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 for maybe five or six? 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 one of these stoves and it 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.
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)