Alcohol stoves: DIY vs pre-fabricated.

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Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) Alcohol stoves: DIY vs pre-fabricated.

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    Sam C
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mid-Atlantic

    Thinking about giving alcohol stoves a try. Also wondering if, in terms of performance, if there is any advantage to buying one pre-made versus making my own.  I am not concerned about any differences in weights, just performance.


    jimmy b
    BPL Member


    Sam, no magic here. Its all about the design and combined components, wind screen, stand, pot combinations. If you can fabricate your own stove of a know efficiency it will work as well as those off the shelf. If its easier for you to order one up go for it.

    I love my little starlyte and I have no doubt I could have sourced all the components to make one but it was probably cheaper and surely less of a hassle to just have “Zelph” ship me off one.

    Alky stoves IMO are a pleasant part of the evening meal making for a nice quiet slow cook experience to unwind with at the end of the day. You may sacrifice a little in speed but I find it worth while. YMMV

    Brando Sancho
    BPL Member


    Locale: SoCal

    I’m sure my fancy feast should stove is not the most efficient, but for $1 it’s hard for me to spend the money on a Caldera Cone with the 10-12 or Starlyte.

    Try a cat food can stove. Low barrier to entry.

    Franco Darioli


    Locale: Gauche, CU.

    The burner is just one component, I suggest looking at the complete system rather than one piece at a time.
    That is why I really enjoyed using the Caldera Cone set up.
    It gives (for me) a good balance between fuel economy,burn to boil time and stability.
    It also happens to work well in cold and or windy weather.
    Makes little difference in fuel use if I boil inside a hut or outside in the wind.
    (I only boil and use a one or two person pot)
    my cones :

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    My first move away from a¬†canister stove was a DIY cat food can stove with a DIY aluminum roasting pan wind shield. Worked pretty well, helped me learn the pros and cons of stoves that¬†can’t simmer. And it was cheap – a few dollars of materials and less than an hour of labor.

    My next move was to the simple folding ESBIT stove with a DIY wind shield. That worked OK, but didn’t do well in the wind. Last move was to a TD Sidewinder burning ESBIT. I’m very happy with that setup: efficient, almost windproof, stable, fast enough, quiet, and simple.

    It’s kind of fun messing around with stoves – and I never imagined¬†I’d wind up liking ESBIT. Experiment and see what works for you, rather than trying to find the “perfect” stove from the start. I’ve even taken two¬†cheap, light stoves on short trips to try them side by side.

    — Rex



    Yes, for sure, it’s fun messing with stoves. Never thought I’d get interested in esbit. The 4 gram tablets are changing my mind due to the “no smell” aspect. I’m going to do an experiment today just for the fun of it. Going to remove the foil covering from six cubes and let them sit uncovered for a day or two and see if that will dissipate the odor. Nothing ventured, nothing gained ;)

    Gregory Hardy
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rockgeist - Bikepack USA

    The other perk of DIY is that I enjoy bringing a few extra made of cans from my favorite local breweries, then passing them on to others on the trail.

    Thomas Willard
    BPL Member


    Locale: Philadelphia

    You’d be surprised at how efficient the traditional supercat stove is for $0.75 and a hole puncher. As long as you pair it with a pot with a wide base, it burns as fast and efficiently as some of the higher end stoves.

    Matt V
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    The Zelph stoves have a wicking material that I think lets them work at colder temperatures. The fuel also won’t spill out of them. You could buy some wicking material separately to make your own stove, but most DIY stove plans don’t have a place for it. Also, if you’re using a Caldera Cone the opening at the top of the Zelph stove they sell is modified (smaller) for maximum efficiency.

    Greg K
    BPL Member


    I’m with Franco regarding the Cones.¬† They’re the only way to go with alcohol stoves.

    However, if you like looking at different styles, even having a couple or three for yourself, this guy has been making them for quite a while:


    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Another reason to make your own stove is then you’ll know how to.

    Four of us went to Adak, far out in the Aleutian Islands last week. Manfred & Son had both their UL packs and all their camping gear bundled in one 49.8-pound duffle. ¬†Which went to King Salmon instead of Adak. ¬†There are only planes to Adak on Sunday and Thursday, so although we knew where it was, there was no way it was arriving for 4 days. ¬†Two sleeping quilts, tent, alcohol stove, CC and pot, the son’s boots (he walked on the plane in moccasins), packs, etc. ¬†We managed to borrow enough camping (not backpacking) gear to get out and successfully harass the caribou, but had no stove. ¬†There’s only a small grocery store with some food items, a few batteries, and toilet paper, but not hardware or camping gear at all. ¬†I’d figured out how to get denatured alcohol to the island but we had no stove.

    But we had a punch (a metal spike), an anvil (a piece of wood), a hammer (a rock) and a tuna can.

    It worked for hot chocolate, Mountain House FD, oatmeal, cooking Dolly Vardens, but not quite for cooking caribou.  It was much less efficient than a CC and a 2 square feet of aluminum foil would have helped a lot.  But we got by.

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