Free Ultra-Light Camping Stove

I have at least 6 camping stoves, collected over the years (or hand-me-downs). Two of them see frequent use while the others sit in storage, forgotten. And yet I want even more. I visit every camping section I can and check out the stoves, seeing what the next “must have” is. I finally found a way to satisfy this itch without breaking my already cracked piggy bank.

Alcohol Stoves

Alcohol fumes are flammable. Vaporized alcohol (in gas form) is more flammable. These two simple facts are the guiding principles behind alcohol stoves. Pour the alcohol (fuel) into an alcohol stove. The fumes are lit, which causes the liquid to heat up and then begin to boil. Boiling vaporizes the liquid and causes the flames to burn at a hotter temperature.

Make Your Own!

There are many designs for alcohol stoves, designed to work better in different circumstances or be easier to build. This one is my current favorite, as it is easy to build, does not require a pot-stand and best of all, the materials are free! I have made this one using only my Swiss Army Knife and P-38. This means that if something happens to it during a camping trip, I can make a new one on the spot.


  • 1 aluminum soda can


  • cutting tool (sharp knife, scissors, razor blade)
  • pointy tool (push-pin, nail, ice pick)
  • marking tool (permanent parker)
  • measuring tool (ruler, tape measure)
  • smoothing tool (file, sand paper)
  • opening tool (can opener)
  • safety tools (gloves & safety goggles)

You will be using sharp objects to make something that contains flammable liquids & burns… Be careful! I am in no way responsible for any injuries you inflict upon yourself.


  1. Prepare an aluminum soda can by emptying it’s contents and then rinsing it out thoroughly. (Here comes the free part!) Not a big soda drinker, I picked up enough cans walking down the road to make more stoves than I could ever possibly use. (I am sure to wash them out very well, and the flames take care of the rest!)
    If you would like a “prettier” stove, simply sand the paint off of the can. The easiest way that I have found to do this is to sand it off before the can is opened, so the pressure inside gives you something to push against. Since I am using pre-emptied cans, I have thought about filling it with water and then freezing it, but have not yet tried this method.
  2. Using your pointy tool (I prefer a push pin, though I’ve used the can opener on my Swiss Army Knife), poke 4 SMALL holes in the upper lip of your can, spaced every 90 degrees. These will allow the fuel to flow evenly while burning.
    They didn’t show up really well in the photos I took, but you want the holes evenly spaced around the rim of the can. I used the pushpin in the photo to make my holes, after marking their spots with the marker.
  3. Using your opening tool (can opener from kitchen or P-38), remove the inside top of the can. This stage can be a bit tricky and involve wiggling the opening tool to get a good bite. Be careful about burrs and sharp edges!
  4. Use the handle of your cutting tool to flatten/remove any burrs made by the pointy and opening tools.
  5. Draw a circle around the can 1″ from the bottom. Draw another circle around the can 2″ from the top. (This involves both the marking and measuring tools!) Generally, I lay the marker on a book to achieve the proper height, then spin the can to get an even ring drawn on it. Make sure your can stays flat the whole time, or your circle will look funny!
    Don’t forget to flip the can over when you are measuring the 2″ from the top, otherwise you will end up with a funny drawing on your can when you just measure 1″ and then 2″ from the bottom.
  6. Cut in-between these two lines. It can be messy, as you are in-between the lines.
  7. Cut the bottom line. It doesn’t have to be level, but it does need to be nice and smooth. (Some find this to be easiest with scissors, though I generally use my pocket knife.) Make sure there are no nicks or slivers to injure yourself on!
  8. Cut the top line. Again, it needs to be nice and smooth, and this time it needs to be level as well since this is what your pot will be sitting on.
  9. Use your smoothing tool, smooth away any slivers and burrs that might exist.
  10. Make a “wrinkle” or “dent” in the top portion, from the bottom edge up to the beginning of the upper lip. Be careful not to crease the can! You can use needle-nosed pliers, a pen or a dowel. I use my fingers, since I always have them handy! You don’t want these wrinkles to be too big or two wide. Be careful not to crease the can.
  11. Make 5-7 more of these wrinkles.
  12. Carefully insert the top portion INTO the bottom portion.


You just made an alcohol stove! Now let’s put it to use…

  1. Only use OUTSIDE, on a level surface, in safe conditions. Do not leave unattended!
  2. Pour fuel (70% Isopropyl Alcohol) so that it just covers the dome in the bottom of the can.
  3. Be sure no fuel is on your hands.
  4. Light using a long match or a long BBQ lighter.
  5. Wait for the outside edges to start flaming (you’ll know it when you see it!) Normally between 15-30 seconds.
  6. The first time you use the stove, just let it burn itself out, without a pot on it. The plastic in the paint needs to be burned off.
  7. Let the stove cool completely before refilling it.
  8. When re-lit, place pot carefully on the stove, making sure that it is centered.
  9. DO NOT STIR your pot when it is on top of the stove, as it is very easy to overturn this stove. That would pour flaming liquid everywhere… never a good idea.
  10. To put out the stove, either place an upside-down can over it to cut off oxygen, or simply wait for it to burn itself out. If you have a pot on top of the stove, you can sometimes blow the flame out.


Just where does one get this magical liquid that makes this whole project possible? Any number of places, actually… You can use HEET from a gas station, denatured alcohol from the paint section of a hardware store (I bought mine at Wal-Mart), or any number of other fuels. Drinking alcohol works well, but costs a bit more. Check out for even more information about fuel and other types of stoves that you can make.

Surprise View – Photo

We camped beside this field on our first-ever trip to the Red River Gorge. Of course, by the time we quit exploring and actually picked somewhere to camp, it was nearly dark and we were rushing to set everything up. The next morning, imagine our delight when we discovered the view!

Tucked underneath the trees on the right side of the field (as you’re looking at it) is enough flat space for a number of tents. This spot is only a short distance from parking at the trail-head. There is a pond near-by as an easy water source for those with filters. When the season is right, there are even some blackberries in the field, just off the trail. If we ever return with a group, this is one of the places we will head to first. We love this view and often swing by just to see how it looks.

Click to see full-sized.


Heading Down the Trail – Photo

We’ve broken camp and are heading down a new trail to see where it goes. With a view like this, how can we resist exploring further? Oh, and just so you don’t get too concerned, this isn’t actually a photo of the trail, but down the hill from it. There really is a clearly visible trail that you can’t miss. 😉

Click to see full-sized.


Maximize Your Money

I have been accused of being a bit frugal. As a recently married college student whose wife is also a full-time student, I generally do my best to live up to that accusation. 😀 As a man of limited means, I try to get the most value out of any money that I spend.

This doesn’t mean that I always buy the cheapest that I can find. In fact, it often means that I will pay more in order to get better quality. This works out when the higher quality item doesn’t break and I don’t have to go purchase a replacement. It all depends on how I will be using the item: a one-time user can be cheap and disposable, but something I want to last generally needs to be better quality. So before making a purchase, I have to determine what I want the results to be.

This theory also works for other expenditures. I go white water rafting every year. There are two different rivers equally distant from my home. I have never been to one of the rivers, and have been going to the other for over a decade now. This is a simple decision for me to make each year. While I would love to visit the “new” river, which has a 4/5 rating, it will cost as much just to hire a raft as it does to spend an entire weekend at the “old” river, which has a 3/4 rating.

For less money, I can drive down to the old river, stay in a campground for two nights (or backpack and camp in the state forest for free), hike up into the mountains and go rock climbing/rappelling (free, since I have my own gear), explore a local cave, go white-water rafting, and then return home. All this for the cost of rafting the new river, and that doesn’t include food, transportation or any lodging.

All in all, I feel that I get much more value out of my money for the weekend trip, as I get to take part in a number of favorite activities and spend a longer amount of time doing it. I know what is more important to me in this case, and how to best reach my desired outcome.

Do you put much thought into your purchases? Do you only look at the price-tag or do you consider other, more important factors? Next time, whether it is something as small as paying an extra $1 for a preferred chocolate bar or going on a slightly less exciting trip that lasts much longer, picture your desired outcome as you decide what to purchase.

Tent-side Views – Photo

Did you like the campsite from Thursday? Today’s photos come from that same trip.

If you were inside the tent and looked out the window, here is what you would see:

Click to see full-sized.


And here is the same view in its full glory:


You might not be able to tell it at first glance. But you are looking at the trail leading away from the site. 😀 Head down the break in the trees and you will quickly be swallowed up by the forest, losing site of the site after about 15 feet. Isn’t it wonderful? We love it and can’t wait to go back!

Spectacular Campsite – Photo

Here is my wife and I’s favorite campsite in the Red River Gorge. It’s not always available, but this is frequently our goal when we head out to go camping. This is also the spot we normally picture when we think of camping. It is located out along a ridge, not far from the main trail. When the leaves are on the trees, it is invisible from the trail and can only be seen from the neighboring cliffs across the valley. As you can see, when the leaves are in full fall glory, it is an amazing place to camp!

Not only does this site hold our little dome tent perfectly, but there are some perfectly-spaced trees to hang our hammocks! We first tried a hammock in addition to our tent, and then returned with just our hammocks. With our bugnets in place and a slight breeze to rock us, we had a wonderful night’s sleep here!

Click to see full-sized.


10 Ways to Get More Adventure in Your Life

Here are 10 simple ways to put more adventure in your life.

  1. Do something new
    Big range available here… do something that is new to you. This could be trying a new activity, meeting new people, or going somewhere you have never been before.
  2. Do something old in a new place
    Any every-day action can be made new exciting when you do it in a new setting. Your lunch will be much better if you eat sitting in a park instead of at your desk. Your supper tonight will be more exciting if you have a picnic instead of a “normal meal”.
  3. Pursue an interest
    Pick out something that you have always wanted to try, and start today! What are you waiting for?
  4. Go somewhere familiar and look at it in a new way
    There are many places that you visit on a regular basis and because of this familiarity you don’t really look at them. Go somewhere familiar and explore it as if it was new!
  5. Travel in a new way
    Either take a new route or try a new mode of transportation. You might be surprised how much you overlook out of familiarity on a habitual route.
  6. Try a new version of something familiar
    Do you purchase the same things every time you go to the store? Take the few extra moments next time and try a different version or brand of a product you use!
  7. Try a new food
    New food is one of the easiest things that you can introduce some variety into your life. If you don’t like it, you don’t have a large investment, and you can easily avoid it next time. You never know where you will find a new favorite!
  8. Take a break
    Sometimes the best thing you can do is give yourself a chance to recharge. On the way home from work, stop and sit in a park for a few minutes. Sit in the yard and read a book for an hour. Enjoy a hot bath.
  9. Turn off the TV
    Take control of your time and go have an adventure of your own, instead of watching someone else’s adventure.
  10. Plan your next adventure
    Want something bigger than the other 9? Sit down and plan your dream adventure!

Which of these are you going to try today?

Natural Bridge Patterns – Photo

There are many different things to see when one approaches the Natural Bridge. One can easily be over-whelmed by the sheer size and magnificence of the bridge itself, or be captivated by the views out across the valleys (especially when the fall leaves are in their full explosions of color). If you take the time to look even closer, though, you can see that there are even more, less-obvious beauties ready for viewing.

This pattern is a part of the bridge itself. Located on the base of the bridge (it’s foot?) this pattern in the stone caught my attention when I first approached. The multitude of colors surprised me, and the pattern was interesting to try and follow. Even though many people walked by, only my wife and I stopped to look at the less “spectacular” of the views.

Click to see full-sized.


How Do You Define a Place?

What makes somewhere worth visiting? After leaving, why do you gush about one place and forget another? I’m sure that everyone will answer these questions differently. However, there is an easy way to determine your personal definition of a place. Think about your favorite trip (or the one you dream about.) What first comes to mind? Is it the people, food, the landscape, music or something else? Whatever it is, that is how you define that place (it may be different for different places).


The first few weeks my wife and I spent here in Ireland, we visited the largest cities. Dublin and Cork are fabulous places, full of amazing buildings and historic places. However, we came away less than thrilled. Neither of us are city people, we much prefer the wild places. When we pictured Ireland we both saw a rolling green countryside criss-crossed with stone walls, the fields dotted with sheep all watched over by thatched-roof buildings. The cities, of course, offered none of these things.


Finally, we headed to Galway and spent all of one night there before heading out to The Burren (Irish for Rocky Place). This was the country that we had been picturing; we saw our rolling hills, endless stone walls and sheep. We also visited the Cliffs of Moher. (I got to wave “back home” across the ocean.) The weekend was far too short, and the bus did not stay at any of the stops nearly long enough. We will definitely be returning.


When you go somewhere, be sure and seek out what really interests you. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the trap of seeing what everyone else recommends! You might have different tastes than they do. Many of our fellow students are most interested in seeking out new pubs with traditional music. While we enjoy the music, we have no interest in visiting the pubs. So we seek out our own adventure.


Our own adventure includes not only the amazing landscapes, but also local foods. We are visiting local eateries in search of traditional foods (and yes, this did include a stop at a pub for a pint… gotta try it out, after all!) Our collection of recipes is growing, so that we can prepare our favorites when we return home. You can see a soup recipe here.

As you can see your definition of a place might not be a single thing, but a combination. My wife and I view Ireland as the places, the food and the people. In the places where we don’t experience all of these things to our satisfaction, we will leave disappointed and they will slip from our minds. Once you know how you define a place, you will know what you need to search out in places you visit, to ensure that you have a fulfilling and warmly remembered experience.

Natural Bridge Views – Photo

The Red River Gorge in Daniel Boone National Forest is full of amazing features and views. My wife and I have spent more than one weekend exploring around the Natural Bridge there. Here are a couple of views from the top of the bridge.

Click to see full-sized.