How to Make a Soda Can Alcohol Backpack Stove

How to Make a Soda Can Alcohol Backpack Stove
Alcohol stoves are the choice of most long-distance backpackers. These lightweight, functional stoves burn denatured alcohol -- a fuel less harmful to humans and the environment than the butane and gasoline alternatives. Making these stoves is relatively easy, but the process can be frustrating, and many attempts might be required. Fortunately, the materials are inexpensive, so mastering the technique will not break the bank.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

How to Make a Backpack Stove

Things You’ll Need:
  • X-Acto knife
  • Finishing nail (16d or 20d)
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Two soda cans
  • Goggles
  • Ruler
  • Permanent marker
  • Sandpaper
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Lighter
Step 1
Prepare the soda cans. After putting on your safety goggles, measure 1.5 inches from the bottom of each soda can and mark this location with the marker. Using the X-Acto knife, carefully cut off the bottom of each can so that you're left with two pieces that are 1.5 inches tall. These will form the base and the top of the stove. (Ensure that the two bottom pieces are not damaged when you cut them from the cans; if there are rips or tears in the metal, you'll need to start over again.) Use the sandpaper to rub each exposed rim until the metal edges are dulled -- you do not want to cut yourself on sharp edges.
Step 2
Assemble the can pieces. Slide the two pieces together; you want one to fit over the other so that the bottoms of the soda cans form the top and bottom of the stove. This takes patience and finesse. Start gently and bend and fiddle with the cans only a bit; if you use too much pressure, you'll damage the walls of the stove. Once the pieces are fitted together just slightly, push down gently until one piece is mostly inside the other. The stove should be about the same height as each original can piece.
Step 3
Make the jets. With the finishing nail, poke holes around the rim of the top of the can (it doesn't matter which end you choose to make the top of the stove). Make the holes close to one another and equally spaced -- no more than a few centimeters apart. Place holes around the entire rim of the can. This creates the jets from which flames will ultimately shoot forth.
Step 4
Make the fuel hole. In the center of the top can, use the finishing nail to make a hole about twice the size of the jet holes. This is where you'll add fuel to the stove. Ensure that the hole penetrates through the metal. Test it by sliding the nail through the hole into the empty space inside the stove. To ensure that the seam between the two can pieces is not dangerous, use the pliers to crimp the exposed edge so that it's flush all around. Be gentle, so as not to crush the stove walls -- you just want to make sure that the seam will not cut you when you pack or use the stove.
Step 5
Use denatured alcohol for stove fuel. Denatured alcohol is normally available at most hardware stores. (Do not use isopropyl alcohol, which does not burn well.) Pour one ounce of fuel through the fuel hole. Ensure there is a residue of alcohol on the top of the stove. Using your lighter, quickly light the alcohol residue. This will cause the fuel inside the stove to light. After a few moments, the lit alcohol will shoot flames through the jets, and your stove will have "blossomed." It will look much like a burner on a gas range stove.

Tips & Warnings

You'll need a windscreen and a pot stand if you plan to use your stove in the backcountry.
Be sure to light the stove outside only. Never add fuel to a burning stove. Make sure the stove is completely extinguished and emptied of fuel before packing it into your backpack.

Article Written By Duncan Jenkins

Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.