Choofer Made From a 9kg Gas Bottle
For quite a few years now we have not bothered trying to have a wood fire at our campsite on Ningaloo Station. The main reason has been the lack of fire wood available in the area. Also the station owners have had huge problems with charcoal polluting beach camp sites and so have introduced rules where no wood can be gathered on the station, all fires must be contained in a drum or similar, and also all charcoal must be bagged up and deposited at the refuse site.
We wanted a solution that would provide not only camp oven cooking but also a facility similar to our Cobb cooker, which we use for everything from baking bread, to smoking fish or cooking a roast. Sitting by a fire on the beach on a cool night was also high on our wish list. It had to burn wood efficiently in small quantities due to having to bring it with us in bags. It also needed to work using heat beads in a similar fashion to the Cobb. The answer of course was a Choofer, So I got hold of an old 9kg gas bottle and went to work.
There are plenty of ingenious examples of Choofers on the net so I firstly researched as many as I could find and gleaned what I considered to be the best points from each to incorporate in my own design. The importance of ensuring no gas remained in the bottle was not lost on me, so after carefully removing the valve (no easy task) I filled the bottle with soapy water, let it sit for 24 hours, emptied it and repeated the process just to be sure. Using an angle grinder with a very fine disk, I cut the top off the bottle, then cut a door in the front and also cut the valve guard down to about 30mm high. My welding skills are limited so I had a friend weld three steel locating washers to the lid, three female water pipe connectors to the bottom, and we fashioned a hinge from a piece of steel tube welded to the side of the bottle and some rod welded to the door and inserted in to the tube. Some flat bar was used to fashion a latch for the door. And that was all the welding that was required!
Three short pieces of threaded water pipe from Bunnings were all that were needed for the legs. I have since screwed caps to the bottom of the legs to prevent sand clogging them up when we are on the beach. The legs and rods are packed inside the Choofer during transport.
I experimented with the breather holes in the base of the Choofer doing eight initially, then adding to and enlarging them until I was satisfied the fire was working efficiently. I drilled two holes on each side half way up the Choofer to accommodate the metal rods used to sit the camp oven on. Then two more each side near the top for sitting a frying pan or kettle on. The valve hole in the lid acts as a chimney and provides air flow from the bottom to the top. A kettle will sit nicely on the cut down valve guard when the lid is on the Choofer.
Lastly some steel mesh cut in to a circle and placed in the bottom prevents the fire from clogging up the breather holes. The Choofer uses surprisingly little wood and burns it down to ash which can then be spread under bushes without causing any pollution of the sand or need for charcoal disposal.
When caravanning our Choofer travels in it's own gas bottle bracket on the rear bumper of the van so there is no problem with dirty marks in the car or van. If we are camping it travels in a milk crate on the roof rack.
The advantages of the Choofer are numerous. It cost virtually nothing to make yet will provide many different ways of cooking, limited only by the imagination. It uses very little fuel and transport of wood and the Choofer itself is easy. The biggy for us is that we now enjoy sitting by a warm fire in the evening. We sometimes carry it down on to the beach and enjoy a fire knowing we are not causing any pollution to the pristine Ningaloo environment.
A Place In The Sun 2019