Although there are not too many actual hobos wandering around these days, the internet is full of instructions of how to make more or less sophisticated hobo stoves, and there are some good reasons for that: Hobo stoves are fun to make; no need for expensive or complicated materials or tools, quick to test and to modify, and if everything goes wrong, just throw away that cheap can and try again. A good hobo stove is also pretty capable camping stove; no need to carry any fuel with you, especially during the summer time, when relatively dry sticks, twigs, and pine cones are easily available. Although longish simmering with a hobo stove is somewhat labor intensive, for a quick boiling job, it is an effective tool; boiling 500 ml of water can be done in less than four minutes in most of conditions. And additionally, during a forest fire warning, in which all open fires are prohibited (at least in some countries (including mine)), placing a piece of sheet metal underneath the stove, officially makes it a contained camping stove, which is OK to use, even during the forest fire warning.
Those reasons were good enough for me to try to make my own hobo stove. The requirements I set for my stove were: Low price, easy to make, simple structure i.e. no moving parts, and not too heavy.
All of the set requirements were met by a stainless steel cutlery stand, which I happened to find at a local supermarket for 3,90€, (Price requirement – check). Due to its original purpose, the stand was full of evenly spaced holes, so, the only thing to do to convert the stand to a stove, was to cut three 3X6 cm pieces from the top edge of the stand. After about 15 minutes of work with a hack saw (could be done in 2 minutes with Dremel or equivalent tool), my 1 piece hobo stove was ready to run (easiness and simplicity requirements – check). Most of the hobo stoves I have seen, have some kind of legs to take care of the air flow through the bottom of the stove, and some kind of, usually detachable, structure to act as a holder for pots and pans. Finding fist size stones for legs of a stove has never been a problem in my hiking grounds, so, I skipped the legs. By cutting the three pieces from the rim of the stand to create a chimney effect, the remaining three pieces of metal formed a perfect stand for pots and pans, therefore, I had no need to design any additional structures to do the job, and, that was a pure accident, the diameter of the stove happened to be exactly 10 cm, which makes my hobo stove compatible with the pot from my Mini Trangia camping stove. The weight of my hobo stove is about 400 grams, which means that it is not the lightest of all of the hobo stoves, but on the other hand, considering that I don’t have to carry any fuel with me, it is not that heavy (weight requirement – check), and stainless steel stove with 1 mm thick walls is practically bullet proof, and it looks good too. 😉 This one should last for a life time.
After a quick field test, I can say that I’m pretty happy about the results; The stove is easy to use, easy to feed (although for feeding with the thickest and longest sticks, or the largest pine cones, one has to lift off the pot), and very effective.
If I’d have to complain about something, I’d say that the efficiency of the stove would probably improve by blocking the two top most rows of the holes. However, blocking them would increase the weight of the stove, cutlery stands without the top most holes are not to be found easily, and the stove works pretty well as it is.
In conclusion, I can strongly recommend my hobo stove as a trusty 1-piece hiking companion, or as a starting point of long term hobo stove development hobby.
More info about camping stoves can be found from:
Zen Backpacking Stoves