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Ultralight Stove & Pot

February 20, 2011

As a mechanical engineer and a tinkerer, I enjoyed putting together my ultralight stove and pot system.  Homemade, ultralight, alcohol stoves are extremely popular on the Web.  So, I read up on many of the designs out there.  I found that the challenge is to find a stove that works well (efficiently) for a family or group…like boiling 6 cups of water at one time.  There are many designs and tests for alcohol stoves that boil 2-4 cups of water for one or two people, but good, fuel efficient stoves for groups are much less common.  A great understanding of the basics of these alcohol stoves can be found at http://zenstoves.net/Stoves.htm, so I will not discuss details here.

I built a few other stoves, but they never really worked well for 6 cups of water.  They burned out too quickly, heating lots of air rather than the pot of water, or they didn’t hold enough fuel to begin with.  I found this design by a prolific stove designer, Zelph, and I made a variation of my own.  It has worked very well with my 6 cup grease pot and homemade wind screen.  I have used it at 21F and 85F with no problems.

Included in our kit…

  • 6 cup aluminum grease pot available at Walmart and K-mart for $7
  • 11 oz “Aqua-pod” bottled water bottle – safely holds enough alcohol to boil about 24 cups of water
  • my homemade version of Zelph’s Fancee Feest stove.  The stove can be purchased here for $18 if you do not choose to make your own.  He also has some other large volume designs worth researching for your family.
  • a circle cut from an aluminum oven liner to go under the stove to reflect heat and protect the ground
  • a windscreen made of roof flashing…oven liner can work as well
  • small, 2.5 oz Tupperwear cup for measuring alcohol to match the amount of water to be boiled
  • a single leather glove as my hot pot holder
  • a backpacking can opener usually available at Walmart or Kmart
  • at least one mini-Bic cigarette lighter, individually bagged to stay dry

 All of this fits into the pot nicely….

For fuel I prefer Heet fuel line antifreeze in the yellow bottle.  It is very affordable at Walmart, in the automotive section.  The yellow bottle is clean burning methanol, but remember that methanol is poisonous.  (If you want to eliminate the hazard, Everclear grain alcohol will work (ethanol).  It is much more expensive, but you can drink any leftovers.)

Having such a lightweight stove and pot has been a real pleasure.  It’s so light that besides backpacking, we often take it on day hikes, scoop up some creek water, boil and enjoy hot chocolate or Russian tea.  As with all alcohol stoves being used with more than 4 cups of water, this stove requires patience.  It takes about 15 minutes for 6 cups to boil.  This slow pace is only a problem if someone has gotten dangerously chilled, which hopefully never happens.

You can put together your stove kit for less than $30 buying the stove from Zelph.  Commercial stoves of low weight start at about $40 without any fuel cannister or the pot.  As always, please post any questions or comments.

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