This article was reviewed and edited by Perrin Adams, one of our resident SHTF Preparedness Authorities
Gas stoves and induction cookers are great and all, but will they even be useful in the apocalypse? Hell nah.
You’re gonna want something that’s portable and doesn’t need gas and electricity to function.
What might that be? A rocket stove. It’s a wood-burning cooking stove that uses small fuel sources like twigs and branches.
In this article, we’ll tell you what to know about rocket stoves as well as share five rocket stove plans you can try at home. Let’s get right to it:
How Does a Rocket Stove Work?
This type of wood-burning stove is a fantastic DIY project to work on. There are actually several rocket stove plans that you can make at home, but before you get your hands dirty, understand how a rocket stove works first.
Rocket stoves are designed to draw in lots of cold air over a small amount of fuel. This creates a reaction known as complete combustion. Here’s how it differs from normal combustion:
Normal Combustion vs. Rocket Combustion
What sets rocket stoves apart from a typical wood stove? Its combustion.
In stoves with normal combustion, fuel and oxygen are combined before the fire is ignited. This wastes a lot of fuel and, in the process, releases a ton of smoke and exhaust.
A rocket stove works more efficiently since it has an open chamber for fuel and a separate tunnel for air. When the fuel is ignited, the stove invites oxygen in, and as things get hot, the air flies up the chimney and leaves you with a cleaner, longer-lasting burn. This means you only need a little fuel for the stove, and most of what you throw in will be burnt.
Understand what makes a rocket stove unique now? Great! Next up, we’ll take a closer look at the different parts of a rocket stove:
What Is a Rocket Stove Made Up Of?
A rocket stove has various components—a chimney, fuel magazine, and fuel shelf. Understanding what each part does is crucial so you won’t rack your brain wondering where to put the fuel or pan.
Chimney and Combustion Chamber
This part is where the magic happens.
The combustion chamber and chimney of a rocket stove work together to create a strong draft that promotes efficient combustion.
The combustion chamber is where the fuel is burned. It’s typically a cylindrical or rectangular metal container that is insulated with firebrick or other refractory materials so that almost all of the produced heat moves upwards through the chimney.
The chimney is an insulated vertical pipe that extends from the top of the combustion chamber. Its primary function is to provide a path for the hot gases to escape. Generally, the height of the chimney should be between 2 and 3 times the diameter of the combustion chamber. A taller chimney will produce a stronger draft, meaning better airflow and a more complete combustion.
Chimneys are usually made out of a metal box, like a 5-gallon tin can. If you can’t find one, a pipe will work fine as long as it supports the cooking vessel.
However, the primary purpose of a chimney or combustion chamber is to make sure your rocket stove has a good draft so that it can burn efficiently. Once your combustion chamber increases draft, it will reach maximum heat, leading to faster cooking with less firewood and smoke.
Fitted horizontally into the chimney base, the fuel magazine is a short length of steel or ceramic pipe that limits the inflow of cool air in your chimney. This element is essential because cool air actually lowers the temperature in the combustion chamber and decreases efficiency.
Remember: A smaller fuel magazine or inlet helps you cut back on fuel since airflow is regulated.
This flat plate is found at the bottom of the fuel magazine. It holds your fuel in place and allows optimal airflow underneath.
Pro Tip: For more efficient burning, use smaller sticks of wood. These also form a grate, improving the air to fuel ratio.
What Are the Benefits of Rocket Stoves?
Now that you’ve got the basic parts down pat, it’s time to explore the advantages of rocket stoves:
- Convenient: You won’t have a tough time finding fuel. Twigs, leaves, paper, and cardboard will work just fine.
- Efficient: Rocket stoves use up less fuel than normal stoves. They burn hot and long.
- Clean: They generate minimal smoke, so you can worry less about inhaling toxic fumes.
- Easy to Build: Some rocket stove plans only require you to stack up bricks together or dig two holes in the ground.
- Multipurpose: Cooking isn’t the only purpose a rocket stove serves! As you’ll find out in the next section, you can also use it to purify water and keep yourself warm.
What Can You Use a Rocket Stove For?
We’ve established how versatile a rocket stove is, but let’s take a closer look at each of its uses:
Cooktop and Oven
If its name hasn’t given it away yet, this portable stove’s main application is cooking. Since it’s known for its ability to efficiently create heat with little fuel, it’s a pretty awesome option to cook your meals vs. cooking over an open flame. Plus, it’s effective in improving air quality in shelters.
In a survival situation, especially when you’re outdoors, smoke only invites unwanted folks and prey, and you don’t want them to discover your hideout. You’re not only risking what’s left of your supplies, but you’re also putting the lives of your companions at stake.
If you can cook meals using a rocket stove, then you can definitely boil water with it, too.
Water is of the primary resources that will help you survive a major catastrophe. If you haven’t stored enough drinking water to last you the first 72 hours after S hits the fan, you’ll be left with no choice but to find and collect your own water.
The safest, fastest, and most common way of purifying water is boiling it. With your wood-burning stove, you can easily do that in just a few minutes.
If you need a backup heater during the winter season, a rocket stove might be your best alternative. It can get pretty cold under extreme weather conditions, even if you’re just indoors.
Feeling a little warmth will help by a mile, and this portable stove works best when you’re in an enclosed space. But make sure you still have enough ventilation in the room so that you don’t suffocate.
5 Rocket Stove Plans You Can Build
You might be surprised that rocket stoves aren’t just good for cooking, but wanna know something more interesting? You can actually make one out of various materials.
Here are rocket stove plans you can make at home:
Brick Rocket Stove
If you’re looking to create the simplest DIY rocket stove out there, just pile a few bricks to form a chamber like in the video above. For this stove, you’ll need roughly 24 blocks and a wire mesh.
After you’ve gathered your bricks, stack about five layers of these rectangular blocks to help improve the draw of your wood-burning stove. And voila, you can start a fire and cook a nice hot meal.
Pro Tip: For a more efficient burn, fill the gaps between the bricks with clay or mortar. This allows the heat to travel upwards.
4-Block Rocket Stoves
Rectangular blocks are the easiest and fastest way to stack into a chamber, so it makes sense that you can also make a rocket stove out of concrete or cinder blocks. They’re the second-degree cousins of clay bricks.
What’s cool about using cement blocks is that with just 4 of them, you can assemble and arrange your own rocket stove in minutes. It’s super simple yet very effective. Plus, it provides a stable place for your cooking pot.
Tin Can Rocket Stove
Have tin cans lying around somewhere? You can make them into a portable stove using tools like a hacksaw, pliers, and drill. For the materials, you just need 3 metal cans and gravel or dirt.
It’s a powerful stove that can cook full meals with little fuel. It’s even wind and rain resistant. Check out the video above for a step-by-step process on how to make one.
Metal Rocket Stove
If you’ve looked for rocket stoves online, we bet the most common type you’ve seen is the metal variety. It’s popular because it’s sturdy and portable.
Fair warning, though, if you want to build your own metal stove—it’s not for beginners. As you’ll see in the video, you need to know your way around power tools.
First up, you’ll need to cut a huge steel tube into sections using a grinder. One part has to be cut diagonally for the fuel magazine. You’ll need to cut off a square from another tube to connect the diagonal piece, then weld them together.
This design takes things up a notch with a handle, hinge, hatch cover, and pan mount. Watch the video carefully to see how each part is made and connected. It may be a little complicated to follow, but it’s guaranteed to be more durable than the simpler designs.
Should you work on this project, don’t forget to wear gloves at all times to protect your hands. No matter how great you are with power tools, never skimp on the safety gear.
Dakota Fire Hole
The solution is right below you if you can’t find bricks, concrete, or metal anywhere when SHTF.
This concept is the same as a DIY rocket stove. Much like the elbow of a wood-burning stove, a Dakota Fire Hole consists of two intersecting tunnels.
You just need to dig two holes in the ground using an entrenching tool. How deep these should be depends on your needs, as a bigger fire will require bigger tunnels. But a good rule of thumb is around 1.5 to 3 feet deep, with one hole being a little deeper than the other. The two holes should intersect at a 25-30° angle.
What’s neat about a Dakota Fire Hole is that it’s efficient for cooking, provides high heat, promotes clean burning, and is very discrete since flames are hidden below ground. Since it’ll be hiding in plain sight, you won’t have to worry about attracting unwanted guests.
To sum everything up, here’s a table comparing each rocket stove plan:
|Type of Rocket Stove
|Brick Rocket Stove
|Fastest and easiest rocket stove to make
Built to last
You can scale up the design
Can keep cooking surfaces warm for longer periods of time
|4-Block Rocket Stove
|Cinder and concrete blocks are cheap, and you only need a few of them
Quick to construct
Stable cooking surface
Limited cooking surface
May not be suitable for other heating or baking tasks
|Tin Can Rocket Stove
|Wind- and rain-resistant
|Sharp edges can injure your hands, so wear protective gear
Needs special tools
Cans may bend or rust over time
|Metal Rocket Stove
|Sturdier than its tin can counterpart
Gives you better control of the fire
Heavier than a tin can rocket stove, but you can still bring it when needed
Can be used for a variety of cooking tasks
|Difficult to build if you don’t have experience using a torch
Materials may be hard to find when SHTF
|Dakota Fire Hole
|You only need to dig two holes
Perfect alternative if you have no access to bricks or concrete
Less of a fire hazard than an open fire
Can easily be concealed, making it ideal for SHTF or leave-no-trace camping
|Tree roots or rocky ground can make digging take longer
Rain can fill the holes up
Small holes can limit ventilation, impacting the efficiency of the stove
Not feasible in all environments
Safety Tips When Using Rocket Stoves
Don’t forget to use your rocket stove with caution—the same way you’d handle any stove or flammable device. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Use your stove on a sturdy surface and make sure you’re in a well-ventilated space.
- Add fuel gradually. Like we said earlier, you don’t need a lot of it to keep the stove running.
- Don’t use accelerants like gasoline or kerosene.
- Pay attention to your stove the whole time you’re using it. Fire is temperamental and can become uncontrollable if you even look away for a split second.
- Make sure kids and pets stay far away from the rocket stove.
- Clean your rocket stove after you’re through using it. Do this every time to stop ash from piling up inside.
If the fire from your stove gets out of control, stopping the oxygen supply can help it calm down. You can smother the flame with dirt, sand, or other non-flammable materials.
Rocket Stove FAQs
What is a rocket stove?
A rocket stove is a type of wood-burning stove that burns fuel via a small combustion chamber with an insulated vertical chimney. It works by creating a strong draft that pulls air through the combustion chamber, where the fuel is burned, and then out through the chimney. This process helps to ensure that the fuel is burned completely, with very little smoke or pollution.
Rocket stoves are typically made from metal and are great for camping trips or backyard barbecues, but they can also be used indoors for cooking or heating purposes. They’re also perfect for emergencies since you can use readily available materials like twigs, dry leaves, and paper as fuel.
What are the benefits of using a rocket stove?
Here are just some of the ways a rocket stove can come in handy during survival situations:
- It doesn’t need much fuel.
- You can build one with affordable and easy-to-find materials.
- It produces less smoke.
- It’s versatile. You can use it to cook a mouthwatering meal in the wild, boil water, or stay warm.
Can you use a rocket stove indoors?
A rocket stove produces a clean burn, so if you want to use it indoors, you definitely could. Just avoid leaving the flame unattended and put the fire out after you’re through with it. And to be on the safe side, use it only in a well-ventilated area.
How long does a rocket stove last?
Rocket stoves run on little fuel, and they can burn for a decent amount of time. A DIY rocket stove that’s well attended to can burn for more than 12 hours, while its more expensive store-bought counterparts can last even longer.
As for longevity, steel or cast iron rocket stoves can last for decades since they’re able to withstand high temperatures and resist corrosion.
Regular maintenance, such as cleaning out the combustion chamber and chimney, can also help to extend a rocket stove’s lifespan.
A rocket stove is a vital piece of survival equipment to own. Thankfully, there are several rocket stove plans you can try at home.
Rocket stoves are cheap, fuel-efficient, portable, and easy to use. With just a few tiny twigs, you can already cook, enjoy a whole meal, and even keep yourself warm and comfortable on a chilly night.
Which of these rocket stove plans will you try first? Let us know in the comments!