Gear Corner – How to Make and Use a Hobo Stove
I’d read about hobo stoves and have to admit I approached this project with a lot of skepticism. The stoves I’ve used in the past range from gasoline stoves for heating a ten man tent to the small butane and alcohol stoves that live in most hikers backpacks. A friend told me about a stove he’d made during his hiking days and described a hobo stove I’d read about online, so I decided to give it a try.
There are various plans out there for making these types of stoves and I’ll let you Google them yourself rather than point you at one. Some of them had you measuring the holes with a tape measure. I don’t think so! No self respecting hobo is gonna measure holes in a freakin’ can! I’ll let you do what I did and that’s experiment.
I will say that this is a very easy stove to make. You need minimal tools and it can be built quickly.
Without further ado here are The Jarhead Survivor’s own plans for making a hobo stove along with the test results.
Tools needed: Tin snips. Can opener. A drill will make your life a lot easier, but isn’t 100% necessary.
You’ll also need a wire coat hanger or something like that.
First, get yourself an old can. Here’s the one I used:
Next, cut out the top and bottom:
The next step is to cut a good size hole in the bottom of the can. This is where you’ll be feeding the wood into the flame, so make sure it’s big enough to accept a big handful of twigs. Note: Be careful! The aluminum is sharp and you may want to wear a pair of work gloves.
These are the beginning cuts I used. There’s a good picture near the end of the post showing the size of the hole I ultimately made, but for some reason I didn’t take a picture at this stage. Der! I’ve outlined it in this photo:
Next, drill some holes or use a punch to make some holes near the bottom of the can for air circulation. These don’t have to be perfectly spaced or anything like that, just make sure there’s enough of them to allow the fire to get plenty of air. I put a few near the top of the can as well.
Cut two straight rods out of the coat hanger. These will go through the stove to hold the pot.
I drilled four smaller holes for the rods.
So far I’d spent about ten minutes building this stove and five of that was running around looking for a can opener. Now it was time to fire that mother up!
I put a bunch of small twigs in the bottom of the can and lit the fire, then let it build up a small bed of coals. Here you can see the size of the hole I created for feeding the wood in. You might have to experiment, but this one seemed to be about the right size.
Once the fire was going nicely I put my coffee pot on.
It took ten minutes to percolate about five cups of coffee, which wasn’t too bad. Notice in the picture below that the rods holding the coffee pot bent!
As is true with everything there are some good points and bad points about this stove.
The Good – it’s very easy to make and there is plenty of fuel for it here in the Maine woods. A few handfuls of twigs and you’ll be able to boil a couple of cups of water in no time.
I like the way the stove focused the heat, which meant no wasted energy.
It’s lightweight and if you were so inclined carrying it around wouldn’t be a big deal.
I used hardwood twigs (oak) and there were very few sparks from this fire meaning that I’d feel comfortable using this stove in an area where there was a high fire hazard. By being extremely careful or through sheer dumb luck I’ve never lost control of a fire yet!
The Bad – it needs a lot of attention once you light it to keep it going. The wood used is fairly small and you need to feed it every five minutes or so or else the fire will go out.
If it’s raining starting this stove and keeping it going will be a bear. I haven’t tried it in the rain yet, but past experience with wood stoves tells me this will tough to keep going unless you have a dry supply of wood on hand.
I’m going to replace the coat hanger with a couple of wire stakes the next time I use it.
I like this stove. Honestly, I was ready to not like it before I started, but after making it and using it I decided to leave it at a semi-permanent camp I have in the woods near my house here in Maine. It’s not something I’d carry around in my pack, but leaving it at the camp is a perfect application for it. Quite often I’ll stop by on my way in or out of the woods and building a big fire to make a cup of coffee isn’t quite feasible or worthwhile and obviously electronic appliances aren’t going to be an option, but with this little stove it’ll be easy to make a small, concentrated fire to make coffee or heat up a can of food and then put it out again. If you have a similar situation and want to add a piece of functional gear to your camp gear or just need a small, cheap stove then I’d recommend the hobo stove.
If you can think of any more good or bad points or other applications for it post it here and let me know.
- Jarhead Survivor