I currently choose between an alcohol stove and a petrol stove depending on the trip, but I'm wondering about being able to burn wood for longer cooking. This would be to cook in a pan of about 12cm diameter, or a metal mug (quite possibly cook in one then boil in the other). This means an open fire, even if suitable for the location, would be awkward. A portable wood-burning stove, on the other hand, could replace the windshield of my simple alcohol stove to conserve liquid fuel.

I've used (but not built) large rocket stoves, and of course have made plenty of campfires, but all that's shown me is that burning wood slowly in small quantities needs care.

So what's a nice light, simple DIYable miniature woodburning stove?

  • 2
    Why would it be awkward to cook on an open fire with a 12cm diameter pot? That's about how large my camping pot is, and I routinely cook with it on an open fire. I just build the fire up in nice flat, level, perpendicular layers, and set the pot on the top layer once the fire is burning lice and hot. While it heats, I sit next to the fire with a sturdy stick, ready to slip through the pot handle if the wood shifts and the pot starts to tip over. If your pot has a tight-fitting lid, babysitting it like that is optional.
    – csk
    Jun 18, 2021 at 18:58
  • @csk my lightweight pots don't have that sort of handle (more like a saucepan handle but made of wire and folding), and more often than not I'm using an enamelled mug. I would use the mug all the time, but realised the pot weighs almost exactly the same as my plastic bowl, but gives me more options. I'd have to make a proper 3 stone cooking fire, which means finding the stones (in the dark as I'd be moving on every day)
    – Chris H
    Jun 18, 2021 at 19:17
  • I note the need for longer cooking. Have you seen this? It folds flat, is light, and one picture shows it on the palm of a hand. I have not tried it. Other similar ones are available, in various sizes. Jun 19, 2021 at 15:35
  • There are ‘twig’ stoves that fit the bill and boil small pots/large cups of water effectively. Fill with twigs (yes, small twigs) and light.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 19, 2021 at 15:41
  • @WeatherVane that looks quite nice, and would also serve as a wind break/pot stand for my alcohol burner. But it would often need something underneath to catch the ash and protect the ground
    – Chris H
    Jun 19, 2021 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


smallest [ ... ] practical DIY wood-burning back-/bike-packing stove?

A scaled version of the "Nimble Will Little Dandy" stove:


For commercial inspiration see "The "Pocket Stove" here:

which shows how small you can go. The inclusion of a trivet will facilitate using the specified pot diameter on such a small stove.

( ... simplest) practical DIY wood-burning back-/bike-packing stove?

A "hobo" stove made from an IKEA drainer:


  • That pocket stove does look nice, and if I was buying something I might go for it, especially as it would work well with small alcohol burners. I'm wary of scaling down designs, but that pocket stove indicates that you can go that small and still maintain a fire, which is good. I may even try something based on my existing windshield, knowing that. I've actually got a couple of those ikea cutlery pots. If they made one half the size it would be interesting.
    – Chris H
    Jun 23, 2021 at 9:27
  • I have the pocket stove, I don't recommend it. It's really small. I've seen diy stoves made from cans that provide gasification which seems to work better.
    – njzk2
    Jun 23, 2021 at 21:02

With a little time on my hands I tried an experiment. It was just about successful. I used the windshield/pot stand from my alcohol stove, and oak twigs, of which I have many fallen from the trees over my garden. It eventually boiled a cup of water, but having got off to a good start became really rather slow.

The airflow wasn't enough in still air, not helped by sitting on a flat concrete surface so little air could reach the central hole. Standing it on coarse gravel or a few stones would be a big help, and I'll probably add a few more holes. A grate made of wire mesh would help with airflow and lift the fire closer to the cup.

Blowing gently into the opening was needed to maintain flames that carried the heat to the cup as the glowing burn was rather too low. It also needed a lot of twigs (but they were mostly <6mm in diameter, and frequent feeding, often from the top to keep any kind of structure to the fire.

With thin fallen twigs it lit easily, using paper and a few drops of the meths I'd use for most of my cooking.

All in all, it's a good plan B already, and could be improved further even without the complexity of a double-wall design, though that would clearly be more efficient.

My alcohol stove used as a twig stove

I added a grate made of wire gauze (cut from a sieve) and tested it in the field on a recent bike tour, using pine twigs. The ground was still very flat, stopping airflow from the large base hole, but burning was better with the base of the fire above the side holes. It's hard to compare directly with the different wood as well, but it did seem more successful and to need less blowing and top-feeding. It's still only a plan B compared to meths, which itself was improved considerably for building a little drystone wall most of the way round reaching about half way up the cup (rounded stones meant plenty of gaps for air). That was at a different spot so I couldn't test wood+wall.

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