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:
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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.
morales073027 months ago

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!!

Foaly74 years ago
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)  Foaly710 months ago

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.

angeldmort4 years ago
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)  angeldmort10 months ago

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

KMoffett4 years ago
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. :(
S-KayakCrane 2.JPG
pearsonry (author)  KMoffett10 months ago

I'm so glad it helped you!

glenm4 years ago
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)  glenm10 months ago

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.

amolina53 years ago
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)  amolina510 months ago

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

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)  atombomb19456 years ago
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.
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)  seaeye10 months ago

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.

rhaubejoi4 years ago
brilliant idea!  Thanks for sharing!
shmuki5 years ago
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)  shmuki5 years ago
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.
hg3416 years ago
hey i like thisi dont like the sun...(or outdoors)but dutch oven work better if they are IN THE FIRE...
oakspoor hg3415 years ago
Those Dutch are so hard to cook ;P
pearsonry (author)  hg3416 years ago
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 pearsonry6 years ago
well in the fire is the only way i have used onei might have to make this someday
3leftturns5 years ago
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)  3leftturns5 years ago
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.
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.
dlfynrdr5 years ago
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)  dlfynrdr5 years ago
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.
defiant15 years ago
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.
jessyou6 years ago
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)  jessyou6 years ago
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...
Joyusnoise6 years ago
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
jennpearson6 years ago
This thing is awesome ~ we constructed it this afternoon, and plan on using it all summer. Thanks for the great idea!
pearsonry (author)  jennpearson6 years ago
I hope you have a great time, and get a lot of use out of it! Food always tastes better when you cook outside.
JerryMopar6 years ago
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)  JerryMopar6 years ago
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.
benthekahn6 years ago
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)  benthekahn6 years ago
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.