Can You Install a Stove in Your Van? You Sure Can! By Gary Bizzo
Can You Install a Stove in Your Van? You Sure Can! By
Brrrr, yeah baby, it’s cold outside! When we were putting together our ambulance/RV build, we were absolute newbies to RV camping (we had done it once on our honeymoon), as well as construction if you don’t include building a backyard deck. You get the point.
We brought in an architect to look at the possibilities for our ambulance. One look at it, and he fell in love with the industrial feel and the absolute uniqueness of it, just as we had. His recommendation, keep as much as you can. He pointed out the placement of essentials like our bed and stove and even our fridge were no-brainers and would only work in one or two ways.
While we sourced our bed, stove/oven, water sources, fridge, we hadn’t put too much thought into our heating. Hey, it was coming on to spring and if we only waited a couple of months we wouldn’t need heat. Put it off til next winter – not a great idea!
In keeping with our ambulance uniqueness, I did get serious about our heating situation when our first camping trip in February on what looked like a pre-spring heat wave. It turned out to be ok during the day, but at night it was colder than…
I researched the heck out of finding the perfect heat source. From the typical Buddy Heater and a tiny device running on butane called a Kovea Cupid to a plug in oil heater, they all seem to be either diesel, propane, butane or electricity powered.
The Cubic Mini Wood Stove
While watching one of my favorite sailing video channels, Sailing Uma, I had my first inspiration. They had a tiny wood stove installed on their 32’ sailboat, and they loved it. Is it possible I can put one in my ambulance? I reached out to Cubic Mini Wood Stoves, and they said, you bet you can. The videos I endlessly watched on YouTube about their two stoves, the Mini and the Grizzly, made it look like even I could install one.
Within days, I had my very own Grizzly laying in boxes on my living room floor. It would take a couple of things to consider before I could install the tiny stove, namely location. The other problem was my debilitating fear of cutting a hole in the roof of the ambulance. These things are built like the proverbial brick outhouse, and it needed careful planning. It took a month for me to summon my courage, helped to that goal by the similar feelings experienced by those video creators with the same stove.
It took longer that I thought to install, solely-based on my measure 10 times and cutting twice plan, but the result was, and is, stunning. The package came with a chimney cleaner, tools to tend the fire, a fire starter, a heat fan, and a coffee mug. With its stainless steel pipes and reflectors to its black stove with gleaming brass accents, this Grizzly was a piece of art.
I can heat our ambulance from freezing to toasty warm in eight minutes. The Grizzly, with the right hardwood, can last us through the night and still have coals in the morning. Theoretically, I could actually drive with the fire burning, though it’s best to quickly exchange the covered fire vent with the provided rubber grommet cover to keep the rain out.
There are two sizes of Cubic Mini Stoves – the Mini Cub and the Grizzly. The latter being about an inch bigger all round, but both use the same fuel, have a very small footprint and look almost the same. The Grizzly puts out more heat and the wood may last longer. To be clear there are other alternatives to the Cubic stoves but none with the footprint, quality or reputation.
Using the Grizzly
We use hardwood cut into about 7- 8” pieces and sometimes buy ‘hardwood’ chip logs cut appropriately. Surprisingly, you won’t use all your wood supply running this beauty. A small box of pre-cut wood lasts me 3-4 burns.
The aesthetics of the Grizzly is incredible. People laugh at the two of us sitting in our ambulance, in our driveway at home, after dinner having a glass of wine sitting in front of our fire. When we reach a campsite, people immediately come over to see what is at the bottom of the chimney. At one campsite in the summer, some people complained to the camp host that we’re illegally having a campfire. The host told them, “don’t be silly, he has a Cubic Mini.”
The Grizzly is certainly well-built as is its little brother the Mini Cub, and sure the price is a lot more than the Buddy Heater but cheaper than the Webasto. Would I trade it? Heck no, we love the Grizzly!
And while you ponder whether it’s right for your vehicle (or tiny home) consider whether you can heat your coffee or bake a glorious potato on your diesel heater, lol. I don’t think so!