Build your own rocket stove

Leo Barnes hiking

Leo Barnes on a hike with his daughter.

Cool Californian Leo Barnes knows how to turn up the heat if his homemade rocket stove is anything to go by. Here, he shares his recipe for a DIY rocket stove for camping and outdoor adventures.


We’ve put some great wood-burning stoves through their paces and can recommend the best, but there’s a low-tech, cheap alternative too. Using just tin cans and some soil or perlite, you can make your own rocket stove.

“This was a first try ‘proof of concept’ and I was just curious to see what it could do. The stove runs on minimal fuel and burns very hot, so there’s little to no smoke. The burn is so complete that very little ash is left over as well, making for less mess to clean up. The stove does take a little time to warm up and get to optimum temperature.

I’m working on a couple of ideas to close off the top and make a pot stand. It was so easy to make. I’m sure I’ll make more. I’m very impressed with the result and I already have ideas on how to tweak my build next time.’

Leo tells us how to build a rocket stove

  • homemade rocket stoveBefore you start, remember that cutting tin can be dangerous. ear stout gloves and take care. This isn’t just boring health and safety advice….you should see my sliced finger!
  • You need four tins in all. One large catering-size tin and three smaller ones. The large can and one of the small ones should be open at one end only. The other two small tins should be open at both ends.
  • Cut a hole in the side of the big tin about 3cm up from the bottom. The hole should be the same diameter as the small tins.
  • For the inner section where the fire will be, you need to make an ‘elbow’ – that’s the essence of any rocket stove. It means fitting two cans together to create a 90-degree angle.
  • Take the can with the intact bottom and cut a hole (the diameter of a small tin) close to the base.
  • Hold it in the centre of the large tin and then push one of the remaining tins through the hole in the outer tin and into the small one.
  • You use the third tin to extend the height of the elbow to the height of the outer can.
  • So, you’ve fitted the small tins together to make an L shape inside the larger can and this shape sits in the centre of the larger tin with about 3cm of space underneath.
  • Now fill the space between the inner and outer tins with something that will act as an insulator. Leo has heavy clay soil in his garden, so he used that. Perlite would make the stove lighter for carrying around.
  • The last piece to make is the shelf that holds up the fuel. Leo made this from the top of the large tin, slotting it inside the horizontal tin. Air can pass underneath to feed the fire and the shelf can move in and out, extending only far enough to hold up the non-burning part of the wood fuel.
  • The burning ends of the fuel are suspended inside the combustion area to allow maximum airflow.

If you’re really not up for making your own, have a look at our top picks for gas stoves, for wood-burning stoves and for electric cooking.


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