Test Stove Seller on Ebay
Larger Models DIY
Rocket Stoves on Etsy
Valley Food Storage (the Cheesy Mac we cooked)
I love finding useful things that handy people can make themselves, and that the rest of us can buy cheap. If you follow this column, you already know that I fell in love with the StoveTec “Rocket Stove.” I still see them from $75 to $150 on Ebay all the time, and as a stay at home stove, I don’t think you can beat it. But as I discussed last week in my overview of bugout bags, if you are stuck on the road, the StoveTec is just too big and heavy. I have been on a quest for some time for a smaller, lighter, more portable contraption that does the same thing as my StoveTec. Right now I have a few products on the way, but in the meantime, I’d like to share a cool stove I got a few months ago that I just tried last week. It is made from square tubular steel, and the guy who makes them on Ebay adds legs, as well as a baffle, so that the stove burns reliably.
This particular stove is 2 1/2″ wide, and the guy who makes them seems to have moved up to 3″ for some reason. If you are going to use the pictures here to try to make one yourself, it could be that the burn chamber at 3″ will bring enough BTUs to speed up the cooking process some. The advantage of a small stove is that you can capture as many BTUs as possible from limited fuel, and the smaller the stove, the lower the weight. This stove as shown weights about 5 1/2 lbs. There are dozens of other sizes I have seen on both Ebay and Etsy, but I can’t comment on their draft properties from actual experience. I left my grinder chop saw behind in my last move so I have to settle for what I can buy out there right now. This stove was slow to cook a package of freeze dried survival food to done with just some sticks and leaves, but you know what, it works. And because it is mostly heavy gauge steel, I feel like I could cook on this stove every night indefinitely. As you can see from my pics, I had left this stove outside under a table and it rusted some. Who cares? I don’t. Eventually all steel that you burn something in rusts anyway. The stove works great, and I think the small size is perfect for hydrating pasta, rice, and freeze dried foods, because it is not likely that they will burn.
My experiment was to cook the Valley Food Cheesy Mac package that I noted in last week’s article was blown up a little. All of their stuff is washed with nitrogen as it is sealed up, so I knew that if any reaction was going on, it was minor. Oxygen is the culprit in most of the break down of survival foods, and their approach, rather than use an oxy absorber, is to flood in nitrogen instead, much the same way as you would use argon if you were to make this stove with a Mig welder.
I always try to measure a worst case scenario if I can, so instead of an actual covered pot, I elected to use a steel cakepan. It will fit in a backpack a lot easier than a pot and lid, and it is thin and light. The Cheesy Mac took about 20 minutes to come to a slow bubble boil, and then it was easy to maintain the boil with the stove. Overall it was cooked in about 45 minutes.
Don’t be shy with a rocket stove, especially one as small as this. Once the fire is going, assuming you have a good baffle for air, feed sticks and leaves down from the top and get a small “raging” fire going to bring your stuff up to cooking temp. The bottom of the pan is going to be loaded with creosote anyway, so don’t worry about flames licking the bottom. The directions for this 2 1/2″ stove said to use sticks about pencil thin, but I used slightly smaller and slightly larger both down the top and through the fuel chute just fine.
As with all survival materials, the important thing is that you buy or make a stove now, and use it before you need it. If you never thought you could cook dinner on a handful of sticks and leaves, any working Rocket Stove is going to shock you. But if you are one of those people who thinks that if you pay $50 or $100 for a camp stove it better darn well cook as good as your Coleman propane stove, think again. There aren’t a ton of BTUs trapped inside old dry sticks from the ground, and less from leaves. But they will cook you dinner…for the rest of your life in one of these cheap little stoves.
I have a couple more backpack style stoves with thinner metal coming soon, and I’ll get right on testing them for you, but if you have a chop saw and a Harbor Freight $100 Mig welder, you can make one of these for a few bucks. Your local steel shop will make you one for $20 if you show them this article as well. And as you can see from the side by side picture I’ll include here, they go right up to 4″ which yes, I’ll also be testing soon on group size food pots. If you are a family of only several, and you took my advice for storing buckets of beans, rice, and pasta, this stove is all you need, and though you could go thinner and lighter, it won’t last as long or take a hit like this size will. The legs are up to you of course, but they do come off, and the clearance is nice. I suspect that any dimensions will work, as long as you have a baffle. Get clicking! Time is possibly getting short.