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Camp Stoves in a Disaster

Cam stove for cooking in an emergency

Cooking in an emergency

I’ve spent much of this past week working with our community on preparing for upcoming power outages. The short checklist from last week’s Advisory just wasn’t enough on cooking without power, so here’s additional info!

I’ve written before about using camp stoves in a disaster, but I’ve focused on the kinds I’ve used personally. Since I’m not a frequent back-packer, I don’t own an alcohol stove. And since I only occasionally cook outside (though I love being invited by a backyard chef!), I have limited experience with grills, too. But I have friends who do all these things, so their stories are incorporated here!.

Time to take another look at using camp stoves in a disaster!

Alcohol stoves for cooking in an emergency

An alcohol stove is perhaps the simplest way to heat water in an emergency! Here’s a basic alcohol stove that I really like. See how compact and handy it is?!! Makes you want to hold it in your hand, doesn’t it? Read below for more details about alcohol stoves, then click to head to Amazon for current prices. (This one seems to be on sale right now.)

REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove for Backpacking, Lightweight Brass Spirit Burner with Aluminium Stand for Camping Hiking, Silver

Basics of all alcohol stoves:

  • Round metal fuel container weighing only a few ounces, often just 1 ounce. (Imagine a cut-off soft-drink can.) Different versions have double walls, a top with a chimney, holes punched in the sides to create a ring of flames like a gas stove. The more “designed” the heavier it’s likely to be. I chose this one because it’s just about the simplest version available.
  • Fuel to put into the container. Denatured alcohol (toxic to drink!), methanol (also toxic – sold as anti-freeze), ethanol. Fuels are readily found at sporting goods stores, Walmart, auto supply stores.
  • Way to light the fuel.
  • Stand to hold cup or pot above the flame. Again, my example has a companion stand that comes as part of the package.

Alcohol stoves are simple. Because they are so small and lightweight, you have to be careful not to tip them over, and you have to watch out for spilled fuel. You may need to shelter your stove from the wind. And you have to have the right size cup or pot to fit over the stove.

The key: even the simplest alcohol stoves can boil water in 5-6 minutes, enough to make hot drinks or soup for 1-2 people.

I really like the idea of something compact, light, and simple to operate in an emergency. You can actually build your own out of soda cans! (Great 3-minute video: https://youtu.be/wdGu_0eJr3k You’ll see an ad before the video starts, of course.) Or, you can buy a stove. Many are less than $20!

The stove shown above costs around $20. For about $10 more you can get the Vargo Triad, shown below. It’s made of titanium, with folding arms and legs that double as pot supports and anchors. This stove burns more than one kind of fuel. It also gets the best ratings on a variety of review sites.

Vargo Triad Multi-Fuel Stove

Either of these two small stoves would make a great gift for a scout, a camper, or someone putting together a (better!) survival kit for the car!

Wood-burning stoves for cooking in an emergency

If you’ll be outdoors in at least a semi-wilderness setting, with fuel sources available, having a wood-burning camping stove makes lots of sense. No storing of fuels, no worrying about leaks.

Like the alcohol stoves, wood-burning camp stoves are very simple. Imagine a coffee can with some holes punched in it to let grasses or sticks and air in, and smoke out.

Like the alcohol stoves, these stoves also have ONE burner. You will be using ONE pot. Experts seem to be able to boil, fry and even bake – all on one burner. If you have a larger group, you may need more than one stove or take another look at the classic Coleman two- or three-burner box later on in this article.

I picked the wood-burning stove below because it got very high reviews from users. It’s meant to burn twigs, leaves, grass, etc., but can also burn alcohol. Easily add fuel, and air holes around the bottom keep the fire burning hot. I’d get some special camping ware to go with this stove to be sure everything fits and balances securely.

TOMSHOO Camping Stove Camp Wood Stove Portable Foldable Stainless Steel Burning Backpacking Stove for Outdoor Hiking Picnic BBQ-Upgraded Version

Cooking with classic camp stoves in a disaster

I pulled out our camp stoves. We have two of them, collected over the years. The pictures with dark backgrounds aren’t links – they are from my own camera!

Three burner camp stove

This shows our trusty Coleman stove. It’s a three-burner which makes it really convenient. You can see how my own everyday small pot fits on the stove; with those three burners, we can use a large frying pan or even a griddle. Sometimes adjusting the flame takes some careful effort.

Here’s a link to the current Coleman 2-burner. (Maybe 3 burners are out of style?) It comes in other colors, too, but I wanted to show you a classic Coleman.

Coleman Gas Camping Stove | Triton+ Propane Stove, 2 Burner

Our second stove is a one-burner model that we purchased across the street at an Asian market. It is smaller than the three-burner (Note the pot and the water bottle that appear in each photo for comparison.) and it weighs half as much, making it easier to pack and carry.

One burner camp stove

With either stove, we can accomplish the essentials: boil water for coffee, cook ramen noodles with dried vegetables (from the same Asian market), and have enough water left over for some washing up.

Here’s the current version of that same stove from Amazon (at today’s prices!) It comes with a carrying case.

Gas ONE GS-3000 Portable Gas Stove with Carrying Case, 9,000 BTU, CSA Approved, Black (Stove + 4 Fuel)

Backyard BBQ for survival cooking

If you already have a backyard BBQ, whether fueled with charcoal or gas, you are probably already prepared for some cooking in an emergency when the power is out! Most of the gas powered grills use propane or butane. Some are connected to your natural gas supply.

These grills can be just the size for a steak or two, or big enough to feed a crowd. They can be on a rolling frame that holds the fuel tank and a couple of side table, or built right into a larger backyard entertainment center.

Just a couple of weeks ago I picked out a charcoal burning BBQ that I thought would be a great gift for Mothers’ Day! Remember that one?

Having any of these stoves will give you more flexibility for summer entertainment, for camping, and, of course, in an emergency. All of them require some experimenting and practice before they will work exactly as you expected.

Hope you can find the right one to supplement YOUR emergency cooking needs!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Write and let us know what experiences you’ve had with camp stoves. Every bit of knowledge helps!