Hobo Stove

A Reliable Backwoods Cooking Source

The hobo stove has been used for eons by the homeless, hobos, tramps and backpackers. The height of its use was during the Great Depression, likely because it was easy to make from discarded cans and would burn nearly any solid material.

This twig stove can be made in 15 minutes from an empty coffee can. In addition to making a nice stove of its own, it makes a nice little windscreen for your alcohol stove. You can pack your fire starter, cooking pot, pot stand and alcohol stove nicely into your empty stove with room to spare.

Following are instructions to make a super-simple hobo stove and cooking pot.

Gather your supplies:

  • 1 lb (actually closer to 11 oz. now) empty metal coffee can
  • 15 oz. empty metal vegetable can
  • Wire coat hanger
  • Drill with 2 bits, one large, one the size of the coat hanger
  • Dremel or grinder with cutting blade
  • Permanent marker

Make a Cooking Pot

On the vegetable can, drill two holes using the smaller drill bit. Both will be at the very top edge (beside each other) about 1 ½ inches apart. Bend a length of coat hanger into a “U” shape with the ends sharply bent at a 90 degree angle. Insert this as a handle with the ends pointed upward into the holes drilled into the vegetable can. You now have a (nearly) 2 cup cooking pot with a handle that will stay cool.

Make the Stove

With the empty coffee can sitting upright, drill 2 holes about 1 ½ inches apart, on either side of the upper, inside rim of the coffee can (4 holes total)—the area where the peel-off inner foil lid was attached. Use a drill bit the size of your wire coat hanger.

Cut 2 lengths of coat hanger long enough to span the width of the coffee can where you just drilled the holes plus a ½” tab on each end that will be bent at a 90 degree angle. The ½” tabs will sit down inside the holes that you drilled, forming a pot holder on the top of the coffee can. Do not secure them in any way. You want these to slip out easily for storage.

Drill holes with the larger drill bit (about 3/8” but does not have to be exact) around the top and bottom rims of the empty coffee can—6 or 8 holes will do.

With a permanent marker, draw a door on the side of the coffee can. The door will be just below the holes in the upper rim and about an inch above the holes in the lower rim and approximately 4 inches wide. Cut on your line with the Dremel or grinder on three sides—upper, lower and one side. Carefully score, without cutting through on the fourth side. Use the scored area to carefully bend your door open.

Set your newly constructed stove upright. Fill from the top with pencil-sized twigs, dry pine needles and fire starter. Replace your coat hanger pot rests on top and light. A windy location will enhance the burning ability. This is an updraft convection type cooking appliance. You can use the door either open or closed, like a damper. Place it where it best burns. Open makes it easy to add fuel as needed, closed will burn hotter but will go through more fuel.

Place your cook pot on top and dinner will be ready in short order.

When dinner is finished and the hobo stove is cool, remove your pot rest and pot handle and place inside your cooking pot. Place your cooking pot inside your hobo stove and close the door. Put the plastic top back on the coffee pot (the plastic top makes a good spoon rest while cooking) and you have a compact hobo stove weighing about 6.5 ounces.

Your hobo stove can be used exclusively as a twig stove if you like. I like to add my 0.3 ounce alcohol stove inside my cooking pot too. This way I have two reliable cooking sources in a very light package. The hobo stove makes a good windscreen and pot holder to use with your alcohol stove. The twig stove is very useful for burning whatever you find lying around camp. However, the alcohol stove cooks hotter, faster and with less tending.

A Note of Caution--Never use this stove for cooking inside your tent. And obviously, the stove will be HOT after use. Be sure to let cool before touching it. Edges can be sharp after cutting as well. You assume all risks associated with the construction and use of your own stove.

This simple, back-to-basics hobo stove using items that you would otherwise toss in the trash is a responsible, lightweight, and free backwoods cooking solution.

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