Thursday, October 18, 2012

Burnin' alcohol like I mean it!

The upcoming Tour De Diligence had me working out some details that I have been meaning to get around to.  One of those was to build a light weight and easy to use camp stove that would do simple chores like heat a cup of water for dehydrated meals or tea, etc.  I am not likely to be cooking hash browns on a bikepacking trip.

So far I have built three stoves, all of them fueled by denatured alcohol and made from cat food cans or soda cans.  None of them took a great deal of time or effort to make and the Cat Food can is so dead simple that a child could make it.

I have been using my Ti 14oz cup as a pot and timing the minutes to boil (if it gets to boil) and how long the stoves run on a full amount of fuel.  All of them get the job done but my fav at the moment is the Pop Can pressurized stove, both for its ability to accept more fuel and the time to boil.

The first version I made was from a 3.5oz cat food can donated by a neighbor.  I washed it out and took to it with a hole punch, the kind you would use for office paperwork.  It was a decently burly punch, but it did not take much effort to pop the holes in there.  8 holes on the top row...8 holes below that.  Add in denatured alcohol to the level of the bottom holes (do not overfill) and light it with care.  CAUTION!!!  Alcohol burns clear and it is hard to see the flame.  Do not have the source container of fuel nearby or spilled file on you or clothing or etc.  Water will not put the flame out...smothering will.

When lit, wait 30 seconds or so to let the stove heat up and set the pot onto the top of the stove.  This burned for about 10 minutes and had the Ti cup full of water at a very near boil in 8 minutes.  With a more effective wind screen, I think it would have been even better.  The great thing is the Cat Can stove needs no pot stand and fits right inside my cup.  Of course it weighs nearly nothing.  This is a slick little deal.  The only negative I see is that the Ti cup is a bit narrow and the flames tend to hit the sides more than the base.  Still, it works and is dead easy to make and use.

The second stove I made was a combo of two cat food cans, one 3.5oz and one 5oz, and this is a chimney type stove with what I hoped would be a center flame for the narrow Ti cup.  It was a bit more trouble to make in that you have to have two different sized 'church keys'...heck, who has that sitting around?...or make do with a hole punch (what I did) then figure out a way to seal the cans together.  I used JB Weld on the can base and re-used the pop-top lid from the big can to make the base seal.  I had OK results from this one, but nothing that made up for the increased size...does not fit into the Ti cup. The time to near-boil was comparable or maybe not as good.

The last stove I made was a Pop Can stove that is a pressurized type.  This has been my fav as far as the way it looks.  It is so darn cool looking.  It did take a bit more time to make and you have to be precise in the process, but it still took maybe 15 minutes.  This stove will hold more fuel but with the same amount as I used in the first Cat Can stove...approx a 1/4 cup...the Pop Can stove did the best job getting the Ti Cup to a full boil in 10 minutes and burned for 14 minutes before flaming out.  For tea, I could cut that fuel in half and get very hot water.

Links here to sample instructions:

I made a wind screen from a turkey roasting pan (could not find an oven liner) and that is easy to store in the Ti cup as well.

I also made a pot stand out of a couple of bike spokes and the butt ends of two copper spade lugs for heavy gauge wire.  I just had the lugs sitting around, but any malleable tubing would work.  The stand sits about .75" above the stoves and seems like I just lucked into a good height compromise.  It will hold a larger pot as well.  I think I can refine it a bit.  I want to add a third top runner so it unfolds into a triangle shape and narrow it so it does better with a small cup/pot.  But this is it for now.

I am sure I could get faster times to boil if I had a wider, shallower pot as the tall and narrow Ti cup is a bit hard to heat effectively, but I do not want to carry a larger pot just for the sake of a few minutes time/oz fuel.

I had a ton of fun doing it and it sure works well so far.  I think I will take both the Pop Can and the simple Cat Can stoves and see what works best.  Also, it gives me a backup.

I bet that the backpacking stove folks hate this type of deal and maybe I would not use this on an ascent of K2, but for a few days of simple bikepacking, it is effective and extremely dirtbag.

What is not to like about that?

Stores in the Ti cup.

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