It's easy to be seduced by the sexy merchandising at your big outdoor store, especially the dizzying array of high-tech stoves. (Yes, I‘ve used it, and it’s an amazing snow melting inferno, but $240 for an MSR Reactor stove, seriously?!)
But, if you're tempted to get one of these, ask yourself this simple question. When I’m on a fair weather backpacking trip or climb, do I REALLY need to boil water in three minutes, or can I wait a few more? You know the answer. You can probably wait.
So, try this. How 'bouta stove:
that costs about $0.50 in parts
you can make in about 10 minutes with simple household tools (or even a Swiss Army Knife)
burns cheap, readily available fuel
weighs under 1 ounce
has no moving parts that can break
boils a pint of water in about 8 minutes?
Check out the link at the button below.
Homemade alcohol stoves are big with long distance hikers, and have been solidly field tested. One popular model is called a "cat" stove, simply because it’s often made with an empty cat food can.
I've made a few of these stoves and they works great. It’s not designed to melt snow on an expedition, but for a shorter trip in mild weather it could easily serve as your main backpacking stove. If nothing else, it’s a fun evening project, good for scouts, and could well serve as a disaster preparedness item - with some rubbing alcohol and a few cat food cans, you can cook food after The Big Earthquake when gas and power may be down. A windscreen made from heavy duty tinfoil and a paperclip is a fine addition.
Here's a shot of my cat stove in action. Just a cat food can with two rows of holes.
(Note, the soot on the pan is not from the stove, it's from cooking over a real fire)