Alcohol stoves are wonderfully simple, and because the materials needed to build one and the fuel needed to burn in one are incredibly cheap and easily acceptable (denatured alcohol can be found in almost any home store) then most anyone, with a little spare time can easily make one. Here’s how…

Two Cans

You will need two cans, preferably two matching 12 or 16 oz soda cans. While wearing gloves—wear gloves that can protect your hands against the sharp edges of the soon-to-be freshly cut aluminum cans, mark 1.5 inches up from the bottom of one of the cans, and then cut along the line with a utility knife. Next, mark out the holes for the burner locations: cut out a piece of paper to fit the bottom of the can (trace the circumference using the bottom of the can and then cut it out). Then fold the circle in half—evenly—four times; when you unfold the circle, you will have sixteen evenly-spaced lines. Mark a dot at the ends of each fold and then attach the paper to the bottom of the can. Transfer the paper marks onto the can using a sharpie marker, and then drill out each location with a drill bit—the best size is 1/16th. Remove the paper and place a penny at the bottom of the can and trace its circumference. Drill the center of this circle with a larger drill bit—3/16th works well—and then drill four more holes outside the larger hole but within the circumference of the traced-circle—again use the 1/16th drill bit for this. Repeat the same process for the second can—both cans should look identical (or close).

Then determine which can you would like for the top and crimp that half using a plier, and crimp the aluminum at evenly space intervals—the indents will make the connection between the cans easier. Then place a square of fiberglass insulation cut to fit the bottom-most half inside the bottom container. Apply a thin layer of epoxy to the outside crimped-circumference of the top half, and, before the epoxy has started to tack, slide the two can halves together—it may be best to practice assembly before epoxy is applied.

You can easily build a stove stand from a section of metal mesh cut to a circumference slightly wider than the stove—to check for a good circumference use a pot—or pots—you plan to cook with on the stove and make sure the stand will hold the bottom of the pot.

Stoves are wonderful backpacking tools, but equally so on a short day hike a stove can help you make warm tea or coffee, cook up an impromptu small meal in the backcountry of the Bitterroot Valley, even in winter.