Light-weight Sturdy Backpacking Stove




Three-photo summary:
This stove is inexpensive, light weight, compact, and portable. Unlike the soda can variety (available all over the web), this stove is made from a discarded film development tank and extremely sturdy! (We snapped two drill bits while manufacturing this stove.)

Cost: $3 (commercial models: $15 to $150)
Weight: 4 oz, may reduce to < 3 oz with judicious cutting (commercial models: 3 oz to 30 oz)
Dimensions: 4.5 cm in height, 8.5 cm in diameter (fuel reservoir included)
Fuel Recommendation: 70%-90% rubbing alcohol
Energy Efficiency: 1/4 cup of 91% alcohol boils about 2 cups of water

Step 1: Find the Right Canister

Tools: band saw, ruler

We found a film development tank with a lid among a pile of lab supplies in the UW-Madison SWAP shop. With its 1-mm thick wall, it's sturdy all right! We just need to saw off the top. 4 cm from the bottom gives more room than we need to store the fuel for cooking. 2 cm would have done just fine and saved an extra ounce of weight -- it wouldn't have been safe to cut though.

4 cm tall: up to 1 cup of fuel
2 cm tall: up to 1/2 cup of fuel

Step 2: Drill the Vents

Tool: drill press

Like making the vents of a gas stove, drill small holes all the way around the lid of the canister. In order to control the burning and ventilation, we also drilled a big hole in the center, which can be covered up by a penny.

Now you can put the lid over the bottom of the canister that was sawed off earlier.

Step 3: Light the Stove

Tools: matches, metal pan

Pour 70% - 90% rubbing alcohol into the canister. Then put on the lid (a penny may be used to cover up the big hole in the center of the lid to slow down the burn). The burn time depends on the size and number of holes on the lid, the amount of fuel in the canister, as well as air ventilation.

Place the canister in a backpacking cooking pan and pour a few teaspoons of alcohol in the pan. The alcohol won't need to coat the bottom of the pan. Light the alcohol in the pan, not in the canister.

As the alcohol in the pan burns off, the alcohol in the canister will evaporate and eventually catch on fire.

Cook. Let's eat!

Step 4: *Spoof Reel*

The 100-Hour Challenge ( ) team: Megan Britson, Gene Shiau, and Kris Ugarriza.



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    17 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 2

    What did you do to secure the two pieces together?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    you have (what looks to me like) to many holes in the burner, 24 is always a good number to use

    spark master

    9 years ago on Introduction

    hi, Was the top of the can a knob to pull off the lid? you make no mention of it. All the rest is nicely done, but you need a picture of the can lid BEFORE you hacked it up. You can add a nice chunk of baked off fiberglass wool inside , (sometimes or maybe always, there is a chemical on glass wool insulation so heating it up drives of the chemical smell , but burning it once twice probably does same thing). also drill the center hole and put in a rivit with a tapped center, you can add a screw that allows it to be used as a fill spout, and you could make a simmer ring for it as well. If I can find cans like that I will make one. I like the sturdier construction. The Gram Weenies are the types who snip their fingernail off before hiking to save weight. Real hardcore back backers take nothing extra if possible, this in nice to leave in the car or ruck sack with canned goods for when the stinky stove hits the whirley bird thing. The benefit of lighter stove is to bring a pot stand and a windscreen, a "stove" and your device is the "burner". bravo my friends, I love the picture with the fire extinguishers and the unit. sparkie


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Is the "thin metal canister" one of those things for developing black and white film rolls?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I use to have a darkroom years ago, and after seeing this I went out to the shed and dug through some boxes. And found a ss film developing tank. It looks very similar. It sure looks like the fill and exit spout was ground off. Pic in step two!

    HAL 9000whitedem0n

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    There are TONS of those here, just do a search. also, if you want to build a stove is a site with instructions to build about a hundred stoves, ranging from *very* simple to incredibly complex.


    This would be perfect for a moderate or beginner backpacker like me! How much do you think it weighs? I can see a lot of really intense backpackers (definitely not me) complaining about it's weight (Again, not me!). But I agree with you on the sturdy and long-lasting bit. Good job!

    2 replies
    DeltaSSergeant Crayon

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Since everyone is curious about the actual weight, I've included as much as I think people care to know on the intro page. Thanks for visiting!

    You say it's "lightweight". Any idea what the actual weight is (with pan)? The reason most people make their own stoves is to shed weight. I made one out of a small size cat food can that I think weighs < 1 oz. Of course yours is undoubtedly sturdier and probably burns longer.

    2 replies

    Awesome, lighter than I would have suspected. You may also want to test this stove using denatured alcohol. That's what I use for my stoves. It might not burn quite as long, but burns cleaner.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty cool, reusing a developing tank. Although I'd still prefer the stainless steel tanks and reels over the plastic ones--if I worked with film anymore (ain't digital wonderful?)

    But I hope you washed the crap outta that tank many times before cooking in it.... I wouldn't want to ingest any photo chemistry.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    great job! I had made these before, but most of them sucked. +1