Robust home made 1.0 ounce Backpacking Stove (& Mug)
    Version 3.0 - PCT trail tested
    Plans and full details below


    As someone else said, "I love the elegant one piece windscreen stove design by William Kevin Smith." 
    But it only motivated me to try to make it even better. 

    After learning from his design, here's what I came up with...

Why build your own ultralight stove?  Simple, because you can't buy one.

Features:

  • Esbit* fuel tablets boil water in about 6 minutes under moderate ambient air temperature conditions.
  • A simplified, stronger, lighter weight pan support borrows one of your titanium tent stakes while cooking.  (There is no need to weaken the wind shield by folding as other designs do when a couple of small holes will suffice.)
  • Better and simpler method of mating ends of windscreens by folding coupling tabs to create a slip joint.  It's stronger, simpler, and there are no paper clips to lose.  New spacer to make this work even better.
  • Full height wind screen with vent holes only on one side to combat gusty wind.  Also doubles as a chimney to help suck more air into the fire and get more heat into the pot.
  • Three small feet to help increase stability on rough surfaces, like a flat rock, for example.
  • Pack it rolled up in your sleeping pad (mine is a ridge rest) to protect it from damage.  (This may sound flaky but it actually works quite well.)
  • Rounded corners to make it easier to pack and unpack (so it doesn't catch on your pad.)
  • Trail tested over 7 days and 82 miles on the PCT in 2002.
*See also: 
Find the lightest weight backpacking stove for any given trip.  The tradeoff between lower stove weight and lower fuel per day weight!
 

 
 
Design issues:
In designing this stove, one of my concerns was dealing with a strong gusty wind.  It can create great havoc with the flame and significantly increase thermal losses requiring more fuel.  So not only did I want a super lightweight stove, but I wanted a full height wind screen for maximum wind protection.

The design I used for joining the screen ends was to create coupling tabs which are folded over (see photo).  You then slip the left end inside the right end.  Notice that the ends are slightly pointed to make this easier.  This creates a very tight, strong coupling. And unlike the z-fold coupling of other stove designs it doesn't weaken with each use because you don't bend the aluminum to join and unjoin it. Other older designs called for using paper clips to hold this joint but they aren't as strong or secure, and the paper clip can easily get lost in the sand or grass which is problematic. Suffice to say, I've been really happy once I switched to this joining method using folded over tabs.

I used the 6" titanium tent stake from BackCountryGear.com.  They are probably available elsewhere too, and perhaps for less.  (Note they also sell 7" stakes which would be recommended.  I just didn't have one handy.)  The 6" stakes are .25 oz. each, but the weight is free because I take them anyway for my shelter.


The complete cooking kit:


Clockwise from left to right (outer):


Clockwise from left to right (inner):


The plastic bag is to contain the dirty pot while packing.  Esbit fuel deposits a sticky brownish substance on the outside, bottom of your pot.  Although it comes off easily with water (and a little scrubbing in sand), I often don't clean the sticky stuff off until the end of the trip when its easier to do it in the kitchen sink.  Its really not a problem so long as you keep it off your other gear. Having a plastic bag handy when it comes time to put the dirty pot in your pack keeps your other gear clean. (Note: Put this plastic bag on your packing list as a seperate item. You will tend to forget it because when you stuff the pot in your pack at home it will be clean and you might forget the bag.)

 

The windscreen / pot stand combo (on its side):


Folding the coupling tabs out rather than in makes the windscreen easier to assemble because you can more easily see what you are doing.

TIP from a reader:
Be careful when you cut the width of the windscreen not to cut your tabs off.
You need to leave an extra 1/4" of material on each side of the left hand tab above.
Before you start cutting the windscreen, study the shape of the tabs on the plans below thoroughly. Note how the bottom tab sticks out 1/4" proud from the rest of the bottom until it is folded over.

Form the flat aluminum into a smooth round shape by pulling it around a cloths hanger rod or similar diameter pipe or dowel. Tip: Using a kitchen rolling pin (used for baking cookies) to flatten the aluminum.

Tent stake assembly:
.

Note how the hook fits through the two holes on the upper right, and the long part of the tip on the hole in the bottom of the photo.  (You might want to use a 7" tent stake.  It would be a little more secure.  I already own 6" stakes so I used one of them.)
 

            Fuel stand (important!):
 First cut a 4" x 0.25" strip of aluminum (from the turkey pan scrap) and fold it in the shape of a "+" as shown.

..

Next fold tin foil 4 layers thick and cut it to about 3" square as a base.  This insulates the fuel from the cold ground and also helps contain the fuel when it sometimes turns to a fluid.  After you light the corner of the fuel tablet, set it on fuel stand flat.  This little stand allows much more air in and around the fuel tablet and therefore it burns much hotter and heats the water more quickly.  The effect of this is to substantially cut thermal loses and therefore require less fuel per pint (half litter) of water.
 
 

Using it to boil water


Stove & pot ready for the burn


(Tip: To get the most out of each fuel pellet, have the pot full of water, with the lid on, before lighting the pellet. If you have to fuss with the pot or water after the tab is already lit it subtracts from available heating time. Thus you might not get a full boil from a single fuel tab and you might have to restart the stove if boiling for purifying is required. If only heating the water is needed then you'll be ok either way.)

Move the windscreen aside.

Pick up the fuel tablet and light the corner with a lighter (prefered) or a match (harder in a wind).  Quickly, being careful not to burn your fingers, set the burning fuel tab back on the cross shaped (+) stand. 

Now quickly put the windscreen around the burning fuel tab and put the pot on the windscreen/tent stand assembly, carefully centering the pot inside the windscreen.  Note: centering it is important, because if the pot is offset, i.e. 1/4" on one side and 3/4" on the opposite side, the flame won't transfer heat as efficently.

Tip: Do the above steps quickly because the tiny flame is fragile, especially at first.  A small gust can easily blow the new flame out, forcing you to restart which wastes fuel.  A little practice and you'll get the hang of it.  Do your cooking in places somewhat sheltered from the wind.  The edge of a lake for instance, is often very gusty, but back in the trees or bushes is more calm.  In a pinch, try using a larger windblock around the whole assembly. Rocks, wood, or even your ridgerest pad may work, but obviously, keep the pad several inches away from the stove because I presume it melts and burns. Don't use your tent or other nylon gear. It easily, and quickly burns.

Caution: Be careful not to knock the tent stake out of the windscreen when setting the pot in and out.  If you have to adjust the pot, first raise it slightly so as to not slide the tent stake as you move the pot, which might cause the stake to come loose.  In other words, don't slide the pot to adjust and center it. 

Warning!! If you accidentally knock the tent stake loose, first let it cool before touching it, (or use a tool to touch it).  In a very short time the tent stake will become extremely hot and will easily burn you fingers.  The bottom of the pot will be hot too, but not nearly as hot as the tent stake.  You have been warned.)
 
 


PACKING THE WINDSCREEN...
Spacer used to keep coupling tabs from getting squished while packing (see "Packing the windscreen in your sleeping pad" below):


.

Use it only during packing.  Remove for normal stove setup.  Note it is rounded a bit too, both on the corners and in the surface.  This spacer is a little extra weight, but well worth it.  (You can punch holes in the spacer to lighten it even more if you wish.)
 
 

Rolling the windscreen in your sleeping pad for transport:

.

We just use one strap to attach our pad to the back of our pack.  Position the strap near the top of the pad.  Make sure the windscreen is at the upper end of the pad so it can't fall out.  We've had a pad work its way loose on a rocky trail, but have never yet had the windscreen fall out, so this setup works pretty well.  For rain its no problem if all of this stuff gets wet.

Windscreen/pot stand construction plans:

 
 
Construction tips (see windscreen plans above):
The windscreen / pot support is made out of a single 12 x 22 x 4 inch deep aluminum baking pan, (like you would use for roasting a turkey.)  [0.010" thick aluminum.  Most people would call this disposable.  Corners formed by crinkling, i.e. not smooth.  The one I last bought says ""Alcan" 460 on it.  I'll try to get a photo soon.]  You'll need both the bottom and a bit of one side of a backing pan.  Mark the aluminum with a straight edge and pen.  BE CAREFUL TO ALLOW FOR THE TAB WHICH YOU NEED TO FOLD OVER, i.e. don't cut it off.
Then use sharp scissors  to cut out the corners, clip off the edges, and then flatten out the rest.  I used my wife's rolling pen to roll the aluminum flat.  (It works pretty well, even if it raises her eyebrows.)  [At one point I tried using aluminum from a dryer vent, but it seemed to have a plastic coating on it which would burn and turn brown, and then it would stick (weld) to itself.  I tried burning it off with a torch, but just ended up melting the aluminum.  Baking pans don't have any coating.  They are lighter and plenty strong.]

Punch the vent holes with a hand paper punch. 

The three holes in the center part of the lower wind screen are for the tent stake.  They are adjusted so the stake can't easily fall out.  (See drawings at end for assembly instructions.)  The tent stake provides more than enough of a seat for a strong stable pot support. (The other side of the pot rests on the built in pot handles.) 

Because your hand punch can't reach far enough in to punch these holes you'll need to use one of two methods to punch these holes, (that is unless you have a professional sheet metal hand punch which makes this easy.)

 
A) Best way. Requires electric drill, 1/4" bit, 2 blocks of wood and 2 clamps: 


Clamp the aluminum between flat boards and drill through the assembly, 

Unclamp the boards and gently smooth the edges of the hole with the hammer head.  This should produce a quality hole with no burs.

or 

B) Hammer punch the hole with a flat head screw (an adiquite method if you don't have a drill).  Requires hammer, block of wood and small flat head screw.

Use a small flat head screw, a soft block of wood and a hammer as a punch.  Stand the screw on its head and punch into block of wood.
(Tip:Practice on a scrap piece of aluminum first.  Hit the screw hard.  Reverse sides, then carefully re-align the flat head screw and hit again.  Repeat until a neat hole is punched.  Smooth the finished hole as described above.



Many thanks to all of the other stove makers on the internet.  They have been tall shoulders to stand on.  It was a real delight to not have to pack anything more than this super lightweight stove.  And the food tasted just as good as ever.  :-)



 

Links:

  • Lightest weight stove calculator for any given trip
  • Comparisons and extensive information about stoves, fuel, usage, and vendors, especially Esbit.
  • Links page, for additional stove information

  •  

    BONUS!  1.0 ounce ultralight insulated mug which nicely fits in your pot for packing:


    .

    Cut off bottom of a 32 oz Fosters beer can.  Wrap it in foam trimmed from a ridge rest pad.  Use scissors to trim it just tall enough to fit in the MSR 0.85L kettle.  When full, it safely holds 1.5 cups of boiling water.  I used a hot glue gun to bond the foam together and to glue a bottom in.  You could also use duct tape, but I've found the hot glue to be long lasting and very trouble free.  Note: I had to thin down the foam just a bit with a razor blade to get it to fit in the pot.  Yes it looks a bit "flimsy", but it works surprisingly well.  I've used it for over 100 miles now and my wife has used it for another 60.  I know of no other options for a one ounce insulated mug, except perhaps, not taking a mug at all.

    To email me use the following address, but first remove "xyz" from it: hj@xyzHowardJohnson.name

    Revised Nov. 2004 - no design changes, but improved descriptions.
    Sept. 23th, 2002 - Improvements gleaned from 82 mile trail test.

    (First released - 8 May 2002)