Try it Today! Altoids Tin Alcohol Stove

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Altoids alcohol stoveAltoids are curiously strong mints and the tins they come in are curiously useful.  Of course, there are innumerable variations out there for survival kits that fit into an Altoids tin.  Those kits are fun projects, especially if you’re a fan of putting together puzzles.  This Altoids alcohol stove project is a bit simpler than trying to Jenga-fit a bunch of odds and ends into a small kit.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Altoids tin
  • Metal window screen
  • Scissors or tin snips
  • Perlite
  • Denatured alcohol (the higher the grade, the better)

Getting Started

Rinse out the empty Altoids tin and dry it with a towel.  This isn’t absolutely necessary but starting with a clean slate, so to speak, is never a bad idea.

Pull out a handful of perlite from the bag and pick through it, finding the larger chunks and dropping them into the tin.  Fill the tin with perlite all the way to the top.

Altoids tin stove BAdding the Screen

Lay a corner of the screen over the open tin and use a marker to draw an outline that is the same size as the tin.  Use scissors or tin snips to cut this rectangle out.  You’ll note the tin has rounded corners so trim the screen the same shape.

Altoids tin stove C
Next, fit the window screen over the top of the perlite and tuck the sides and corners into the tin.  I’ve found using a butter knife works well for this purpose.  The window screen serves to keep the perlite in place as you carry the tin around.

Note: rather than buying a roll of window screen just for this little project, you can either use an old screen you don’t need anymore or you can buy a window screen repair kit.  That kit will come with a few small “patches” of screen that you can put together for this project.

Altoids tin stove D

Using the Altoids Alcohol Stove

That’s all there is to it!  When you are ready to use the stove, add three tablespoons or so of alcohol to the perlite, then lay a lit match on the screen to light.  This will burn for about ten minutes or so, long enough to bring a quart of water to a boil.

If you carry your little stove in a bug out bag, you can keep the fuel in a well-sealed plastic container. Keep that and the Altoids tin inside a Ziploc bag, in case the container leaks.

Altoids alcohol stove

You can’t place your cooking pot or pan directly on the stove as that will smother the flame.  Instead, place a small brick on each side of the stove and lay your pot on the bricks.

Altoids tin stove F
If you need to lower the heat level a bit, place a square of aluminum foil over part of the screen.  You can also douse the flame completely the same way or by flipping the Altoids tin lid over the flame but it is safer to just let it burn out and cool down before storing.

18 thoughts on “Try it Today! Altoids Tin Alcohol Stove”

  1. No, the perlite isn’t consumed at all with the stove. You only need to add alcohol each time you use the stove.

  2. AnnMarie, perlite is absorbent, which is why gardeners use it as a soil additive. In this case, it sort of soaks up the alcohol a bit, allowing the fuel to turn to a gas a bit slower than it would otherwise. Being that the perlite isn’t flammable itself, it makes for a perfect medium for this project.

  3. Thanks Jim! I have only used perlite in container gardening to avoid soil compaction. I didn’t know it was absorbent too! Awesome explanation, thanks so much – I learned something new and cool.

  4. You don’t need the perlite or wire at all. As a matter of fact omitting it allows for a lighter and aluminum foil windscreen to be stored inside if you like or nothing at all cutting weight. I can boil 1.5C in under 5 minutes using smaller tins than Altoids. Experiment and use what works for you.

  5. Another version of this is to use a tuna can. Poke holes around the perimeter of the can, about a half Inch from the bottom. Pour just enough alcohol fuel to cover the bottom of the can and light. Pots can be placed right on top of the tuna can because the perimeter holes allow oxygen to keep the fire burning.

  6. Virginia Peters

    I have a question about the alcohol. Does denatured alcohol ONLY come in a bottle, or is there anything along the lines of an alcohol prep wipe (the kind that comes in a little foil pouch) that you could stick in there instead? Then you could just tear it open and place it in the bottom. It seems like an idea that would work. I just wondered if it was a product that existed already.

  7. I like this idea very much; but, wouldn’t those folding stoves work as well as the bricks? It would be lighter to carry around. Also, can this be used inside if ventilated well?

  8. Virginia, denatured alcohol is a more pure/refined fuel than rubbing alcohol. While rubbing alcohol (the type usually found in those prep wipes) will certainly work, it is a bit smoky. Further, those prep wipes don’t contain very much alcohol at all and won’t burn very long. You’ll need 2-3 tablespoons of denatured alcohol to bring a quart of water to a boil.

    Sheila, yes, folding stoves will work but bear in mind the bricks are merely an example. You could easily find three or four rocks to use instead, cutting your carrying weight down considerably by just using what you find when you stop on the trail.

  9. To clarify my question: Is the mesh treated with any kind of toxic chemical that you may know of?
    Great post, by the way!

  10. Jack, this is just your normal, standard metal window screen, the same thing that is probably covering your windows at home. It is not specially treated in any way. I’ve used my Altoids stove numerous times and have yet to see the screen degrade in any appreciable way.

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