OWNER REVIEW - Cat Stove (DIY Gear)
- Here is my second OR. Thank you again for this opportunity!
Redmond High School
Owner Review DIY Gear - Cat Stove
By Cory O'Neill
May 1, 2006
Name: Cory O'Neill
Height: 6 ft 1.5 in (1.87 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93.0 kg)
Email address: cory.oneill@...
City, State, Country: Redmond, Oregon, USA
In high school I was an adventure leader in the Sierras. I also spent time each summer traveling large sections of the PCT in Oregon and California. In college, I spent several weeks each year on the trail with my wife. The birth of my son in 2001 challenged me to lighten up, dramatically. Since then, our family has logged three to four trips per summer, varying in length from 2 to 8 nights, in the wildernesses of Washington, Oregon and California. As my kids grow, I continue to search for the lightest possible family backpacking gear and techniques.
Manufacturer: Homemade using instructions provided from Sargent Rock (http://hikinghq.net/cat/cat_stove_pf.html)
Year of manufacture: 2003
Measured weight: Stove alone: 1.3 oz., with windscreen, pot support and base: 2.6 oz. (37 g, 74 g)
Product description: Ultralight compact denatured alcohol backpacking stove
Cost: $4.79 (Wal-mart and my garage) plus $4.99 for 1 quart of denatured alcohol
Tools Needed: Can opener, hungry cat (optional), utility knife, church key (beer bottle opener with pointed end for puncturing top of cans), scissors, hole punch, and wire cutters
Construction Time: 1 hours
Stove burner, stand, base and windscreen Stove assembled
Close-up of stove burner
Similar Products Used
MSR Whisperlite International, Coleman Featherlite 400
The Cat Stove is constructed from two aluminum cat food cans and a wad of fiberglass insulation. Cat food cans use a slightly thicker aluminum than pop cans, but are still thin enough to puncture with regular household tools. The pot stand is built from ¼ inch construction fabric. The windscreen and base are constructed from aluminum oven liners. The Cat Stove is one of many variations of the homemade denatured alcohol stove.
The stove burner has a diameter of 3.5 inches (9 cm) and is 1.5 inches (4 cm) deep. The pot stand measures 5.5 inches (14 cm) across (diagonal) and 3 inches (7.5 cm) high, providing 1.5 inches (4 cm) of clearance between the top of the burner and the base of the pot. The windscreen has a diameter of 6.25 inches (16 cm) and stands 3.5 inches (9 cm) high. The base of the windscreen, 5.5 inches (14 cm) in diameter, is cut to slightly less than the inside diameter of the cooking pot.
The instructions provided by Sargent Rock (see link above) were more than adequate to construct the stove. Clear descriptions of every step were provided, as well as pictures. Cost estimates for the supplies were somewhat low.
I had no problem locating any of the construction materials at my local Wal-mart except for the construction fabric and insulation. I picked up some insulation from a scrap construction pile while on a jog, and found some fabric in my garage. Purchasing a roll of fabric from a hardware store would cost about $6.
My construction site was the bench in my garage. It took less than an hour to build the stove, using a church key, paper hole punch, scissors, pen and utility knife. I followed the instructions exactly, with these exceptions: I did not construct the simmer ring and top (I don't ever simmer...just boil), and I decided to fold the lip of the windscreen back on itself to lock it into place instead of using a paper clip.
I constructed my cat stove with my intended cooking pot in mind. My current pot has an inside diameter of 5.75 inches (14.5 cm) and a height of 4 inches (10 cm). As such, I cut the diameter of the windscreen base to a diameter 1/4 inch (.5 cm) less than the inner diameter of my pot. I also cut the height of the windscreen to 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) less than the inside height of my pot. This allows me to place the windscreen unfolded inside of the pot, like a liner, yet provides a 1/2 inch overlap above the base of the pot when the pot is sitting on the pot stand. Also, the windscreen diameter allows a necessary gap of approximately 1/4 inch (.5 cm) between the windscreen and pot side when the stove is fully assembled.
I have had the opportunity to use the Cat Stove on many one to seven day trips over the last three summers. I have used the stove at altitudes ranging from about 3,500 feet to over 8,000 feet. I have used the stove to boil water with starting temperatures ranging from freezing (snow) to swim-able. Pot sizes have ranged from 1 to 4 quarts (0.95 to 3.79 liters). The weather has varied from windy and snowing to hot and dry.
Packing: When packing the stove, I place the base of the windscreen in the pot, then slide the windscreen into the pot so that it expands all the way to the side of the pot. I then drop in the pot stand, and then squeeze our eating bowls (2-cup tupperware freezer containers) inside of the stand. I then place the stove burner inside of the freezer containers. This leaves me enough room to place matches and a pot scrubber (inside of a zip-lock bag) on top of the burner before securing the top of the pot over the stove. I then place the packed pot/stove inside of my backpack.
Setup: Setting the stove up is not much different than setting up the standard backpacking stove, with the exception that additional thought needs to be given to finding a location that is wind-free. After locating a protected spot (behind a rock, tree, or even tent), the windscreen base is placed on the ground. The stove and pot support are then placed on this base, and the windscreen is then wrapped around the pot support.
Ignition: Two capfuls of a "typical" plastic Coke bottle cap are enough to provide 10 to 12 minutes of burn time. After pouring the capfuls of denatured alcohol directly in the middle of the stove, I use match or butane cigarette lighter to ignite the stove. Some practice without the windscreen and pot support in place was necessary before I was able to ignite the stove without singeing the hair on the back of my fingers. After ignition, the pot is placed on the stand, and cooking begins.
Using more than a few capfuls of fuel at a time results in too hot of a stove, which causes the fuel trapped in the fiberglass wick to vaporize. When this happens, I hear a "thup, thup" sound. Burn time is significantly reduced. As such, I have found that if longer cook times are required, I have to wait for the stove to cool (perhaps 1 minute), then pour additional capfuls of fuel into the stove and relight the stove. Two of these "burns" are usually enough to achieve boil for 3 to 4 cups (.75 to 1 L) of water during July or August.
Cooking/Heating: My typical routine for backcountry cuisine includes placing a pot of water on the stove, boiling the water, pouring in a dehydrated meal, and letting the pot sit for 20 minutes to rehydrate the meal. Sometimes, an additional "burn", or re-ignition and re-boiling of the meal, is necessary to achieve a fully rehydrated meal. While the pot is boiling or sitting, I will often do other camp activities, and occasionally check the meal's progress. I have found that the Cat Stove is ideal for this style of cooking. The stove generates more than enough heat to effectively bring even larger quantities of cold mountain water (or even snow!) to a rolling boil, and additional cooking can be achieved and controlled by limiting the amount of fuel added to the stove. My average fuel consumption is about 1.5 ounces (0.04 liters), or 3 capfuls, per day per person from July to October.
Snow Melting: In early June of 2005, my son and I climbed to approximately 8,100 feet on South Sister (Oregon) for an overnight. Temperatures ranged from 21 degrees Fahrenheit at night to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (about -6 and 7.2 degrees Celsius) in the sun. We had a mix of snow, hail and sunshine throughout both days. Although we were able to set up camp in a small dry swale, we found no running water, and were forced to melt snow for drinking and cooking. I had considered this before leaving, and had packed a 12 fluid ounce (0.35 liter) Gatorade bottle with fuel for the trip. Melting the snow was a longer process, partly exacerbated by my small (2 quart) pot. Nonetheless, we were able to provide about 7 quarts of water (6.6 liters) over the two days, and used only 8.5 ounces (0.25 liters) of fuel.
Conclusions: I am extremely satisfied with the Cat Stove. It has completely replaced my MSR on all non-winter trips. It fires up confidently every time, is compact and lightweight, and weighs almost a pound (0.45 kg) less--including stove and fuel container--than my MSR with the pump and aluminum fuel bottle. It fits nicely inside of my cooking pot, and is very easy to assemble. Although the stove heats water slower than my MSR and seems to use a bit more fuel, I have found these faults negligible, and will continue to use the Cat Stove for all of my three-season adventures.
Easy and cheap to build
Boils more slowly than white gas stoves
Melts snow very slowly
Doesn't look as cool or expensive as the "other" stoves
Denatured alcohol is more expensive than white gas
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