Camp Cooking: How to Make a Soda Can Stove

For ultra light backpackers and those who enjoy really roughing it, cooking food can be something of a challenge. This is especially true when they’ve decided to settle in for the night in a deeply wood area with enough overhead cover to prevent fire building. Outdoor adventurers have developed several tricks to overcome this problem. Perhaps the most interesting and effective of these is the so-called “soda can stove”. Fashioned with nothing but old aluminum beverage cans and some rubbing alcohol, the soda can stove is surprisingly effective for cooking small meals. Read on as we detail the fashioning and use processes for this tried and true camping trick.

Making the Stove

Soda Can for a soda can stove

Putting together a soda can stove requires a little elbow grease and attention to detail, but it will last for many uses. Start by removing the inner section of the can with a sharp knife. Make your cuts roughly one inch from the bottom, and down roughly one inch from the top. Then, take the top section, and use a knfe to cut out the actual top (the part with the tab on it), leaving the top section hollow. Use a pin to make small holes around the edge of the top half, roughly a half an inch from the top edge. These holes will be where the flames come from.

Now, you’ll be working with the soda can section that you cut out. Cut two vertical slits (one starting from the top, one from the bottom) about a quarter inch from each end, and slide them into one another, creating a smaller diameter circle. Slide that piece into the top section of your soda can. Then, make indents around the circumference of the bottom section (effectively making it smaller) and slide the bottom section between the two layers of your top section. Apply a little pressure to squeeze all the parts together. When it’s secure, your soda can stove is ready to use.

Cooking With a Soda Can Stove

With construction complete, the only other things you need to get a soda can stove burning are rubbing alcohol (specifically 90% isopropyl alcohol) and a lighter. Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol into the opening at the top section. Then light it with an extended lighter used for grills and deep candles.

The alcohol will burn immediately, and soon you’ll have even flames coming from the pinholes in the top section of the can. To cook with it, simply place the food you wish to cook (an egg is a good place to start) on a very small pan or cookie sheet and place it on top of the burning stove. You’ll be surprised at how well it performs!