Hey Mini-RVers — Ever thought of downsizing your camp kitchen?
Seriously, why have a cooking range taking up valuable space in your tiny house? Even if you’re “just” using a portable camp-stove sitting on a countertop, it’s possible you can downsize even more. By taking tips from backpackers, you could conceivably condense your cooking equipment into the size of a large mug, and better, maybe even finally reclaim all that storage space where the propane tank lives!
The simple fact is… you can cheaply and easily make your own tiny pocket-sized stove burners from nothing more expensive than recycled aluminum cans!
Check out the video below to learn about one of the simplest and most effective micro-stove designs in existence, which — if you have a cat — you can make “for free” in under 5 minutes.
The “SuperCat” backpacking stove design by Jim Wood is one of the most powerful mini-stoves you can make, with hardly any work at all.
All it takes is
A 3oz aluminum cat food can (ex. “Fancy Feast”)
A hole punch
Fuel in the form of alcohol
- To make a cat-can stove, all you need to do is punch 2 rows of holes just below the rim of the can.
- Pour an ounce of your favorite cooking alcohol (denatured, ethanol, HEET, etc.) into the can.
- Light the fumes and wait for the alcohol to boil.
- Then set your cook pot right on top of the can and watch the flames shoot out the side holes across the bottom of the pot.
This stove is amazingly efficient — even too efficient! It burns really hot, so it’s best with a wide pot that wants to heat up fast.
While not the absolute simplest DIY alcohol stove design — you could actually just pour alcohol into an empty open can, light it afire, and call it a stove — the SuperCat is an elegant blend of being ridiculously simple, ultra-lightweight, very powerful, and standalone, since it’s also its own pot stand! Among the dozens of creative and inexpensive designs to try out (ex. a simple “altoids can” style mini-stove or the iconic pop can stove ) — many of which are much more complicated to build and use — the cat can stove, especially using Jim Wood’s formula, is still one of the all-around “best” designs by many measures. Especially with large pots, it’s hard to beat — which is ironic, because it’s so small and uncomplicated!
The type of alcohol I use is clean burning Denatured Alcohol. You can also use ethanol, methanol, and even isopropyl alcohol, all of which you can find in the automotive section or (more cheaply) in the paint section of any large department store. While nowhere as cheap as propane — (it runs about 12-50 cents per boil) — it does have the advantage of being a lot more convenient to purchase and transport, without the hassles that come with handling and refilling those huge pressurized tanks. To save cash, you can buy it by the gallon and portion it into handy-sized bottles, which you can store right in your cook pot, or on a shelf with your condiments. (Note that methanol is poisonous, so avoid spilling it and wash your hands well.)
GOING ON A TANGENT: If you’re really after the “full-time camping” experience, then there’s a great way to cut cost of cooking fuel below what you’d spend on propane.
What you might really be looking for — which will allow you to cook essentially for free — is a wood-burning stove. (Keeping your tiny alcohol stove around as backup, ex. for when it’s rainy.) While a lot messier than alcohol stoves, wood burning stoves fun to build and play with, and tons more efficient than trying to cook over a traditional campfire. (You can easily cook a meal using a handful of twigs!) I’ll be covering how to build a cheap and highly efficient DIY wood burner (like the Solo Stove Wood Burning Backpacking Stove in future articles, so watch for that.