Category Archives: Lightweight

Pop Can Stove

Last night, my boyfriend and I tried a fun project. Out of four empty soda cans, we made two methanol-burning stoves, and it only took us a few minutes each. I became interested in the project while researching backpacking, an activity I’d very much like to get in to. Some backpackers use the pop can stove, and similar small stoves like tea-light stoves to cut weight from their packs.

I version we made required two empty soda cans, a wad of fiberglass insulation, methanol, silicon sealant, and a coin. Tools used were a safety pin, a hammer, scissors, and needle-nosed pliers. Instructions are easy to find, I got mine from a YouTube video (see helpful sources at the bottom.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Wind is a problem and one that the mountains of Colorado doesn’t help.
  • Use a towel or washcloth that you no longer care about as a mat to avoid getting safety pins, bits of soda can, fiberglass, safety pins, and silicon on your floor or desk.
  • Use gloves to handle silicon.
  • Feel free to modify the design to your liking.
  • As fuel, I used methanol. Specifically, I used Heet, a fuel-line antifreeze which I found in the auto section of Walmart.
  • I got the silicon sealant near home-improvement an paint .
  • The fiberglass insulation is the only item I could not find at Walmart. I had to go to Lowes. At first I was discouraged to only find large bales of insulation in the home construction area (what was I expecting?) and nearly gave up. A tip for anyone looking for small amounts of insulation, go to the plumbing area.


  • Easy to make. Going from memory after watching an instructional video on Youtube once, I was able to make the stove in a matter of minutes. After simply seeing my finished product, my boyfriend was able to quickly figure it out on his own.
  • Cheap. You probably already have most of the supplies and tools needed to make this laying around your house and garage, and if not, they’re inexpensive to purchase.
  • Recycling is a stonking great idea.
  • Small. This thing is seriously tiny. It’s only the circumference of a soda can and a few inches tall. It won’t take up much room in your pack or your pocket, and could easily be stored inside another container such as your thermos or a cooking pot.
  • Lightweight. Can be less than 30 g.
  • Works great in cold and high altitude environments where propane and butane canisters might fail.
  • Denatured alcohol, a fuel source, is relatively environmentally friendly to burn, however it’s poisonous if swallowed.
  • Variant design. There are a few different versions of the pop-can stove, the design can be adapted to personal preference. For instance, most versions require a potstand (easy to make, btw) to hold the pot above the stove, but the side-burner variation serves as its own potstand. You can even design your stove to have larger flames by making it shorter, although doing so reduces fuel capacity.
  • Reliable. According to one survey, if properly designed, this stove has a zero percent failure rate.
  • Nearly silent operation.
  • Just plain fun to make, a great thing to do with friends. Also, feeling like MacGyver is awesome.
  • Easily blown out by wind. A windscreen is recommended.
  • Most variations will require a pot stand, although some versions double as their own.
  • Popular fuel sources are toxic and may be clear like water. Fuel containers should be clearly marked.
  • Due to small size, it’s not recommended for cooking for more than two people, unless, of course, you wish to use multiple burners.
  • Since alcohol has less energy per weight as other stove fuels, it’s not great for long trips. This stove will burn about twice the weight of fuel as other stoves. Buns one ounce of fuel about every five minutes.
  • Not great for cooking in a hurry as it takes about five minutes to boil two cups of water.
  • Prohibited by Boy Scouts of America policy of disallowing the use of homemade or modified stoves.
  • May spill fuel. Never use it near anything flammable.
  • Some components used to build it, such as silicon sealant and fiberglass insulation can irritate bare skin if touched.

Helpful Sources:


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