How to Make a Wood Burning Backpacking Stove

How to Make a Wood Burning Backpacking Stove

If you are a frequent hiker or camper, you must find a way of preparing hot meals and beverages. You can do this in various ways, but my favorite is the wood-burning backpacking stove. It is lightweight, efficient, and uses fuel readily available in the wild. It will cost you between $50-$100 to buy and assemble one from a store, but you can make an equally efficient camping stove out of a can and readily available tools at home.

You need to have three tin cans of different sizes, make air holes strategically to allow air to burn the fuel continuously, and a stove stands for adding wood which fuels the fire. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to make a portable wood stove for backpacking on a budget.

Things You’ll Need

  • 28 oz four-inch diameter tin can
  • 14 oz three-inch diameter tin can
  • Pineapple or tuna can
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Drill and bits
  • Tin snips or can opener
  • Marker


  1. Prep the cans
    • For a clean metal look for your stove, scrub off the label and finish on the tin cans. Soak the cans in soapy warm; after a few hours, scrub off the labels with a scotch pad and then rinse them. Removing these labels is also crucial as they might catch fire and spread the flames outside the can.
  2. Mark and cut an opening for the small can to fit into the large can
    • Take the smaller can and trace its rim on the base of the large can with a marker.
    • Drill holes about 0.5 inches apart around the marked circumference. Do not drill holes outside the marked circumference margin since it is better to take out more tin if it is small but you can’t fill it.
    • Take the tin snips, insert them in one of the drilled holes, and cut the space between the holes until the tin’s centerpiece falls off.
  3. Measure and drill evenly spaced air holes around the cans.
    • Measure and mark two rows of holes every 0.5 inches apart in alternating order at the bottom side of the large and small can. Use the drill to make holes in every marked spot.
    • On the smaller can, you will measure and mark one row of holes every 0.5 inches on the side of the top rim.
  4. Make air holes on the base of the small can.
    • Take the small can and drill small holes on the base of the can to form a mesh of air holes. The holes should be enough for air but not too many that they can’t hold twigs and cones for fuel.
  5. Assemble the stove
    • Insert the small into the larger one through the opening at the bottom. You may have to make a few more cuts around the circumference but be careful not to cut too much. We need the smaller tin to fit in snugly without leaving space between the large and small can.
    • The space between the cans creates a swirl of hot gases that move out of the smaller holes into the flame and end up burning the smoke and gases to produce more heat.
  6. Make the stove stand.
    • Make the stove stand from a short tuna or pineapple tin can. Use a can opener to remove the base of the can.
    • Make an opening of about 2 inches by 3 inches on the side of the can for filling up fuel when cooking. Drill four holes in the corners of the opening and use the tin snips to cut all around the sides.
    • Drill holes about 0.5 inches apart around the side of the can next to the big opening to act as more air holes. This smaller can sits on top of the larger can as a stove stand when heating food.
  7. Test the stove and build a fire
    • Place a few dry twigs, leaves, and cones inside the stove and light it up. The air flows from the outside and into the stove through the air holes at the bottom. Oxygen supports the burning. Hot air rises and heats your meal or water.

Pros of a wood-burning camping stove

  • It uses renewable fuel.
  • You do not need to carry fuel; it is readily available in the woods.
  • You won’t pay for fuel.

Cons of a wood-burning camping stove

  • They are not convenient to use in bad weather.
  • It is small, so you have to keep refueling it frequently.
  • It is, at times, a slower cook.

Check this too: Jetboil vs Pocket Rocket – Which One Should I Buy?


Using our guide, you can make a camping stove out of a can in an hour. This wood stove design makes it efficient as it uses less fuel to produce more heat from the burning fuel and the secondary combustion of the already hot gases. The design is compact and lightweight, making it ideal for camping.