Some thoughts, as the Beer Can Stove video goes viral

As of right now, the video above has been played 1,311,131 times. (Check it.)

Needless to say, when Armen and I popped out to buy a couple of cans of Kozel for this film, we were not expecting this to happen.

It’s been fun to watch the statistics over the last few days. It’s also been interesting to ruminate on why content ‘goes viral’ – internet shorthand for a shedload of people seeing something online in a short space of time.

What it boils down to, I think, is simple, resonant ideas put into easily shareable form, plus a dice-roll. The dice roll is whether anyone with the reach of Lifehacker, TrueActivist or RealFarmacy will pick up on it. But in the words of someone cleverer than me, “you miss 100% of the shots you never take”.

We’ve all handled drinks cans in our lives, used scissors, and come across surgical spirit. The delight comes from the combination and reinvention of these every day things to serve a basic human need.

This genuine utility value was demonstrated by a comment from Noel Carual of the Philippines.

“I wish to express my heartfelt thanks for sharing this very informative video especially during these times that my country is recently ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan [ Yolanda ].”

Who’d have thought this would end up cooking food and sterilizing water after a natural disaster?

Another thing worth mentioning is that there’s no particular credit due or fame bestowed upon any individual. All I did was splice together some video of what I thought was a genuinely awesome idea. All Armen did was practice hard and spend time demonstrating a revolutionary concept he’d come across. What’s spread like wildfire over the last few days is the idea, which doesn’t belong to anyone.

It may not be as amusing as the Ultimate Dog Tease. But it’s a damn sight more useful.

Got an idea you think the world needs to know about? If two blokes in Armenia with a camera and a beer-can can put it in front of 1,313,232 people (and counting), who can’t?

27 Responses to “Some thoughts, as the Beer Can Stove video goes viral”

  1. Brock Dittus

    “What it boils down to…”

    Ha!

    #puns

    Reply
  2. Rob

    Simplistic genius, my favourite kind, the video has just been watched one more time, i’m not a fan of being trendy but i do love good information and the two do not always come together. I can guarantee my kit will have a bottle of ISO 97% and a pair of scissors in for good measure.

    Reply
    • Rob

      Beer too, just for the can but i will make sure i have several in there, just incase i am cooking for guests

      Reply
  3. Rich

    Great little video – thanks guys. So good I’m going to try this out tomorrow!
    By the way, the ‘check it’ link doesn’t seem to work 🙁

    Reply
    • Rich

      It’s brilliant! I’m not quite as adept as Armen (by quite some way) but I got a small pot of water boiling. Found the bottom bit needs to come just over the top of the shoulder on the inserted bit to work well. Also don’t buy the Care+ surgical spirit from Superdrug and other places – it has a small amount of Castor Oil in it – this is A Bad Thing!

      Reply
      • Tom Allen

        Much surgical spirit in the UK has castor oil in it, I’ve found, because of its “skin soothing” properties. (This is bullshit, of course; it’s stop people using it in beverages.) I’ve found it does still work; you’re just left with smelly castor oil slime at the bottom of the stove!

        Reply
  4. Stephen Lambert

    Nice job on this. I recently stumbled onto your site and have really enjoyed it all. I made a stove, cooked my dinner on it and it worked wonderfully. I’m planning on making another larger one for my cycle kit, as a second or backup stove. Thanks much, keep the posts coming. You inspire me to get out and do more and see more….

    Reply
  5. Jeremy

    I’m from Minnesota and find myself fishing in geographical challeing areas. I’ll cath a couple fish and have no way to cook them.Typically I use cooking oil in a pan over an open fire with mixed results. I’m going to try your stove out and see how it works. I made one in my living room last night using 40% alcohol liquor. It worked but I need to built a better stove. I’ve been trying to figure something out like this for years. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. rob

    Is it possible to use petrol in place of the alcohol? Cheers on a simple and informative video!

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Absolutely not! Enjoy 🙂

      Reply
      • Rob

        I would not want to be the person who lit that, i just tested my stove with methylated spirit, works a charm, I am looking for a better cap to snuff it with as i nearly set the house on fire using a plastic beaker lid and only half my attention. Your book just arrived, did not realise i had bought a signed first edition copy so if you can please get proper famous and gather some Beiber-esq obsessive fans between now and when i have read it and then i can fund my trip my selling your autographed first edition.

        Reply
  7. Judy

    I have one at work in case of emergency. I made one for some Warmshowers guests who came through without a stove. I gave them a bit of alcohol to get started. they had only had hot meals when they bought it or were staying with hosts. They picked up a pan for cheap at a thrift store and were in business.

    Reply
  8. Andy Colburn

    I’ just curious, why in the video did Armen stick a little hole in the top section? He never said.

    Reply
  9. Chris

    It looks like this design has now been officially* named after you…! http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/gear/hop-can-stoves-how-to-make-5-ultralight-bikepacking-stoves/

    *not really official

    Reply
  10. Anthony

    I made one and got it to light. When I put a pot on the stove, the flame went out. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
  11. Review: Essential Gear for Adventure Cycle Touring by Tom Allen

    […] Things certainly aren’t limited to the bike, either, as this guide includes everything from touring bikes, racks, saddles (buy brooks, you fools!), and repair kits to tents, sleeping bags, and clothing. There is even info in their about cooking equipment, though Tom probably only uses his wildly popular beer-can stove. […]

    Reply
  12. Jose G

    This is the way things should be: Simple, gets the job done, cheap, anyone can do it, light weight and above all: Doesn’t come from a store.

    Thanks for sharing… now, to cook lunch.

    Reply
  13. Marjo

    I love it and tried to make one myself. I followed the steps as shown in the video, the vents, the little hole, everything. Put in al little bit of alcohol (medical de fricciones of 70%), but It won’t burn…..! I don’t have it so neatly cut though. Please Tom, any thoughts on how to get it right?

    Reply

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