« on: December 14, 2012, 08:08:13 am »
In anticipation of another long bicycling tour, I have been scouring the internet for a highly efficient, lightweight, inexpensive, camp stove, and somehow those criteria just don't go together. Alcohol stoves weigh nothing, but what about the fuel which is sold in quarts only. That ups the weight to that of a multi-fuel, Coleman, one-burner with a full tank which if much more efficient than the alcohol burner. The Coleman is nice. It costs about $95.00. The other lightweights that use separate pump-bottles are efficient and hot, but $129.00 for some little few ounce apparatus? Ha. You must be joking, or rich. The Sierra Zip woodburner is nice too, but here again look at what they want for it. It takes a lot of space in your panniers too. There are various homemade wood gas stoves that burn nearly smoke free. They are reasonably hot and efficient, but not reasonably enough in my estimation. Then there is the Vital Stove. IMO, this stove is much more directly to the point, except it weighs much more than is necessary to produce that kind of heat which they say can top 12,000 BTU.
See the Vital Stove on Youtube and you will see the sense in my modification of the idea. Just cut four rectangles from an aluminum sheet, cookie sheet, pie plate or whatever about seven inches long and five inches wide, or some other sizes that will work. Drill holes near the edges of the lengths of four pieces and attach them with wires so that they can be folded over like a deck of cards. Not all sides would be wired. Cut an opening at the bottom to allow a flow of air. Form an air conduit with aluminum foil. Tape a small computer cooling fan to one end of the conduit. Fit the other end into the opening at the bottom of your standing burn chamber. Fill with wood. Light. Turn on your fan and there you have it.
It weighs much less than any other stove with comparable heat and efficiency. It costs anywhere from 10% or 20% of of what you would pay for other stoves. There is no need to buy and carry fuel. All you need is a couple of AA batteries which may last 20 hours or so. No repairs. It can produce a flame two feet high at 12,500 BTU and more. You can see the design at work on youtube. It works very well. It folds together and takes only a little more space than two decks of cards. If you want to avoid burning the ground or the surface it is on, put some aluminum foil underneath.
There are some downsides to this stove. You have to collect small bits of wood. In my estimation, it is no problem. I have been by many places on tours where fuel like that was readily and amply available, but it does take time to do. It also blackens cookware with soot. If you are cooking a full meal, you have to feed the burn chamber repeatedly. It must be kept in its own pack to keep the soot out of your panniers. Cookware must be cleaned externally and packed in separate bags.
All in all, when it comes to light weight, low cost, smallest volume, highest burning efficiency, low maintenance, and fuel costs, this homemade stove is the best. In essence it's the Vital Stove minus the excess, unnecessary weight and raz mataz.