I will be the first to admit that I have a thing for stoves the same way that some women have a thing for shoes so when I heard about a new stove on the market called the Solo Stove I contacted the company to see if they could send me a sample I could try.
There are several other wood burning camp stoves on the market but what makes this one unique is its double walled design which channels air in and around the flames. Solo Stove describes how it works:
Designed with a double wall, the Solo Stove™ (patent pending) is a natural convection inverted downgas gasifer stove. The air intake holes on the bottom of the stove channels air to the bottom of the fire while at the same time, channels warm air up between the walls of the stove. This burst of preheated oxygen feeding back into the firebox through the smaller holes at the top of the stove causes a secondary combustion. This allows the fire to burn more complete which is why there is very little smoke during full burn. A more efficient burn also means you'll use much less wood compared to an open camp fire. The Solo Stove doesn't just burn wood. It actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice!
The Solo Stove is pretty rugged being made out of high-grade stainless steel. It’s also compact at 3.8 inches high and weighs in at only 9 ounces. The stove also has an integrated wind screen and pot stand which due to its clever design fits inside the stove when inverted enabling it to pack down.
How did it perform?
The quick answer is that it worked wonderfully and boiled water like it was going out of style.
Throughout the morning while out walking the dog, I collected a bunch of dry twigs and small sticks at our local park (all while avoiding the weird looks I was getting by fellow dog walkers). I also made an easy fire starter using cotton balls and Vaseline (quick tip: mix them up and store in a small zip-lock bag to keep your hands clean).
After lighting and getting the fire going, I put a litre of water in a pot on the stove and started the timer. 9 minutes later the water was boiling away.
Solo Stove also sells several accessories including a small pot as well as a windscreen to help speed up boil times. For those who are worried that they will not be able to find dry wood after a serious downpour, they sell a small burner insert that quickly converts it over to an alcohol stove. This will help bring peace of mind as well as allow you to use the stove even if there is a fire-ban in your area.
There are several advantages over using a wood stove over a typical white-gas stove:
- The fuel is free and you don’t need to lug bottles or cans of camping gas throughout your trip.
- There are no moving parts to break down or get clogged which is a pretty very common problem with white-gas stoves.
- Except for the sweet sound of burning wood, the stove is completely silent. The roar of my beloved MSR DragonFly on camping trips drives me absolutely crazy.
Of course there are some disadvantages as well:
- You will need to be proactive in keeping a little cache of sticks just in case you encounter wet wood. Or flip over to using the alcohol burner insert.
- You likely won’t be allowed to use it if you are camping in an area with a fire ban as there is no on/off switch like a gas stove.
- You will need to practice with the stove before your first trip (but that’s the same issue for every stove on the market).
- As with any wood burning stove, your pot will blacken with soot.
So what’s the verdict? I’m going to give it a couple more lights but I’m pretty confident that it’s going to become my primary stove when out on camping trips.