Monday, April 19, 2010

Backpack Alcohol Stoves: Super Cat Homemade Stove

Making an ultralight backpack alcohol stove was one of the most fun things we've done this year. After researching alcohol stoves, we knew that this was the path if we wanted to backpack farther. We first thought we'd like to switch to Vargo's Triad XE, which offers the ability to use both alcohol and solid fuels. But, after considerable research and watching several YouTube videos, we decided on the Super Cat alcohol stove for our upcoming backpack trip. The Super Cat alcohol stove is the cheapest and simplest to build. While an alcohol stove, one can also use solid fuel tablets by first lining the stove with aluminum foil and then using a V-shaped wire grate to rest a pot, mug, or beer can.

The Super Cat alcohol stove starts with a 3oz cat food can, like Fancy Feast. For the catless, the same sized can is used for Armour potted meat.

After removing the lid and contents, the next step is to flatten the inside of the top lip of the can. We used a socket wrench extension and slowly rotated the can while flattening with a back and forth motion. You can use anything from plier handles to , as long as the object can take the exerted force. You're probably looking for something steel and round that you can easily grip.

Next, we marked off 16 points along the rim with a permanent marker. We started with 12 o-clock, then added 6. Then 3 and 9. Keep dividing segments in half until there are 16.

Third, we took an ordinary hand punch from the office supplies section of your local discount store and punched a hole about 1/4 inch below the marks on the rim. The holes punched easily. However, you will likely have to wiggle and jiggle to get the hole punch back out of the newly made hole. It won't spring free as with paper.

Once you've got a 3oz can with one row of 16 holes, you are now the proud owner of a Super Cat alcohol stove (simmering version).

To step up the simmering version of a Super Cat alcohol stove to a fast boiling version, simply add a second row of holes, offsetting them just below the first ring of holes. You should end up with a zig-zag pattern of holes.

Congratulations! You're done. Let's fire this baby up!

(Standard disclaimers: flammable fluid, metal container, ignition source, own risk)

We grabbed a steel sierra cup of water, a small piece of aluminum foil, and headed to the back yard. We put the foil down, set the Super Cat stove on top and squirted in some denatured alcohol. (We also could have used Everclear from the local liquor store at $4/pint. Denatured alcohol sells for $4-6 per quart.) We also squirted a wee bit of alcohol on the foil around the can and lit it with a mini Bic lighter. (One can also use a match and skip the alcohol around the can.

Be careful at this point as there is little, if any flame, with this stove. Always assume your alcohol stove is lit.

Give the stove about 20-30 seconds for the alcohol to start boiling before sliding your pot on. The flames should switch to the holes in the side of the can.

In a few minutes we had a cup of boiling hot water, ready for tea, cocoa, or soup.

The Super Cat alcohol stove was so simple and easy to make, that we made several and will probably make a half dozen more to build up a stockpile for friends and family. Know someone lugging propane bottle into backcountry? Make them a Super Cat stove and show them how to use it.

(If you liked this short article on the Super Cat alcohol stove, watch for the upcoming article on making a Heinekin cooking pot system. We're mid-build and awaiting a side-opening safety can opener.)

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