If you love camping and the great outdoors, you may have come across these amazing, super-lightweight stoves at some stage on your travels. And while you could argue that a purpose built camp-stove is always going to be more efficient and long lasting, knowing how to quickly transform a leftover tinny into a stove is not only useful, it’s sure to impress your camping buddies.
So check out the video and read our more detailed description of how to make a beer can camp stove. From this moment forward, you'll hit the road confident that you can at least boil some much-needed water after a big night in the outdoors. Just please, don’t attempt this when you’re a few beers down.
Tools you will need
Perhaps the best thing about making a beer can stove is the fact that you can actually make one with just four ingredients. If you’re in a pinch, an empty beer can, a pocket knife, matches, and some medical alcohol (we’re using isopropyl alcohol) is all you will need to get the job done.
Denatured alcohol comes in many forms and is pretty easy to come by. Just ask for medical or rubbing alcohol at your local pharmacy and they should be able to provide you with some – and it's relatively cheap too.
We’re adding a couple of basic tools to that list to make the process easier and cleaner, producing a better result.
To make the beer can stove as in the video above, you will need:
1 x empty beer can
1 x pocket knife (straight blade)
1 x can opener
1 x pair of scissors
1 x lighter / pack of matches
50ml (minimum) denatured alcohol (isopropyl)
Feeling like this is too hard already? You can always just buy a lightweight camp stove (ready made) online at Outdoria...
Making your beer can camp stove - step-by-step
Step 1: Drink beer
Alternatively, you could offer this to one of your comrades who will not be using sharp tools and highly flammable liquids within the next half hour.
Step 2: Using your can opener, remove the top of the beer can
This can also be done with your pocket knife. Just make sure you cut as close to the inside edge of the lip as possible so that you get a smooth inside edge. This is mostly to minimise the chances of cutting yourself on jagged edges later.
Step 3: Cut the can in half using your pocket knife
We like to use a pair of scissors once we've cut three-quarters the way around the can because it becomes tricky to get a good purchase with the knife when the can is being held together by only a thin section of metal.
Step 4: Trim the jagged edge on the bottom half of the can
This is much, much easier to do with a pair of scissors. Although if your knife is very sharp, you could do it with a pocket knife as well. Try and get the can as even as possible, all the way around.
Step 5: Measure the top half against the bottom half
The size of the bottom half (now with a clean edge) determines the internal volume of your stove. That’s because we are going to slide the top half inside it to make a chamber. It's easiest if they are roughly the same size.
Hold the top and bottom halves side by side. Align the curved edge on the top half with the smooth edge you just made on the bottom half. Trim the jagged edge of the top half so that it will sit flat just above the base of the can once you've joined the two halves.
Step 6: Create fuel channels
Take your index and middle finger on your non-dominant hand and slide them inside the top half of the can so they just poke out where the lid used to be. Now, using your pocket knife, press along the length of the can in space between your two fingers. This allows you to make a long indentation (fuel channel) on the side of the can.
Make sure you press firmly to dent the corner where the metal is hardest. This is important as it allows the flame to escape around the sides of the stove and out the top, making it burn hotter and more consistently.
Move your fingers across by one finger width and repeat, trying to keep the pressure as even as possible. We want all these channels to be roughly the same size.
Take a look when you’re finished and tidy up any that are not quite as deep as the others.
Step 7: Make a small hole near the top
We need to make a hole right next to the lid of the can to feed our burning stove with oxygen. Take your forefinger andplace it under the lip of the can.
Now, gently press the tip of your pocketknife into the area above your finger. Without applying much pressure at all, wiggle the pocket knife back and forth to slowly work the tip into the can. You should be able to feel it making a dent. As soon as you feel the slightest prick from the tip of the blade, stop. That’s enough.
We only need a very small hole.
Step 8: Slide the two halves together
This can be a bit fiddly the first time. Just be patient and try working it from different angles until the top half of the can slides into the base. Don’t press it in too firmly as we will need to have room for the fuel to travel around the side of the top half and up through the channels.
Step 9: Fill your stove with fuel
It depends on the size of your stove and the type of denatured alcohol you are using, but you should need about 50ml to boil a couple of cups of water in around five or six minutes.
Step 10: light your stove, pop the billy on top and you’re away!
This stove is great for simple tasks like boiling water for purification, but can also be used to cook simple, delicious camping recipes like our ramen noodle soup with Japanese mushrooms. It’s the perfect stove for lightweight backpacking or cycle touring where pack space is a premium.
When you are finished with your stove, just place a billy or cup over the top to smother the flame and extinguish it completely. Once the fuel has cooled down you can pour it back into the container for next time.
Things that can go wrong and how to avoid them
Stove tipping over: your beer can stove is not as stable as a purpose-built camp stove, so always keep an eye on it, and ideally light it once it's on the ground away from flammable materials. If possible, pack some stones around it to further prevent it from toppling over in the wind.
Making channels too shallow or too deep: it might take a couple of tries to get your stove just right. Fuel channels need to be deep enough that they allow the stove to burn out the sides of the can, not just from the centre. The great thing is they only take a couple of minutes to make, so save a few cans for your first attempt.
Stove too small: you can adjust the size of the can by making the bottom half smaller to begin with, but we found that bigger stoves that make the most of the beer can's volume burn the hottest.
Fuel running out: make sure you take plenty of fuel with you if you plan on making a beer can stove. If you don't add enough at the start, you might notice the flames start to dwindle. Never, NEVER pour extra fuel into your lit stove just because you think it is going to run out – unless you want to lose your eyebrows.
Making air hole too large or too small: take your time making the air hole. Just gently wiggle the knife back and forth until your feel the tip and stop. If the hole is too big, your stove might pull in too much or not enough oxygen affecting burn-time.
Now you know how to make your own beer can camping stove, crack a cold one and get ready for your next great adventure in #aworldofoutdoors.