Zen Musher Cookers





Musher Cookers

aka Dog Food Cookers/Stoves, Sled Stoves, Iditarod Cooker, Sled Team Stoves


Dog Sled Cooker

ultimateiditarod.com  musherfood



Musher Cooker  (Hundekjøring Vannvarmer/Vannkoker)

You and your sled dogs cross great expanses of snow covered landscape.  You need a cooking system able to melt enough snow to thaw out your frozen meat and hydrate your kibble for your pack of four legged friends.  A wood stove is a reasonable option when traveling over areas with trees and when not in a hurry and is certainly a step up from the naked wood fires of old which took hours to heat up enough water for your dogs. 



But when their is no wood to be found or when you are in a hurry, other cold resistant options are a must.  And when you are melting several gallons of snow, a cutesy little backpacking stove isn't going to cut it.  Two burner petro stoves were once popular for your crowd, but the simplicity, predictability lighter weight of large alcohol stoves have made the the norm.  Besides heating up water, you can heat up your personal meals sealed in a bags and frozen fruit juice and smoothies in their plastic bottles.



Basic Paint Bucket Alcohol Musher Cooker

Musher Cooker

Musher Cooker


The stove of choice for mushers is and Alcohol stove running on yellow HEET methanol.  This type of stove has a simple design without any moving parts with good protection from the wind and cold.  It will dependably melt snow and heat up your meal in weather so cold that gas fuels will fail.  And without moving parts, your life doesn't depend on how well you can maintain your stove when your fingers are frozen, your brain is numb and your eyes are blinded by the eternal darkness of winter concealed in a haze of a blizzard.


Musher Alcohol Stove

Fancy Square Alcohol Burner


The burners can range from simple bowls to more fancy ones with jets and adjustable burner stands to change your heat settings.  A DIY round version of the burner above would be easy to make from coffee cans or a metal beer keg and a bit of ingenuity.  The inner wall can be constructed from sheetmetal to create an inverted cone by using the same tools made for cone shaped windscreens.  Other stove technologies such as chimney ventilation, jetting, pressuring and wicks can be incorporated with or without turning these stoves into "Cyclone" stoves.


The cookers doubles as a potstand and windscreen which protects the heat and flame rising from your burner and directs it around the sides of your pot.  The cookers are often cylindrical in shape (5 gallon metal bucket) and some have provisions for spinning rising air around to enable centrifugal decomposition.


Related Links:

Cold Spot Feeds - commercial musher cooker with adjustable burner height with spiral cyclone - uses only two HEET bottles to cook

Adanac Sleds & Equipment - Commercial musher cooker

How to make a dogfood cooker DIY Dog Food Cooker

Our Magnificent Mushing Madventure (Chapter 2)

In 48 hours, I will embark on my first 100 mile dog race

Fish Cooker


Loading Up Her Alcohol Musher Stove In The Sled

Steves ready for Iditarod start Saturday

alaskadispatch.com  anjanette-steer-mushing-woman-cooker-03-29-10

adventure.howstuffworks.com  iditarod2

alaskastock.com  stove Giant trash can cooker

web.archive  ultimateiditarod.com  sledcargo  musherfood

adn.com  gear

nbcsports.msnbc.com  20#  Trashcan cooker

nbcsports.msnbc.com  15#

northwapiti.blogspot  checkpoint-routines

flickr.com  theskepticaloptimist  Large

flickr.com  9559480@N07

flickr.com  teachingwowmushing

sugardoodle.net  6002  How to make a 5 Gallon Bucket Stove - charcoal

emergencyhelps.com  5 Gallon Bucket Stove - wood/charcoal

pbase.com  108856138

iditarod.com  what-those-mushing-words-mean - should allow for wood fire



System Parts:



Square Norwegian Mushing Cooker

 Norwegian Musher Square Cooker

TROLL HEIT 4 - Vannkoker


Square cookers are great in that they pack up much better in a tight sled.  They are a little more difficult to build and therefore a bit more difficult to find.  But when it comes time to packing up your gear, these are well worth the extra cost or fuss.


Hundekjøring Vannvarmer/Vannkoker

5 liter Sammenleggbar Vannkoker


The older 5 liter Sammenleggbar Vannkoker used a lid that covered both the pot and cooker to maximize heating of water.  The drawback of this system is that unburned fuel would condense on the lid and drip into your water, tainting the taste of the water.  Methanol is also poisonous, which isn't ideal to consume.


Related Links:


flickr.com  129228426 - Square Cooker

kippsiberians.kokeshnet.com  268  Square cooker

emilinauen.ch  36 eiBoost Swiss Musher Stove - see German page for details

TROLL Sammenleggbar vannkoker i aluminium  Old 5liter version

Sammenleggbar vannvarmer i aluminium for hundekjøring  Advertisement pg 8

finn.no  34003446

flickr.com  ynpk9

huskymusher.blogspot  tobacco-trail-2012-part-iv Note oversized lid with upper ventilation holes

pinterest  267049452876482048  Lance Mackey's cooker - Iditarod 2013

chugiakdogmushers.com  Classifieds   4 Gal. Aluminum Boiler. burner built by Weaver bros. Fbks.

alaskaslist.com  333129_Trail_Cooker_for_Boiling_Water.html


System Parts:



DIY Square Musher Cooker

Zen Musher Cooker System

Two 6" deep two-thirds Stainless Serving Pans

Bottom vent holes - 1/2 inch diameter and 1.6inch centered from bottom

1/16th x 3/4 inch angle aluminum for bottom traction

3/16th iron rods with washer welded on (chain optional)

Note: smaller diameter rods (3/16th) fair better when cut in half and support the pan diagonally at each of the corners of the cooker (not shown above)


You may wish to make you very own Musher Cooker and a square one will pack MUCH better than a round cooker, especially if you go with an minimum size pot and design your pot and cooker to collapse when not in use.  The challenge is getting the right square pot to fit your needs.  If you have TIG welder, then you can custom build just about anything you like.  If you lack welding skills, you still have several reasonable options.


Zen Musher Cooker

1/4" holes for pot support rods spaced 1/2 inch apart in two double vertical rows

Inner Cake Pan 8" x 2" thin aluminum in aluminum reinforced fiberglass "cozy"

Inner regulator made from 2 brass tubes wired together with jet holes directed in counterclockwise manner

Weaved fiberglass wick wrapped around pinnacle of heat regulator

Air wall made from thick aluminum flashing covered in 0.005" Stainless shim.  Riveted inner fins are 1/16" x 3/4 angle aluminum

Cooker fits in empty  two-thirds pan/pot

1/16th x 3/4 inch angle aluminum for bottom traction also prevents cooker from getting stuck in pan

Easily stores pot support rods and 9 bottles of HEET


Zen Musher Heat Wall

Heat Wall isolates cold fresh air from exhaust gasses.

Made form thin metal sheet and 1/16th x 3/4 inch angle aluminum

Causes spiral feed of fresh air to create vortex of mixed air and vaporized fuel

Enhances centrifugal decomposition

Note: that steel and titanium are far more resilient to heat and recommended over aluminum


Hotel/chaffer pans come in several "universal" sizes.  These are relatively inexpensive and easy to find.  If you are looking for a 3 gallon pot to use in the Iditarod or other race requiring a 3 gallon pot, a 6 inch deep two-thirds size water pan will hold around 3.5 gallons.  It's hard to beat an economy gauge stainless steel 3/4 pan for weight.  And since they are tapered for storage, you can also build your cooker out of a pan and store a 3/4 pan cooker in a 3/4 pan pot.


If you are trying to find a pan smaller than a 3/4 pan, 45 cups of water fit a 6 inch deep half pan we tested, which is shy of 3 gallons by 3 cups.  Rolling up the edges of a 6inch deep half pan will just make 3 gallons, but you are pushing it.  You can also weld, rivet or epoxy an extension around rim of a half pan to create something with enough capacity for 3 gallons if you want to go that route.


Aluminum sheet can be folded (think Chinese takeout box) and then riveted, welded, or epoxied into shape.  If you are really good, you can roll the rim to make a nice edge that holds everything together.  This allows you to make an extremely light weight custom sized square pot in any dimension you like.


You may get lucky and find a square water pail/bucket which fits your needs.  And if you really need something custom, it should be easy to find someone who can bend aluminum, stainless steel or titanium plate and weld up the seems for you if you lack the ability or resources to do this yourself.


You can always just go with a round pot like most people.  But where is the fun in that?


3 US Gallons (ecalc.com) =

12 quarts

24 US pints

48 cups


0.40104166667 ft3

693 inches3

10 x 10 x 7 inches

12 x 9 x 6.5 inches


11.356235352 liters

0.011356235352 m3

11356.235352 cm3 or mL

24 x 24 x 20 cm

32 x 24 x 15 cm


Square Pot Links:

Royal Industries (ROY STP 2306) - 6" Two-Thirds Size Steam Table Pan 14 Quart capacity (3.5 gallons) 24 gauge Stainless Steel

Royal Industries (ROY STP 2300 1) - Solid Two-Thirds Size Steam Table Pan Cover

Standard Stainless Steel 2/3 Size Steam Table Pan - 6 (24 gauge)

6" Deep, 2/3 Size Standard Weight Stainless Steel Steam Table / Hotel Pan Anti-Jam 13 7/8" x 12 3/4"


Half Size X 8" Transport Pan

Vollrath® Super Pan II® Transport Pans 8" deep


Standard Half-Size Anti-Jamming Steam Table Pan - 6" Deep (24 gauge)

Polar Ware (544D) - 5" Half-Size Water Pan


Gatorchef.com  Stainless-Steel-Steam-Table-Pans-s/416.htm


Stainless Steel Square Soup Pot With Cover

Stainless Steel Square Soup Pot 13L

S.S.Commercial cooking/soup/kitchen Pot/S.S.Bucket





There are many options for the burner.  You can custom weld a burner or use a premade pan or coffee can to fit your needs.  Coffee tins can be cut down to size, while cake pans are often limited in heights.


Mushers often use 2 bottles of HEET to melt and heat up water for their dogs.  Each bottle of HEET has 12 fluid oz or 355mL of fuel.


Volume of HEET Fuel

Bottle(s) Fl Oz mL
1 12 355
2 24 710
3 36 1065
4 48 1420
5 110 1775



Round Cake Pan Volumes

Size Fl Oz mL     Size fl oz mL     Size fl oz mL
2x2 3 103     2x3 5 155          
3x2 8 232     3x3 12 348          
4x2 14 413     4x3 21 619     4x4 28 825
5x2 22 645     5x3 33 967     5x4 44 1289
6x2 31 928     6x3 47 1393     6x4 63 1857
7x2 43 1264     7x3 64 1895     7x4 85 2527
8x2 56 1650     8x3 84 2476     8x4 112 3301
9x2 71 2089     9x3 106 3133     9x4 141 4178
10x2 87 2579     10x3 131 3868     10x4 174 5158
11x2 106 3120     11x3 158 4680     11x4 211 6241
12x2 126 3713     12x3 188 5570     12x4 251 7427

*Size in inches


globalsugarart.com  825



Volume of a Round Pan

Diameter:   mm or Inches
Height:   mm or Inches





fl oz



Volume of a Square Pan

Length: mm or Inches
Width: mm or Inches
Height: mm or Inches





fl oz



Insulation from Cold

Alcohol burns because it vaporizes when warmed.  The warmer you keep your burner, the faster your stove will burn alcohol.  And at 50 below zero (ºF or ºC), your stove needs as much help as it can get.


Fiberglass Insulation

The burner can be insulated by wrapping fiberglass insulation or carbon felt around the bottom and sides of the burner. Using aluminum flashing or high temp flue tape will keep it together and protect it.  This significantly decreases the amount of heat sucked out of your burner by the frozen ground and air.



Suspended Burner

You can suspend your burner via a burner platform within your pot stand.  Take a look at how a Trangia stove is used with its complete system.


You can also use rolled up aluminum flashing or something similar to support your burner off of the bottom of your pot stand.



Insulated Stand

Your potstand needs a bottom.  Since most stands used by mushers are made from metal buckets, this is fine.  The metal bottom reflects heat back up at the burner and pot while acting like a snowshoe to prevent the cooker from sinking too quickly into the snow.  You can also add a layer of insulation to the bottom of your pot.  You can use a silicone back mat, foil insulation or a metal extension with or without insulation between the extension and bottom of potsand.  The insulation mat shown below is an example of a simple insulated platform.


Dog Sled Cooker

ultimateiditarod.com  musherfood


Thermal Feedback

Heat needs to return to your burner to keep it burning.  Your potstand with sides and the bottom of the pot should reflect enough heat back to keep it nice an toasty.  If you would like your burner to burn hotter, make sure you take measures to insulate your burner and consider ways to heat up your fuel.  You can use a loop or two of copper wire wrapped round your burner and looped into the flame.  Another options is to use a metal tube made from a tube with holes, wire mesh or metal tubbing/wire which sits in the fuel.  These will heat up within the flame and conduct that heat back to your fuel.




A wick may make it easier to light your burner while holding the fuel in the burner.  Fiberglass insulation or carbon felt are options.  In cold cold temperatures, a wick may allow a burner to burn hotter as the rate of fuel vaporization may be increased with transport of fuel to the flame, like when using a wick in a candle or buddy burner.



Mixing Air and Fuel

Mixing air and fuel in a tiny alcohol burner isn't a big deal since so little alcohol is being burner.  This is one of the reasons a simple tealight stove works.  But for a larger scale stove, the method you use to mix air and vaporized fuel may noticeably impact stove performance.



Jetted  Burner

Cold Spot Feeds uses a custom burner which resembles an open jet top burner beverage can stove or a Trangia stove.


Musher Alcohol Stove

Fancy Square Alcohol Burner


The burner jets around the circumference of the top of this burner should cause turbulence and draw oxygen into the jets of fuel.  The large center opening should make this burner easier to light and more dependable than if it had a smaller central opening.



Chimney Stove

A chimney stove draws in air at a low point and mixes it with vaporized fuel with the burner itself.  This works with smaller burners and should help combustion on a larger scale.  You can use a chimney stove with a raised heat reflector which separates "clean air" and hot burning air.  This should help bring fresh air into the burner.



Circumferential Decomposition

A chimney stove with air ports which come in at an angle will create a cyclone effect within the burner and further mix up air and oxygen before and during combustion.  There are many ways to do this with tubes, angle iron, folded sheet metal and folded burners.  Take a look at our Cyclone Stove page for some ideas.




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Zen Backpacking Stoves






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