This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
There’s no way to downplay the importance of being able to cook in a survival scenario. With a simple heat source you can stay warm, sterilize water, cook out impurities in meat, and even begin to manipulate soft metals. Cooking over an open campfire is simple enough if you’re in the middle of a forest, but in an urban environment, you might not have a thousand trees at your disposal.
Fortunately, there are many simple DIY designs for making a stove, and they all involve materials you might find on your average zombie-ravaged city block. Here are 13 excellent plans, broken down by the urban materials required to make them.
In an everyday disaster-ravaged city, stone will be one of the most abundant materials available for making stoves. Here are designs for three types of stone-based materials:
1. Cinderblock Rocket Stove
Cinderblock is an extremely common material in the city. You can form a simple rocket stove quickly and easily with just four cinderblocks and an optional grate as a cooking surface. Stack three blocks on top of each other horizontally with the fourth vertically to the side. The holes in the cinderblock will line up in an L-shaped pattern, giving you the right form for a rocket stove.
2. Brick Rocket Stove
You can make a rocket stove just as easily with brick as with cinderblock, although you will need a little more material. If you can manage to scrape together 24 bricks and some foil from your surroundings, you can build a decent rocket stove. Arrange the bricks in a square pattern, leaving a hole in the middle that forms your chimney, and use the foil to separate the upper and lower chambers of the rocket stove.
3. Concrete-Formed Rocket Stove
If you want something a little sturdier, you can form your own rocket stove out of concrete. All you need is a bag of concrete, a 5-gallon bucket, and 2 pieces of PVC pipe. Cut a hole in the bucket to allow the horizontal pipe to fit through, and then connect the pipes together at a 45-degree angle. Fill the bucket with concrete mix and then break the mold off when dry.
If stone isn’t your style, glass will always be a great material for making a DIY stove. Particularly useful in stoves which burn alcohol, glass jars and the like make great heat-resistant vessels to hold fuel.
4. Mason Jar Burner
You can create a fantastic alcohol-burning stove with only a stick, sealant, wicks, copper tubing, and a Mason jar. This fantastic device burns like an extremely hot candle, and it can be doubled and tripled together in a tiny space. Combine the materials in the exact way shown in the tutorial above.
The most abundant material you may find in an urban environment is scrap metal. Lightweight and easy to manipulate, scrap metal can be used to make all sorts of stove components. Here are 5 ideas worth knowing:
5. Tin Can Wood Gas Stove
You can create a fantastic wood gasifier stove with only two different sized soup cans, some tin snips, and a perforating tool. With a few cuts, you’ll have concentric cans that will be able to boil water in no time. I put step by step instructions in this post.
6. Capillary Hoop Stove
If you have a little time and pay attention to the details, nothing will serve you better than a capillary hoop stove. Literally all you need is a can and some alcohol, and you’ll have one of the most effective burners out there.
7. Penny Can Stove
If you don’t have the time or precision for the capillary hoop stove, give the penny can stove a try. You’ll need alcohol, two soda cans, a penny, and a thumb tack. With these materials, you can create a stove with actual diffused flame routes.
8. Coffee Can Rocket Stove
You can create the classic rocket stove design with a coffee can, other smaller cans, and something to insulate like Plaster of Paris (or even dirt, in a pinch). If you have a way to cut soft metal, you can have a fantastic stove with a few simple cuts.
9. Pocket Altoids Stove
Nothing can beat the compact capability of the Altoids stove. Simply find an empty Altoids container—or any other small metal container, for that matter—and store four screws, some mesh, and a lighter inside. Drill 4 holes for the screws and you have a miniature stove. Note: There are alcohol variations as well.
While you’re not camping in a wooded area, there is bound to be some decent fuel in any urban area. You can make the simplest stoves possible with only a little lumber and all the benefits of other stoves, except of course reusability.
10. Swedish Candle (With a Saw)
When you don’t have any other option, a simple log or thick chunk of beam from a decimated wooden structure can make a stove. If you find such a log-shaped piece, use a saw to make slices into it vertically (with the grain) until you have quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the wood. This is your standard Swedish Candle, and you can set pots and other crockery on top very easily.
11. Swedish Candle (Without a Saw)
If you don’t have any way to cut your salvaged wood, you can still make a Swedish Candle variant by bundling together smaller logs (or 2x4s) and packing kindling in the middle. Tie it together for the same effect as a typical Swedish Candle.
12. Log Rocket Stove
If you want more usability than the Swedish Candle and you have a way to bore a hole in a log or beam, you can make a simple log rocket stove by drilling one vertical hole into the log (this will be the chimney) and another intersecting it at 90 degrees, making an L-shape. It’s that simple!
The Earth Itself
You may find yourself without any materials at all. If this is the case, you can still fashion a makeshift stove out of the earth itself. A little ingenuity will have you making the ground your very own stove.
13 Dakota Fire Hole
All you need to let the ground work for you is two holes and a tunnel connecting them. Build your fire in the larger one and let the second hole feed oxygen to your heat source. Make sure to dig the air hole upwind. Set a grate on top and you have yourself an earth stove. I wrote more detailed instructions in this post.
With a little knowhow, you can use common, everyday materials to harness the power of fire. Sticks, rocks, tin cans, and other discarded items can bring you the ability to cook food, heat water, keep warm, and stay alive during a major disaster.