Interested in cooking for yourself, but don’t have a stove to do it?! We feel ya, camp stoves are expensive!! We did loads of research and ended up building our own soda can stove. It’s a stove well, made out of a soda can!!
Before embarking on our journey across America and back, and then down to South America, we knew we were going to be doing a lot of cooking on our own to save money. This meant that we needed to get a stove that was lightweight and reasonably priced. So we went down to REI to do some research. After literally hours of talking with REI employees and reading about each stove’s specs, we landed ourselves on the JetBoil stove. We used it for many many camping and hiking trips before starting our epic trip August 29th, 2014, and it was great. We love our JetBoil, but there was one minor detail we forgot to think about, whether or not we could use this stove internationally.
Come to find out, the JetBoil is not an international stove. It works fabulous in the states, but the white gas containers for the JetBoil are specific to only the JetBoil, and those you can only find in the states. And obviously we couldn’t buy the gas in the states and take it to South America with us on a plane, and on top of that if there is any trace of the white gas in the tubes of the JetBoil, you cannot take even the JetBoil on the plane. This left us with one option.. getting a new stove.
[Just a wee bit of information… you can actually now buy Jetboil fuel everywhere.. and JetBoil’s are great for boiling water!! However, the soda can stove is lighter and much, much cheaper!]
We didn’t want to buy a whole knew system that would cost us another $100 or so, so Jason used the simple key words “cheap international stove” in a google search, and surprisingly a bunch of pages popped up. The most common theme throughout the pages was something called a soda can stove. Jason really liked this idea because it literally costs as much as three soda cans, a metal hanger, and a few other items anyone can find lying around the house, and it would be a fun project to do—always a bonus. After reading through a few ‘how to build your own soda can stove websites’, Jason found a site that was best for him and his needs.
Him and a buddy got together, drank a few cans of Pepsi, and got to constructing a “soda can stove”. You could probably make a “beer can stove” if you wanted to, but we wouldn’t recommend drinking and using the exacto-knife!! After about an hour or two of going through instructions, gathering supplies, and being as precise as possible to make the stove, the boys had it completed! Literally just using tools and supplies that were found laying around the house! Way better than spending $100 plus USD on a new stove!
RESOURCES : YOUR HOW TO BUILD A SODA CAN STOVE GUIDELINES
If you check out the list of websites below, you too, will be able to make your own soda can stove for cheap! We will be posting our own how to with a video and step by step instructions, but for now take a look at these other great posts!
Zen Backpacking Stoves: http://zenstoves.net/StoveChoices.htm
- This is a good Website to help you choose what stove is the best for your needs!
Yet Another Alcohol Stove: http://scottbryce.com/yaas_stove/
- This is the template we followed for building our stove, pot stand, and soon to be built windscreen. We liked this site the best!
The Soda Can Stove: http://www.thesodacanstove.com/alcohol-stove/denatured-alcohol.html
- Another great resource on how to build your stove, stand, and windscreen, & where to find fuel abroad!
Cooking with Denatured Alcohol: http://www.mark-ju.net/juliette/meths.htm
- This is a great resource for finding denatured alcohol (cooking fuel) abroad.
THE GREAT DILEMMA WITH THE SODA CAN STOVE
One dilemma of traveling with a soda can stove is finding the right fuel for your stove. In America, it’s easy. The best fuel source is denatured alcohol (the key to this product is the 96% alcohol content). You can find this product almost anywhere: paint stores, hardware shops, Walmarts, ect.. But when you are in a foreign country, especially in South America, it’s a little more difficult trying to find “denatured alcohol”. In Peru and Bolivia, there are no products that are similar to denatured alcohol with the same uses as in America. You can find denatured alcohol, but it is a thick pasty substance, that would not work as fuel for the soda can stove.
One day in Peru, we literally walked around the whole city of Cusco in search of denatured alcohol. We came across a product called Benzine in an outdoor backpacking store, which was 85%, so we thought that it would suffice. In actuality it was just a blazing mess and scared us. And it didn’t burn very long at all, making it not be a good suit for fuel. We brought the Benzine back and saw a one ounce bottle of 96% alcohol. This was it.. exactly what we needed. A pure liquid that was extremely high in alcohol content! The price for this tiny bottle was outrageous, and one ounce of liquid would only be good for a couple of meals, so we decided not to buy it. But seeing this little bottle, gave us hope that we could find a larger bottle of it somewhere!
We walked in and out of little stores for nearly two hours trying to find something that had a high percentage of alcohol. We eventually found a blue alcohol that was 90% alcohol and we assumed this was as good as we were going to get. So we went ahead and bought the bottle.
After using the bottle a couple of times it seemed like it worked pretty well, but we both knew that the 96% alcohol would be a lot better. On one of our last days in Cusco, we were doing some shopping and decided to stop in a pharmacy to see if they had 96% alcohol. With no hope walking into the store of finding this product, we doubtfully asked if they had it and sure enough, they had a 32 ounce bottle of 96% alcohol! What??!! We had walked by this store multiple times, and had asked a multitude of other smaller pharmacies if they had this product and nobody did. Thank goodness we decided to go into this bigger store!!
WHAT TO LEARN FROM OUR EXPERIENCE USING A SODA CAN STOVE
First and foremost.. Give it a try before buying other stoves. It’s so cheap, and extremely light, and is a fun project to work on, so why not just give it a try before going out and spending loads of money on a camping stove and fuel.
Second.. We recommend carrying a little extra insulation with you when you’re traveling. It’s also really light and won’t take up much room, so it’s worth having in your pack. The insulation itself doesn’t burn, the fumes from the alcohol is what is burning, but it would be nice to have some clean insulation after traveling for so long using the same stuff!!
Third.. Don’t waste your time going in and out of hardware stores and paint shops while looking for fuel in countries outside the United States. Go straight to a pharmacy and ask if they have 96% alcohol!! This burns a lot cleaner and a lot longer, making it the best product that we have found to use.
When we got to Bolivia, when we needed more alcohol, we didn’t even bother with checking the paint and hardware shops, we went straight to the pharmacy to get our bottle of stove fuel and they had it as well. They even were selling this stuff at the street markets in some places! We haven’t yet had to get it in Chile, but if we do have to, we will be sure to update you all on where you can find it here!
We hope this helps you all with traveling on a budget, or those of you who are just trying to get away from buying everything in stores!! Again, check back later, or subscribe to our blog to get our video and step by step photos to making one of these soda can stoves!