Here's the thing - a classic hobo stove has a few advantages over an open fire, especially when it comes to cooking and preparing food outdoors. But there are also a few inconveniences to the wood fueled stoves that make an alcohol stove irresistible.
You don't have to be against old school DIY camping stoves. It's just that an alcohol hobo stove seems to do so much more with less effort on your side. And think about this: when you're out on a serious mountaineering tour, you want to cook your meal as fast and as clean as possible. There's no time to gather wood or maybe there is no wood whatsoever if you're high up in the alpine zone.
Why an alcohol hobo stove is a cool thing to have
1. It makes no smoke → no soot on your pot.
The alcohol burns without producing any smoke. No more smelly clothes and now - a big plus - you can cook inside your tent if the weather is bad. Not to mention the sticky bad smelling black soot that you used to get on your stainless steel pot with the wood stove - it's all history! Gone! Forever!
The sticky black thing on the pot comes from the resins of the spruce, alpine pine and fir tree wood that you burn inside the hobo stove. Now, the clean flame will offer tea that tastes like tea (not smoke flavored water).
2. Works with cheap fuel.
The nice thing about the alcohol stove is it's versatility. It works with any type of alcohol that burns.
You can get it in a pharmacy (blue alcohol used in medicine), a home improvement store (technical or industrial alcohol), a supermarket, etc. Not only you can find it everywhere but it's also cheap. And who doesn't like cheap fuel?
If you're done cooking and you have some alcohol left in the burner (beer can) then you can reuse it in your next occasion to master the art of making hot instant soup. A thing you cannot do with wood - just got to let it burn to ashes (unless, of course, you want to carry the wood).
3. You don't need a pressurized bottle.
The only thing you'll have to carry is a small plastic bottle. No more metal pressurized bottles that occupy valuable space in your backpack.
When you run out of fuel (alcohol) you can reuse the bottle for carrying water or you can simply press it and throw it away at the first garbage bin.
4. Fast and convenient - highly flammable and yet safe.
No need to gather wood. You can light it fast - just light the match and it's on (baby).
Unlike the pressurized metal bottles, you won't have to worry about punctures or explosion when you carry a bottle of medicinal alcohol.
5. It's not weather dependent.
You need dry weather for finding dry wood and cooking outdoors. Oh no you don't! Not with the alcohol stove.
You're independent of the weather conditions and, heck, if you run out of fuel you can always come back to the classic hobo stove function.
How to make an alcohol stove
There's not much to do, really.
Cut the bottom third of a beer or soda can and that's your burner. Make sure to fold inward the sharp margin of the soda can as not to cut your finger skin when handling it. The thicker margin also allows you to grab it using the aluminum pot handle (pot lifter).
Place the burner inside a hobo stove or create an adapter for holding the pot (see video below). Add alcohol in the beer can and light it up.
- Use a sleeping mat as a windshield if you're cooking outside on a windy day. Make a tube from the mat and place your stove and pot on the ground inside the vertical tube.
- Let the alcohol burn for a minute or two until the burner gets hot. If you have a small setup (small hobo stove) and you place your pot on it too early, you'll smother the flame and put it out eventually. Let the system preheat and then start cooking.
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