Double, Double Toil and Trouble…

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…

What may be the most memorable line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth popped into my head as I was boiling a little water with my new Solo Stove.

Wait…new Solo Stove?

Yep…got a new toy to play with for Christmas! Apparently I was a good boy this year…that or I really have someone snowed…not sure which.

First things first, let’s establish what this entry is and what it isn’t. What it is: it’s simply my first impressions of the stove. What it isn’t: a thorough product review. Let’s face it, trying to do an actual review of a product based on one use, and not even a use in ‘real-world’ conditions, would be foolish. Want a real review? Let me play with it for a year, maybe two. Let me boil some more water and actually cook a few meals in the woods and then maybe I’ll get interested on putting together a real review. But for now, let’s stick with first impressions…

So…what is this Solo Stove that I speak of? A Solo Stove Lite…

1-stove-bag2-stove
According to the Solo Stove website, a Solo Stove is a “wood burning stove that incorporates a secondary combustion for a more complete, efficient and cleaner burn.” One could simply say that it’s a hobo stove on steroids but that would be a major understatement. Without going into a lot of detail about how it’s made and how it works, calling it a double-walled, stainless steel, wood burning, gasifier stove would be a bit more accurate, if not a mouthful.

Are there other similar wood burning stoves? Sure, the Toaks Titanium Wood Burning Stove and the Bushbuddy come to mind quickly and a Google for ‘wood gasifier stove’ search tells me that there are others that can be purchased. Don’t want to buy one? Well, there are also quite a few how-to’s out there that one can use to make their own.

Back to first impressions…

The weather is beautiful here in Georgia this weekend and I decided that it was time to give the Solo Stove a try. I spent a few minutes picking up small sticks and twigs in the woods back behind the house and breaking them into short pieces…

3-sticks

Just in case someone might think I’m foolish to fire up a wood burning stove on a unprotected wood deck rail, I’m going to bust your bubble…I didn’t. Thus the paver stone…

4-stone

Loading the stove up with wood is a little counterintuitive. Usually when building a fire one starts with their tinder then adds wood over the tinder progressing to larger and larger pieces. According to the literature that came with the stove, loading the stove is just the opposite, larger pieces on the bottom then smaller pieces and tinder on the top…

5-loaded
6-cotton

Counterintuitive or not, it worked…

7-flame

Once the fire was going good, I placed a cook pot (a 10cm IMUSA mug) filled with water on top of the stove and began feeding it more wood to see how long it would take to get to a rolling boil…

8-cook-pot

Eight(ish) minutes later, water, boiling hot…

9-boil

Initially I was thinking of adding a list of Pros and Cons at this point, but as I began to think through the possibilities it occurred to me most of the Pros have downsides and most of the Cons have upsides so maybe a few general thoughts might be better.

Cost: It ain’t cheap. The Solo Stove Lite retails for $99. As of the date of writing this entry, it listed on the Solo Stove website and on Amazon for $69. Considering a MSR Pocket Rocket retails for about $40 and a Jet Boil (stove only) retails for $50, $69 isn’t bad.  Also consider that one will not have to buy fuel for this stove so the overall cost essentially diminishes over time.

Ease of use: It’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ item like an alcohol stove or a canister stove. It takes some tending. But, if you can make a fire and don’t mind tending it for a few minutes as your water boils or your food otherwise cooks (or if you’re just a pyro like me) you’ll be in good shape.

Cook time: It ain’t fast. Your Pocket Rocket, JetBoil or favorite knock-off will boil a couple of cups of water in around two minutes and most alcohol stoves can do the job in about six. About twelve minutes elapsed from the time I lit the tinder to the time I had water boiling. If you like to hike from dawn to dusk and just want to cook a quick meal before turning in, you might want to consider other options. If you’re like me and aren’t concerned about putting in a lot of miles and enjoy having some time to chillax at the end of the day then a wood stove might be a good option.

Space/Bulk: Own its own, it’s bulky and will take up some space in your pack but if it can be nested in a cook pot it doesn’t take up any extra space. Solo Stove offers a 900ml cup/cook pot that the Solo Stove Lite will nest in (they also make pots that the next two larger size stoves will nest in). I don’t think I’d be too off the mark if I said that there probably are other pots available that it would nest in as well.

Weight: At 9 ounces it’s not exactly light.  Consider that a canister stove and fuel canister stove will weigh a little over 7 ounces with a full fuel canister.  Also consider that you’re not carrying fuel.  Not a lot of difference really.

Clean-up: Simple. Let it cool down, dump out the ashes and put it back in its stuff sack. Yes, it’s going to leave some soot on your cook pot but because combustion is more complete in a gasifying stove, it won’t be nearly as bad as cooking over an open fore or a non-gasifying wood stove. Regardless, put the stove and cookpot in a stuff sack and it’s not that much of a problem anymore.

Personally, I think I’m going to get along with the Solo Stove quite well and will be picking up the 900 ml cook pot to go with it in the near future.  And, OK, I’ll admit it…I just like playing with fire.

As always, these are my thoughts. Your mileage may vary…

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This entry was posted in Backpack Stove, Backpacker Stove, Backpacking, Camping, Gasifier Stove, Gasifier Wood Stove, Solo Stove, Solo Stove Lite, Wood Stove. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Double, Double Toil and Trouble…

  1. blake says:

    does this work on the downdraft principal? it looks like the intake air come from below, up the walls but the heat and fire are goin up so that doesn’t make sense. Or does the unburned wood gas get sucked down those top side holes to be fed back into the air mix at the bottom? that would seem like a good thing. i’m gonna have to look into this. i have gotten in the habit of carrying a jetboil with me for some coffee or powdered soup when on a hike. i decided on really cold days the butane (or whatever it is) doesn’t heat real well, especially when the can is gettin low. i also gave up on carrying a penny alcohol stove. it’s really small and i use a 50 mil centrifuge tube for the etoh but i just didn’t like the way it fit in my pocket i guess. (even though it fits in my tin cup) sometimes i use the pocket rocket stove, (stored in my fishing shirt) the small size fuel can fits in my cup, but i’d much rather use some twigs n such in a contained stove that nobody would complain about. i have been playing with those rocket stove designs but have not worked out a small enough pocket sized one to carry. this may be worth lookin into.

  2. johnspenn says:

    Keep us updated on your experience with this stove. I’ve wondered about the trade-offs as well. Thanks!

    • mrbream says:

      Will do John. Hopefully I’ll be picking up the Solo pot soon. The 10cm IMUSA is almost too narrow. The 12cm pot would work much better and less prone to slide off the pot stand if bumped.

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