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How to Make a Tin Can Heater for Year-Round Campsite Use

heater
Alex Burton

Make your winter camping just a little more enjoyable with this tin can heater to help warm your tent. 

It’s true that most people have their camping or fishing gear put away well before winter arrives. However, they just don’t realize that with the right gear and the help of a tin can heater, they are missing out on some unique sites, experiences, and fun.

This little tin can heater would be the perfect addition to help you warm up in your tent after a finishing camp chores or to help you fishing longer inside your ice shack. Follow the steps below to learn how to build your own to try.

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Materials:

  • Large tin can
  • Small tin can
  • Large tuna fish can
  • 8×8 circular cake pan
  • Drill
  • 4 small “L” brackets with self tapping screws
  • Small hinge (optional)
  • Various sized hole cutters
  • 1/4 inch drill bit
  • A 1/4 inch x 2 inch bolt and nut
  • At least 10 1/4 inch washers
  • Canned heat or candle

1) Grab the cake pan and lay it face down on your work space. This will act as the base for your heater. Place the tuna can as close to the center as possible before laying 3 of the L brackets around it. Mark them off and screw them in place. These brackets will hold the entire heater in place.

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2) Mark the center of the tuna can and cut a 2 inch diameter hole with a hole cutter. This allows the tuna can to slip over the fire hole of the canned heat and hold it in place.

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3) Grab the smaller tin can and drill a 1/4-inch hole in the center of the top for your bolt to go through.

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4) Now drill two rows of evenly spaced vent holes around the small tin can.

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5) On the large tin can start by drilling a quarter inch hole in its center. Grab a 1/2 inch hole cutter and drill out 4 to 5 evenly spaced holes around your center hole.

Be careful drilling your holes. As you can see my bit slipped during this process and didn’t allow me to space the holes perfectly.

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6) Using the 1/4-inch drill bit put about 8 evenly spaced holes around the bottom of the large can.

The more holes you can place along the bottom without ruining the integrity of the can the better. These allow air to reach your candle or canned heat as well as help keep the base cool.

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7) Grab your last bracket and screw it on the middle or the base of the large can. This will act as a handle to allow you to pull the hot cans off the canned heat or candle to extinguish it.

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8) Screw your bolt through the center hole of the larger can. Add the washers onto the bolt to act as a spacer before threading the smaller tin can onto the bolt inside the larger can.

You will have to play around with this part a bit. Your goal is to get the smaller tin can to sit flush on the tuna can while allowing the large can to completely cover the tuna can and brackets. I started with around 15 washers on the bolt and removed them 2 at a time until the big tin can could sit flush on the cake pan to figure mine out.

The purpose of this smaller can inside the larger is to trap and re-burn off any unused fuel when using canned heat. This also

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9) Light your candle or canned heat and place the large can over it and the brackets. This will hold the can in place and prevent it from tipping over. I didn’t, but you can also attach a hinge from the big tin can to the base to allow you to tip the can over instead of completely removing it.

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I highly recommend taking the heater outside and letting it burn for about an hour before taking it camping with you. This will burn off any excess glue from the labels or anything else that may still be left on the can. Don’t worry if black smoke comes out of the top during this process. It is normal and will stop when everything is burned off.

This can heater gets going quickly and will definitely throw off some serious heat. The cake pan base never even warmed up, so you could place this safely just about anywhere.

While I haven’t had the chance to try to use it while camping, I did set it up next to my workbench in my garage when it was about 20 degrees outside. It heated up the area around me pretty well until I got my wood stove burning and let it take over.

After that little test I am pretty sure this would easily keep the inside of a small two man tent, ice fishing shack, or areas of a camper comfortable. Just remember if you do use it inside of a tent that this could easily set the tent or bag on fire if not watched closely, so use common sense on where you place it.

Now get to building your own to take with you while enjoying the wonderland of winter.

All photos taken by Alex Burton.

SEE MORE: How to Make Fishing Lures From Paracord [PICS]

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How to Make a Tin Can Heater for Year-Round Campsite Use