Picture of An emergency personal pocket stove
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You can make an emergency personal pocket and super ultralight backpacker's stove, based on low tech CFV (Capillary Force Vaporizer) technology, with the following materials:

1. an empty soda can for the pot some other type of can like a veggie can and
2. a few sheets of toilet paper, paper towel, cardboard or other absorbent material, including sand. (...but no synthetics!)
3. a level, flat and fireproof surface (or a second empty can of approximately the same diameter as the pot can or a little larger - preferably with a bottom that will fit or accept the soda can bottom nicely - see photos).
4. a fire starter of some type, like book matches or a sparker, to light the fuel
5. 91% Isopropyl alcohol. 70% may work directly and if not can be "salted out.". Fuels that float on water are not recommended.
6. provision for venting of exhaust fumes and allowing intake of fresh air if used in a confined space such as inside a car.

I used 91% Isopropyl alcohol for fuel since I always carry a little with me in a spray bottle to kill germs after shaking hands, and as fuel for the laminar or pressure can stoves I carried with me in case I was overcome by the ultralight backpacking urge. This personal pocket stove, however, (except for the weigh of the fuel) is so light it will even support super ultralight backpacking!

All alcohol fuels should work if the proof is high enough. Even kerosene or jet fuel might work (in case you are in an airplane accident) but the stoichiometric ratio will be lower, i.e. lots of soot. I would not resort to gasoline or other highly volatile, high energy fuels due to the low temperature of combustion, unless you have absolutely no other choice. In any case the pot you use with high energy fuels should be made of steel, even if filled with water, rather than aluminum.

If you anticipate having only gasoline available in such an emergency (from your car's tank) look for stove designs intended for use with highly volatile and high energy fuels. Warning: fuels other than alcohol such as gasoline may burn hot enough to melt aluminum while fuels like oil or mineral spirits may produce an unacceptable amount of carbon monoxide and soot, with this design.

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wbogen11 months ago

Would disks of ceramic (fireproof) cloth work? They might be more durable than paper or cloth disks.

SpinWard7 years ago
This is great. So simple. You have all the basics for the stove without slicing up you hands on a Coke Can. I like the idea of putting them in a jar with the fuel already on it. I am so excited about trying this. We are "camp out of the back of our car campers (we have a 3 year old) so this will work great. I'll try it with my "salted out" Isopropyl alcohol! Thanks for the great idea!
thinkahead (author)  SpinWard7 years ago
Okay, be aware that you get lots of flareup when in windy conditions without a windscreen. Even with a windscreen the openings between the boards on a picnic table can be a problem. Also keep your 3 year old well away. They like to grab stuff and since the flame is almost invisible they probably will. Everything gets way to hot to touch. I use pliers with an angled head, silicon gloves or pot holder, etc. to move the pot around. Be careful of flareups if you do not use an intermediate can lid. Remember this is for emergencies and not for regular use without such modifications. Be smart and don't take chances especially with a kid around.
I have a four year old grandson. took him and several others camping last year. I very carefully introduced him to the (coleman) stove and showed them all how it was balanced on the legs, how the heat came up, how hot it could get, etc.
Same with the firepit. I didn't have any trouble with them getting burned. I did however, end up in the ER for wearing open toed sandals through the woods and getting a whippet tree sapling caught between my foot and the sandal. Flat on my face on a rock.
See? the kids shoulda been the ones telling ME how to be safe.
Oh, heck yeah. He's a great kid and usually gets taken for a walk when we are cooking. I tried this today (with out the kid) with a huge coffee can on the bottom and a smaller one on top. I used the bottom of a different can for the covering lid. Problem was, they were the same size (I'd used a can opener to cut the lid so the lip of the water-holding-can covered the bottom cover-lid) I used 2 small bars to seperate the 2. I took no time for the water to start steaming and I'd filled it up! I'm going to flip the big can over, cut out a piece and use the same can for a windscreen. I honestly was surprised! The little paper towel disk was dry and the water wat HOT! Thanks for the advice!
Oh and another thing, a bottle of HEET or dehydrated alcohol to me is safer than a little green tank of pressurized propane. So this is great! I will definitely mod this!
thinkahead (author)  SpinWard7 years ago
Here are some more pics of the one I just did using a veggie can to boil the water for two eggs and two large pork and bean cans for the stove. With exhaust holes in the top of the bottom can a prying pan can be placed on to to cook some bacon or the water can be used for coffee and the fry pan to fry the eggs and cook the bacon. I used a battery hydrometer to add fuel through the inlet holes. With this configuration I can boil water for coffee and/or boil eggs plus keep my hands warm in winter.
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thinkahead (author)  thinkahead7 years ago
Also, notice the pliers for grabbing and adjusting the pot. I had to grab the opposite lip of the veggie can due to the tight fit of the pliers.
I like this design, but it seems that it would be heavier than a small aluminum can stove. Whereas the first design would certainly beat the aluminum cans on packability and weight (and perhaps efficiency), I am usually able to boil 2.5 cups of water in between 5 and 7 minutes on my aluminum can stove. However- I thought of something as I was reading this and wanted to share. This new design you have could double as a wood burner with a minimal level of adaptation. That way, you could use the alcohol as your primary fuel, but could burn wood in the bottom can when you are out of fuel. Worth a try anyway.
Just a thought =)
i wouldn't eat anything cooked in aluminum if i were you
Why? A lot of cookware and bakeware (including top end expensive brands) are made from aluminum. If you meant aluminium cans, depending on how its constructed and what was used as solder or internal coating, you might have a valid concern
He was probably referring to the coating outside and inside an aluminum can if it is burned that is used to protect it from attack by acids and bases.
the sides of 'aluminium' cans are actually iron, only the top is aluminium and the iron will ususally have a coating such as tin. That is why you can pick pop cans up with magnets. so if you took the aluminium top of a pop can off with a can opener it should be much safer.
No, that's wrong. I've never, ever come across a two metal can design like you describe. It is either aluminium or steel. The easy way to tell is to look at the recycling label. You can also use a magnet, if you have one to hand. You cannot use two metals like steel and aluminium together in a drinks can, or you will end up with bimetallic corrosion in a short time. This is where the one metal corrodes the other metal due to the unbalanced electropotentials. This is how a steel boat can be protected by a zinc lump - the zinc corrodes in preference to the steel. In a sealed tin can, you don't want anything to corrode!
In Oz the early ring pull cans were steel body & Al tops. I'm talking back in the late 60s early 70s & yes galvanic corrosion was at times a real problem. Friends carried a 6 pack on a 10 day hike ( SW Tassie) to drink onthe beach at sunset - put them in seawater to cool them & came back to find bubbles rising from all of the cans! Contents undrinkable.
Ummm... I can't pick up soda cans with magnets...but maybe that's because I live in the U.S.A and, for some reason, they use different materials for the same sodas in different countries?
That might be true, I live in France and here, I can pick up the cans with magnets. I just assumed it was the same all over the world and i never tried picking the cans up with magnets when i lived in Canada or America.
soapy is correct, in that alu cans are straight alu. The bi-metal can's you're PROBABLY thinking of are, instead, the old tin coated cans. while there are SOME tin coated alu cans, almost all are tin coated steel. If you cannot crush it readily by hand, it's probably the steel kind. To "dismiss" his electro-corrosion statement, it's not really an issue, because the tin is a thin plate, covering ALL the parent metal. the bi-metallic corrosion only becomes a problem if the conducting fluid comes in contact with both metals at once.
cooltogo Thoth6 years ago
just because it is expensive and a top brand, it doesn't mean that it's any good for you. Aluminum is a good heat conductor, but unless it is coated with something like ceramic, it is not safe to cook in.
I very much agree with you. Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's. Aluminum does 'come off' and get into your food and thus your body. AND, it accumulates, just as Mercury does. I've been thinking about modifying a lot of these designs to avoid using aluminum. They are great designs in themselves, though.
really,so if i eat from aluminum i might eventually get Alzheimer's? oh no then i will forget how to find instructables!
thinkahead (author)  damntourists7 years ago
Oh don't worry. Anything that says its made out of aluminum, we scrub it with genuine lye soap and water two or three times, really, really good.
sharlston5 years ago
nice job oilive oil also works aswell

Try putting a few stiches in the center of the paper towel etc. with a needle and thread before you add your fuel. It makes the edges stay even with each other when your done. If you want to save and reuse the circles that is. That means less burnaway next time you use it and makes it easyer to handle if you store a pre-soaked pads for ready use.
stevec0386 years ago
It is a modern American myth that cooking with aluminum utensils or eating with aluminum flatware can be a contributing factor to Alzheimer's disease. It always pays to do your own research rather than passing on information that came from your best friend's next door neighbor's cousin's uncle. Eat hearty. I am a through hiker almost 60 years young and anything I can do to conserve weight is worth taking a look at--even aluminum cooking utensils.
There is some evidence, medically, that links alu ingestion with alzheimer's. There's also research showing NO link..... It's better to hedge your bets, imho. When it comes to light-weight hiking utensiles/cookware, I fully agree about their advantages. On the other hand, I don't cook anything overly acidic in them, while on the trail(no tomato sauce on the noodles, no lemon juice on the fish before cooking, etc) The acid WILL strip off the protective layer of alu-oxide, allowing alu to enter your food. Even if not a health risk, it'll make your food TASTE aweful :-(
See previous comment. Please don't be sucked in by dubious science. The aluminum/Alzheimer's data was anecdotal at its height, and has since been debunked by controled studies. By the way I was a teacher and nutritional chemist, these stories surface regularly as modern american myths. Revel in the lighter weight and eat hearty.
Yet you still don't give references for your claims, which, to be honest are just as anecdotal as the original claim. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one to panic easily over bad stuff in food. And I'm not suggesting you are wrong either. But I would like to see the results of the study you mentioned, just to be sure for myself.
Quit yo bitchen. If you don't like aluminum don't use it. I don't. (My mother is convinced it is poison so I let her clean it out of my kitchen. Hey she had me at home with no drugs, she deserves a little consideration.) Just state your disagreement and get on with life.
Hi Steve038 - My best friend's next door neighbor's cousin's uncle told me the same thing about aluminum. Where can I find some good research to refute the claims? (I figured, since you already did the research, I would piggyback on your efforts and save myself the time =) Thanks
I tried this today with a V8 can filled halfway with water and paper towels underneath it, on my garage floor. It worked for about 30 seconds, then sputtered(fire spun around the can where the paper was, wheeeee!) and promptly went out. I tried 3 more times and it always does that. Is the problem my 70% alcohol? 91 doesn't seem like it would do much better, but I'll head out to Walgreens sometime tomorrow and pick up a bottle.
J@50n5 years ago
i took an old tee shirt (my moms) and cut it into little circles too! they work good and you can reuse them!
flashcactus5 years ago
cotton makeup discs are good, too
I'd like to hear more about this super ultralight backpacking thing..
thinkahead (author)  Weissensteinburg7 years ago
The idea is that the less weight you have to carry, the faster and farther you can go. Titanium is used to construct personal pocket stoves instead of aluminum for example. Super Duper ultralight backpackers might carry no stove at all. :)
The joke is that you're not ultralight until you've cut the handle off your spoon.
thinkahead (author)  benhudson7 years ago
Spoon? mean half a straw. :-)
U win! (notice how I saved wt on ltrs?)
The hobo stove is way better.
phoenixjen6 years ago
Can you reuse the paper toweling by just resoaking it?
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