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I am looking for a back-up stove capable of burning wood and alcohol. Can you suggest one? I would like it to

  • burn alcohol and wood (most important)
  • be cheap
  • be small
  • be robust
  • be light (least important)

I thought about a DIY-can-stove, so any advice on a specific design will be appreciated. I also like the "Vargo Hexagon Titan", but it´s way too expensive for my needs.


Here's some more background (ignore it, if you think it makes the question too specific).

My girlfriend and I used to cook on open fires during trekking. We never brought any back-up (only did summer/early fall trips so far). I would like to have some for the next trip though, because I am afraid of restrictions due to e. g. risk of forest fires (we never had any problem because of rain, though). So the stove would probably not get used during the most trips. We enjoy outdoor cooking and normally carry a ~2l pot, so it should be able to support that.

  • Cheap and robust? You can't have your cake and eat it too. – Scott Hillson Apr 25 '14 at 23:04
  • @hillsons you are perfectly right. I tried to edit it so there is some priorization given... And its not always diametrical, sometimes you find cheap and robust. I have a nice tarp which fulfills that. – Paul Paulsen Apr 26 '14 at 2:13
  • Well, cheap and robust is possible, but it will be heavy. – fgysin reinstate Monica Mar 12 at 8:09
  • @fgysin you are right, this is often the case - for example in the tarp I mention. But it doesn't have to be necessarily so, especially if you are willingt to DIY. – Paul Paulsen Mar 14 at 7:18
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One expensive component is the cooking pot; depending on if you already have one, you might want to find a stove that is compatible with your existing pot.

Trail Designs have several models that can burn both alcohol and wood. You can order their stoves for specific pot sizes. I have experience with their Sidewinder Ti-Tri which can also burn esbit. I would consider the keg version instead of the sidewinder as having the ashes inside your pot is a poor idea in hindsight. Unfortunately, they are not cheap and only 'robust' if you use and handle them properly.

I believe your best option will be to find a cheap cooking pot and build your own soda can alcohol stove. Plenty of people have built theirs and used them on long hikes. Use a small plastic container for transportation. To save space, try to store items inside of the container when you are on the move.

As long as your wood burning stove have support and space for placing the alcohol stove inside of it, you should be good. Although I have no experience with this specific diy, I would consider trying and adapting this Wood Burning Trail Stove to your needs.

Alternatively, you could also spend part of the money on a used wood stove. You could start by looking at the gear swap on BPL.

  • Thanks for your answer! The links are very useful and I like the idea of placing a smaller alcohol stove in a bigger one for wood. – Paul Paulsen Apr 26 '14 at 20:54
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Combining alcohol and wood burning in one stove is not easy, as both media ask for completely different designs to burn efficiently. Consider to carry one cookset for alcohol (burner, pot stand and windshield). Made from pop/beer can, wire and aluminum foil, such a set need not weigh more than 100grs, depending on the size pot you want to use. For wood burning, just hang your pot with an improvised tripod over your campfire. No need to use anything besides a pot with bail handle and some cord with proper knots (taut line hitch, explained in wikipedia) to adjust the height of the pot over the fire. If there is firewood, there will also be sticks to serve as a tripod.

Wood fires burn too hot for aluminum foil. There are some really nifty titanium foil gadgets to either burn wood alone or to combine with alcohol stoves. My favorite so far is the trail designs sidenwinder Ti-Tri with inferno add on, see http://www.traildesigns.com/stoves/caldera-sidewinder. There are also "stand alone" "hobo stoves" like this one http://www.stc-shop.ch/shopad/de/?artgruppeid=22657&artikelid=696885&sid=804042166. The latter is a bit costly compared to the traildesign stuff, but it works nicely with wood.

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A solution that meets all of your criteria (with the possible exception of being robust) is a DIY cat food alcohol stove used with a DIY Bushbuddy-style gasifier stove. Both are easily and cheaply made, and very lightweight. Hundreds of people use one or the other, or both, in all seasons.

When in alcohol mode, put the stove inside the bushbuddy; the bushbuddy acts as a pot support and wind screen. When in wood mode, just use the bushbuddy by itself.

There are lots of different designs for DIY alcohol burners that you could try. Pretty much anything will work except for the ones like the Fancee Feest which depend upon a good seal with the pot. A side burning, pressurized stove would probably work the best.

  • Thanks for that contribution. Actually, thats what I ended up doing and it worked fine. Still, it needs some finetuning so the space between the alcohol stove and the pot fits well - if its too far, efficiency is bad, if its too small, the alcohol stove keeps turning off. If you have any particularly good DIY-tutorials for this usecase you could share it really would improve your answer :) – Paul Paulsen Apr 13 '16 at 8:29
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    Hi Paul one thing I experimented with was placing found material (dirt, rocks, small sticks) under the stove to adjust the height in relation to the pot. It worked, sorta, but was very fiddly. It seems that there are probably DIY solutions but I have not found them. Maybe something like the Caldera Cone tent stakes feature? – uke Apr 14 '16 at 13:48
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Might I suggest "Trangia" stoves? I've had mine for 21 years. Alright, it looks knackered, but it has never let me down, never. This is the old style Trangia, with a liquid fuel burner, not the type where you can adapt it to take gas.

If you choose not to use liquid fuel, the base of the stove can be used to burn anything you desire, as long as it doesn't burn so hot that it melts the aluminum.

My Trangia is one of my essential four. As long as you have a knife, some rope, a tarpaulin, and a stove, (hopefully Trangia), you could go out in the wilderness without any clothes on and live quite happily, I can assure you.

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    There is a [Trangia version][1] designed for the Swedish Army which has kidney shaped pans and as well as the alcohol burner is specifically designed to be used with wood fuel [1]: surplusandoutdoors.com/… – Chris Johns Feb 23 '16 at 20:39
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I make little roll-up titanium stoves myself, you could try if these DIY designs meet your needs. They burn long sticks so that there is no need to break up small fuel sticks. The power of the stove comes from a removable USB fire blower that let you burn wet wood.

Using the blower alone I can run a two pot stove without using a formal stove body.

Lastly, the roll-up titanium stove can be used with a tiny 'whisky bottle lid' alcohol burner.

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    I have edited your text to make it look less like sales promotion. Your repeated 'bare' links made it look a little spammy. Nice website BTW. – user15958 Mar 11 at 12:38

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