The beer can camping stove is a well-known DIY camping stove and is a great backup stove or even primary stove on a camping trip. It is as lightweight as a stove can be and is very efficient on fuel.
There are different variations of the aluminum can stove, but I like this one the best because you only need a pocketknife to build it. If you have a can opener and scissors at hand it will make your life easer, but it certainly is not necessary.
How does a beer can camping stove work?
As in all flammable fuels it’s not the liquid that burns, but the vapor. The double wall design of the can stove acts as a gas generator and transfers heat from the flame to the liquid. This enhances vaporization and the vapor travels up the sidewall, mixes with oxygen and combustion is sustained at the top.
What Fuel to use:
The most common fuels to use are denatured alcohol, ethanol and isopropyl alcohol.
Denatured alcohol: Although it has the least amount of energy per weight it is the most common one to use. It burns with a clean flame and can be bought in any supermarket, camp store or hardware store.
Ethanol: This is a non-toxic fuel and makes it great for camping because you can used it as a first aid solution for sting bites or a anti-septic. Unfortunately some countries slap an alcohol tax on it so it is more expensive.
Isopropyl Alcohol: Don’t bother with anything less than 93% pure. Its cheap but will leave some soot on your pot.
2-3 cups (500ml) will take around 6-10 min to boil and use around 30-45ml of fuel.
4 Cups (1L) will take around 12-18 min to boil and use around 60-90 ml of fuel.
As a rough guide, estimate around 45ml of fuel for 15 min of burning.
Performance will be significantly degraded if the wind is blowing and constructing a wind shelter for the flame will help a lot.
Step-By-Step Guide To Making A Beer Can Camping Stove
You will need:
- 1 Beer can
- Can opener (optional)
- Scissors (optional)
- Thumbtack (optional)
Use your pocketknife to cut the top of the can out. It’s easier to cut on the outside of the groove, where the can is more rigid. Be careful, it’s very easy to poke holes through the side of the can (or your fingers!). If you have a can opener, use it! This step is a lot easier and neater if you use an opener.
Cut the bottom of the can about 2 inches from the bottom. I like to use the top of the bar code print, because it gives you a nice line to start with. A pair of scissors makes this step easy.
Measure the bottom part of the can against the top. You want the bottom part the same height as the top part minus the section after the ridge. This is not critical and a rough estimate is fine.
This step is rather important. You want to crease the sides of the can (the top section) so that in can slide into the bottom section. Theses crease are also going to form the “burning chamber” and allow the vapor to run up the side of the can.
Place two fingers inside the can and use your pocketknife to make a prominent indent on the side and make sure you have a nice crease on the ridge of the can.
Move one finger width on and repeat till you have been all the way around.
Use your pocketknife to make tiny holes around the top ridge to make a burner ring (a thumbtack works great for this).
Slide the top section inside the bottom section.
You’re done! Pour some fuel inside, give a light swirl to help with the vaporization and light it up.
If your stove does not have a even ring of fire around the top you will have to make the creases down the side of the can deeper. Make sure the indent on the ridge is deep enough for the vapor to pass through.
If you need to extinguish the stove before the fuel is finished do not try to blow it out, you wont be able to without either blowing the can over or blowing the fuel out of the can.
Use a container to smother it out and it can also double up as a storage container.
Here is a video I made to show how I do it:
I love this beer can camping stove and it is really easy to make. For long distance backpacking you will have to consider the weight of the fuel as opposed to some butane gas stoves, but for most trips this is fine.