You folks all have portable stoves in your Bug Out/Get Home Bags, right? If not, be ready to be stunned.
The high tech stoves used by backpackers, hikers and adventurers can cost you a pretty penny. In addition to the high price, you generally must have special fuel and their accompanying cylinders.
Maybe you’ve done your research, and learn about alcohol stoves. They’re much less expensive that the uber-high tech stoves, but it can still be a good hit to the wallet, especially if you need multiple stoves for multiple emergency bags.
Enter the Penny Stove. If you’re unaware of these, they are homemade alcohol-burning portable stoves. Very light weight, very fuel efficient, and they play to the part of my brain that likes to make stuff.
When I made mine 5 or 6 years ago, the instructions were to use the 12 oz Heineken Beer cans. Their unique construction made them perfect for these little stoves.
Well, it seems that Heiny has discontinued their can design. Thankfully, the guy that invented/perfected these things has come up with a design that uses a standard 12 oz aluminum can [link].
Making It More Efficient
I recently took mine out to test a new (to me) portable wind break/pot support made by Sterno. With the Penny Stove – which burns various grades of alcohol to heat your food (more on this later) – you need to make a wind break and a stand to hold your pot (of boiling water, for instance).
I had originally made up one of the pot stands from the Penny Stove website, but they are flimsy, at best. They work, but you can’t walk away from the pot, as it can topple over quite easily.
When I’ve used my Penny Stove in the past, I fashioned a wind break from anything non-flammable that was in the area. It can be made from materials in your campsite (piled up rocks, for instance). The Sterno stove folds up, has a very nice wide section to hold your pot, and is a wind break to boot. All for about five bucks.
Now, the stove is made to use Sterno cans. There are a couple of wire supports that protrude into the center of the stove (at the bottom of the stove) that hold up the Sterno can. With the Penny Stove, after testing it, I found they were just in the way, so I bent them back. [Note: If you do this, do it with two pairs of pliers so you can be more precise. I initially did it with my hands, and it tweaked a couple of the support connections.]
Here is mine in action – with my Penny Stove – but before I bent back the supports –
When you’re done cooking, it folds flat, and fits nicely in my BOB.
You Penny Stovers out there may be looking at the “jets” of flame and be thinking that they sure look fat. They’re supposed to be thinner, focused jets. Apparently, I did something to my stove which caused a gap to be produced between the base and the burner. This can be fixed by adding a bead of JB Weld to the seam, which I’m going to do.
It’s also an excuse to make up one of the new style stoves!
I noted earlier that these things burn various types of alcohol. You want as pure as you can get. When I first started with Penny Stoves, I tried inexpensive rubbing alcohol. While it did OK, it is very messy. The bottom of the pot gets covered with this black soot that seems to get everywhere.
At the time, I did some research, and tons of people suggested using Heet – the stuff you get in the auto parts store to keep your fuel lines from freezing. This stuff is 99.9% methanol! It burns very cleanly – virtually no soot – is pretty inexpensive, and can be found at virtually every auto parts store and most gas stations.
Now, I keep a couple of cases of the bottles in my garage. In my, “Stuck here in the middle of nowhere waiting to be rescued” box that I keep in my car, I use two camping fuel containers (they look like the aluminum water bottles all of the cool kids use) that say, “FUEL” in bold letters on the side.
As a side note, the Heet I used for my test came from one of those camping bottles, and they were filled up over 2 years ago. Very shelf stable – no degradation in performance at all.