Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homemade Alcohol Stoves: The Coke Can Stove

Are you looking for a lightweight stove for your next backpacking trip? Have you ever considered a homemade alcohol stove from a Coke can?

Right after the canister stove, alcohol stoves are the most popular type of stove on the Appalachian Trail. The Coke can stove is the most popular of the its genre for good reason. Backpackers carry pocket knives and soda cans are plentiful and free!

So, it was with much delight when we discovered that Brian of Brian's Backpacking Blog included one of his homemade alcohol stoves made from a Coke zero can with the Bud Light stove we had won. Brian is a true craftsman. His cut lines are clean and the holes clean and well spaced. You just can't help but turn his homemade stove around and say "Wow!"

Adding the wow factor is the small size and weight of this type of homemade alcohol stove. We set the stove on our digital scale and read 11 grams or just a third of an ounce. Amazingly light! While the base of a Coke can stove is a smaller diameter than for Brian's Bud Light backpacking alcohol stove, the Coke zero can has a wider diameter above the base. Ours measured a smidge over 2-1/2 inches in width and just 1-3/4 inches tall. That means this homemade stove will fit inside most backpackers cups, including Esbit's new 585 ml cup, with room for a BIC mini-lighter and a folding spoon. Nice...

So, how's it burn? We found out last Saturday morning when we took it for a test boil on the back patio. We poured in 20ml of denatured alcohol, set our wind screen around it, and applied a light match. Like with Brian's Bud Light stove, alcohol is colorless when it burns. At 30 seconds we started to see bubbles and by 40 seconds we had yellow jets of flame from the side ports. We set an aluminum pot with one pint (16 oz) of water on top and let it heat. We had boiling water at 4-1/2 minutes. In fairness, we did lift the pot twice to check the stove as we weren't sure the wind hadn't blown it out. We did mention alcohol is colorless when it burns, didn't we?

We found this particular stove a wee bit more unstable than its brother, the Bud Light stove. This is likely due to its smaller base and the wide pot we used. The stove is likely more stable with small diameter metal cups.

After pouring off the boiling water and removing the wind screen, the stove cooled rapidly and we were able to pack up quickly. By the time you finish stirring your coffee or soup, the stove is cool enough to handle.

All in all this is a very good stove design and Brian puts lots of care into the construction of his alcohol stoves. We asked Brian about a Dr Pepper alcohol stove for a daughter who is a slave to the brand. Brian replied that he didn't drink sodas, but knew people who did. So, visit Brian on Brian's Backpacking Blog and don't forget to follow @BFGreen on Twitter. Thanks, Brian!

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