When I am on a thru hike, I do my best to make every piece of my gear and my habits as efficient and effective as possible. When it comes to cooking, a small 100 gram fuel canister can last me upwards of a month on trail. How is this possible? Quite easily actually, I combine several techniques and pieces of gear that make my stove as efficient as it can be. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be spilling all of my thru-hiker stove efficiency secrets to you so stay tuned… Today, I’ll be showing you how to take the first step towards stove efficiency by making your very own DIY ultralight windscreen and heat reflector!

The Windscreen

A canister stove’s number one enemy is the wind. Wind can wreak havoc on your stove’s efficiency in two ways: by transporting your heat away from your pot, and by making it hard for your flame to stay lit. How do you stop this from happening? Simple really, you make some sort of windscreen. On a very basic level, you can use objects you already have available to you (like rocks, packs, trees, etc.) to form a windscreen, but a simple wall of lightweight aluminum foil is far more effective and very easy to make. It also helps to trap heat that other windscreen’s won’t, adding in just a little more fuel efficiency to your kitchen setup.

The Heat Reflector

A heat reflector serves two purposes in the backcountry: 1.) It reflects heat from your stove back towards your pot and decreasing boil times and increasing fuel efficiency & 2.) it reflects heat away from your fuel canister, keeping the canister cooler and at less risk of exploding (somewhat important.) If these fuel canisters are allowed to get too hot, they can rupture and explode…. not good. While a wind screen tends to trap heat, a heat reflector helps to mitigate the risk of overheating the canister by keeping this trapped heat focused on the pot and not the canister.


Materials for this build could not be simpler.



  • If the wind is really ripping, fold the edges of the windscreen in a way that allows them to interlock and hold a tight circle around the cooking setup.
  • Frequently check the top of your fuel canister while the stove is running inside the windscreen to assure that it isn’t overheating. If it is too hot to touch, shut off the stove immediately and allow it to cool.
  • Leave a small gap for airflow in the windscreen. This assures plenty of oxygen is getting to your flame.
  • Face the broad (backside) of the windscreen into the wind.
  • If the wind is too strong, you can also weigh down the windscreen with rocks or other heavy objects.
  • Fold the heat reflector and windscreen in half and store inside your pot, or wrapped around the outside.

Questions or comments? Leave them below!

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