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Multi Purpose Hobo Stove

Wayland's Multi Purpose Stove for use with Meths, Solid fuel, and wood on an open fire or contained in the stove.

This Hobo stove is my preferred cooking kit these days. I’ve tried just about everything over the years and some of it has been cannibalised to build this kit, but a very similar kit could be put together with bits available from your local supermarket.

First of all let’s look at what I wanted.

It had to be small, self contained and preferably light too.

It had to use easily available fuels and local materials where possible.

I prefer stainless steel over aluminium for robustness and ease of cleaning in the wild.

Stainless steel (SS) has become quite fashionable lately for kitchen containers which is handy for us because it gives us a variety of different sized pots to work with.

In this case I used a commercial billy can for the inner cooking pot and a supermarket kitchen container for the outer “hobo stove”. The important part is that they fit together well when packed.

Wayland's Hobo Stove unpacked and in use.

This is the kit unpacked and if I start in the centre you can see the hobo stove in use.

This is made from a SS container from a supermarket that fits nicely round the billy, there are a couple of slots cut in the sides that you can't see clearly that let the billy can bail fittings nest better.

The holes drilled around the base let air in and help to create an updraught to help the fire to burn better. the main fuel feeding hole was made by drilling four holes and then cutting between them with tin snips, that’s the hardest part.

To make a rest for the pot I used two SS skewers that fit through small drilled holes in the top of the hobo stove. They're bent at the ends to stop them working themselves out while you are moving the pot about but they could be left straight if you still wanted to use them as skewers.

Another reason I bent mine over was to make sure they fitted inside the billy.

On top is my 10cm Zebra billy. I didn't like the rigid handle as it was always in the way when packing so I replaced it with a SS wire bail which is more compact.

A good source of braided SS wire is a bike shop. It’s used for brake cables these days and a strong joint can be made with the brass insert from and electrical “choc bloc” wire connector from a hardware store. these have two small screws in each insert that clamp down on the wire. In this case I ground the screw heads off but they could be left in place if that is a problem.

If you are starting from a kitchen container you will need to drill a couple of small holes near the top edge for the wire to go through but on the Zebra billy there are lugs that the wire can be attached to once the old handle is cut off.

The lid of the billy or container can be used as a bowl if needed but I usually eat direct from the billy anyway.

Moving clockwise, next is the bag which is made from a bit of birch tanned reindeer hide. Heavier than it could be, but I just like natural materials for some jobs. Just about any kind of pouch could be used. Real lightweight hikers would just use a plastic bag but it is worth having a bag to keep the rest of your kit from getting covered with soot.

To the right is the windshield from a Clikstand . This rolls up and fits inside the billy taking virtually no space at all. a cheaper alternative from the supermarket would be a disposable foil tray cut into a long rectangle and rolled around the billy for shape.

Inside the windshield is a Vargo Triad titanium stove which can be used either with meths or solid fuel tablets. This is another expensive commercial option but an equally good and actually lighter stove can be made with a couple of drink cans see the Drink Can Stove tutorial for more details.

The foil packages are Esbit fuel tablets. I wrap them to keep them from breaking up and also from old habit, I used to just stand a pan on three stones and burn them directly on the foil.

The brown rectangles in front are BBQ fire lighters. They are light and odourless and can be cut up. A small piece makes lighting the hobo a lot easier.

A small light chain for hanging the pot over a proper fire. The ends are cut to form hooks that can be used for adjustment.

Drink Can Stove

Pine cones are great fuel for a hobo stove. You can even tell if they are dry because they open up and if you give them a shake to free the seeds they have done their job and are now surplus to requirements as far as the tree is concerned. I often have a pocket full just from picking them up as I go along the trail.

Pot handle / grip. This one is a commercial one that I cut down to fit into the billy, which also reduces the weight a bit too. Very useful when you are stirring or eating from the billy.

A folding cup from a camping shop, most uses are obvious but I usually put some water in it while I'm cooking in case something starts burning that shouldn't. It's also good for dipping your fingers in if you burn yourself which no matter how careful you are is going to happen one day.

A film container makes a good cheap, waterproof match case. I use an APS type because they are oval rather than round which fits better. Sometimes I just need a light and don't want to mess about. I prefer matches because you can poke them into the fuel better. Get the pink headed “strike anywhere” type of matches or you will need to carry the striking strip from the side of the matchbox as well.

The Zebra billy comes with a bowl nested inside. I used to think it was useful for eating from but as I've said I tend to use the lid or the billy itself now.

What I've done with mine is drill holes round the edge of the bowl so it can now be used as a steamer or a strainer.

Wayland's Hobo Stove packed

The white bit at the back is something called a "Chef Aid" which is a mini pot scraper made of plastic. Much better than a scouring pad because you can dry it before packing. Usually I use ash to clean the pan if I've got a fire but if not this little thing is dead handy. I suppose a credit card would do the same job but they only cost a few pennies from a kitchen shop.

You can see here how the hobo stove all packs together, I’ve recently added a folding titanium spoon that fits into the base section as well and depending on the outing, I can carry some meths, food, water and I'm pretty well sorted for any situation.

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