Watch this test of a campfire in a can

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As a cub scout, I remember putting a spiral of corrugated cardboard in a tuna can and then filling it with paraffin. It was supposed to be an alternative to a road flare, not sure how well it would have worked.


My big concern, from “research” into similar technologies, would be boil-over. We had a citronella candle in a tin bucket that didn’t have enough wicks. So we added some (like this product), and got a nice little campfire. But eventually all the wax melted, and then there were some mysterious popping sounds, and then it suddenly boiled over, spilling burning hot wax all over our deck. And just a few months earlier we had been laughing at our neighbors when the fire department came to put out their deck. It went out easily with a well-placed 32-oz glass of water - not sure if the water cooled the wax enough that it wouldn’t relight easily, or if we just got incredibly lucky.


I remember an Order of the Arrow display where tampons were used a wicks in tins of torch fluid. I can’t remember if there was a merit badge for that or not.



I was dismayed to find this example of end stage capitalism in our local Australian hardware store - an American piece of Birch, shipped from New Jersey.

Think of the firewood miles in this baby. Cos t is $AUD9.95 per piece. I do have some admiration for the idea of the axial cuts to act as a chimney.




I thought the same thing when he mentioned the possibility of it spilling or tipping. A half gallon of molten, burning wax spilling would be unpleasant, to say the least.


Make your own. YouTube is full of examples.

This intrigues me. I’ve always meant to try it.


It’s not like you’d want to use a gum tree. It would just explode!

Swedish Torches are awesome. I make them all the time, but I’m partial to the rocket-stove type. Drill a 1-1.5" hole down the center of a log, add a perpendicular hole for airflow near the base, add fire, and it burns wonderfully for hours. Pine and other easy-burning woods work great. I’ve hooked up air pumps to the intake and you get a jet engine effect.


i don’t think they’d make very good road flares, but they make fantastic cheap fuel pellets that can be made almost anywhere in the world from supplies at hand for simple tin can stoves.

They are a really classy way to roast chestnuts outside in winter, say after a long horse drawn sleigh ride.
We’ve done this with the kiddos school class.


That thing is sold as a way to evade fire bans?

Whenever I’ve hiked under a fire ban, the only flames permitted were commercial stoves, liquid or gas fueled, with a shutoff valve. (Well, and solid-fuel stoves with spark arrestors, but those are suitable only for permanent sites.) No Esbit, no candles, no Sterno, no simple alcohol lamps, nothing like that.



Been wanting to go for a good hike with one of these. Looks like it would be easy to assemble and disassemble, and looks light enough to carry for a long day. Obviously it’s the easiest on the land: no marks, no fire scar.

If I need to walk around with an axe (heavy!) and/or a drill bit and brace (kinda heavy, and bulky!) for a whole day just to cook meals, it costs me too much of my human energy and mobility for me over the long term. Axes get heavy and in the sun–hot!

If you have the soil depth, a Dakota fire hole also works.

Same principles re: thermodynamics. And you don’t need a drill. Or an axe.

If all you have is stony terrain and zero soil to dig in, then, yeah, that portable wire-caged rocket stove may be the best fit.

The “campfire in a can” has its place–it works really well esp. if you have only wet firewood and really need to get a fire going in a hurry. Rigging a fast campfire using a can with filled with wax and cardboard in it is not a bad way to shortcut to warm up and dry out in wet weather.


Still too heavy. Try a pop can stove. Half an ounce. Boils two cups of water on less than an ounce of denatured alcohol or yellow HEET. Here’s mine:

Pop can stove by Kevin Kenny, on Flickr


I like the steamed muffins. A good work-around for that weight problem of hiking with a dutch oven!


That is truly minimal. And of course, no ashes to have to dispose of [in an ethical and sound manner].

I’ve seen these can stoves in other discussions on bOING…

and various camping forums.

Here’s Make’s version:

If you are packing in your own fuel, what’s your fuel consumption per day per person (not at altitude, let’s skip that), and… yeah, I gotta ask, what are you cooking? If you are just boiling water, I am guessing it’s instant stuff and dehydrated/freeze-dried foods.

Thanks for pitching to lighten the load.

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pararfin wax and soy wax are sufficiently different.

I cant get a soy candle to do the candle trick, as it’s less volatile when heated.

Really depends on how fancy I’m being, which depends on a lot of variables, mostly “is this trip ‘light and fast’ or ‘slow and luxurious’?” I’d say that typically, I do coffee and porridge in the morning, one hot meal (often at midday, because I don’t like cooking in camp in bear country), and one cold meal. Maybe a cup of tea at some point. So 2-3 boils a day, at a little less than an ounce of alky per boil.

We don’t have altitude, here in the East - we top out at a little under 7000 feet (but make up for it with atrocious weather). In my state, open flames are unlawful above 3500, so I’ve never tested the stove at altitude.

Sometimes I do more, like the steamed muffins (which take about an ounce and a half of fuel over and above what I’m heating for coffee), or a freezer bag hybrid (one of my favorites is to reconstitute dehydrated rice and lentils in a freezer bag, and whip up a curry over the stove while they’re reconstituting. Dal bhaat tarkari.) It’s similar if I go Italian - I’ll bring olive oil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, string cheese, soppressata sausage, basil, oregano, … and whip up a sauce while pasta (or more likely couscous, it cooks faster) is steeping in a freezer bag. (Pasta that says ‘7 minutes’ or shorter on the label will cook fine in 15 minutes in a freezer bag.) A lot of the stuff is assembled from Harmony House dehydrated veggies and grocery store items. In a pinch, I can do up a passable stew from beef jerky, dehydrated vegetable soup, and ramen noodles minus the flavor pack - which I can pick up at a small-town general store or even a well-stocked gas station.

My cooking rig weighs less than half a pound plus fuel. That includes pot (a grease strainer from K-mart), stove, windscreen, pot stand, steamer basket, coffee filter (if I can’t have real coffee, I’m not going!), mug, spork, freezer bag cozy, and the dry weight of the fuel bottle (which is a reused Poland Spring bottle, painted red). It doesn’t include the olive oil bottle (which I don’t always bring), or the (multipurpose) Leatherman Squirt that I use to slice sausage or grip the pot.

In summer, I can do a six day food carry on a 23-pound pack. It’s wonderful, coming into town at the end of it with my pack weighing half what it did when I started. (Because I’ve eaten and burnt the other half!) Half a litre of fuel gets me back to town after a six-day carry with a comfortable reserve.

The Penny Stove is really a 1-person rig. If I’m cooking for a group (or melting snow), I bring a naphtha stove. But more often than not, I’m solo or else the cooking is ‘every hiker for him/herself’.


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