pack, and its one less cut to make building it. (Get 10" tall flashing from Lowes, Home Depot).

Pot. No changes to pop can cooking pot. It fits ok atop stand. Easily replaced if crushed.

Big Pot Option: A 24 Foster beer can also works fine atop the burner/stand. Leave as is to boil 2-3 cups water (with many tablets) or for more of a pot look, cut the top's inner ring (inside the lip) by scoring a knife or razor blade inside the little trough around the top ~80 times. After the top separates, press backside of knife around edge to remove sharp stuff. Wash well to remove aluminum shavings.

Light it! Put water in pop can, put fuel tab in burner, tip burner to ignite tablet with lighter, put pop can atop burner, wrap with windscreen (critical, not too tight, want flames up sides of pop can but not windscreen), watch water boil in few minutes, pour hot water into Ziploc and Cozy Cook (use a cloth or gripper to grab), blow out tab, cool, place all in plastic grocery bag for travel.

Cautions. Despite telling boys many times, several will grab a hot can & git a bit burned. Expect to find aluminum dots from punching holes for years.
Posted by: finallyME

Re: The easiest, cheapest stove ever? - 05/19/14 04:47 PM

My scouts tend to eat more than I do when backpacking... even the 12 year olds. I was surprised by this...but it is what it is. I usually let them load up on more oatmeal and ramen than what I would take to help them out.

I have had success with 1.5 liter jetboils. I have two for the troop now. Last summer we had about 12 boys and 2 leaders with 2 stoves. We could have done it with one. Everyone carries something for the it stove parts, or fuel canisters. What I am saying is, you don't need a stove for everyone. In fact, you probably only need 4 stoves and 4 large pots (1.5-2 liters) for your 30+ troop. Yes, that means multiple boiling for everyone, but what is a few more minutes anyways.

With that being said....having a cheap, light stove for everyone is not a bad idea. Make sure and report back how it goes after you test it out with the boys.
Posted by: Robotmoose

Re: The easiest, cheapest stove ever? - 12/31/14 08:17 AM

Cool idea.
I like your reasoning that simplicity and economy should be tantamount. I think all of us fellow Scouters have seen situations where overly-complicated bits get smashed up or dead on the trail. Tablet fuel seems like a great workaround for this.

Too bad denatured alcohol has been banned by Irving, Texas, though. A supercat stove would be a great MYOG project for teaching the backpacking MB.
Posted by: Matt Keenan

Re: The easiest, cheapest stove ever? - 01/16/15 03:33 PM

Awesome! Always great to reuse things that we already have. Lets you spend more time and money for food and transport to the trail!

"Cautions. Despite telling boys many times, several will grab a hot can & git a bit burned."

Hahaha I don't think I ever learned a lesson the easy way when I was a boy.. or now for that matter.