Field testing my homemade tin can stove: hot chocolate, anyone?

What better way to field test my homemade tin can stove than to make hot chocolate in the woods of Algonquin Park while on a 4-day snowshoe backcountry camping trip? This would be my first time trying out the stove, so I had no idea how it would actually work in practice!

Two related links:

Making Hot Chocolate

For this little experiment, I used the cardboard/wax filled tuna can fuel source, and my peach can pot holder, plus my campfire cooking pot, 1 litre of water, a pot lifter, and my brand new first ever flint, which my co-worker thoughtfully chose for me (along with Moon Cheese!) in a secret gift swap.

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I decided to set up the stove on hard packed snow. I struggled to get the flint to light the cardboard, but when I tucked a tiny piece of newspaper between the cardboard layers, it lit no problem. I put the peach can on top of it, the pot with water on top of that, put a lid on the pot, and opened the doors at the bottom to allow for good air flow. As you can see from the picture just below, the pot was a bit lopsided, and I was worried that it would tip over.

So, my friend Cheryl and I built a small wooden base, and then she carefully moved the burning tin can onto the wood (while I took photos!). I put the peach can on top, the pot on top of that, lid on, and then my “tea pot cosy” to speed cooking (apparently the technical term is a “pot parka” – incidentally, if you know where to buy a 10″ one, please let me know!).

And then we waited. And waited. And every once in a while, I went close to the stove to make sure that it was still burning – and every time, it was. Every so often, I removed the pot cosy and the lid, and carefully dunked my finger into the pot (kids, don’t try this at home!).

It seemed unlikely that the water would ever boil. I can’t remember now if I ever put the doors down – but I don’t think I did. The water did warm up, but it never did boil. I’m not sure why.

So we made our “hot chocolate”, which was actually “warm chocolate”, and I enjoyed every last drop, knowing that I had made it on my homemade stove!

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After I had removed the pot, I left the tuna can fuel source to burn. I wanted to know how long it would last. In the end, it burned for a remarkable 3 hours! So while it was a bit of a failure in making hot chocolate, it would have served its purpose had I needed it to light a fire to stay warm!

Converting My Stove into a Stick Stove

I wasn’t done experimenting with my little stove! I decided to turn it into a stick stove, and to try to melt a pot of snow. It wasn’t designed for this purpose, but I didn’t care. I used 2 logs as a base, and started a very small fire in the can. I wasn’t having much luck keeping the fire burning – some of the wood was wet, so that didn’t help. It was also somewhat windy. I had to continually feed the sticks in, and push the fire into the can (the fire was burning both inside and outside of the can.

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Remember that wood base? Well wood burns, right? Eventually, the two base logs started burning, and my fire dropped onto the snow beneath the big logs. By this point, the fire was burning down below, and inside the can.

Twice I had to move the stove along the wooden base, so it didn’t shift too much and tip – the burning base was tipping the stove!

The snow melted, but by this point, I was growing bored of my stove, fighting with wet wood, wind, and my own patience. I decided to give up. However, I had successfully melted the pot of snow, and the water was even starting to warm up slightly.  I’ll call that a win!

I had fun field testing my homemade tin can stove. I was at Algonquin – how could I not?!

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3 Responses to Field testing my homemade tin can stove: hot chocolate, anyone?

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