Review: Solo Stove – The Lighter, Greener Backpacking Stove

One of the more vexing issues with backpacking is figuring out what you need to have, what would be nice to have, and what you can leave at home in order to have the lightest pack possible.  Nobody (or at least almost nobody) wants to carry around extra weight just for the fun of it.  New products, advances in manufacturing methods, and lighter, stronger materials have all contributed to an entire industry devoted to lightweight backpacking.  Often times these products are a great way to lighten your load, but they will also have a similar impact on your bank account.  Not true for the Solo Stove.  This lightweight wood-burning stove can help cut down on weight and bulk and costs less than many other backpacking stoves.

The Solo Stove is made of hardened stainless steel using a one-piece construction method (similar to that used by water bottle companies).  That means that there are no seams or welding on the exterior portions of the stove, and since they use similar methods throughout, there are a minimum amount of welding points.  Not only does this make it look better, but it is also stronger and lighter.  Besides using newer manufacturing methods, the Solo Stove adds a bit of science to your gear.  By designing a gap between the exterior and interior walls of the stove that are fed by holes all around the stove, the air being delivered to the fire is already hot.  Preheated air reduces cooking times and actually creates less smoke (which you will appreciate while feeding fuel into the Solo Stove).  On top of that (no pun intended), the cooking ring is designed to funnel air more efficiently toward whatever you’re cooking while providing a stable surface and blocking wind.

Weight is obviously an extremely important factor with a backpacking stove, and Solo Stove has an edge over a lot of other products.  At 9 ounces, it weighs less than most fuel canisters for stoves that use liquid fuels, let alone the stove itself.  Bulk is also minimal because of the nesting design, making the overall size only slightly larger than a roll of toilet paper.  Chances are the Solo Stove will fit inside your cookware of choice, making it even more simple to carry in your pack.

Using the Solo Stove couldn’t be easier.  After finding small branches and twigs (or even pine cones) and whatever tinder you choose, getting the fire started is cake, and keeping it burning is just as easy.  There is a notch taken out of the cooking ring that lets you feed more fuel.  But, the fact that this stove is so efficient means less time feeding the fire and more time feeding your face.  During testing, our water starting boiling pretty quickly and with no troubles at all.  We didn’t have any large camping cookware on hand to test the claims of the Solo Stove website that it will boil 34 oz in 8-10 minutes, but from our experience with it we have no reason to doubt that they speak the truth.  The amount of smoke, even from the green twigs that we used (on purpose) was relatively small and each twig burned completely to ash, meaning less fuel needed and no waste.  We gave the stove some time to cool off and safely dumped the ashes out – that is how simple the cleanup was.

At $70, the Solo Stove is one of the best backpacking stoves around for the price and the weight.  We highly suggest having this in your pack when you are on the trail and in your 72-hour kit when you are not.  Not only will you save money and weight by not having to buy fuel canisters, but you’ll be doing a favor to the environment, compared to a gas stove.  It is also perfect for teaching Scouts about the Leave No Trace program and having an easy way to put it into practice.  And if you are quick about it, Solo Stove is offering a free Swedish FireSteel to anyone who buys one via Amazon and submits a review on the Amazon website before July 30, 2012.  Check out the Rebates tab on the Solo backpacking stove website for details and more information (including videos) about the stove.

– David

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