We got a can from our neighbours - doing our good bit for the environment and our wallets. (No self-respecting Australian drinks Fosters, just so you know.)
It took a while to cut the top out. It was fiddly to do with our little pocket knives and I got a bit annoyed and impatient at myself at this stage! Other people have suggested taking the top out with a traditional can opener, so I might try that next time. Note: If you want to do this with kids, please supervise them closely. I personally wouldn't recommend it for children under secondary school age.
Cutting the can down to size was easier. I was a bit too conservative, though: next time I'd make the stove shorter. As it is, it only just fits into its plastic container (which used to hold paper cases for muffins - hardcore).
Before making the stove, I spent a while trawling the internet learning all about fuel, then trawling the high street to find it. From what I read, bio-ethanol seems to be a good choice, but we could only find methylated spirits (in the hardware store) and 90% surgical spirit (at the pharmacy). We bought both, to compare them.
We poured a centimetre or so of surgical spirit into the can and set a match to it. It didn’t seem to light straight away, but after a second the flames shot up - not bright, but definitely there! We put a pot with 500mL of water on top, popped the lid on and timed it to boiling.
The fumes were apparent almost straight away. I was glad we’d opened the door and window and set up a fan to blow the fumes out of the room. It took about 8 minutes to come to a decent boil. I smothered the flame (with the plastic muffin paper case) and poured the remaining fuel back into the bottle, noticing that it had turned blue.
Next, we tried the methylated spirits. This also took a while to light, and it whooshed even higher when it finally did. We put another pot of water on top (I cooled the pot down first; can't give one fuel an unfair advantage). I’m not sure if it was the build-up of fumes over two boils, but I thought the metho smelled stronger. This time, the water only took about 7 minutes to come to a really rapid boil, but the process seemed to use slightly more methylated spirits than surgical spirit.
Our current gas-fuelled camp stove, which was never intended for backpacking and hiking, weighs 2.1kg (including case), while the drinks can stove weighs 30g (including storage). That's less than 2% of the weight! The drinks can stove is also absolutely tiny in comparison to the camp stove, so it's much easier to pack when walking.
Comparing fuels, a full can of butane for our camp stove weighs about 250g, as does 250mL of methylated or surgical spirits. However, the liquid can be decanted into smaller bottles. Methylated spirits is cheaper (just!) per millilitre than surgical spirit and seems to bring water to the boil more swiftly. Surgical spirit seems to smell less and use less fuel.
By the way, we didn’t let all that water go to waste. We had a nice cuppa and biscuit for afternoon tea.
Almost everything I know about making a stove from a drinks can, I learnt from Tom Allen's video. It’s a must-see if you’re into lightweight camping gear or DIY fun!
This microadventure-related challenge cost approximately £7 (fuel, tea and biscuits for two). Bargain!
How is your microadventure challenge going? You've got a couple of days left in January to go on a bivvying adventure and/or spend time on top of a hill. Go on, get out there!
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