Don's Home Recreation Hiking and Camping Soda Can Alcohol Stove Contact
Alcohol stoves have become the most popular for thru hikers on the Appalachian Trail, because of their zero failure rate.

Pros: Alcohol, unlike white gas, butane and propane, is not a petroleum by-product and is less damaging to the environment.
Safest stove fuel for use in confined areas. Alcohol vapor is relatively light compared to the vapor of petroleum fuels, and is less likely to concentrate and create a hazard. Alcohol stoves don't flare up as often as white gas stoves.
Faster setup time.
Cons: The fuel cup is open, so if the stove is knocked over, burning alcohol can spill out. Alcohol stoves have blue flames that can be difficult to see in direct sun light.
They only produce about half the heat output of other stoves, so boiling time for 2 cups (1/2 l) is 5-6 min vs 3-4 min.

In the US, there is a cult following of ultralight hikers who use homemade (e.g. Soda Can) alcohol stoves. They are also available on e-bay.
Although they are slower (6 min vs 3-4 min to boil 2 cups) than other fuels, the set-up time is shorter, so the total time for a couple of cups will be about the same or less.

Basic Instructions:

  • Methanol - The Automotive fuel line de-icer Heet, 20¢/oz from auto supply stores is pure methanol (CH3OH).
  • Denatured - ethyl alcohol (C2H6O) to which a poisonous substance, such as acetone or methanol, has been added to make it unfit for consumption. Available in hardware stores.
  • Rubbing alcohol 70% alcohol [May be Isopropyl [isopropanol, (C3H7OH)] or ethyl (C2H6O) alcohol] will also work. 7¢/ oz
    Isopropyl alcohol will give off a lot of soot because of the extra carbon.
  • Over-proof rum - (75% Alcohol) e.g. Lemon Hart 151 Demerara, Bacardi® 151, El Dorado, - $1/oz. *
    May leave a residue in your stove.
  • Fill with 1-1.5 oz (30-45 ml) of alcohol. Keep alcohol 1/4 in below jet holes.
  • Wipe alcohol off your hands and the surface below the stove and move the fuel bottle away.
  • Light the liquid in the bottom. (Flame will be hard to see so be careful.)
  • In about 1 min the fuel inside will vaporize and burn out the jet holes and you can put the pot on.
  • 1 oz will boil 2 cups (1/2 liter) of water in about 6 min.
  • A windscreen (foil will do) and tight fitting lid are highly recommended.

1 oz. will boil 2 cups of water in about 6 min.

* Other uses of Over-proof (151) Rum
(I always like multi-use gear (e.g. hiking poles that work as a camera mono-pod or tent pole.) - Wound disinfectant - 70% or greater alcohol is required as a disinfectant - However alcohol can damage good cells and will sting. Polysporin® (doesn't contain Neomycin which some people are sensitive to.) is better.
- Mountain Cocktails

Purell™ hand disinfectant (62% alcohol) (20¢/oz) will also work as fuel, but the gel will not get into the outer chamber in some soda can stoves.
Purell contains some water so some of the resulting heat is robbed to vaporize the internal water which reduces its overall heat output.

Commercial Alcohol Stoves:

Denatured Ethyl Alcohol Contains methanol, a toxic substance having produced blindness and other serious effects on vision, as well as death.
Treatment for ingestion:

  • Never give anything by mouth if victim is rapidly losing consciousness or is unconscious or convulsing.
  • Have victim drink about 250ml (8fl. oz.) of water to dilute material in stomach.
  • If vomiting occurs naturally, have victim lean forward to reduce risk of aspiration.
  • Seek medical assistance immediately.

Camp Stoves in Products
Soda Can Stove design at wikipedia
A better soda can stove (Hanna)
Review: Lightweight Alcohol Stoves for Backpacking - fuels, plans
A better soda can stove -
eBay Store - Alcohol Stoves Soda Can Stoves at
Zen and the Art of the Alcohol Stove
Alcohol fuels at culture.backpacking mail archive.
Hydrocarbon Fuels

last updated 1 Oct 2008