Rocket Stove, Campfire in a Can
“Disaster Guy, what’s the cheapest, most efficient camping stove you can think of?” Red asked.
“It’s got to be a rocket stove, Red,” the Disaster Guy said. “It uses less fuel than any stove I know.”
“Rocket stove? You mean a stove built out a rocket?” Red asked.
“I think it’s called a rocket stove because the flame coming out of it looks like a rocket exhaust when it’s burning well,” the Disaster Guy said. “It’s built from empty tin cans and some Perlite from the feed store.”
“Tell me more!” Red said.
“Basically it’s a #10 gallon-sized tin can,” the Disaster Guy said. “It has a small tin can that goes through the side horizontally, and another small tin can drops in vertically from the top. Perlite insulation goes around the two inside cans to concentrate the heat.”
“The tin can that goes in from the side has a tin can strip that divides the can in half. You put fuel – sticks – in the top half, and air for combustion goes through the bottom half,” he said.
“All the combustion takes place inside the can, and you cook on a simple grill on top of the can,” he said. “It’s like having a campfire in a tin can.”
“Wow!” Red said. “Who invented that?”
“Dr. Larry Winiarski of the Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon is the inventor,” the Disaster Guy said. “He knew that in some parts of Africa, people walk for miles to find fuel for cooking. He figured that if he could make a cheap stove that burned less fuel, it would be a godsend.”
“Instead of burning logs, the rocket stove burns dry twigs the size of your pinky,” he said. “I just snap the twigs off downed trees, and they’re dry enough to burn.”
“So, a ‘campfire in a can!’” Red said. “Do you have to take any special precautions to use it?”
“You don’t have to clear a space, as you must do with a campfire. You don’t have to make a ring of stones to contain the campfire, because the fire is in the can,” the Disaster Guy said. “And best of all, you don’t need a lot of wood!”
“In a rocket stove, the fire starts quickly, and very little fuel is needed,” he said. “That’s great news in Africa and great news here. Because the fire in the rocket stove burns hot enough to melt aluminum, there isn’t a lot of smoke.”
“If you’ve cooked with a campfire a lot, you know that the best cooking takes place on hot coals,” he said. “It takes time for a campfire to burn down to coals, but the rocket stove is ready to cook in minutes.”
“What about cooking on a rocket stove?” Red asked.
“The rocket stove burns very hot, so you have to watch it or you’ll burn the food,” the Disaster Guy said. “To keep the heat going, you have to fuel the rocket stove constantly. Quit adding fuel, and it goes out.”
“I’ve boiled water, made stew, made noodles, made hot drinks,” he said. “It works for foil dinners if you turn them often, and I fried ham on a small skillet. For pancakes and fried eggs, you have to hold the pan above the rocket stove to regulate the heat.”
“It sounds simple, but you have to get used to cooking with a very hot fire,” he said. “I burned a lot of food learning to cook with the rocket stove.”
“So far you’ve sold me on the good points,” Red said. “Any bad points?”
“The bottom of the can will singe the grass, so I learned to prop it up on wood or rocks,” the Disaster Guy said. “After you use the rocket stove for the first time, it will rust. Eventually it will corrode enough that it can’t be used, but I’m not sure how long that will take.”
“The only other bad point is that the rocket stove stays warm for a while after it goes out, because of the insulation,” he said. “Don’t go try to pick it up just because you can’t see a flame.”
“Great! Now, how can I get a rocket stove?” Red asked.
“Red, hate to tell you this, but you have to make it yourself,” the Disaster Guy said. “I’ve found plans on the Internet, but nobody seems to be selling them. It only takes a few hours to build one, though. And yes, Red, it is rocket science!”
If you want to make a rocket stove, go to the Disaster Guy Tip “Instructions to Make a Rocket Stove” on the Disaster Guy’s website, www.DisasterGuy.com. He’d welcome your comments on this article by e-mail to <DisasterGuy@wildblue.net>.