When it comes to Bugging Out (and camping in general) I’m always testing new gear and trying to hone my kit to find that perfect mix of products and tools that feel ‘just right’. It’s been a while since I’ve changed out an important component of my kit because quite frankly I’ve been fairly satisfied with the items I’ve been using.
I’ve been on a big push lately to find a natural fuel stove that I really like. I carry an Esbit folding stove with solid fuel tabs in my Bug Out Bag and I’m fine with that. The Esbit is a perfect little stove for 1-Cup meals in a 3-day disaster scenario and works very well. I’ve even used the Esbit with natural fuel before, but it’s not ideal.
When I go camping or take bush trips to practice skills I like to cook over an open fire, but sometimes I like the option of using a small cook stove as well – especially when I’m trying to be discreet or really want to leave-no-trace. There has also been a fire-ban here in the mid-west for most of the summer due to the drought- making open fires illegal. I really like the idea of using a small pack stove that works well with naturally gathered twigs, sticks, wood shavings, pine cones, etc… versus one that is dependent on other fuel: solid fuel tabs, alcohol, canister gas.
Before I get too deep into this post, here are the specs directly from the Solo Stove Web-site:
- Fast to boil: 8-10 minutes to boil 34 fl oz of water
- Fuel: Burns sticks, pine cones and other biomass
- Packed size: Height 3.8 inches, Width 4.25 inches
- Assembled size: Height 5.7 inches, Width 4.25 inches
- Weight: 9 oz
- Materials: Hardened 304 stainless steel, nichrome wire
The compact stainless stove comes packed is a little drawstring bag – this is a good thing as I will mention later.
The pot holder is stashed up-side-down and to set it up you just flip it upright. Notice the cut-out in the pot holder. This is the spot where you drop in additional twigs and sticks as the fire burns.
The Solo Stove is a double walled design and the outside wall has cutouts that feed the fire inside with plenty of oxygen.
For intense breathability and so that ashes don’t get in the way, there is a wire fire platform inside. This feature is critical to the efficiency of this stove.
Now that the general overview is finished, I will be writing this post in 3 sections: PROS, CONS and FINAL CONCLUSION
SOLO STOVE: PROS
- Traditional Fire: I love building fires. I also love practicing starting fires. The Solo Stove maintains the authenticity of the fire building process. You still have to start a fire, you still have to fuel the fire with twigs and sticks and you still get the added bonus of having a real wood fueled flame. Nothing takes the places of a small calming camp fire companion. You hear the sticks pop and crack as they burn versus the annoying roar of a canister stove or the sizzle of solid fuel tabs. This is a true stick built fire stove.
- Au Naturale: When I go into the woods, I want to keep things as simple as possible. The Solo Stove burns all natural fuel. I’ve never in my life been camping in an area where you couldn’t find fuel for the solo stove. I carved up the little piles of fuel below in about 5 minutes from a few sticks in my yard. It literally uses small twigs and sticks as fuel. NOTE: I started the fire with a Dryer Lint PET BALL. ALSO NOTE: It had rained all morning and the sticks and twigs below were slightly moist.
- FAST: This thing heats up fast. It only took about 4 minutes to bring my cup of pine needle tea to a rolling boil. I was shocked. I was really impressed with how incredibly easy it was to get my moist kindling going. Though I haven’t done it yet, there is no doubt a few dry leaves and some small twigs would be all you’d need to get a Solo Stove fire blazing.
- EFFICIENT: Wow, is this thing efficient. You can see by the beginning photos and the last photo up above how much kindling I burned. I expected there to be a can full of ash. To my surprise, there was just a thin layer of white ash in the bottom of the stove. I’m no physicist, but whoever designed this stove knew what they were doing. They call it “Gasification” on the web-site. Here’s the quote: “A unique gasification and secondary combustion process lets our stoves achieve a highly efficient and more complete burn. This means you’ll use fewer twigs to achieve a boil. It also means less smoke.” Whatever that means…it works. Below is the picture of my ridiculously small ash pile which I made disappear with just one puff.
- Compact & Lightweight: I don’t mind the size at all. It tucks away nicely in my Get Home Bag (which is where I’ve decided to keep it). For those of you who carry a pot, it will probably slide right in it. It is super light too – only 9 0z. During use, the stove gets pretty hot. However, due to the double walled design it cools down very quick and is ready to stow away in just a few minutes.
SOLO STOVE: CONS
I’ll be honest, I don’t have some serious critiques for this stove. However, I’d like to point out a few things worth mentioning.
- I thought my ex-girlfriend was high maintenance: If you want to do other things while cooking your dinner or making your tea, forget about it. This stove is so efficient that it require constant attention. You have to pretty much be fueling it from start to finish as it lays waste to whatever you stick in it’s mouth. It’s not like a canister stove or even a traditional camp-fire where you can set out a pot and then do other things. You have to feed this hungry beast – constantly.
- SOOT: Because you are burning natural wood and/or biomass, get ready for your pot to be a little sooty. I personally don’t mind this but if you are the anal type, this might be a deal-breaker for you.
- Simmer Me Gently: This stove pretty much has 2 settings: FULL ON and OFF. If you want to simmer something, this might be a little tricky. Maybe I just didn’t mess around with it enough to figure it out, but I thought this was worth mentioning.
So if you, like me, are looking to go AU NATURALE with your stove fuel, I’d definitely recommend considering the Solo Stove. I’ll be keeping mine in my Get Home Bag. I always prefer open pit camp fires, but the Solo Stove is the next best thing when you don’t have that option. From a Survival/Preparedness perspective, it’s a great piece of kit to have on hand. You already have enough fuel in your back yard to run this stove for countless meals or boilings. In a time when other fuels might be difficult (or expensive) to come by, you’ll never run out of fuel to keep this little guy burning strong.
The Solo Stove is $69.99 from http://www.solostove.com. I honestly believe this is a very fair price – especially considering that you’ll never have to buy fuel again (gas, tabs, alcohol, etc…) I can testify that I think the stove is durable enough to last many, many years. As long as you don’t abuse it, I actually can’t identify a part that could break or malfunction.
If any of you guys out there are using a different natural fuel stove I’d love to hear about it in the comments section – I’m sure others would as well.
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