Introduction: Camping Tripod for Cooking Over Fire

Picture of Camping Tripod for Cooking Over Fire

This is a step by step guide to making a sturdy tripod you can use to hang a cook pot, dutch oven, coffee pot, or anything else you want to hold over a campfire.

There are very nice commercially produced tripods available, including expensive wrought-iron ones. This one can be made for $20-$25 if you buy everything brand new, and will be nearly as durable, and certainly lighter. It could be made cheaper, even free if you can scavenge the parts from scrap. (Update - I just saw a wrought-iron one at Joe's sporting goods for $45. I think I'll stick with my conduit one.)

Credit for this concept goes to Junior Doughty of His tripod can be found at:

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

You will need:

3 sections of 1/2" conduit 4' long or longer
3 sturdy eye bolts
2 S-hooks
4' of chain - the kind with the wire links is great.

Tubing cutter or hacksaw
Wire cutter

Step 2: Cut the Legs

Picture of Cut the Legs

First, cut the conduit to the desired length. I made mine 4'8", but you can make them any length you like.

The tubing cutter has little rollers and a cutting wheel on a clamp. Tighten the clamp onto the conduit where you want the cut then tighten it down, turn, and repeat until the conduit is cut all the way through.

A hacksaw may also be used to do the job.

If you don't have a way to cut the conduit, the hardware store may cut it for you when you buy it.

Step 3: Open One Eye Bolt

Picture of Open One Eye Bolt

Open one eye of one eye bolt using pliers, or lever it open with pliers and a scrap of tubing. This is the hardest part if you bought beefy eye bolts like these. It was probably overkill.

Step 4: Assemble the Eye Bolts and Chain

Picture of Assemble the Eye Bolts and Chain

Now put the other two eyes and one end of the chain onto the open eye bolt. Use the hammer to reclose the open eye securely so it all stays together.

Step 5: Connect the Legs

Picture of Connect the Legs

Put the shafts of the eye bolts into the ends of the legs and stand it up with the legs equidistant, like it will look over a campfire. Put one of the S-hooks on the chain near the top and use the pliers to close it tight. This will be the adjuster for the cookpot height.

Step 6: Cut the Chain to Length

Picture of Cut the Chain to Length

Cut the chain to the desired length, using your cookware to measure the longest possible chain length desired.

It is long enough if the pot can sit on the ground and remain on the chain.

Put another S-hook onto the end of the chain and close with pliers.

Step 7: Hang Cookware

Picture of Hang Cookware

Hang your dutch oven, coffee pot, or whatever on the chain and make sure it will support its weight. Ensure the adjuster hook will get the cookware to the level you want.

Step 8: Fold It Up

Picture of Fold It Up

The beauty of this design is that it can collapse easily for storage and transport.

Step 9: Customize and Enjoy

Picture of Customize and Enjoy

You can add lost of different useful features to this basic design. Add an extra hook to hang utensils, paint it with stove paint, make a mechanism to permanently connect the legs to the head, whatever you want.

Later on I am going to drill holes in two legs and add eye bolts to hold an additional piece of conduit from which I can hang more chains and hooks for more pots, or to hang boots for drying. (My brother-in-law has burned up two pairs of boots in as many hunting seasons because he puts them too close to the fire.)

The lower ends of the tripod should remain cool enough that you can pick up one leg at a time bare-handed to move it around a little bit. If you want to raise or lower the chain while it is hot, you might need oven mitts or a dutch oven lid lifter.


sjeverett75 (author)2017-07-05

great build. i was going to make one out of rebar or solid round stock at work. I was gonna bend the stock at the top with a torch, but conduit sounds like it will be way lighter for transport. good job.

landline made it! (author)2017-04-03

Parts from Home Depot - approx. $13. Eyebolts came with nuts which I could easily tap into the 1/2" conduit (may go there, don't know). Worked nice over the fire bowl, until a Scout kicked the legs. So we put the legs INSIDE the ring of the filre bowl for support. Good build! Thanks!

sjeverett75 (author)landline2017-07-05

you could add hooks horizonally 2 feet or so from the top all the way around and run chains to them so that if the leg is kicked, the chain keeps it from moving.

mpadgitt (author)2017-06-07

Very nice project! I'd like to reprint this in Wood-Fired Magazine. Please contact me at

ingriddayton (author)2015-04-03

I made this! well OK my husband did...

6' 1/2 " poles and those big eyehooks.

He left the bolt on the eye hooks, screwed the bolts on the eye bolts as far as they could go, and pounded the eye hooks into the poles (not hard to do).

But opening that one third eye hook was a doozy. I recommend opening it using a vise before you pound it into the pole and then hammering it closed.

A carabinier hangs from one of the eye hooks and the chain hangs from that. In picture #3 you can see the doodad that holds the dutch oven. He did not cut the chain, the length can be adjusted by another eyehook at the end of the chain.

This is going to make for some fun backyard cooking! thank you so much for this great Instructable!

I like the way you modified yours....gonna build me one. Take a look on my BBQ page on FB...Black Hole BBQ. Might do build tomorrow....wanna do some recipes camp fire style.

I know this is an old post, but did you make it?

landline (author)2017-04-03

*fire, not filre... No "edit" feature, Instructables?

Foaly7 (author)2010-04-20

Can you make the legs telescoping, since they're pipe i think you should be able to use another eyebolt to make them stay put.

pearsonry (author)Foaly72014-04-10

Yes, but to keep it simple you could also add in-line conduit connectors and cut the legs in the middle. Gravity would hold the connectors in place.

shallahowe (author)pearsonry2017-01-22

get some tubes that are a size up. so your legs can slide inside the bigger ones.

get a nut that fits inside the bigger tube, and pound it inside. pretty easy to do with a hammer.

poke it in an inch or two deeper (either screw in the eye bolt and hammer the top in then unscrew. or put your small pole inside and hammer the top)

the bolt should be pretty immovable. when you set it up, it won't be telescopic, but you can assembled to add length.

aaron81006 made it! (author)2015-10-05

I MADE IT!! It works great. I wanted a locking clip, maybe not needed but oh well. Make sure if you get a clip that it fits through the chain links. Mine is a tight fit. The pot blocks the heat from getting the chain too hot. It's still easy to grab and move the pot out to the side for stirring. Thanks pearsonry.

PVF1799 (author)2015-09-02

I'm making this to hang the waterer for our pastured turkeys. This is SO Cool - Thanks

morales07302 (author)2014-08-01

This is a great idea!! I was thinking of using black pipe for a little more strength so I can make it a bit taller. Where I go camping the fire pits are a bit oversized. Making it taller will help me get around that. Thanks a lot!!

angeldmort (author)2010-04-28

Man... I feel so silly for over-thinking this. Thank you SO much for this. I think you just saved my party  this weekend, and improved my whole summer.

pearsonry (author)angeldmort2014-04-10

Simplicity is key. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

KMoffett (author)2010-07-25

I was looking for a suitable tripod design when I ran across yours. I was making a "crane" for our Geology team to take sediment samples form the bottom of a 100' deep glacial lake. They have to portage in the equipment to the lakes, so light and simple was a premium. 2' long legs, 2"x4" cedar frame bridging two kayaks, with pulleys and a winch. I added aluminum plugs in the ends of the conduit, to make it a little more rigid, but it's your concept. Thanks! Ken Tried to add a picture, but it doesn't show up. :(

pearsonry (author)KMoffett2014-04-10

I'm so glad it helped you!

glenm (author)2010-11-11

using two pair of pliers you can twist the half of the eyelet to the side. it can be twisted back in the same manner. wish i could explain this better. it's easier than prying it up and trying to close it again.

pearsonry (author)glenm2014-04-10

Yes, you are right. It can be closed more securely this way. The eye bolts I used were too beefy for the pliers I had to open sideways, but I was able to pry them open the long way and they were thick enough that it didn't matter.

amolina5 (author)2011-11-22

This is a great idea and design! I've been wanting a dutch oven tripod for awhile now, I already have a tripod that I picked up for $15 with a grate and small chain, but when I put a dutch oven on, the weigh of it started to bend the plate on top that holds the legs together. With your instuctable I was able to have a two in one tripod set up that has collapsible legs. A grill grate, AND a dutch oven! You can pick up a pretty nice tripod at a farm and fleet either at the beginning, or the end of the year for cheap, that's when I found mine. Or just buy a round grill grate and put three small chains and a small s-hook together and hang it from yours.

pearsonry (author)amolina52014-04-10

The grill would make an awesome addition. I think I might add that to mine.

atombomb1945 (author)2009-02-19

This looks good and stable. Are the eye bolts fixed to the polls in any way, or are they just setting inside the poll?

pearsonry (author)atombomb19452009-02-19

Once it is set up and in use, just the tension on the legs will keep the eye bolts securely in place. You can certainly use epoxy or watever you like to hold them in place though. I went back later and put some rubber washers around the eye bolts, and forced them into the ends of the legs, just to make the whole thing stay together better in transport, but this is not necessary.

seaeye (author)pearsonry2013-10-20

Some nuts on the eye bolts that fit inside the pipe then a hammer to the pipe to smash them together a bit so the nuts won't come out should be effective for holding the eye bolts in the pipe. It should still let the eye bolt remain loose for set up and tear down. That's what I'm going to to try doing.

pearsonry (author)seaeye2014-04-10

I definitely like that idea. If you could partially cut the conduit parallel with the faces of the nuts, you could bend the conduit and compress the walls against the edges. That would allow the nuts to rotate securely with the conduit. Of course, you'd still have 5' lengths of pipe, just not bundled together.

rhaubejoi (author)2010-04-20

brilliant idea!  Thanks for sharing!

shmuki (author)2010-01-25

Have you tested how much weight this thing holds? I'm curious because I camp wit large groups of people and the food weighs quite a bit

pearsonry (author)shmuki2010-01-26

I haven't tested the tripod to failure, mainly because I don't want to have to make a new one.   I know it can hold my big dutch oven full of water, which can't be less than 30lbs.  If I had to guess, I'd say it could hold about 100lbs safely.  The closer the legs are to each other, the more it can withstand, but you trade that for stability.  The conduit does flex a little bit, but it is quite rigid and sturdy.  If the conduit turns out to be too weak, you can always use larger diameter tubing.  If I wanted one that could hold 500lbs, I'd use steel pipe and 1/4" chain.  I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a cookpot that this thing couldn't hold safely.

hg341 (author)2009-02-20

hey i like thisi dont like the sun...(or outdoors)but dutch oven work better if they are IN THE FIRE...

oakspoor (author)hg3412009-11-12

Those Dutch are so hard to cook ;P

pearsonry (author)hg3412009-02-20

Yes, I agree, but a dutch oven is very versatile utensil. I use it in the fire, with coals on top and bottom, hanging over the fire for soups, in the electric oven, and you can even flip the lid over and make pancakes in it! Lewis and Clark claimed their dutch oven was the most valuable implement they had with them on their trek through the Louisiana Territory. This tripod can hold more than just the dutch oven as well. Coffee pot, hanging pot, boots, meat on a hook...

hg341 (author)pearsonry2009-02-21

well in the fire is the only way i have used onei might have to make this someday

3leftturns (author)2009-09-18

This is SO cool. I'm gonna make me one... one improvement would be to add an eye bolt through the bottom foot of each leg, and string a chain through each hook, making a leg stabilizer for the whole unit.

pearsonry (author)3leftturns2009-09-22

I thought of doing something like that, but what I have found is that the ground is almost always so irregular that it would interfere with the chain and alter the geometry of the legs. If you are cooking on a very slick surface (frozen lake? solid rock?) then such an addition may help rather than hurt. Even though the legs are just hollow tubes, they seem to always dig in very firmly.

3leftturns (author)pearsonry2009-09-22

Cool. I work for a company that sells survey tripods, and if a tripod is on a slick surface like concrete, it can kick out the legs. Not very good when you have $50k sitting on the top of the tripod. So a $10 loop of nylon webbing solves that problem. If you fed the chain through the eyebolts and not clamping them to the bolts, linked to itself in a loop, it would slide through the bolts to allow for changing geometry. I'll have to build one and let you know. This is so cool, thanks for the idea.

dlfynrdr (author)2009-07-17

This is a great idea! I made my own yesterday. Thanks for the idea. One suggestion I might make to anyone else making their own though has to do with the step involving separating the eye in the one bolt to link them all together. INstead of pulling the eye outwards like you show in the picture, separate it "sideways" like in the pic below. It's the same technique you use in separating links for jewelry making and chainmail. It's a bit easier and it makes sure the gap closes back properly.

pearsonry (author)dlfynrdr2009-07-17

Yes, that would be the preferred technique. The eye bolts I used were too heavy for the pliers I had, so I couldn't twist them open.

defiant1 (author)2009-03-12

I actually have been using one just like this for a few years. An old man from Georgia showed me his one day so I built one of my own. I connected the top much differently though. I like your idea better with the eyebolts. It seems a little more flexible. Thanks for the tip. I think I'll modify ours.

jessyou (author)2009-03-01

FYI: Steel conduit is zinc-galvanized for corrosion protection. Underwriters Laboratories exposed rigid steel conduit and steel intermediate metal conduit and electrical metallic tubing to a 4 hour ASTM E119 fire test at a temperature of 2000°F. The conduit and EMT were still intact at the end of the test. This information is contained in a report Annular Space Protection of Openings Created by Penetrations of Tubular Steel Conduit – a Review of UL Special Services Investigation File NC546 Project 90NK111650, which is available from Allied Tube. Great INSTRUCTABLE!

pearsonry (author)jessyou2009-03-03

Wow, thanks for the great info! This should put any safety concerns to rest. If anyone gets one of these over 2000F, let me know...

Joyusnoise (author)2009-02-21

The simplicity of the eye bolts is brilliant, I used old metal tent poles that pull apart at approx.. 24", The tent has long been .....well ..... retired :o) This makes it a little more portable, Haven't tested it yet, (Winter) The only concern is the green powder coat paint on the pole, I guess we'll find out in a few weeks :o), Thanks for a good idea

jennpearson (author)2009-02-20

This thing is awesome ~ we constructed it this afternoon, and plan on using it all summer. Thanks for the great idea!

pearsonry (author)jennpearson2009-02-20

I hope you have a great time, and get a lot of use out of it! Food always tastes better when you cook outside.

JerryMopar (author)2009-02-20

Heres one thing to know, The conduit is galvanized, which means zinc-coated. Hust hope your fire dosnt get to close to it, or youll get toxic zinc fume floating around. Othe rthan that, nice, simple, effective tripod ~~~ :)

pearsonry (author)JerryMopar2009-02-20

Yes, true, but it is meant for cooking over a reasonable cooking fire. Hopefully I dont ever get this thing hot enough to vaporize zinc. If that happens, I'm sure I have bigger problems! Just the fact it is a big piece of steel with the lower parts cool to the touch should mean conduction will keep it from heating up to a dangerous point.

benthekahn (author)2009-02-20

Pretty cool, but for backpacking, the best thing is still just to cary some rope and make a tripod with sticks on location.

pearsonry (author)benthekahn2009-02-20

Yes, this is way too heavy to carry too far, and also too large to lug around for backpacking. If you want to shorten it, you can cut the legs in half and use conduit connectors to restore them to their full length. I left mine in one piece for simplicity. I intend to use mine in hunting camp and for car camping, so I won't be hauling it far.

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