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Craft & DIY

How To Turn A Beer Can Into The Only Camping Stove You’ll Ever Need [VIDEO]

[WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE GASOLINE/PETROL/BENZINE BASED FUELS WITH THIS STOVE!]

The best gift I’ve ever received on the road is this; a stove made from nothing but a discarded drinks can. In this video we’re going to learn how to make it (with a little help from my friend Armen).

You can get your raw materials from the trashcan, make it in 10 minutes with a pocket knife, and get fuel from any pharmacy or hardware store. Oh, and it costs a hundred bucks less than the Whisperlite. What’s not to like?

The beer-can stove in action

I’ve been using these stoves for years now. Here are a few ideas for getting more out of them:

  • Arrange several stoves in a pretty pattern and cook a big pot of food for your friends
  • If windy, use your camping mattress (especially the cheap foam ones) as a wrap-around windshield
  • Hunt down more efficient fuels than medical alcohol
  • Try making giant stoves out of those oversized cans of Fosters
  • Make them in campsites and hostels to give away as gifts, to trade for other useful stuff, in exchange for beer money, or simply to attract members of the opposite sex

This article is part of my ongoing mission to bring cycle touring back to its roots, which lie in simplicity and spontaneity over grand plans and fancy kit. There’s going to be a lot more where this came from over the next few months, so sign up for my newsletter if you’d like to be kept in the loop.

What are your favourite DIY camping/travel tips? Please share them in the comments below.

89 replies on “How To Turn A Beer Can Into The Only Camping Stove You’ll Ever Need [VIDEO]”

Thank you, Tom and Armen, loved your video! Nothing better than figuring out the most simplest of solutions for cooking a cup of tea (or anything else) out on the road.

I tried it also and found the same problem. I found that the bottom half was a fraction too long, and blocking off the creases around the sides. Try cutting the bottom side just a little lower. fixed it for me!

Great video too Tom.

There are a few potential reasons for this. Your top indents (where the flames are) don’t need to be big, but you can try enlarging them slightly. The bottom indents (which take up fuel from the base of the can) might need to be bigger. You might also not be putting enough fuel in — the level of the fuel needs to be ABOVE the bottom edge of the top half of the can.

The main thing is to keep experimenting — you might not get it right first time, but cans are as good as free so it doesn’t matter 🙂

Hi Tom — Thanks for the tip — easy to make, easy to use. Used it in Australia in March, April and May 2014. I’m writing to warn your readers that isopropyl alcohol 99% is not readily obtained there. What is sold is about 67% and quite useless. To get 99% you have to beg it from a pharmacist, who then charges an outrageous amount for it. I also got some at an electronics store, where it is used to clean connectors. I was told that it was off the shelf because it’s being used in illegal drug production.

Eric, you want to look for methylated spirits, its basically the same as denatured alcohol here in the the US, and what I use in everything from my Whisperlite to my beer can stoves. You can typically buy it at everywhere from DIY stores through grocery stores.

Thanks to this website I made a can stove which I used on my month travelling around on a motorbike. I met a cyclist in Italy who shared with me this website so this will be useful to anyone who is struggling to find the right alcohol for their stove.

http://www.mark-ju.net/juliette/meths.htm

I bought extremely overpriced stuff from the pharmacy section in the supermarket in France and thanks to this website I found the much better value stuff in the cleaning section.….

Just tried 70% alcohol and its mostly useless. Thanks for the link. Gonna try with other fuels.

very usefull link! thx
I can give you additional information about this kind of fuel in Russia (I live there)
There is a mark in red color, on this site, that “very hard to get” medical alcohol in a pharmacy store in Russia, it is because of homeless people usually drink it, and in 2005 appeared a law to sell it only with doctors recipe.
But you can buy 90% Aseptolin (АСЕПТОЛИН) just for 0,3$ for 100ml bottle in any pharmacy, or buy Isopropyl alcohol (ИЗОПРОПАНОЛ) in grocery store

That was the tip-off for me. I was using 70% and it’s worthless. I went and bought some gas line antifreeze (brand name HEET in the USA, yellow plastic bottle) and WHOOSH! Great design and performance.

you can get the low-grade isopropanol and salt it out. add enough (non-iodized) salt to saturate the solution. the iso separates from the brine.

Eric, in Australia we have one of the better fuels for these stoves.
Methylated spirits, which we call meths, or METHO. (you know how we love to put an O on everything:) It’s a methyl/ethanol mix. Cheap as chips from most hardware shops and lots of supermarkets. Burns clean, non toxic. Very safe. Empty cans you can get from any Bottleo on any arvo.

How do these types of stoves work in cold and wind? I have tried several versions of these stove designs (one for use in winter in Grand Canyon), and I found it took a lot longer time to achieve a boil than the 5–6 minuet tests I’ve seen in the “ideal condition” settings on-line. More like 20–30 minuets. I could get the start of a boil, where the water was scalding, but not boiling. Do theses stoves just work better at over 30F? Is this the better condition use stoves like these? Thanks.

I performed a boil this morning when it was 30ish, F. In just slightly under 7 minuets, I had a very roiling boil going! That was with the YAC stove setting directly on cold, shadowed cement. I was very happy. I also added more fuel this time (4+ ounces). BIG difference. I think I just basically ran out of fuel on that first attempt. I had a nice cuppa tea in the back yard this morning after words as a reward! I am totally sold on these various YAC stove designs. Way, way cheaper! And quite reliable. Easy to fashion another one if I loose it or it gets crushed. Thanks for your feed back.

I’ve been using a similar style stove for years. Light, simple and its easy to fashion a new one if your mate rolls over it…

Have a google for Zen Stoves, they’ve got alcohol stoves down to an art.

Great video Tom! I made one, but when I put container on the stove, the fire gradually turns off. I made two whole at the top and shortened the bottom indents. It became better. I guess I need to use another kind of can to have a nice one. Thank you Tom.

Loved this so much I’m up to stove #3. I keep fine tuning them. I found a better way to remove the lid safely. Just turn the can over and rub it onto cement or a flat rock for a while. I used a piece of slate. This wares the upper ring and the top piece will just pop off in no time. It leaves a safe edge on the top.

I love this! I knew another design but which required a bit more manufacture, and so was hardly doable “on the field”. But this one is plain brilliant.
One piece of advice if your stove turns off before it burns all the fuel: you must make sure that the top part comes to the very bottom of the base (in the inside)… I am not certain that is gonna help anyone :p ohh and about that thank you guys to explain this so clearly.

Does it really work? I just built this stove (I even did it twice) and I tried to boil 500 mL of water. It was hot enough to make tea, but not to cook pasta. I was hoping to use this kind of stove for a trip with a friend, but now I really doubt I can use an alcohol stove for two people (even for one people it doesn’t seem really effective). The alcohol burnt for a long time (at least 15 minutes), but it wasn’t hot enough. Maybe I built the stove incorrectly.

Love the idea, Tom! Mut, I just took one on a camping trip with my boyfriend, and we make a pot of pasta for the two of us without a problem. We did notice that letting it burn and warm up a little before putting the pot on makes the flame stronger. We used 91% rubbing alcohol from the grocery store. Good luck! Hope you get it to work.

I’m backpacking on a shoestring budget right now. I was just looking into a light weight stove. You probably saved me close to $100.

Thanks Tom for a fab site. I’ve just had my first cuppa from the stove I’ve made after watching the video. I’m also inspired to have a cycle adventure this weekend, camping for the first time. Looking forward to it.

Fantastic! All credit to the original inventor 🙂

Let me know if I can contribute to your site in other ways — looks like a great project.

P.S. Combine 3 or more of these stoves for bigger pots and faster boil times…

[…] Before getting to this lump of carbs I try to start my day with, you guessed it, carbs. Porridge and banana is the standard choice. I reach into my trusty right front pannier (otherwise known as my pantry) and find the plastic bag containing assorted sachets to discover what flavour Uncle Toby is going to awaken my stomach with today. This is then prepared on the greatest stove in the world, which I have shown you before. If you’d like to see it in action and find out how to make one look here. […]

awesome concept, Wild that I havent seen Armen since our college days and I randomly see him in this video, tell him Nico from UCSC says hello

hi tom..this is reply helpful..especially for us here in the philippines and our brothers in tacloban which need this kind of innovation to survive on the scarcity of food and absence of proper kitchen materials..i would like to ask if 70% alcohol would work since its the widely ready-available here in our country..thanks tom

70% did not work for me. It burns within the bowl, but not up the sides. If you can get gas line anti-freeze (HEET or similar product, basically methyl alcohol), that will work nicely. Best of luck to you!

I JUST WANNA KNOW THAT WILL I BE ABLE TO BOIL EGGS AND COOK MAGGI WITH IT. THAT’S THE ONLY PURPOSE I WANT TO MAKE THIS STOVE.

Hi Sarbeet,
I have made my own and going on a trip this weekend. Will let you know how it works ! Cheers from Bangalore

Awesome! Thank you for showing this — I’m preparing a solo bike trip from Switzerland to Singapore. You guys definitely saved me a bundle by sharing this! Only thing I wonder: Will it work with gasoline too? I guess I’ll have to try that one out.

I’m so sorry, I think my comment was poorly phrased: I meant I want to try the alcohol stove! Good lord my English is rusty, time to hit the road again to practise 🙂

I was thinking about gasoline because it’s the one thing (besides maybe Coca Cola and Marlboro) that you can find literally everywhere you go. So it would have been convenient — But I already guessed that it would not work.

Hey Damian. Gasoline will work… at creating a huge fireball and burning your eyebrows off!

This stove will work on methylated spirits, available from most phamacies. If you can find medical alcohol at a higher concentration than 90%, that’s better still.

Have a great trip and let us know if it gets you to Singapore 🙂

[…] Beer Can Stove: This EXTREMELY cheap stove has some assembly required, and you must be willing to drink one beer prior to assembly, but it’s totally worth it.  It runs on rubbing alcohol, a fuel that can be found virtually anywhere, so there’s no need to try to pack it with you.  It is also incredibly cheap.  For more information, click here: http://tomsbiketrip.wpengine.com/how-to-turn-a-beer-can-into-the-only-camping-stove-youll-ever-need-video/. […]

Hi, very great Video. First i wanted to build this one: http://web.archive.org/web/20080205102807/http://www.pcthiker.com/pages/gear/pepsistove.shtml
but then (gladly) i found your Video and I think this is the best method to build a can stove.
At the moment I build number 5 🙂

But I have a question: Is there a problem if my pot doesn’t stand directly on the stove, but …lets say… 2–3 cm above, so the hole isn’t covered. Because I want to use it with my hobo stove (as a windshield).

Thanks!
P.S Sorry for my bad english ^^

Eric, elsewhere in the world, you want to look for methylated spirits. Its basically the same as denatured alcoholhere in the the US thats sold as camping stove fuel, and it what I use in everything from my Whisperlite, to my beer can stoves. You can typically buy it everywhere from DIY stores through grocery stores.

Nice,

But.….I made , and used, a stove like this, but without the second part squeezed inside the bottom part. Basically just a aluminum cup with some fuel that burned.
Of course it does not have the nice individual flames coming from the side.
It is just one bigger flame in the middle.…But it s the same heat I guess.….I enjoyed my beans and my fried eggs. Yammi yammi!

Guys, this is such a great, simple and cheap idea I can’t even believe it works. I wish I had something like that on my last hitchhiking trip, that would’ve been awesome. I won’t forget to make this from my next one.

Nice (and safe) idea.
Reminds me of days in the desert in the army when we heated dinner over a dixie filled with sand and a dash of gasoline stolen from a truck. 🙂

Thank you Tom and Armen for sharing your beer can stove, it’s close to genius of an idea. I’ve seen plenty of other coke can ones but not that can be made with nothing more than a pocket knife. I made one as soon as I saw the video and it worked perfectly. Brilliant.

Ray

This is fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I was just about to buy a stove and then found this. I will give it a test the weekend and will hopefully have saved me a small fortune not to mention the weight it will save.

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