I’ve been living the van life for almost three years now, and I spent one of those years warming myself up with a van wood stove.
There honestly isn’t anything like a real fire to keep you nice and toasty on those winter nights. Crackling logs, glowing coals, a warm light giving your van a cosy feel. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of!
We always wanted a wood fire in our van, and it helped us to remain warm and comfortable through the miserable English Winter. Sadly, we had to remove our fire because of our European travel plans, but we’ll always have the memories, and we don’t regret installing one.
If you’re considering long-term van living or living in a tiny house, then a fire is a must-have item. Just remember; when you’re warming your toes and enjoying a coal-baked Jacket Potato, it was us who gave you the idea!
Featured Image © Brandon Vandulken
Van Wood Stove Ideas For Every Camper
What Is A Van Wood Stove?
A van wood stove is a small wood burner that you can fit inside your camper van.
It might sound simple, but there are a lot of factors that you need to consider before installing something that houses a whole load of red-hot coals.
Van stoves, or wood burners as they’re more commonly known, can come in many shapes and sizes. The type that you choose to include in your build will no doubt determine which kind of fixtures you need, but we’ll get there in a minute.
Are They Safe To Install?
If done properly, a van wood stove can be installed safely without professional help. You’ll need to make sure that you kit your van out properly and remove any flammable materials from the immediate area.
To find out more about how to install a fire into your camper van build, check out our How To Build A Camper e-Book!
What Will I Need?
- The Fire. That’s probably obvious, but different styles need different flues and joining pieces.
- Flue. If you can, go for a double insulated flue. That way you’ll have less heat transference to other materials around your fire. You can use anything from exhaust piping to super-insulated, mammoth flues.
- Joining pieces – sometimes you might need a T-join or elbow piece to connect your flue to your fire. Do your research first before buying.
- High-Density Flashing – A kind of rubber traffic cone that sits over your chimney and bolts onto your van.
- Fire Sealant and Rope – Any holes you make through your van need padding around with fireproof rope and sealant. Remember, you’re trying to prevent as much heat from that flue spreading to other parts of your van body or roof.
- Stone/Tile Base – You’ll need something heatproof for your fire to sit on. Stone or tiles are great as they are dense materials, but just remember that they’ll increase your vans overall weight.
- Hardibacker – Fire resistant board for behind your fire.
- Rain Cap – Stops rain from getting down your chimney.
- Stove Paint – High-temperature resistant paint if you’re making your own burner.
What Is A ‘Multi-Fuel ‘ Stove?
A dual-fuel or multi-fuel stove is essentially a unit that can burn wood and coal. Some units can also burn natural materials like peat too without getting all clogged up.
Check with the manufacturer or look closely at any online listings to find out what exactly you can burn in your fire. And remember; always use smokeless fuel whenever humanly possible.
Is A Van Wood Stove Legal?
You can install a wood burner on a narrowboat or in a shepherd’s hut, so there’s no reason why you can’t include a van wood stove in your rolling home build.
The only problem that you may face is getting insurance for long term European travel. If you’re in the States and living the van life, then you won’t have any problems.
If you’re a UK reader, then there are some companies who will insure you for short European trips and others who will insure you so long as you can prove that your fire is not fixed down and can be removed.
Just do your research and make sure that you, your family, and your possessions are covered should the worst happen.
1. The Double Door
The Double door stove is the quintessential stove for any lifestyle. It conjures up images of cosy cabin living or life in the country, and watching the flames dance around is much more exciting than a lot of the stuff on TV.
Dual door stoves can be picked up pretty widely and are easy to bolt down to a stone base for life on the move. The flue sits on the top, so you can get your stove as close to the wall as possible while still keeping a safe gap.
The only downside to using this burner as a van wood stove is that it’s quite bulky, and the piece of stone that you should be thinking about using underneath will probably be heavy too.
If you’re thinking about converting a school bus or an overlanding vehicle, then this could definitely be a great style for you!
We’ve seen a lot of cubic mini stoves in camper vans, especially Mercedes Sprinter Conversions. The cubic mini measures 11″ x 12″ x 10.5″ and can produce up to 14,000 BTU’s. That’s enough to heat an RV up to 40′ long!
At that size, you could safely fix this thing anywhere. What’s more, the top of the unit is the perfect size for warming up food or boiling a kettle.
With a cubic mini, you don’t need to sacrifice masses of floor space and can still take advantage of the dry, humidity-eradicating heat that comes from burning wood and smokeless coal.
I really should have called this the ‘stick burner’, because I’m not sure that you could fit an actual log inside.
Still, don’t think for a second that this van wood stove won’t keep your RV nice and toasty once the thermometer drops below 0. They’re cheap to buy and will save you a heck of a lot on heating bills if you’re used to blasting your diesel heater all night.
At 12.5″ tall, this is another tiny little burner. It’s a great option if you’re planning on installing a fire up on a countertop area or raised up away from the ground so that you can feel the heat flowing straight towards your bed.
With a 1.9″ flue diameter, this is a burner that you would expect to use exhaust piping for or a similar-style product.
Remember, always shop around and buy the safest flue on the market. The alternative is driving away in a fireball, and no one wants that!
4. The Hobbit
Ok, so I may have initially included this van wood stove in our list because it’s called ‘The Hobbit’ and I love LOTR. Since I realised that, however, I’ve come up with a few actual reasons why this style and shape is perfect for a camper.
This single door + ash pan compartment stove is like the big brother of the cubic mini. It’s perfect for larger vans and Skoolies and has a nice cross section on the top that’s perfect for cooking on.
See the legs too? They come with pre-mounted bolt fixings for keeping this thing securely fastened to your van or RV. Neat, right?
These particular cast-iron stoves from Salamander Stoves come in a variety of different colours too. I reckon Bilbo and Frodo would be proud to sit in front of one of these.
5. The Pot Belly
Our next van wood stove is another timeless classic that you may well have seen while trudging through the internet.
Pot belly stoves are an off-grid chef’s best friend. Wang a kettle or a pan on the top, stick other food items around the edge to cook, and even chuck a couple of fire-safe Jacket Potato pods inside while you’re at it.
Like the dual door unit at the beginning of our list, a pot belly burner can potentially be a heavier option depending on which size you go for. This particular unit that we found comes in at 70KG, which isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘lightweight’.
Still, if you’ve gone minimalist on the rest of your build and really want a conversation piece, then you can’t go wrong with a pot belly!
6. The Gas Bottle Burner
If you prefer a more creative touch, then this adapted gas bottle burner makes for a very nice fire. It’s made from an empty butane bottle and features welded legs, door fittings, air inlet, and more.
There are lots of different types of gas bottle out there in the world. How you design a burner out of them can be left totally to your imagination (as the last item on our van wood stove ideas list proves).
I know that this should go without saying, but PLEASE make sure that your gas bottle is empty before you start messing around with power tools and welding equipment. Take it to a professional to check it’s completely gas-free if you need that extra reassurance.
No one will make fun of you if you don’t know how to check, and it might just stop you from blowing yourself up!
7. The Vertical Stove
Next up is another gas bottle conversion, but this time we’re looking at a much larger tank. It’s hard to believe that this could have been a propane bottle before it’s been cut into and painted over, and the end result looks really nice!
Some people say that the front corner of a van build is wasted space. I can’t think of anything better than this bottle burner to fill that space up with!
In many ways, this unit helps you to save space even though it’s bigger. You don’t need to worry about having a separate area to store your fire tools. The rings and handles would be great for drying off wet towels and underwear as well.
You could probably hang your pans on there too!
This vertical stove would quite obviously not work in a small van. But, we could see this thing taking pride of place in a horse-box or lorry conversion. What do you think?
8. The Mini Stack
With a price tag of around $5,500, the Mini Stack ceramic stove isn’t one that you should be considering if you’re building on a budget.
It is, however, a pretty cool (pun intended) product. You’ll get 6KW output from the diddy size of 560 × 580 × 1070mm which is very impressive!
The wooden feet on these refractory glazed ceramic burners are classic of the ancient Castellamonte tradition. You’ll also find that they are an integral part of the entire Mini Stack range.
These burners come in 6 colours (shiny or matt) to complement your living space. I reckon they would look brilliant in a modern tiny eco house or shepherd’s hut!
9. The Rocket Burner
No, this won’t take you into the atmosphere. It will, however, keep you warm while travelling in winter. It’ll also provide a place to make a lovely ‘cuppa tea’ if you’re camping with family in Northern England.
This unit is essentially a ‘loading chamber’ attached to a vertical chimney. You can burn wood pellets, twigs, bark, and other forest findings in a rocket burner.
Plus at just 16Kg, it’s light enough to carry short distances and use in most places.
As you might have guessed from the picture, this unit isn’t for using inside your van. It does, however, provide a suitable alternative for camper owners who don’t have space for a van wood stove.
Simply lift it this burner out of the van and enjoy the benefits of wood-smoked toast and cooking on an open fire wherever you are!
10. The Vader Burner
Remember when I said that you could let your imagination run wild with the design of your burner?
This Darth Vader stove is a must-have for any Star Wars fanatics out there. Now you can cook using the dark powers of the force whenever hunger calls!
The unit above is meant for outdoor use, but there isn’t any reason why you couldn’t adapt the flue fitting to work with a double-insulated flue for use as a van wood stove.
We really love how the flames make the eyes seem alive! I’m kind of wishing I still had that Obi Wan Kenobi dressing gown I had as a kid now!
Check out the Instructables for a guide on how to make your own!