Stoves, A Three Part Series

Three Part Series

Over the next three posts I’ll cover SOME stoves available. There are a ton of stoves you can buy and a hundred times that many in designs on the web you can look up. I will cover home made and small production pressure stoves in Part I. In Part II I’ll cover stoves which use found fuel such as wood and pinecones. In Part III I’ll cover stoves made by major manufacturers and meet mountaineering safety guidelines. I’ll try to fill you in on my experiences and what I like and don’t like about their designs.

Part One:

Even if you only have emergency rations and MRE’s with heaters you are still going to need a way to boil water to purify it. There are ways as I discussed in an earlier post on how to do this without boiling, but it is best to have the ability to cook food or boil water in your back pocket. If you are savvy and know how to build a campfire, then boil water you’ll be good to go. If you don’t you may want to look at getting a stove. There are some that are so light weight you’ll never notice they are in your pack. Let me go through several I have built and others I own. I’ll try to run down their pros and cons of each.

The penultimate resource for building your own stove is there is every type of stove and how to build it imaginable on this site.

Pressure Stoves

Pressure stoves use liquid fuel. When the stove is heated up with some of the fuel used as a primer it turns to vapor creating pressure for the gas to escape through small holes. As the gas is released it ignites and continues the process until the fuel is expended. They are very efficient stoves and incredibly lightweight. You can make then out of two aluminum cans. When you get the hang of it you can turn one out in about 15 minutes.

Penny Can Stove

It’s called a penny can stove because at the top of the stove you put a couple of holes. This is where you fill the stove up from, then you literally lay a penny over the holes then pour some fuel into the depressed area (normally the bottom of the can) and this becomes your primer bin.
Below is a picture of a penny can stove before I sealed it with engine sealer. You can see a little bit of the flame coming out from the middle right where the two cans overlap. After sealing it up this little guy ran for about 15 minutes and would bring two full cups of water to a boil in around eight minutes. It weighs virtually nothing and I’ve found the best fuel to pack in the trunk of your car is the yellow bottle of Heet Fuel additive. I like Heet because it’s in a bottle that won’t leak in the trunk of your car and this type of fuel is perfect for a penny can pressure stove. There is great debate over which gives you a faster boil time, alcohol or Heet. I’ve tested them and I can tell you – who cares, they’re about the same. Use what’s easiest for you to acquire and keep safely in your car.
There are issues with a stove like this. You need to create a separate pot stand and it only burns for a limited time so cooking pasta is out of the question.

Vargo Outdoors

I love this stove. It’s a production model of the Penny Can Stove and has a couple of features making it worth the money. It allows you to put a pot right onto the little legs which unfold and make a base for the stove and your pot. It also has the ability to burn Esbit Solid Fuel Cubes tabs… A fuel I hate, but when push comes to shove, they’ll save your life. The flaw in this stove is it can be a tab bit unstable if you’re using a large pot. The maximum amount of water I put on here is two cups and if you learn to use it properly you can make it more stable. The bottom legs should be used as spikes and driven into the ground, not as legs. This makes an excellent platform. If you are on rock or wood, you can’t do that and have to be careful. All in all I give this stove an A-.

Jet Coil Stove

These stoves are a little more complex to create but have a little better boil times than the pressure stoves. Technically they’re still a pressure stove, when you heat the coil it turns the liquid fuel into gas and feeds it into the coil using a wick fed through the bent tubing. I had to build a jig to bend the tubing:


The real trick is to fill the tubing with sand so it won’t kink when you bend it on the jig. I’ve experimented with building different types of jet coil stoves and have had some good results with boil times. The draw back is having to build a pot stand to go with the stove. By the time I came up with a good windscreen and pot stand I came back to the Vargo above. I’ve built both the screw on lid style and the penny can/ jet coil hybrid pictured below. The best part of the hybrid is the cool screw fill spout.

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