The best meals are cooked on a fire. Period. End of story.

However, camping stoves are here to stay. I don’t use them because I believe that somehow they are more ethical than burning wood; you are just depleting resources from somewhere else instead (and most camp fuels are nonrenewable to boot). I use them because much of the BWCA is so scoured clean of dead, fallen wood that you would swear you were in a city park if not for the fact that you had to paddle a canoe to get there.

I still try to cook over a fire whenever possible, but if there is no good firewood to be found within a reasonable distance or there is a fire ban, I turn to the ol’ Jetboil. It is a great stove; everything packs up neatly in the pot, and its high efficiency nature means that you use less fuel.

However, isobutane canisters are a double edged sword. They are great in terms of being spill-proof and low maintenance (no pumping required), but they cannot be refilled (which is a pain when you are starting a trip and you have a bunch of almost empty canisters to use up) and more importantly, they are really expensive. Jetboil brand canisters can be 5 or 6 bucks for 100 grams of fuel. For longer trips I have been buying the larger Snow Peak and MSR canisters which give you 2 to 3 times the fuel for the same price (you just cannot fit them in the pot), but they are still expensive and bulky.

So I had an idea that you could rig the Jetboil pot to work in conjunction with an alcohol stove. I don’t have much experience with alcohol stoves (although I do have plenty of experience with alcohol), but I knocked up one fairly easily:

Alcohol stove running at full power

I apologize for the blurriness, but to see the flame I had to turn off the camera flash, and that makes it blurry for some reason. Anyway, it is a simple double walled chimney -type stove with a metal ring riveted to a binder clip for adjusting the heat output. The holes at the bottom suck air into the main chamber where it creates a hot flame. If you slide the ring over the intake holes it will reduce the air flow into the stove and make a smaller flame for simmering.

An unopened soda top makes a good snuffer for putting out the flame

I am not going to even try to explain how the stove is put together as I still have some bugs to work out. If you are interested in building a stove, check out the Zen Stoves website; it has everything you could want to know about alcohol stove design. This was just a testbed stove so the fuel chamber is too small to be truly functional, and the ring is hard to adjust when the stove is hot (aluminum expands when heated, who would have thought it?). I recommend you get your stove plans from someone who knows more than me.

The Jetboil pot stand / windbreak

The pot stand for the Jetboil is pretty simple to make. It is just a piece of aluminum flashing that is riveted to make a ring, and punched with air intake holes at the bottom. What is nice about the Jetboil pot is that it is already built to sit on the ring that is built into the stove, so you just need to make the ring the same diameter as the original stove head:

The pot sits firmly on the ring. You can see the stove buring inside.

I would give you measurements, but the easiest way to build it is to wrap the flashing around the seat on the bottom of the pot, mark it and go from there. I used a cheap manual rivet tool (about $10 at Home Depot), but you could use bolts too. I am not sure if JB Weld would be a good idea; if it failed you could have boiling water everywhere. If I build another stand I would probably use a heavier gauge aluminum, or double up the flashing. It is pretty stable, but aluminum can get weird at higher temperatures.

What is also great is that the ring will fit perfectly inside the Jetboil for storage along with the stove and fuel bottle, and still have room to spare. Just try not to spill any alcohol inside the Jetboil; it will probably all evaporate if you do, but wood or denatured alcohol can blind or kill you, and if you spill moonshine that is alcohol abuse (what a waste of good whiskey).

When testing the rig out, I made some macaroni and MRE cheese (you can never go wrong with mac and cheese). Here is the recipe:

  • 2 cups Water (just fill it to the line)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • about 1 cup of the Pasta of your choice
  • 1 Packet MRE Cheese Spread

Basically you make it the same way as Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Bring the water and salt to a boil, add the pasta, reduce the heat, cook for 8-10 minutes (stirring occasionally), drain (easy with the Jetboil), mix in the cheese, and serve. Add a wiener or a broiled and diced slice of SPAM (and maybe some ketchup as a garnish), or serve it beside a fresh caught trout or perch, and you are ready to do battle.

I don’t eat to many MREs (nothing against them, I am just cheap), but I do love MRE Squeeze Cheese and MRE Peanut Butter. Light, packed with energy, tasty, and I hear they make pretty good trap bait in a pinch. Squirrels love their peanut butter.

It's not pretty, but it will do...

Peace out.