Thursday, May 3, 2012

Back-ups to your cookstove

I'm going to be answering a question that was posed in a review of my book on Amazon.  A reader named "Leslie" said she was overall finding the book helpful but had a question:

"My only concern so far is that it the issue of a heat source for cooking isn't addressed (or maybe I haven't read that far yet). We live in an urban area, and cook on a gas stove. We don't have a wood-burning stove, or other way to cook food in the event that the gas lines are damaged in an emergency. A chapter on cooking without a stove, and how to gather and store firewood, basics of building a fire for cooking etc. would be really helpful"

Like I explained in my answer on Amazon to her comment, I had to draw the line somewhere about what all to include in the book.  So many books on "Food Storage" are filled with several mostly-relevent side-chapters and often with 'non-relevent" ones.  For instance, there is a book on Amazon called "Food Storage Basics", and one of the first chapters is all about how to make a bug-out bag, including how much water to carry and what kind of fire starters you'll want.  I don't see that as being essential to Food Storage.  For those seeking knowledge of those things, it's a well-written book.

There are almost as many answers to the 'stove' question as there are people and situations.  One won't fit all.  You can buy any of the various camp stoves available and store some bottles of fuel for it, and that might suffice in the short term.  If a long-term situation develops, the fuel would run out.  By then the immediate crisis would be over and it might be safe to seek another way to cook.

Leslie says she lives in an urban area, but that can mean different things.  Does she live in a house, or an apartment?  If she lives in an apartment, does it have it's own balcony?  She could keep a barbeque grill out there, along with extra charcoal or propane tanks depending which it requires.  Be sure to have a way to light it.

If she lives in a house, she might have the option of building a campfire to cook on.  Supposing that were true, and she had no where to get firewood, I'd suggest buying a few of those (yes, overpriced!) bundles of firewood they sell for condos with fireplaces or for campers to take to the KOA or other campground on the weekends, assuming such is available where she (or others of you) lives.

Both options present possible complications.  You run the risk of hungry neighbors seeing you out cooking, or the aromas drifting around the neighborhood attracting attention.  In a short-term emergency you probably won't be bothered much by others, other than having them wanting to share your cooking source to cook their own food.  You need to decide how much of your fuel you would be willing to share, since it would reduce the length of time you'll be able to cook food for yourself and your family.

Cooking inside on a camp stove would reduce those risks, but be careful about ventilation.  Even camp stoves put out carbon monoxide, which is a silent killer.  Crack a couple windows open, and keep an eye on everyone.  Try to only use the camp stove for brief cooking, which will also extend how long your fuel will last.

There are small "wood stoves" called "Pocket Stoves" that are available from several online camping supply sites.  They run around $15 to $20.  They fold up small enough to fit in a coat pocket or backpack pocket, but they do weigh a couple pounds.  They're not a backpacking stove!  But you could keep one in your car or your house, for emergencies.  You can burn paper or wood or anything that burns and can be broken small enough to put inside the stove.  You set a pan on top of the little stove.  This is an outdoor-use ONLY stove.

You can buy or make sterno or alchohol stoves, but again, these are outdoor-use stoves.

Small chemical pouches can be used to heat food, similiar to what the military uses in their "MRE"s (Meals Ready to Eat).  When the chemicals are mixed or activated they create enough heat to cook or boil water.  They can be used indoors.

A solar oven is another possibility.  We have what's called a "Solar Cooker" that we ordered off the amazon website three years ago, and on a sunny day you can cook wonderful meals in it.  Solar ovens can be made, too, and if you type "Solar Oven" into the search on google or youtube, you'll find several plans.  Watching a youtube video is a great way to learn how to make them and how they work.

I'm not an expert about these stoves.  I have used some of them on our camping, backpacking, and long-distance bicycle trips, but since we have a woodstove and live in a rural wooded area I haven't done a lot of research on what to do if I didn't have that available.

If anyone has information to add to this, please either leave a comment or send me an email and I'll copy & paste your email here so you can share your information with other readers.

Philo Logia writes:
I'll add to your post the thought of a cob oven (or masonry oven) built outdoors. I happen to be amongst gathering materials to build a cob oven outside currently, which is why it's fresh on my mind ;)
Here's a brief but thorough run-through:

"Anonymous" writes:
Excellent post. Keep writing such kind of info on your blog.
Im really impressed by it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on emergency essentials.

This anonymous person also wished to share this site with us:

I received some wonderful tips from W. Lambdin, who says:
"Here is a Super Cat stove I made out of a Coke can

I made these because they hold almost twice as much fuel as a genuine Super Cat.

I used a P38 can opener to cut the lid out.

I have given about 15 of these stoves away. You can see that I cut the can with a knife and pressed the top down over the bottom 40% of the can.

I did that for three reasons.

1 holds more fuel.

2 double walls gives the stove more strength.

3 the stove is shorter so it is not as tipsy.

Here is a video showing you how to make a Super Cat stove.

Here is a link to a page on

This page tells you what kind of alcohol you should use and should not use in alcohol stoves. Sam DeCesar (not sure of the spelling of his last name. I have bought two of his stoves BS 1.0, and BS 2.0.

He is one heck of a nice guy. If you want to use that chart; ask his permission and tell him that Two Bears sent you.

He is currently moving so you may have to wait a day or two for reply.

As soon as he gets moved I am going to send him two empty 2012 Saint Patricks bud light aluminum beer bottles for him to make stoves out of them.

I am having Sam make the stoves because his stoves can be used on a beer can pot. I used his BS 2.0 stove to boil water in an empty can that held corn.

I have a MiniBull BIOS 4 and you need a pot that is at least 10+ centimeters across.

I also have a Zelph stove the Cobalt Soloist. I live at 4000 feet above sea level, and the water never boiled.

I also bought a copy of MiniBull BIOS 1 from Lost Hiker 16, and that stove blossomed and the jets were so big you would need a 7-8 inch pot.

Needless to say my sister will be selling three stoves for me as soon as she gets her Masters degree in Math.

Here the Desert Dog In Tucson, AZ is testing the Vargo Triad (commercial $29.99 alcohol stove) against a 50 cent Super Cat alcohol stove that anyone can make in moments with a $1 paper punch. The Super Cat stoves I make are made from Ever Pet cat food I get 2 for $1 at the dollar store.

A large number of people hiking the Apalachian trail carry Super Cat stoves because they weigh next to nothing. I will spoil the surprise that the almost free stove out performs a $30 stove.

Feel free to e-mail me directly:

Check out this video on YouTube:

Here is the Super Cat stove that weighs 1/5th of an ounce.

I bet you are wondering why I would have Sam of make stoves for me when I can make stoves?

1. A stove made from a Budweiser aluminum bottle; can withstand someone weighing 200 pounds standing on them without ruining the stove.

2. If I am in a survival situation I do not want to worry about falling down and crushing the stove in my back pack. I have poor eyesight, and I want a stove that is dependable.

Some people like Jason Klass carry a stove made out of the aluminum container for a tealight candle.

Not this little black duck in the words of Daffy Duck."

Thank you, Kahuna! 
There's more on other prep-related topics, but we're literally heading out the door to go camping.  When we get back at the end of the week, I'll share more of W. Lambdin's information, some of which will be on other posts of those subjects.

Thank you to everyone who contributes!  Please keep it coming!  I am not an expert.  I'm someone just like most of you, and I learn something new all the time!  :)

1 comment:

  1. There are several well made alcohol stoves on the market that mimic the 'pepsi-can' stove - but are very heavy duty.. WhiteBox stoves are well made from heavy Al and are all recycled material.

    Esbit has recently come out with a very nice ETOH stove set - with the just the stove, a alcohol and Esbit tab combo and a cook kit very much in the vein of the older Trangia cook set.

    And of course, the grand-daddy of them all is the Swedish surplus cook set with an alcohol stove, dual pots and windscreen - all built like a tank.

    All alcohol stoves may be used safely indoors with additional ventilation - restaurants have been using Sterno for decades after all....