Homemade Wood-Burning Backpacking Stoves

By Jackie Johnson

It's easy to make a backpacking stove with simple, lightweight materials that don't require any fuel other than the twigs and sticks you find on the forest floor when backpacking. You can use common household items to make a backpacking stove, which may last throughout the camping season.

Raw Materials

Metal cans withstand the heat of a wood fire and large coffee cans or No. 10 cans are good sizes for cooking. The surface area of the can is enough to support a frying pan or a pot, and you can add small pieces of wood to keep the fire going. Steel cans are the best to use since aluminum cans melt in the heat of the fire. Aluminum melts at 1,218 degrees F and steel melts at 2,500 degrees F.

Making the Stove

You need a pair of metal cutters or sharp scissors to cut the coffee can, and a can opener to open the cans. Once open, you'll have to find a place to store the contents of the can or you can use empty cans to make your backpacking stove. Use the metal cutters or scissors to make two vertical cuts on the open end of the can about 4 inches high and 4 inches apart. This provides a place to put your wood and acts as a damper so you can control the heat. Place several small holes near the bottom to allow oxygen into the stove to feed the fire. A rotary tool or a drill works well for this task.

Using the Stove

You might want to try out the backpacking stove to plan the kinds of food to take along before you head into the wilderness. Many backpackers bring dehydrated food to cook; it takes a while to bring water to a boil. You can place your stove on a surface outdoors that won't burn and find some paper scraps and small sticks of wood to create a fire. Place your backpacking cooking pan on top of the stove once the fire is going to see how much heat you get from the can and how long it takes to heat your nonperishable food and cook your perishable food, such as vegetables.

Safety Considerations

Since you are cutting into the metal the edges will be sharp, so packing a sturdy hot pad to adjust the door keeps your hands cool and keeps your fingers away from the sharp edges on the fire door. You can also make or find a sack to carry the can inside your pack. If you clean the stove while you're on the trail, it's easy to stuff it with your food supplies or other backpacking gear, freeing up room in your backpack. Practice fire safety when burning anything in the wilderness and heed any warnings and prohibitions about camping stoves during droughts.

© Demand Media 2011