Five ultra-lightweight and very functional DIY stoves for bikepacking and bike touring. Made from handsome cans that housed some hoppy brew. Built and tested.

by Logan on Aug 22      12 COMMENTS

The first time I’d heard of a DIY camping stove was in Costa Rica when Lee broke out his self-made ‘penny stove’ fashioned from a Modelo can. I kind of dismissed the idea until I realized that alcohol was a viable and easy to obtain type of fuel. And the weight and space savings are very attractive to an ultralight bikepacker. So after poking around the webbernet for ideal designs, I settled on five that I wanted to try. And is there a better or more aesthetically pleasing medium than a hoppy craft-beer can? Make it a can from a post-ride beer and it’s even more special.

Tools Needed

how to make a can stove

Not all of these tools are actually required to fabricate each stove. In fact the first two stoves could be made with nothing more than a pocket-knife. There are also alternatives… instead of a tiny drill bit, use a pushpin; instead of a rivnut setter, just thread a bolt through a properly sized hole, etc. But this is everything I used in the process.

how to make a can stove

The cast of hoppy characters (not shown – an Oscar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale).

So here they are. I built each one and tested them for fuel consumption, weight and time-to-boil. They are ordered by ‘difficulty to make’ — easiest to most difficult. For each stove, you’ll find a rough ‘how-to’ as well as links to more detailed info. Click on the how-to image collages to open a larger version if need be. Then at the bottom of the post, you’ll see the testing results.

Do you have another good design? If so, send me a comment… I actually enjoy making these things, so I’d love to try another.

#1. The YAC Stove (Yet Another Can Stove)

bikepacking stoves

I ran across this design and it seemed so simple that I wasn’t sure if it would actually work. But as it turned out, this is actually one of my favorites. It’s easy, solid and burns at a very nice temperature. I made two variations of these. the second taller than the first and you’ll notice in the results that the height affects the time-to-boil and fuel consumption.

Pros: Easy to make; sturdy
Cons: Can sputter a little if the ‘fins’ don’t overlap correctly

How to make the YAC

how to make a can stove

Directions – From top left

  1. 1. Score the top of the can at the crease (several times around)
  2. Start removing top with needle nose pliers
  3. the edge will peel out where scored properly
  4. Use a jig made with a razor blade screwed to plywood to score can (jig height can be adjusted with scrap wood or books)
  5. Score can top to 3/4″ and bottom to 1 1/2″; or top to 1 3/4″ and bottom at 1 3/16 for slightly different performance and more fuel capacity
  6. Jiggle it loose and break the score for a clean cut
  7. Make 15 evenly spaced slits in top part about 1/8″ from can curve edge
  8. One about every 1/2″
  9. The two halves are ready
  10. Slide top into bottom allowing the slats to overlap in the same direction
  11. Add alcohol, light and flame will begin to emit from the sides; then set pot directly on top

NOTE: if sputtering occurs add a single tiny pinhole about 1/8″ from can top

#2. ‘Tom’s Beer Can Stove’

bike touring can stoves

I ran across this in a post by Tom. Another very simple to make design and Tom’s assistant (the inventor?) does an excellent job showing how to do it with nothing more than a pocket-knife and scissors.

Pros: Easy to make; very sturdy; can be made with just a knife
Cons: Consumes a little more fuel than some of the other models

How to make Tom’s Stove

how to make a can stove

Directions – From top left

  1. Cut out top using method outlined above; and use a file to smooth
  2. Cut bottom of can to desired height (I did the top at 2 1/4″ and the bottom at 2″)
  3. Cut top section so that bottom will overlap curved lip by 1/16″ (proper height shown at red line)
  4. Mark 12 sections where creases will occur (slightly less than every 3/4″)
  5. Hold 2 fingers on inside of can and lightly create crease with knife (from curved lip to bottom adding more pressure at bottom)
  6. Finished scallops should look something like this
  7. Press top into bottom and add small pinhole about 1/4″ from top
  8. Add alcohol, light and flame will begin to emit from the sides; then set pot directly on top

#3. The Penny Bike Touring Stove

bikepacking penny stove

There are a multitude of different variations on the Penny Stove. I settled on something similar to this one. This one turned out to have some of the best results, and it’s almost as easy to make as the top two… you just need two tools instead of one.

Pros: Conserves fuel extraordinarily well
Cons: You have to carry a coin; Instead of simply burning out, it kind of dwindles in the last few minutes.

How to make the Penny Stove

bike touring stove

Directions – From top left

  1. Cut two bottoms from two cans top 1 1/8″ and second one for the bottom at 1 1/4″
  2. Using a 1/16″ or slightly smaller drill bit add 6 evenly spaced holes to the top section (right at bend); add three more that a coin will cover in the middle bowl
  3. Add 12 more about 1/4″ from lip (slightly less than 3/4″ apart)
  4. Place needle nose pliers over each hole and bend inward
  5. This is what the top section will look like when facing down
  6. Insert top section into bottom
  7. Add fuel through penny holes, then cover with coin; add a splash of fuel around edge next to holes and light; once primed, the jets will ignite; requires pot stand

#4. The Sideburner Can Stove

how to make a can stove

Although this starts to get slightly more difficult to construct, it’s worth the effort. This stove is fun to watch prime. Once you ignite the fuel and the can starts to warm up, each of the jets ignites sequentially. This is the stove I took on my last bikepacking overnight. I based mine on this design, although mine is slightly taller.

Pros: Burns fuel efficiently; nice array of jets
Cons: Requires a can stretcher to make

How to make the Sideburner Stove

how to make a can stove

Directions – From top left

  1. Cut inner chimney to the specs in this template
  2. Cut one bottom section from one can (1 1/4″) and another for top (1 1/4″); remove inner bowl of top section by scoring and removing with pliers
  3. Drill 24 holes (use this template – you can cut out strip as noted and tape to can to mark)
  4. Use can stretcher to stretch bottom of can (click here to see how to make a can stretcher)
  5. Insert sections together (they will barely line up once bottom is stretched) with chimney in between (vent holes on bottom); getting the sides together takes a little patience and delicacy. Also, make sure the chimney piece lines up when you put the final squeeze on the 2 halves
  6. Add fuel and light; once the stove warms up, the jets will ignite and you can set pot directly on top

#5. Simple Pressurized Can Stove

how to make a can stove

This stove is neat for the fact that it actually vaporizes the fuel. The primer pan heats up air around the stove and the alcohol vaporizes, ignites and pressurizes the jets. This kid makes something similar and calls it the Atomizer. There is a slight element of danger to this one.

Pros: Burns very hot and has a great look
Cons: Requires a primer pan and a pot-stand

How to make the Simple Pressurized Stove

how to make a can stove

Directions – From top left

  1. Take one can and tape this template to top and mark out holes as shown
  2. Drill holes using a 3/64″ bit or use a tiny pin;
  3. Then add appropriate sized hole for rivnut (I used an m5)
  4. Cut the first bottom portion of a can for the top section to 1 1/8″ and another (bottom) to 1 1/2″
  5. Using can stretcher, extend the bottom section
  6. Coat inside of bottom with high-temp JB Weld
  7. Add fuel through rivenut hole, then replace bolt; light by adding some fuel to ground under stove, or use a priming pan; flames will heat stove and vaporize fuel igniting the jets
  8. A pot stand is necessary; I used an Esbit click stand

Testing the Stoves

All of the stoves were tested using 50 ml (about one fluid ounce) of denatured alcohol boiling 250 ml of water. My favorite is probably the sideburner stove. I like it because it does not require a pot-stand and it is fairly efficient. Second would be the Penny stove, however, I don’t like the idea of having to keep up with a penny or coin. I could see my self misplacing that.

bikepacking stoves

YAC Small

04:50
08:20
No
No
8g

YAC Tall

06:10
13:30
No
No
9g

Tom’s Stove

06:15
12:20
No
No
12g

Penny Stove

06:00
26:15
No
Yes
10g

Sideburner

04:30
13:20
No
No
11g

Pressurized

05:20
14:30
Yes
Yes
15g

Bike touring can stoves

A group portrait with some that didn’t make the cut, or failed. The guy on the back left melted… turns out I used JB Quick (instead of the high temperature JB Weld) which couldn’t take the heat.

Do you have another good design? If so, send me a comment… I actually enjoy making these things, so I’d love to try another.

Tags

  • Natalie

    What type of alcohol did you use?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    I used denatured alcohol, labeled ‘camp stove fuel’, from the local hardware store. I have heard other methyl spirits and Heet are better, but this is what I had on hand…

  • Guest8675309

    I just made a side burner stove. It was pretty easy and worked surprisingly well. Here it is being primed
    http://imgur.com/caOR9jY

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Nice! As I mentioned, I think the sideburner is my favorite. They seem pretty sturdy and burn really well.

  • RandyW

    I love hop-notch

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Definitely a solid session IPA!

  • Iam

    I made the pressurized stove but found that the flame is yellow not blue. Could it be that the holes are a bit to large. I used a 1.5mm drill bit to make the holes.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    The bit I used was about 1.2mm, so it was only slightly smaller. It may be the fuel you are using, but I don’t think the color of the flame matters necessarily. Did you test it?

  • Iam

    Yes, it worked well. I built 3 prototypes and with smaller holes but same results. The reason for my comment about the yellow flame is that it blackens the base of the pot. I was hoping for a blue flame as it would indicate little or no soot. Cleaning the pot won’t be so messy.

  • SF_Rich

    Logan what are yall using for cookware on your trips?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Funny you ask, I was in the middle of a post about ‘What’s in our kitchen’ Look for it later this week…

  • Brian Sims

    I made this stove back in ’07 and it’s worked great. Jim Wood’s Super Cat stove. Not a beer can but still a great cheap stove: http://jwbasecamp.com/Articles/SuperCat/

    I use this in conjunction with one of those large Heineken cans, which serves as my pot. The Super Cat fits right inside along with a lighter and windscreen.

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