Flaws of the Super Cat (aka Fancy Feast) Alcohol Stove

Dinner in the dirt, that sucks. The Super Cat lacks stability, and sadly this is a common outcome when the cooking area is not perfectly flat and level.

Dinner in the dirt, that sucks. The Super Cat lacks stability, and sadly this is a common outcome when the cooking area is not perfectly flat and level.

For many years I have used and promoted the Super Cat Alcohol Stove. You may know this design as the Fancy Feast Stove, a plain description I started using since I was unaware that it had a name or that it could be traced back to a creator, Jim Wood. Sorry, Jim, no ill intent meant; hopefully you can excuse me for spending much more time backpacking than reading backpacking forums.

The Super Cat has a number of advantages over other types of backpacking stoves and other alcohol stove designs:

  • Readily available fuel source
  • Minimal cost to operate
  • Cheap and easy to make
  • Ultralight and compact
  • No parts to break or clog
  • Unnecessary additional pot stand

The design is imperfect, however, and in this post I wanted to acknowledge some of its flaws and drawbacks. Some of these problems are inherent to the stove, while others apply to the overall system of Super Cat + DIY Aluminum Foil Windscreen.

A Super Cat + "deep pot" system will inevitably be a source of frustration. Even after the windscreen is installed, too little heat contacts the pot before escaping up the sides due to the side-burning jets.

A Super Cat + “deep pot” system will inevitably be a source of frustration. Even after the windscreen is installed, too little heat contacts the pot before escaping up the sides due to the side-burning jets.

Incompatible with “deep” pots

As a side-burner stove, the Super Cat’s flames emit sideways from jets in its vertical walls. When paired with a “deep” pot like the Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Cookset or even the MSR Titan Titanium Kettle, these flames make insufficient contact with the pot’s bottom before the heat escapes up the sides, badly affecting efficiency. The Super Cat must be paired with a squatty pot; for many years, my pick has been the Evernew Titanium 900ml Ultra-Light. If you already own a deep pot and don’t want to replace it, you must find a center-burner stove design, like Roy Robinson’s Cat Stove.


The Super Cat demands a flat-and-level surface, at least for the stove but preferably for the entire system. Flat and level are not synonymous — if you have done any home improvement, you probably know the difference. If your cooking area is not both, there is a higher likelihood that your pot will slide off your stove, resulting in at least some of your hard-earned meal in the dirt. This seems to happen most often when the operator is stirring the food.

Unutilized bloom time

When the jets of an alcohol stove finally emit flames, it is known as blooming. The time needed for a Super Cat to bloom is a function of the number and size of holes — more and larger holes = more oxygen = faster bloom. Due to the Super Cat being a side-burner and doubling as a potstand, it must bloom before a pot can be placed on top. If it has not bloomed, the flame will snuff out, or be so oxygen-deprived that it won’t burn hot enough to achieve a boil. For an unknowing user, this operational requirement can lead to a lot of frustration; and for more experienced users, it amounts to wasted fuel and time.

The Super Cat + DIY Aluminum Foil Windscreen performs poorly in a breeze. The flame is delicate, and the wind screen is too light and too flexible -- it crumbles in a wind, and sometimes even flies away. If you must cook in an exposed area, use rocks and/or sticks to keep the windscreen in place, and protect the cooking area with natural and manmade wind barriers.

The Super Cat + DIY Aluminum Foil Windscreen performs poorly in a breeze. The flame is delicate, and the wind screen is too light and too flexible — it crumbles in a wind, and sometimes even flies away. If you must cook in an exposed area, use rocks and/or sticks to keep the windscreen in place, and protect the cooking area with natural and manmade wind barriers.

Poor wind performance

In even a mild breeze, the Aluminum Foil Windscreen struggles to protect the Super Cat’s delicate flame. Sticks and rocks can be used to reinforce the screen’s position, and natural and manmade wind protection (e.g. boulders, low bushes, backpacks, shelters) can help, too. Nonetheless, I have watched wind screens blow across Alaskan tundra and Utah slickrock. And, even when they stay put, you can see and hear that wind is entering the system and affecting its operation.

Fire hazard

The Super Cat’s side-burning jets are less than an inch off the ground and can easily ignite grass, leaves, forest duff, and lichen. Trust me, I have seen it happen. A cooking area devoid of such combustible materials is imperative. As a LNT consideration, look for areas that are already clear: rock slabs, flat rocks, sand, gravel, trampled ground, and sterile dirt. It’s equally important to have proper airflow: intake through the bottom of the windscreen, and outflow near the top of the pot. If the system is suffocated of oxygen, the flames can flow downwards.

Not an optimized system

The system’s overall efficiency is a function of the number and size of holes in the stove and the windscreen, the pot shape, and the relative position of the components. Unless you are a stove geek or replicated exactly the system recommended by a stove geek, it is unlikely that your stove is optimized, i.e. that it’s heating water as quickly as it can while still making full use of the fuel. As a DIY project, this is not its nature — your system probably burns too hot (inefficient) or too cool (slow), and/or injects too much or too little oxygen into the system for optimal combustion. In comparison, look at a JetBoil Flash Lite or MSR Reactor, which are complete and perfected systems.

If you have used the Super Cat, I’d like to get your take. Is this your go-to stove, or do you prefer something else? What has been your experience with different pot and windscreen combinations? Do you have any tips for first-time users?

Posted in on July 20, 2015


  1. Lively or Not on July 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I used an MSR whisperlite for years but have become tired of the weight and tricky priming. This spring I made a SuperCat stove, as well as a “fire bucket” wind screen/stove platform as described on Zen Stoves.

    The fire bucket is a piece of aluminum flashing held in a circle by wing nuts and screws. Tent stakes fit in drilled holes and act as a platform for the stove a couple inches off the ground. I use a snow peak 700 and cut a hole for the handles, as well as a vent hole at the bottom. The system is sized to 1/4″ wider than the pot and comes to just under the top of the pot when it’s sitting on the stove.

    To be fair I’ve only used the system once in the field, but I’m quite pleased so far. It reduces some of the weaknesses of inefficiency and wind (since the stove bottom is above the top of the vent hole). The system requires more set up than a regular wind screen. It can travel well since all the parts disassembled can fit inside a 1L soda bottle with the top cut off.

    • Andreas Leo Faulstich on July 21, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      I prefer an open teelight burner (5g) with a seperate potstand (11g) and thin aluminium windscreen (9g) in combination with a 500ml pot (56g) and lid (18g) = 99g: http://www.ultraleicht-trekking.com/forum/topic/2295-alfs-spiritus-kocher-set-mit-500ml-topf/

      With 11g Alcohol (14ml) it gets 500ml water (18°C) in 13 minutes to a rolling boil (100°C). With a 1/3 higher potstand it is 1 to to minutes faster, but needs 2g more alcohol.

    • FisherCat on February 14, 2020 at 12:32 pm

      I have used a super cat fire bucket for years without incident. I made a small platform from a paint roller grate, stabelised with some coat hanger bits, the chimney made from aluminium flashing…have recently gone to cold soak cooking, but going to experiment with hand sanitizer gel in a super cat to heat wYer in my 600ml to make g for my hot cuppa in the morning.

  2. Don Myers on July 20, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    my go to stove while “heavy” by your standards is the trangia. has never failed me or let me down. As you know alcohol is cheap and easy to carry. for a quick weekend trip I can carry the fuel I need in it.

    • Scott S on August 3, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      I take out my Trangia Triangle on a ultralight hike. it gives me the option to be light have a stove I can control but also the the rest of the trangia for when I am out with my motorbike for a camp for a longer period.

      • atz on February 19, 2016 at 3:43 pm

        The triangle is not optomised for the best heat output from the trangia. See Caroloradocampers youtube vidwo on trangia optimization.

      • Ras Da Bushman on December 10, 2019 at 8:22 am

        Super cats arent common here in Aotearoa. I’ve seen fancyfeast with the inbuilt pot stand stoves but most tramping people use trangia or trangia type burners if going the meths route. I myself have been prototyping my own designs inspired by other companies. It’s in itself working out efficiency rates but I’m settled to an extent to my take on a diy trangia /ff/hybrid that can use solid fuel. slightly flawed but has it’s moments. I’m not saying it’s top notch or new craze cause really nihil nove sub sole. Just a bushman thoughts experience and so forth

    • Wayne on September 22, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      I like the Fancy Feast alcohol stove that Hiram Cook shows on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2fPIvyme9I . Easy to make, lightweight and you can use it at -20C or less. I use a stiffer tuna snack can (85gr) instead of the cat food can. The carbon fiber is available at Home Depot as the Oatey Flame Protector in the plumbing section. (Enough in the bag to make a few stoves.) In fact, of all the alcohol stoves to choose from, Hiram gives the Fancy Feast the thumbs up as his recommendation for newbies. See also ColoradoCamper’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XQVKLlLQjw . For a great matching windscreen, look for a 4oz compact folding wind shield on eBay or Amazon (about $5 including shipping!).

      The Super Cat is good, but the winter-worthy Fancy Feast rig is better.

    • Kandace Pierce on October 20, 2019 at 4:36 am

      I have done well with the cat stove in several situations, and can’t beat the weight, cost, and portability. For my windscreen, I used a 28oz food can and removed the top and bottom. Then I drilled 4 large holes around the bottom edge to allow airflow. It fits snugly around my Stanley stove for cooking, as well as storage. Some breeze may still blow through the airflow holes but overall I’m happy with performance for the time being.

  3. Chad on July 20, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    A // removed content // is a good all around ‘stable’ multi-fuel kit.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Very poor form, Chad. Spamming us with your website and a product without disclosing your interests or seeking a prior okay. I have edited your comment appropriately.

    • Colin Parkinson on October 20, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      I found the super cat slow to bloom, and had problems holding a full Oz of fuel unless absolutely level That is why I stick to the YACC STOVE it has never let me down. One solution to the slippery stove top is to scrape the top with a rock to get a better grip.

  4. Albert on July 20, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I’m surprised to see you write this article. Hasn’t this stove been with you for 20 or 30K hiking miles? Through all your super epic hikes?

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    Pot compatibility – in just about all scenarios, a wider pot is more efficient with fuel. Don’t blame the stove, blame the pot.

    Un-utilized bloom time – negate this by holding your pot 1″ over the stove during warmup. Why waste the BTUs?

    Poor wind performance – perhaps better campsite selection is needed?

    Unstable – guilty as charged. To me, this is a true con.

    Like most things in life, there is a tradeoff. This stove has a great balance of weight vs performance and simplicity vs efficiency.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      Yes, it has gone tens of thousands if miles with me. While I do okay with it, I have watched many clients struggle with it, or heard the struggles of others. And the wind thing is frequently a pain even for me, since our group cook areas tend to be in large and exposed areas, ie windy.

      Just because something has worked does not mean you cannot cite its limitations. Plus, maybe by pointing out some of the flaws it will help first timers use it better, since they will be aware of solutions like you have given.

    • Oscar S on November 23, 2019 at 9:57 am

      Just a thought but can’t you hold it in place in the ground with pin nails or small twigs to give it stability?

  5. Roger on July 20, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    My go to 3 season stove system is the Caldera Cone System. I get fairly consistent boil times and it has a built in wind screen that works great.

    While I would not exactly call it heavy, it is somewhat bulky.

  6. Dana on July 20, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    It is my go-to stove, as well as a Pepsi can stove-which is a top-burner. Ive.never tipped it over, I always hold pot handle while stirring. I’ve always felt the Pepsi can stove to be more efficient, though that thought is not tested officially; I just seem to refill the cat can stove more frequently and feel the flame is less precise and controlled on a cat can stove. Despite the wind challenges I won’t go back to cleaning a white gas stove, and not likely to splurge on a jet boil type system. I do however use a canister stove just for convenience, or when two young kids are screaming and hungry for dinner:)

  7. Stephen on July 20, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I love the idea behind alcohol stoves, they’re all really cool too but the efficiency and lightness of the canisters have over taken them. Wind is their achillies heel and the idea of better site selection is silly. Campsites are where they are.

    I compared alcohol vs. canister several times weights: vs. meals vs. length of trip and it’s really fractions at least by my numbers. I cook a lot too, two meals and coffee each day.

    Canisters are pretty bullet proof now and work wind/rain/poor site selection.

    Stability is an issue with all types of stoves/pots, I don’t have a jetboil but I like the legs and use them with the system I have. Helps a lot.

    For now the canister is the go to option for me (3 season that is).

    • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      Would agree with you re stove system weight v. trip duration v. number of meals per day.

      For me, alcohol stoves still get the nod because they are silent and because the fuel is readily available and inexpensive. The “jet engine” sound of canister stoves + the expense of the canisters gets old.

  8. Andrew B. on July 20, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    If I decide to carry a stove, then the Super Cat is my go-to stove. Otherwise, I go without a stove and just re-hydrate and eat my food using a peanut butter jar.

    I’ve used the super cat with both “deep” pots (Snow Peak Mini Solo Combo Titanium Cookset) and with more “squatty” pots (old aluminum Boy Scout mess kit pot). I use a smaller diameter Super Cat style stove made from the bottom of a 12 oz. aluminum bottle when using the Snow Peak Mini. This seems to help slightly improve the stove’s efficiency; however, this also increases its instability. The only real advantage that I’ve noticed with “deep” pots is that they are easier to drink liquids out of. They can be held with one hand and are less likely to spill hot liquids all over your face when you try to drink out of them.

    I much prefer using an aluminum pot that came from an old Boy Scout mess kit and pairing it with a normal sized Super Cat stove. It’s much more stable and fuel efficient. It’s inexpensive, sub 4 oz (pot, lid and handle included), and has about .6 liter of volume (which is plenty for me). In fact, I think I would prefer using this pot over many of the “squatty” titanium pots on the market today. It has a nice hoop shaped aluminium wire handle that runs across the top of the pot that makes the pot easy to stabilize while stirring its contents with the foil windscreen still in place. Most lightweight titanium pots that I’ve seen have handles attached to the side of the pot, which either become useless while in use because they are covered by the windscreen or require an opening in the windscreen that reduces the stove’s efficiency.

    • Dave on July 21, 2015 at 1:57 am

      Canister stoves are often more efficient on paper, but in smaller towns alcohol and white gas are easier to find.

      My go-to are either the cat-can (summer) or the white gas (winter). My favourite stove is the Kovea Spider, but the logistics of resupply in nowhereviles in Canukistan means canisters are under-ulitized.

  9. Mario on July 20, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    I have been using the super cat stove, where allowed, for a couple of years now and I’m very pleased with it. Like you, I use it with an Evernew 900ml UL titanium pot. For a windscreen, I made a cone similar to caldera cones out of aluminum art emboss foil (bought in art supply store). it’s stronger than aluminum foil but still very malleable and easy to work with (i.e it can be cut with regular scissors and holes punched with a paper puncher). The screen can be folded and fits into the pot when not in use. Like all caldera cones the screen stabilize the pot. This solves the problem of “unstable” and “poor wind perfomance”. I always use a thin layer of aluminum foil under my setup (even when there is no risk of fire like on granite slab). This solves “Fire Hazard” objection and LNT issues. Again i always use the same pot and the combination of number/size of holes seem to work quite well. I consistently can bring to boil two cups of water with 0.5 oz of alcohol. I normally don’t cook on the trail but only rehydrate meals.

  10. Liz Fallin on July 20, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    I’ve always wanted to use one, but alcohol stoves are currently banned up and down the west coast, due to fire restrictions. You might want to mention that on FB.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Not universally banned — check the local regs. Some land managers have been anti-alcohol stove but have come to their senses after a season or two, notably Sequoia-Kings Canyon. The true problem is user error, not the stove.

  11. John Muse on July 20, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    I’ve used your exact design for years with no trouble at all. I think a flat level surface is required for any stove, esp a tall one like a pocket rocket or jet boil.

    I also use an MSR Titan kettle with no problem but a 1.3l evernew is normally my go to pot paired w a Titan mug for a hot breakfast and coffee, or dinner w a hot drink while food is rehydrating.

    I love that it’s totally SILENT vs. Canister stoves and lights instantly w a firesteel, even in the wind. I use a solid windscreen without holes and leave an inch gap open and face away from the wind and have had no issues.

    I’ve dumped over MSR pocket rockets twice (flame keeps going and burns the grass/pine needles pretty badly)… I personally think it’s a more stable design.

    It’s a wonderful design that I’ve used all over, even in Tazmania in the rain without issue. Simple, silent and even stable (IMO, given the context).

    There is a trade off with all UL gear but I’d use it irrespective of the weight just because it’s silent and so darn simple to use.

    Thanks for the article.

  12. Michael on July 20, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    The only alcohol stove I’ve used has been a Super Cat. I take it whenever solo but also took it this last trip with my youngest since I figured I’d only need to cook one big meal at a time (he doesn’t eat much).

    I’ve never found an issue with stability. I figure it’s low CoG offsets it’s smaller footprint to some degree. In fact, mine is made from an even smaller diameter SPAM can. However, I never cook with it, just boil water so no stirring is involved.

    My cookpot is the now-defeunct Heineken “keg” can, thus the need for a non cat food can so my stove will fit snugly on the can’s bottom. The very thin aluminum also somewhat offsets the inefficiency of using a skinny, tall pot. My stove, fuel bottle, firestarting kit and lid all fit inside the pot while I wrap the windscreen around the exterior.

    Like Albert above, I just hold the pot over the flame until it’s ready to set down so I’m not wasting much heat while it blooms.

    What I will agree with is it’s not good to use if it’s windy. In some situations, I wouldn’t even try to do so, I’d just eat something that didn’t need to be heated instead.

    Obviously, it (and likely all alcohol stoves) would be a poor stove for winter use as well, but I don’t really do that.

  13. John on July 20, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    To the above, I’d add the fact that it’s either prohibited or discouraged in many jurisdictions, making it a bit harder to have this be a “one size fits all” stove for three-season backpacking. (Admittedly, this is an issue with more or less all alky stoves at this point, but it’s worth mentioning in the conversation.)

  14. Robin on July 20, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Andrew, have you experimented with other cans such as tuna or others to see if they helped with stability and output?

    • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      A tuna can will be more stable, but it demands even a wider pot — even my “squatty” 900 ml Evernew would be inefficient with a tuna can.

  15. justin on July 20, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    i’ve used the supercat for about 4 years now. i have a caldera cone type made from flashing from a hardware store, sturdier than tin foil, yet bendable.

    the whole setup is tippy enough where if i’m not absolutely stable, a little fuel will spill out of the stove and catch whatever it’s sitting on … if i try to adjust the setup while it’s on, this just gets worse.

    i don’t have a good way of picking my titanium snowpeak mug by the wire handles, i use a small chamois hand towel that is all melted from acting as a grabber

    there’s no shutoff, i tend to just wait for it to burn out. i know this wastes a bit but it’s safer than trying to control it

    i’m in oregon and we are in a definite drought here so for the first time i’m considering abandoning this stove for something else because it is simply a fire hazard. no way around that fact. unless i use something deeper than a cat stove that is also more stable.

    i really love everything else about the cat stove, yet it’s time for something else …

    any advice?

    • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      Consider a real Caldera Cone — they are very stable. Or invest in the referenced JetBoil.

    • Andy Fox on July 20, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      With the fire danger, I’d go with a canister. I’m not sold on the JetBoil. I like the Optimus Crux, which I bring on family trips or just for convenience.

  16. Dan on July 20, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    I’m a big fan of a Zelph Starlyte stove + Sidewinder Caldera Cone.

    The Starlyte is super light (12g) and it has wicking material inside which makes it spill proof and easy to light even at 0F. You can easily snuff it out (use pot lid) and then snap the stove lid on so unused fuel is retained for next time. It’s also the most efficient alcohol stove I’ve used.

    The other advantage of the Starlyte is that it’s really short (i.e ~3/4″ tall) so it can be used with the Sidewinder version of the Caldera Cone WITHOUT needing stakes (simpler and lighter). All other Caldera cone systems either don’t store in your pot or if they do, they add complexity to get your pot to sit at the right height (i.e. using stakes or multiple cones connected together). Because the Starlyte is so short, a Sidewinder Caldera Cone will store horizontally in a 900mL or 1.3L Evernew pot and then pop into a cone tall enough to suspend the pot with no stakes needed. It’s the epitome of simplicity.

    To summarize, compared to the SuperCat this setup is more stable, spill proof, easier to light in winter, similar weight, more efficient and unused fuel isn’t wasted. The only downside I can think of is price. The stove is only $13 but Caldera Cones are expensive.

    This setup is so good Trail Designs is now selling Zelph’s stove on their website, although the restricted version they offer typically isn’t needed and it’s slower.


    • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      Funny, because I’m hoping to write up a review on this exact system shortly.

      • Alex on July 21, 2015 at 11:45 am

        I also just upgraded to the same system as Dan (caldera cone sidewinder with Zelph Starlyte in a Toaks 1350 ml pot, all sold together as a set by Trail Designs). Looking forward to your review!

      • Dan on July 21, 2015 at 2:59 pm

        FWIW, you can see the Starlyte + Cone system originate in this thread, so there’s some good discussion here including graphs of pot height vs efficient and speed if you make it that far.

        Regarding the restricted Starlyte, pots that have a small diameter (i.e. tall-skinny 700ml pot) will have low volume in the cone, and this leads to a situation where the regular Starlyte gets too hot and burns unevenly. It’s nothing dangerous – just poor efficiency. In this situation the restricted stove is needed for a nice efficient burn. However for the vast majority of people, including anyone using a sidewinder cone, the restricted stove is not needed. The regular Starlyte works fantastic with the Evernew 0.9L and 1.3L for instance. Anyone opting for the restricted stove with a wide pot setup is gaining a little bit of efficiency, but giving up quite a bit of speed (~25%). I think most folks would be better off with the regular Starlyte. I understand why Trail Designs only sells the restricted Starlyte (it works with every pot) but I think some people will find the performance disappointing.

        • John Coyle on September 30, 2015 at 9:20 am

          I too use the regular Starlyte + Sidewinder Cone system with a .9L Evernew pot. A disadvantage I find with the Starlyte is that under certain conditions, mostly wind or cold, it is a little harder to light than the Trail Designs 12-10 stove. Warm up the Starlyte by keeping it in your pocket for a few minutes and/or turn the stove upside down just prior to lighting to let gravity make the fuel congregate near the top of the stove.

      • todd on July 22, 2015 at 11:22 am

        I’ve used a Starlyte too (but not in a cone). One thing to note about the Starlyte is that the heat output drops quite a bit as the fuel load drops. If you are interested in the fastest possible burn times, then be sure to run it with a full fuel load. This is easy to do with the Starlyte since you don’t need to use up all the fuel. When done cooking just blow it out and then cap it with the excess fuel held up in the wick. Then top it off for next use. I switched to the eCHS stove from the Starlyte as it is quite a bit more powerful.

    • Eric on October 6, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Well said. I do carry two titanium tent stakes if I ever need to use the Caldera Cone in wood burning mode- which I rarely do, but it’s nice to have a back up should I be out of alcohol. Overall, a very well thought out system. Trail Design is a class act company as well.

  17. Andy Fox on July 20, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    I’ve made and used a Super Cat according to Jim Wood’s specs. It works acceptably, but I slightly prefer the Penny stove (Mark Jurey’s old Heineken can design). It’s rather finicky to build, and I’d say it requires quite a bit of skill and patience and at least one failed attempt to learn. The jets are higher pressure than the Super Cat, and that gives them a little more wind resistance and efficiency. A good windscreen is still a requirement. Fuel burn time can be determined by fill level or number of complete fills, and there’s even a simmer ring. The tripod stand works ok if you’re cautious on unlevel ground. I’ve boiled 16 oz of ~65F water in something like 3:30, and it works fine if primed in the cold, which I’ve tested at 5F on snow with standard base on foil reflector.

    It takes some experience to learn its quirks. Carry a backup penny!

  18. Denise on July 21, 2015 at 4:29 am

    I used to use it quite a lot but had a few too many close calls due to its instability. I plan to try the caldera cone system as it seems to offer a lot of the benefits without the instability. Incidentally, my dog would call the dinner-in-the-dirt syndrome one of the system’s greatest features.

  19. Russell on July 21, 2015 at 4:42 am

    I’ve used cat food can and beer can stoves with DIY foil windscreen before and found the stability and wind issues to be challenging at times. Buying the Caldera Cone system solved that for me. I have the aluminum kind that fits into its own plastic carrying case. When the weight savings of fuel is factored in, it’s largely a push weight-wise compared with the cat food can. (And the screw-top lid for the plastic case can double as a drink container, eliminating the need to bring another one along.) The only issue is that it does take up some space, which sometimes for me is almost as big an issue as weight. I am considering getting the titanium version that fits into a pot, along with the Zelph Starlyte stove you mention that also fits into a pot. It saves even more weight and, because it fits into your pot, takes care of the space issue too.

  20. Dave on July 21, 2015 at 7:25 am

    The less than robust and poor effectiveness of a windscreen around the fancy feast stove, the stability of the system and because of the overall efficiency of the system; I invested in a caldera cone system from Trail designs several years ago.

    My entire cook system including fuel for a couple days, spoon, matches, and eating/cooking pot all fit into a plastic “caddy” that’s about the size of two stacked peanut butter jars.

    Pleased to see you will be posting some thoughts on this type of setup Andrew. look forward to you insights.

  21. Mike on July 21, 2015 at 8:59 am

    I’ve used the Fancy Feast stove almost exclusively since I started backpacking a couple years ago. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the most efficient, but as I always say: It cost less than $1, it weighs less than 1 oz., and it works.

    I can’t complain about that.

  22. Neal on July 21, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I started out with the super cat, but feel I have since found a lighter more efficient option. I use the bottom 1/3rd of a redbull can, turn it upside down and place a fuel tab on top. Then I use a windscreen that I made from the inside of a thermal mug. The hard metal from the thermal mug has dual purpose as a stand for the pot/mug also. I only take a small mug with me, but it could be used for pots as well. Fuel tabs are lighter than liquid fuels and can be cut in half or doubled as needed.

    The hole thing along with the fuel is placed in a small bag and all fits inside my small metal mug.
    Hope that makes since, I’d upload a photo if i could figure out how.

  23. Todd on July 21, 2015 at 10:55 am

    To start – I have no affiliation with any products mentioned below 🙂

    Very nice article. I think I posted or e-mailed you a while ago about the name confusion. Also “Fancee Feast” is used by another commercially available alcohol stove of a different design so it’s good to clear up that confusion.

    What you’ve said is spot on about alcohol stoves in general and the Super Cat specifically. I find that many have the misconception that ALL alcohol stoves have these shortcomings. I guess I am one of those stove geeks who has an optimized system that combines good power, optimum efficiency, and ease of use.

    I use a DIY Easy Capillary Hoop Stove (aka eCHS) that was designed by Tetkoba (Google it to find the construction video). While harder to make than a Super Cat, it isn’t that hard to make. Toaks also now sells a similar stove (Titanium Siphon Alcohol). This is a center burning stove so you need a pot stand. I’m not sure why so many people are down on pot stands. As you point out, they make your pot much more stable. I too started using a pot stand after spilling a few meals, even when I was still using a Super Cat stove. I make one out of hardware cloth that weighs a fraction of an ounce.

    You also point out correctly that the the whole system must be optimized to work together (perhaps the biggest misconception about alcohol stoves). The cCHS is a very powerful stove, but because it is a center burner, I can use a pot with a heat exchanger (Olicamp XTS) to get both power and efficiency (it boils 2 cups of water in less than 4 minutes with less than 1/2 oz/15 mL of fuel).

    IMPORTANT – do not use a Supercat Stove with a pot with heat exchangers. I tried it and flames went all over the place.

    You also point out that the wind screen doesn’t just keep out wind. It must also promote good airflow and keep in the heat in to maximize efficiency. I use a cylinder of aluminum flashing cut to come part way up the side of the pot (but still short enough to pack inside the pot). Because it goes all the way around the stove, it can’t blow away.

    Another disadvantage of the Super Cat is that its performance suffers in cold temps. Because the stove and fuel must be hot to function, putting it on a cold surface or putting a pot of cold water on top tends to snuff it out. The eCHS stove takes less than 10 seconds to get going and runs relatively cool. Not only does this protect the surface from heat/flames, it allows it to function even in extreme cold. Last winter I did a boil test when it was 5 below zero and the stove functioned normally.

  24. Jonathan on July 21, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    (I’m a “heavy” backpacker).
    an unmentioned problem: the cat stove does not fit for cooking for two people.

    in many countries (and where I live as well) alchohol is not widely available and is not cheap.
    I use a liquid fuel stove.
    the fuel is widely available (in any place with engines of any kind)
    it is stable and works fine in wind.
    and the “fire power” fits cooking for two.
    also, liquid fuel is more energetic than alchohol.
    the stove+fuel for two people hiking 6 days weighs about 1 kg (~2lb), which is about the weight a “light” backpacker would carry for this kind of trip.
    + bonus points: no trouble in cold weather, nor in high altitude.

  25. Jay Kerr on July 21, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I’m “in transition” to UL, but just replaced my MSR Pocket Rocket with a Reactor. I just don’t want to fuss with an alcohol stove. And 4 minute boil times? Sorry, but I get a smile on my face every time my coffee water is ready in a minute thirty. I also like to brew up midday, and that is much less fuss with a canister stove. Most of my backpacking trips seek out the above timberline places where the wind is a constant, and here the Reactor really shines. Quiet too… no rocket roar.

    • todd on July 22, 2015 at 11:09 am

      BTW, that was less than 4 minutes to boil 2 cups. If I were just making coffee, I would be boiling half that so the boil time would be less than 2 minutes. But on the other hand, if power/short boil times is a primary concern for you, then yes alcohol stoves are probably not the best option. Each person has a different set of priorities to consider when making these choices.

  26. Gina on July 22, 2015 at 7:58 am

    I solely use the super cat stove, but I do always bring extra fuel… I never seem to be able to get 2 cups of water boiling with one ounce of alcohol, but perhaps I am just sourcing from cold creeks. Doesn’t tip over if I am careful, but I did have to switch to a lighter after several mishaps trying to light it with a striker.

    I agree that a huge con is the inability to cook for a group, but my hiking partner and I carry our own stoves and cook solo anyway, this way we can each have a hot drink from our pots before bed. We can also eat different meals if we are in the mood for different things.

    The main reason we switched to alcohol was because it’s super inconvenient to dispose/recycle of the fuel canisters, and we were not okay with repeatedly tossing them in the trash. Much less waste this way.

    Used to use the Esbit tablets, but they only burn hot enough for the first 3-5 minutes, and then die down to this pitiful flame that is next to useless. Plus, they make everything smell like bad fish. It’s not that strong to be offensive, but no matter where you stash it in your pack it makes everything smell. It’s the last thing I want when I’m getting ready to sleep. Hiking partner still uses his Esbit stove/windscreen set, but with a tealight underneath filled with alcohol. Also nice that we are both using the same fuel.

    • todd on July 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

      If you can’t boil 2 cups with 1 oz of fuel, you are a good candidate for an alcohol system makeover (if you wish to stick to alcohol systems). As pointed out in the article, optimizing an alcohol system takes a bit of effort. There are much better options out there is you are willing and interested in working on it. Not everyone is interested in becoming an alcohol stove geek (as AS puts it), which is fine. But if you are sold on alcohol as your fuel of choice, working out a better system may be a good investment of time and effort.

  27. Vadim Fedorovsky on July 22, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Andrew, I simply made mine work better by using a non DIY, very tough windscreen that came with my original stove system before I went “light”.

    This has solved a lot of the problems for me.

    Is the stove perfect? No.

    Still it has served me well and I will continue to use it until you tell me there’s something better.


  28. todd on July 22, 2015 at 11:07 am

    These comments all support the notion that there isn’t one best stove. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages and which system is chosen will depend on the person and the hike which are both quite variable. The fact that an alcohol stove works best for solo trips is not really a disadvantage unless you are cooking for more than one. It’s a bit like saying a one-person tent isn’t very good because it only sleeps one person. I think the main point of this article was not to point out the advantages of alcohol stoves vs gas, canister stoves, Esbit, or wood. The Super Cat stove can and does work fine for many people but clearly would not be the best choice, depending on the specific hike or individual. I think the point of the article is that not all alcohol stoves should be judged by the Super Cat and that there may be other (and better) alcohol systems worth considering.

  29. James Carretta on July 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I’m still a fan of the Fancy Feast stove, though I did knock it over once when fumbling around a cold camp. When used with a firmer windscreen, like a section of aluminum roof flashing such as that shown in this photo:


    the whole system is quite stable. But even this windscreen is prone to poor performance when the wind is really high. I decided not to light the stove during a recent trip because of high wind (35 kts) and fire danger conditions and lack of an available wind-free camp area.

    It works really well in ‘reasonable’ conditions. My tweaks to the stove hole configuration and cook pot specs are as follows:

    I’ve made a 14-hole stove that is more efficient than my 24-hole stove. The 14-hole version has 6-widely spaced holes around the can rim and 8-widely spaced holes in a row below that. 14-hole stove runs longer than the 24-hole stove on the same amount of fuel (20 ml) / same water temperature/volume, brings 2 cups of water from a cold fridge to a boil in 7 minutes and then keeps running for another 45 seconds. The 24-hole stove boils 2 cups in 6 minutes, but runs out immediately. The 14-hole design is less sensitive to wind. It occurred to me that having more holes in the second row (farther from the pot bottom) would help keep the flames hitting the middle of the pot instead of getting wrapped around the sides. I also raised the hole locations a tad bit close to the rim to increase fuel capacity. I tried this head-to-head with 3 liters of water, using 25 ml of fuel and was able to boil water with the 14-hole stove, but not the 24-hole stove. I use a 1.8 liter GSI dualist pot with a homemade aluminum flashing windscreen. Pot diameter is 5.5 inches.

  30. James Carretta on July 23, 2015 at 9:22 am

    “Whoops, in my above comment, I meant to type “I tried this head-to-head with 3 CUPS (not liters) of water, using 25 ml of fuel and was able to boil water with the 14-hole stove, but not the 24-hole stove.”

  31. Vince on July 25, 2015 at 7:23 am

    Quick reply,

    I have used a fancy feast stove for years, and there are several reasons for that.

    Question: Does the stove burn quicker with a Ti pot?I have been years using my wife’s AL pot from her girl scout mess kit.

    The weight advantage is not great but the fuel consumption may be.

    Any answers are greatly appreciated.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 26, 2015 at 7:14 am

      A materials expert may add something here. My understanding is that aluminum is more thermally conductive than titanium, but that in the scheme of things it does not make a huge difference. A bigger factor will be the thickness of the material — with a thin-walled pot, there is less material that must be heated before the heat is being transferred directly to the water.

  32. James Richardson on July 27, 2015 at 4:56 am

    I have a box full of alcohol stoves. I made several cat food can stoves years ago, including the one you’ve mentioned, and found these unsatisfactory. Also have many windscreens, homemade and purchased.

    1. Today I use two alcohol stoves: the the Minibulldesigncult Nios2 (tiny, no longer available, but good for more pinpoint flame and adjustment), and the Minibulldesigncult original Atomic. No carbon felt inside for avoiding possible spills. I never had any problem with spills. And can pour any remaining alcohol back into my bottle. Totally reliable and predictable. Both stoves weigh near nothing.

    2. From the same company I also have found what to me is the perfect windscreen, an 18″ x 4.5″ piece of very thick carbon felt, which weighs 1.0 ounce. It stands by itself, is much more wrappable and positionable than any aluminum screen, won’t burn or melt at any temperature I’ve used, and makes a perfect potholder for anything hot, even red hot. Cheap, I have several of these. I’m never going back to any of my metal screens for backpack cooking.

    3. My main pot is a Toaks ti 1600ml (I use a disc of aluminum flashing for lid, and a second disc for setting stove on) and also a Toaks ti 750ml cup. I use these with a German Bushbox titanium pocket stove, assembles and breaks down flat in seconds, precision laser cut, and allows several configurations for different pots are burners/tabs. It greatly helps avoid losing heat up the sides, and any further loss is eliminated with the carbon felt windscreen. Nirvana found! It’s the perfect combination for me for all conditions. Can boil water anywhere, and can use finger-sized wood pieces if I run out of alcohol, which hasn’t happened yet. But I do this for fun at home with morning coffee sometimes. I have no desire to look any further into burners, windscreens, or other stoves.

    Hope this helps someone. I have no connection whatsoever to the company mentioned. Andrew, with your book and blog you have helped me greatly, the geezerboy still at it at age 70 and still learning and changing with the times. I love it when I find someone who really knows what he is talking about, from real experience. Thank you.

  33. Bill on July 28, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    I’ve been using Jim Wood’s Fire Bucket system, mostly with Zelph’s Starlyte stove, although the Fire Bucket can be used with the Super Cat stove. I use aluminum flashing for the bucket and 1/16″ Stainless Steel welding rod for the pot supports. I switched from the original screws and nuts holding the bucket together to an interlocking lap joint that requires no fasteners. My buckets are made to suit the pot that I am using.

  34. George on July 30, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    The Super Cat was the first DIY alcohol stove I made, and tinkered with, and I still have one or two. It is dead nuts simple to make, and not much more difficult to use. With some TLC, I’ve used one into the low 20ºs F.

    I have come to prefer the “Unican” pop-can stove (See: Troop 73, Alcohol Stove Project on YouTube). While it is prone to the same instability issue of the Cat stove. It takes but little more effort to build, and I find it slightly more efficient. I’ve used it successfully to boil into the low 10ºs F, albeit with care. I like that the entire system fits inside my grease pot, including a small bottle of fuel. (As did the Cat Stove, in fairness.) A custom aluminum foil wind screen works far better than the Unican screen as developed/shown in the Tr. 73 project. I even keep the stove in my Jeep for whatever, whenever I’m fishing, hunting, geocaching, letterboxing, et c. YMMV, and invariably will…

    BTW, I am not in any way associated with Troop 73 or any other entity or person cited or alluded to in the foregoing. However I do appreciate all their development, and effort! 😀

  35. Matt Kreider on July 31, 2015 at 7:36 am

    I have been using my fancy feast for all my, to use your nomenclature, hiking inspired trips. For some context, these trips are usually in the 2-4 day range in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I use the Evernew 0.6L pot for most of these solo trips, and I do the cook-in-a-freezer-bag style meals because I am lazy and hate doing dishes. I also usually make instant coffee in the mornings.

    I have to agree with all of your critiques. The stove functionality is greatly impacted by pot shape. using the 0.6L pot, I actually grabbed a slightly smaller than average cat food can, and used 1.5 rows of holes instead of 2 full rows. I tested 4 different configurations and this yielded the best results. It can be unstable, but because I just pour boiling water into ziplocs and do no stirring in the pot itself, this doesn’t bug me too much. I can see how it would though if I were using a larger pot and doing some real cooking in it.

    It is quite susceptible to the wind. This one gets a bit more annoying for me, as I really like to pitch my tarp at higher elevations. That being said, I added some Reflictix tape to the bottom of my windscreen and that helps to stiffen it up. Still can be a pain in the relentless alpine winds.

    I have definitely lit some duff on fire with the stove. I learned my lesson and now look for rocks or gravel/cleared areas that are suitable. Sometimes this means being a little further from bed than I would prefer.

    It does take a little bit to get my water boiling and dinner cooked (especially given the hydration time necessary for freezer bag cooking). This isn’t a big deal for me though. I took the advice you gave in your how-to article and spend the time stretching out, looking at the next days route, or just relaxing and reading. After a day of constant motion, I welcome the relaxed pace of things. Unless I already ate all of my other allotted food for the day, in which case I would be hungrily staring at the pot, willing it to boil faster. And, because most of my trips are long-weekend in length (curse you full time engineering job!) The amount of fuel wasted by general inefficiencies in the system doesn’t have much of an impact on me. Carrying a rigorously optimized system like a jetboil almost quadruples my cook kit weight. Plus with the fancy feast, I can bring exactly the amount of fuel I want. With the jetboil, I would be stuck lugging the extra fuel.

    All in all, the fancy feast is far from perfect. However, for the cost, the weight, and the performance, it is by far my favorite stove if weight and packed size are a consideration. It works great for freezer bag cooking, and coffee, and is almost laughably small and light. FWIW, I have a jetboil as well, and that has been relegated to the more luxurious trips I take with my wife.

    • James V Carretta on July 31, 2015 at 9:26 am

      I second the strategy of using 1.5 rows of holes on the Fancy Feast… makes it more efficient… probably due to making it less sensitive to wind and more efficient (less oxygen) burning. I’ve only had one trip of many where I couldn’t use the stove due to extreme wind and that was a personal choice due to perceived fire danger.

  36. Allen on August 11, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Taught two people last year to make their own stoves in prep for July JMT trip (3 weeks); one decided to go with a “Pepsi Can” and 1/2 inch sq. garden wire for pot support and the other did a “Fancy Feast” pet food can using a paper punch. Both stoves worked throughout the trip including under tarp cover during downpour followed by moderate drizzle for several hours. And yes, the Fancy Feast can needs about 30-60 second heat time before decent jetting takes place (without putting a pot on). The Pepsi can type has a more directed jet flow instead of outwards but use the boiling pot with large enough surface area to capture as much of the heat as possible takes care of some concerns in either case. The alternative stoves before that were MSR Whisperlite International and a PCS JetBoil (both are good stoves in their own way since I volunteer in SAR both in winter and the rest of the year and use both accordingly). I am trying to make a alcohol stove that will fit inside a Swedish “volcano / Ranger ” stove (tall upright aluminum cylinder with fitted 13oz aluminum cup as top. So far the Pepsi can works pretty hot (metal turns mild reddish color!) and I’m trying a press-fitted stove made from two bottom ends of aluminum soft drink cans with a series of small holes on the diameter and a center fill hole, filled with fibreglas.

  37. Jim E on August 13, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Late to the game but I’m really getting a lot of use out of the CLikstand titanium combo (2.7 oz) with the Trangia. The weight of the Trangia is a bummer, but this is a stable system and allows you to conserve fuel because the stove has a lid with an O ring. Plus, when you couple the system with the squat Evernew pot it all fits in a small package that comes with a mesh bag to keep it all in place.

  38. Paul on August 24, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Hello Andrew. I have noticed some of the same challenges but I have still enjoyed the cat food stove. I am not affiliated with this link but the link I am sharing has a few variations on the original idea, even a simmer function. http://www.backpacking.net/makegear/falk-catstove/index.html

  39. brian on September 1, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Also late to the game….
    From what I’ve seen the easiest way to “fix” some of the problems of the supercat stove is to put a ring of carbon felt on the inside.

    This turns the supercat into a wicking stove which will prime in seconds, handle spills more gracefully and be more resistant to windy conditions. Hiram Cook has some youtube videos where he compares boil times of a super cat with and without the carbon felt.

  40. Chris on September 13, 2015 at 8:27 am

    The supercat is still my stove of choice. I long ago gave up white gas stoves. While they have almost fanatical proponents, Jetboils have always struck me as being engineered for the wrong thing for most backpacking (efficiency vs weight). Only non jetboil canister stoves are truly competitive with alcohol stoves in weight, and those still have the fatal flaw that you enf up carrying more fuel than you need to much of the time. With an alcohol stove I can carry exactly the fuel I need and no more. I’m not a very diy person so after trying a few designs I settled in the supercat because of the simplicity of construction.

    The flaws you point out here are real but not insurmountable. Use a broad pot and hold the pot above the open flame as the stove primes. Use a more stiff windscreen than foil. In very windy conditions I sometimes supplement the windscreen by build a small wall of rocks to further sheild the stove from wind (easy enough to kick this over afterwards for LNT). Keep a bit of wster handy for a fire. The instability is a bit of an issue but the footprint of the stove is small enough its usually possible to find a flat spot, and just hold the pot when you stir. Prior to the supercat i used other alcohol stove designs that required a separate pot support. This was more stable but more annoying to pack with more potential points of failure, so for me the simplicity of the supercat design was worth the tradeoff.

  41. Andrew on September 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    I first started using a Fancy Feast stove after seeing you in Louisville and reading your book. Though in searching for a lighter and more compact cook system, I switched to the GSI Halulite Minimalist cook system. I found a different style of alcohol stove online that would work with the smaller pot base. The Groove Stove (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yby1f9-Inc) is very similar to the Fancy Feast with a few big differences: it works on narrower pots, there is no wasted bloom time, and it is unfortunately even less stable. Not much of a solution I know, but it works for me. Just wanted to share incase others were looking for something similar.

    Warning: The link shared above has some loud and terrible music. Please mute your computer before watching.

  42. Dom on October 10, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Late to the party… but, another vote for the eCHS! It really is the future. Look up tetkobas youtube vids and be amazed.

  43. Rob on December 16, 2015 at 4:08 am

    I have made numerous alcohol stoves including the super cat with several variations in hole size, can size, hole placement, number of holes and so forth and so on. I have also made several different soda can stoves and experimented with all to try and find the maximum efficiency. Here is what I have found to be the most efficient and simplest design for smaller diameter pots such as the Esbit and Optimus 2 cup pots.

    Make a stand out of hardware cloth that will store inside your pot. This woks best on Esbit pots with the extended lip on the bottom. Then take the little tin off of a tea light candle and fill it with alcohol. It takes about 1 oz to fill it. This setup will boil 2 cups of water in 5 to 8 minutes. Oh yea, tin foil wind screen that hugs tight enough around the stand to also store inside your pot. When in use, open the wind screen up to allow about a 1/8 to 1/4 inch gap all the way around the bottom of the pot. The most important variable in this setup is the height of the stand where it locates the bottom of the pot in relation to the flame. I was able to get more consisitent boil s out of this setup than any of the SuperCat and Soda Can Stoves. Happy Hiking,

    • Andrew Skurka on December 16, 2015 at 4:14 am

      I’d you send me a photo I will post it. A little hard for me to follow, even though I know most variations of this stove.

      • Rob on December 16, 2015 at 2:27 pm

        Hello Andrew,

        I emailed the pics of my stove setup. Hope you like.



        • Rob on December 16, 2015 at 2:59 pm

          Want to update my times. I haven’t timed this stove in a while. I usually just get it going and let it do its thing while I do camp chores. I did a very controlled test today and the numbers are 8 minutes to fish eyes and what I consider hot enough for freeze dried and boil in bag meals and my tea or hot chocolate. it was 8 1/2 to 9 minutes for a rolling boil and the water boiled until the flame extinguished at 11 minutes and 45 seconds. I don’t like cleaning pots so all I usually do is boil water. I have done rice and pasta sides in the pot and added meat. In those cases, I brought the water to a boil, added the ingredients and then refilled the tea light tin with alcohol and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. This is usually a last night splurge when I know have enough alcohol left because it does take 2 ozs for this. I always carry 12 ozs of alcohol at any one time for any duration of trip. Yea, I know, more than necessary but it can be used to start fires when things are wet and also to boil pin tips for on the trail deep splinter removal. I consider my alcohol like my water, Better to have it a not need it that need it and not have it. Hope this helps. Happy Hiking.

          • Rob on December 16, 2015 at 3:04 pm

            Oh, sorry. I forgot to add. There is no bloom time for this stove, fill the tin and let a little spill over the side. Put your stand and wind screen and pot in place and then light the overflow. Let the bloom be preheating your pot and water.

        • Andrew Skurka on December 17, 2015 at 9:50 am

          Here are photos of Rob’s system: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8hcrukmql6eskq3/rob-durham-tea-lite-stove.zip?dl=1

          Plus some more info he sent me via email:

          It weighs 4.6 ozs for the Esbit pot, wire stand, windscreen, and stuff sack. It fits together as one package with my alcohol bottle and spork. The hardware cloth has 1/4 holes and the stand is 11 holes tall. This is the sweet spot for this pot. 1 hole taller or shorter greatly affects the performance. The last shows the lip on the Esbit pot I was referring to. The stand needs to wrap close around this lip but not so tight as to bind. This makes it very stable. Pots without the lip can be used. However, because this lip recesses into the stand about 1/4 inch, the stand would need to be made 1 row shorter for pots that sit directly on top. It isn’t the lightest option but for me it has been the simplest, cheapest, and most effective.

          • Rob on December 17, 2015 at 11:44 am

            Thanks for posting them Andrew. I need to correct another number. Like I said I have been using this setup a while and don’t really think about the stats anymore. The tea light cup actually holds closer to 1/2 oz of fuel. So that is a rolling boil on 2 cups of water with only 1/2 oz of alcohol. The only time I dont get a full rolling boil is in very windy conditions. However, even then the water is plenty hot enough for freeze dried meals and tea or coffee or HoT CHocolate. Happy Hiking.

  44. Rob on December 17, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    First off I want to thank you Andrew for reigniting my stove obsession (pun intended). I thought I had put this behind me. I was on your site looking at clothing ideas when I came across this topic.
    Anyway, I also wanted to say that I use the above system when i solo camp. For camping with a partner, I use the exact same setup except I use it with a large 4 cup Optimus pot with the heat exchanger on the bottom. The height of the stand for this setup is 10 holes or 1 hole shorter. And I use 2 tealight cups to increase evaporative surface area for the fuel. With this setup, I get 4 cups of water to a roar and hot enough water at 6 1/2 minutes, a rolling boil at 9 minutes and 15 seconds, and it continues to boil to 12 minutes when the flame extinguishes. This is with 1 oz of alcohol in 2 tea light cups. I will send pics of the 2 person setup also.
    As I said, I know there are lighter systems out there. However, I feel like the weight to efficiency to simplicity balance has suited me best with this setup.

  45. Matt Stapleton on January 8, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    The Super Cat is absolutely my go to. There’s no comparison in weight size and functionality. I use almost the same set up as you’ve depicted however your big mistake is attempting to use titanium with this stove setup. Unlike aluminium or stainless steel titanium retains heat very poorly. This is a a problem because the cat stove uses a small heating area that titanium cant optimize. I use a 18oz stainless steel mug with aluminum foil lid/windscreen for all my re-hydrating.

  46. Reverso pot stand – Goat Trails on April 14, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    […] idea behind this design is to address the stability issues known to the super cat stove and propose a way to connect a heat / wind shield around the stove. […]

  47. Josh Jusko on July 20, 2016 at 5:52 am

    i’ve made the fancy feast stove before and i can’t get on board with it due the flaws you’ve pointed out and more reasons. i picked up a chinese knock off of the trangia alcohol stove with pot stand that also acts like a wind screen. That set up weighs in at 5oz excluding fuel. I’ll use that if i want to go super light and have time to weight for it. IMHO when you start talking the difference between less than 2-3oz in items your a gram weenie. if you can’t handle a 15lb 13oz pack vs a 15lb 5oz pack your just a weenie, can you really tell me you can feel the difference between a half a pound on your back, even a pound really? are you running with the pack loaded? if you’re running with it then i can understand but if you’re just hiking, seriously then you’re just out of shape if you can’t handle a half a pound to a full pound….. do an experiment

  48. Martin Miller on July 21, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Stumbled across this as I was researching alcohol stove tweaks. I used to use a few “Mini Zen Chimney/Sideburner Stove” alcohol stoves when packing with just myself or just me and the wife. While not as fast as the Whisperlite the convenience of using alcohol as a fuel and the weight reduction I was very happy with this set-up. I managed to get 2 quarts to a boil with 2.5 ozs of fuel and a 15+ minute burn time, boiling a mix of tapwater and ice.

    One thing that struck me when testing different designs was how much impact the shape of the pot and the presence of a windscreen made.

    My all time best stove was one of the cyclone ones – managing a 2 qt boil with just under 2 ozs. In a power outage I brought to boil a full size stainless steel kettle with 2.5 ozs of fuel. However, used with a full windscreen improved the feedback loop and the flame turned into an inferno – consuming all the fuel in about 3 minutes and leaving the pot cold. Cutting the fuel with water turned into too much of a hassle. Since all alcohol stoves really need a windscreen, I drifted away from the cyclone designs.

    After a lot of fussing I concluded the windscreen, how tight of a fit it had etc played more of a role in stove efficiency than the design – a simple open top stove (can) performed on a par with all my other designs when the windscreen fit the pot just right. A slight loss in efficiency but really nothing to fret.

    Only in a still environment with no windscreen (my test kitchen) to alter the heat feedback did various designs differentiate themselves to any degree, and under those conditions there were really notable changes one to the next.

    Anyway, great discussion. Have used the Super Cat and it works well, no complaints but I prefer some of the other designs.

  49. James on October 17, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Old thread, but my current setup is a TOAKs alcohol burner with a mesh pot stand, aluminum foil wind screen, and MSR Titan. It works well, and the whole kit, including a 2 fl. oz. squeeze bottle of alcohol (enough for weekend trips) fits inside the pot.

    The setup is a little pricey compared to some, but I have come to appreciate the packing flexibility that compact gear offers outside of long distance backpacking. I may still try a caldera cone style windscreen down the line, but for now the packability of aluminum foil has the lead.

  50. Gordo on March 29, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Anyone have any personal experiences combining a Firebox and a Cat Stove? The Firebox looks like it will give good stability, wind protection and pot stand while also providing additional options for cooking in the event of an emergency (wood burning or esbit burning).

    • Jim on March 29, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      I’m sure it would work great if you wanted to carry two pounds (literally!!!) of metal with your ultralight stove, and take away the (albeit questionable) benefit from the “jets” of the cat can stove by leaving the top open.

      For comparison, a caldera cone weighs about 1.2 oz.

  51. Marlon on September 26, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Hello! Thanks for all this great information.

    As a web guy I thought you’d like to know that the Roy Robinson’s Cat Stove link on this page is not working.

    Thanks again!


    • Andrew Skurka on September 26, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Per his son Brian, Roy Robinson sadly passed away in January, and his family took down his website.

  52. Marina on February 27, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Regarding the fire hazard, I’m thinking of just carrying a small bit of aluminum foil to use as a ground liner of sorts. Should reduce risk of fires and could improve efficiency by reflecting the heat back to the pot.

  53. Kabonsu on April 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Many of my backpacking buddies swear by the Cat Stove but watching them fight with the balancing act and finicky windscreens has always deterred me from giving it a go. I love my optimus crux and don’t see myself leaving it behind anytime soon. It boils 400ml (my max dinner rehydrate amount) of water in 3 min with 0.32 oz (9 g) of canister fuel. The reliability, consistency, speed, and F-16 afterburner roar will keep it on my pack list for the foreseeable future.

    Really appreciate all the effort you put forth in your blogging, thanks!

  54. Bradley on November 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    My Super Cat is my “go to” stove. It’s delicate yes, but also light. I’ve not had any issues with wind or toppling in over a decade. I could see how some folks might have trouble though…just not me. I used to use a DIY aluminum foil windscreen, but moved to one made from a $1 store aluminum pan with much heavier gauge metal. Works much better. But never had problem with the foil…just not as durable. YMMV. FYI, I typically don’t sleep/cook in exposed areas.

  55. Moe on February 28, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    If stability is a problem, use a diy pot stand. Dont realy get the problem:)
    I build my 2 stands after his idea. Clever and stable and most important It’s cheap like your fancee:) check it out.


  56. Daniel oxnard on May 2, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    I also experienced poor stability and wind fatigue, so I designed a housing unit that converts the cat food can into a centerfire system with excellent wind resistance, and superior stability with only an increase of 0.6 oz. A MYOG foil shield around it helps with fuel efficiency.


  57. E on June 6, 2021 at 1:27 am

    Best one I’ve tried. Surpasses the cat can stoves and similar variants. Increased height of the center section increases the size of the flame.


  58. Steve on August 5, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    I built about 20 of these with my high school students trying to get them to get interested in backpacking (hard to do in the corn fields of IL). They do like cooking Ramen on them though. I made a snuffer for mine with another cat food can that is just a little bigger to save on fuel. My concern with this stove is using it in cold weather (below 15 let say). I’d have to prep for it and find someway to trap the heat. I use my msr wind screen right now.

  59. austin marketing guy on February 26, 2022 at 7:01 pm

    I’m liking the Super Cat/Simmer Cat, despite some of the drawbacks you mentioned, but my concern is a little different: I’m worried about the white lining on the inside of the can.

    I think this is some kind of anti-rust protection, and I don’t like blasting it with heat and possibly breathing toxins (I’m mostly using it indoors btw) and releasing lord knows what… probably toasting the ozone layer or something.

  60. Tim scherer on December 21, 2022 at 6:22 pm

    I was a little surprised when I saw this article. The stove you’re using we would have called a cat stove. The super cat used 2 cat cans. A regular sized can as a base and the smaller fancy feast on top. Put the larger can open side down, place the smaller can on top. Drill four holes and pop rivet the 2 cans together. Wider base. I use a pint paint can, bottom cut out and paint cleaned off and burned out. Cut four 1 inch openings around the paint can for air. The paint can goes over the stove as a wind screen and acts to protect the stove when traveling

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