G.I. pocket stove

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Patent drawing of Coleman Model 520 stove

The G.I. pocket stove is a World War II–era portable pressurized-burner liquid-fuel stove made by the Coleman Company of Wichita, Kansas.


During World War II, the U.S. government tasked Coleman to develop a compact stove for military use. The stove had to be lightweight, no larger than a quart-sized thermos bottle, burn any kind of fuel, and operate in weather from −60 to +125 °Fahrenheit.[1][2] Within 60 days, Coleman came up with what became the G.I. Pocket Stove.[3] Designated the Model 520 Coleman Military Burner,[4] the stove first saw service in November 1942 when 5,000 of the stoves accompanied U.S. forces during the invasion of North Africa.[2] Over 1 million of the stoves were produced for war use,[5][6] where it won high praise in the field: Ernie Pyle ranked it "just behind the Jeep” in its usefulness.[7][8]

By the end of the war, Coleman began production of a civilian version of the Model 520, designated the Model 530, and advertised as the "G.I. pocket stove."[6][9] The Model 530 was promoted by Coleman as the "perfect pal for hunting, fishing and camping trips" that would "slip easily into a hunting coat pocket, glove compartment of a car, or corner of [a] picnic hamper."[10] The single-burner G.I. Pocket Stove was only manufactured between 1946 and 1949; Coleman did not manufacture another single-burner, non-military backpacking stove until 1972. Larger single-burner stoves continued in production, starting with the 500 Sportster.[11]


The G.I. pocket stove is 8½ inches high and 4½ inches in diameter, and weighs about three pounds. It was designed to burn either leaded or unleaded automobile gasoline (sometimes referred to as “white gasoline” or pure gasoline, without lead or additives). It can hold a pint of fuel, burn for over 3 hours on a full tank, and generate over 5,000 Btu (5,300 kJ) per hour. Six small hinged metal pieces on the top fold outward for use as pot supports, and fold inward for storage. The stove comes with a two-piece telescoping aluminum case, which can be used as cook pots, a steel wrench that also serves as a handle for the cooking pots, a small metal disc or top plate which is placed on the burner grate to help disperse the flame, and a fuel funnel. An integrated hand-operated cleaning needle is used to remove soot or other impurities that can clog the burner tip.[12]

The civilian version differs only slightly from its military cousin: the Model 530 G.I. pocket stove has a nickel-plated brass fuel tank, while the model 520 military version was painted olive drab. The military Model 520 also has three small folding legs at the base, which are omitted on the Model 530, and the civilian version has four vertical supports for the upper frame assembly (supporting the cooking grate) while the military version has three.


The fuel tank must first be pressurized by using the small hand-pump on the side of the stove. After pumping, the control valve is opened just slightly, allowing a mix of fuel (drawn from the bottom of the tank) and pressurized air (drawn from the top of the tank) to reach the burner head. There, the mixture is ignited using a match or lighter. Once the flame burns steadily for 2 to 3 minutes and the burner head is sufficiently heated up, the control valve is opened as far as possible. This cuts off the air from the tank, changing the mix to pure fuel.[13] The heat of the burner head is then sufficient to vaporize the pure fuel prior to combustion. The size of the flame depends on the amount of pressure in the tank, which must be repressurized periodically using the hand pump.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ B. Tanner, "Coleman Created Stove to Fill G.I.s’ Needs," Wichita Eagle, Page 1E, Aug. 8, 1995.
  2. ^ a b "Coleman History – The Heat of the Battle". Coleman Co. Archived from the original on 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
  3. ^ W.F. McDermott, “The Triumph of W.C. Coleman,” in The Rotarian Magazine, Vol. 78, No. 6 (Dec. 1950), p. 29.
  4. ^ Coleman Lamp and Stove Co., “Operating Instructions for Coleman Military Burner Model 520 (Apr. 1944).
  5. ^ G. Winegar, “Coleman Shining Example of Outdoors Ingenuity,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, Page D11, July 7, 2001.
  6. ^ a b "Over a Million Gone to War!". Popular Mechanics. 84 (2): 159. August 1945. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  7. ^ R. Cole, "Chairman Offers to Buy Coleman," New York Times, Page D1, Feb. 15, 1989.
  8. ^ Thorpe, Scott (2000). How to think like Einstein simple ways to break the rules and discover your hidden genius. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks. p. 65. ISBN 1402253028.
  9. ^ Coleman advertisement “Born of War – You’ll Use It For Fun,” in Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 84, No. 4, p. 6A (Oct. 1945).
  10. ^ "Every Outing is More Fun with the "G.I." Pocket Stove". Popular Mechanics. 86 (4): 5. October 1946. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  11. ^ "History of Coleman Stoves". Coleman Press Release Aug. 24, 2006. Archived from the original on 2010-09-21. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
  12. ^ Coleman Co., “Coleman G.I. Pocket Stove: A Handbook On Its Operation and Many Uses,” pp. 18–19 (undated, circa 1946).
  13. ^ "Post: Coleman Fuel/Air Tubes and Instant Lighting Explained". Retrieved 27 March 2013.

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