If you have ever read a survival blog or read about emergency heating, you have probably come across the term “rocket stove.” The term is a little confusing. It implies there is somehow a rocket involved. There isn’t. In fact, a rocket stove is a very simplistic item that is extremely useful in a survival situation.
The stoves can be used to cook your food, purify water and even heat the inside of your small shelter.
It is important you understand that the term rocket stove is pretty flexible. It can be used to describe a soup can turned into a stove or a big outdoor pit lined with bricks. A rocket stove is basically fuel burned in a combustible chamber with a chimney. The small chimney ensures all of the heat produced from the fuel goes up and towards the cooking surface.
It maximizes the fuel by trapping all of the heat in the space. If you were to have an open campfire, the heat would escape from all around and anything you had over the fire would take longer to cook because heat escapes and isn’t concentrated.
Now that you understand what a rocket stove is, you can see why survivalists find them to be very useful. The fact that you can use just about anything found in the wild to make a rocket stove makes them an even more important commodity in a survival situation.
One of the major benefits to a rocket stove is the fact it takes very little fuel to cook a meal or boil water. With the heat concentrated to one spot, you don’t have to worry about a lack of dry wood or twigs.
How to Build a Rocket Stove Out of a Can
For the purpose of this article, we are going to talk about how to build a rocket stove out of a large can and two standard soup cans. The #10 cans that freeze-dried foods are sold in is perfect. If you have any of the large empty cans of chili, beans or tomato sauce, those will work as well.
- Remove the label from the cans. You want to see nothing but the tin or shiny metal.
- Use a sharpie if you have one to trace the outline of the bottom of one of the smaller cans against the bottom outside edge of the large can. If you were looking at a #10 can, you should be able to see the circle you have just drawn.
- Use your knife or wire snips to cut out the circle as best you can.
- Cut off the bottom of one of the smaller cans. It should look like a pipe when you are done.
- Grab your second soup can. This one is going to go inside your larger can. You need to cut a circle in the side of the can just like you did with the #10 can. Use a marker to trace the outline and get to cutting.
- With the small can you have removed both ends from, you want to flay one end. Cut 8 to 10 lines in the bottom of the can. Each cut should be about a half inch. You want to be able to fold up the flaps—in the next step. Don’t fold them yet.
- Insert the end of the can with the flaps into the large can. It will be on its side. Then push the end into the hole of the can in the center of your large can. Now you want to push the tabs out to make a nice seal inside that center can. It will also give it some support. Create a small shelf inside that can that is on its side. You can use another tin can that you cut or wedge the piece you cut from the side of the large can. The shelf should divide the “pipe” in half.
- Use the top of the large can lid to create a lid, so to speak. You will need to use the can in the center to trace the opening. You are going to cut out the center of the large can lid so that when it sits on the top of the rocket stove, the space between the small and large can is covered, but the small can in the center is open at the top.
- Fill the space between the two cans with some kind of insulation. If you happen to have actual insulation, that will work great. If not, use small pebbles or gravel. You want stuff that isn’t going to catch fire. Your cans are going to get hot.
- Place the lid on the can. You will see that it is slightly below the surface of your large can—that is intentional. Cut tabs along the outer edge of your large can. The tabs should be about an inch to an inch an a half long. Ideally 4 to 5 tabs is plenty. These tabs are going to be your burner or shelf where you would set your canteen or pan to cook. With the large can set on a flat surface, it can hold a significant amount of weight. A pot of stew or water will not collapse the can.
To use your rocket stove, add some twigs and branches to the top shelf of the can on its side. Add some tinder and light it on fire. A few twigs is all you need to heat up the can and create a nice burner for you to cook on. You will need to feed the stove if you are cooking and not just warming up a meal. Small twigs and branches will burn best, but you can pretty much burn anything.
Be careful not to touch your rocket stove. It will be extremely hot. You can create a handle for your stove by running some fishing line or wire through small holes at the top of the large can.