A wood stove in your tent on a cold night can be the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep or a miserable experience. Having one in your tent in wet weather can also ensure a hot meal rather than cold potatoes. You can buy a manufactured stove suitable for use in a tent, but making one on your own is a satisfying DIY project, can save you money and ensure the stove is custom-made to your needs.
You can make a simple wood stove suitable for a tent with a metal container designed for some other use, such as a metal 5- or 10-gallon bucket. You can also use a worn out propane cylinder – a 20-lb. one is large enough for a small to medium tent. Use a larger one if the stove needs to be bigger. A really large tent may require starting with an empty, steel 30-gallon drum. You must fabricate legs, a door and an attachment point to connect the chimney pipe.
Commercially made stoves are usually constructed of sheet metal, which can be cut and trimmed with a handheld cutting tool, then welded to form the stove. You can purchase the same material and cut, trim and weld your own stove based on a manufacturer’s design or your own custom design. The basic components are a firebox, legs, door and chimney fitting. If space is an issue, make the stove collapsible so it can be transported flat and assembled at your campsite.
If you want your tent stove for heating purposes, any shape of stove will work. If you want to cook on the stove, you’ll need to include a flat space over the firebox on which to set your cookware. Most cooking-only stoves are made smaller than heating stoves since you don't need a large, long-burning flame for cooking. You can also make a stove that serves both purposes, with a large firebox for heating and a flat surface for cooking.
Wood burning stoves are safe when used in a tent if you take several safety precautions. The stove should sit on a solid surface to prevent tipping, and the construction should be tight enough to prevent sparks or embers from escaping the firebox. The chimney pipe should be fitted with a screen as a spark-arrester to prevent sparks or embers from exiting the flue out the top and falling on the canvas. You should sew a fireproof stove jack into the tent material where the stovepipe exits the wall or roof.