This post can almost be considered a continuation of the Beer Can Alcohol Stove post from November 28th. The video on that post showed a great way to make a dirt cheap micro-size camp stove that burns ordinary household rubbing alcohol. These little stoves are a great idea to pack in your bug-out bag. You can quickly cook a meal or sterilize water without building a time-consuming campfire that will give away your position with smoke and light.
What should you carry to cook food and boil water in? One option is the Stanley Steel Cooker sold in the camping department at WalMart for around $15. It can hold 24 ounces of water, has a vented top to release steam, has a foldable handle, and has two nesting style cups that fit inside for storage.
In a test I brought 16 ounces of water to a hard boil in the Stanley Cooker on top of my beer can alcohol stove in only eight minutes. You should expect to heat up a can of soup or stew in a much shorter period of time. I didn’t measure the consumption of the 91% rubbing alcohol fuel, but it was very little. I plan on timing how many minutes of total burn time that you can expect from a full bottle of alcohol and will post the results.
The only downside to the little alcohol stoves is that they leave a black burn stain on the outside of whatever you cook in. In the Boy Scouts we use to rub bath soap on the bottom of our cook sets to keep the bottoms from getting black when we cooked on a camp fire. They would clean up like they were new. I’m sure that it will work with the alcohol fire. I will also test that and post the results.
Addendum: Recently I discovered Denatured Alcohol sold in the same section of your home improvement store where you purchase solvents and thinners (usually near paint). While the labeling shows in bold print that the main use is to clean glass, it also states that it is for us in alcohol stoves. Denatured alcohol is purer than rubbing alcohol and is supposed to burn much cleaner without leaving black marks on the bottom of your pots and pans. It is sold in one quart cans. You can purchase small toiletry bottles to carry the small amount that would be required to heat your meals and boil drinking water for 72 hours in your bug-out bag. Experiment to see how much fuel it takes to bring 16 ounces of water to boil and how long it takes to warm up your meals. Compute how much fuel that you should carry with you. Do yourself a favor and plan on an extra 25% contingency.