Home Travel The Alcohol Stove is Dead

The Alcohol Stove is Dead


I made my first backpacking stove in my college girlfriend’s backyard with a hole punch and a can of Fancy Feast. After emptying the cat food in the trash (she didn’t have a cat, and I was a dirtbag but not like that) and removing the label, I marked two alternating lines of holes on the can and punched them out. We inaugurated the stove that night at a primitive campsite in California’s Crystal Cove State Park, boiling up hot cocoa while we watched the city lights twinkle on one side of the hills and listened to the waves lap at the shore on the other.

Years later, as I prepared to move home, I discovered that stove in the box of my closet. I turned it over for a moment, remembering the miles that I had covered with it in California, New Mexico, and Colorado. I thought about the coffee I had brewed, and the meals I cooked, all under the clear desert skies. Then I threw the card in the recycle bin. I’ve never bothered making another.

Alcohol-burning stoves used to be de rigueur for ultralighters, and making your own—whether out of a Coke or cat food can—was a rite of passage. While it’s not clear when hikers started making their own, lightweight alcohol-fueled stoves have been around for well over 100 years, with Swedish manufacturer…

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