In the field with the SOLO STOVE
Jake “Slim” Call
Swingin’ Dick and I hit the woods recently with an interesting little stove. It’s a stainless steel unit with a unique gasification (do you have a better word for it?) and secondary combustion process for a more “complete” burn. The design of the Solo Stove is pretty clever, and like some of our minions, deceptively simple. The lightweight stove (it’s just 9 oz) is intended to be small and portable enough to replace other similar stoves which require liquid petroleum-based fuels or gas. The Solo Stove is set up to use fewer user-gathered twigs to achieve a quick boil.
It does this through the previously mentioned gasification and secondary combustion, resulting in complete combustion of the burning wood.
This efficiency cooks the smoke out of the wood and maxes out the amount of heat that rises to the top for cooking. An added perk of the design is that it also produces less visible, fragrant smoke. The ability to carry a stove that isn’t reliant on storebought fuel is attractive to more people than just granola eaters and tree-huggers. It means you can pretty much self sustain cooking in any wooded area quickly and easily. Eliminating the need to carry fuel canisters (which can leak or burst) is attractive to many potential users, and not just because of reduced weight and the stove’s ability to nest within camping cookware (Solo Stove has its own companion cookware for those building a cook kit from scratch).
The double walled design of the stove adds strength, as does the stainless steel construction. The user simply pulls the cooking ring out of the top, builds a small wood fire inside, flips the cook ring over and returns it to the stove’s top. Place your cookware on top and that’s it! The stove will likely need to be fed additional fuel when boiling a larger pot, but this is easily done through a loading port cut into the side of the cook ring.
The company advises that this model will boil 32 ounces of water in 8-10 minutes, but we found this to vary based on the dryness of the wood and attention paid to feeding it. Regardless, the stove will boil water and cook chow surprisingly quick. You won’t have to put much effort put into collecting wood at all.
Heh. I said wood.
The Solo Stove does have a few drawbacks. Once set and lit, you can’t move it very easily. The Solo gets very hot, so adjusting it (say, for uneven ground) while it’s burning can be a little tricky. It also produces a noticeable amount of smoke until a good bed of coals forms and assists with the gasification/secondary burn. The stove works very well, but it does rely on the user having good fuel on hand and the time to set everything up. If you need to pick up and go quickly, this might be a concern because you need to let the Solo cool until you can repack it.
Anyway, it might not be as convenient as gas stoves, but it is easy to use. Oh, and the stove will leave your pot or cooking vessel as black as a coal miner’s dick when all is said and done. A thick layer of soot collects on the bottom from the wood, and can get the rest of your gear dirty if it’s not stowed properly after use (if you smear soap on the bottom before lighting up it will wipe off more easily). Letting the stove burn out only takes a few minutes when done cooking, and clean up/cooling is simple if you splash a little water inside.
Another thing we discovered while testing the stove, is that there’s another way to use it when time is an issue (or if there’s a dearth of wood to be collected). Nobody likes a dearth of wood.
As you can see, the smaller cans of Sterno can be stowed and used inside the Solo, allowing a simple and quick alternate way to cook.
The Solo Stove is nicely made and useful. Overall it worked very well. We’ll continue to use it when we hit the field (especially when Swingin’ Dick brings fat chicks along — those girls like to eat). While not an ideal means of heating water for those in uniform, it definitely will be a valued option by those living or exploring in wooded areas.
Packed size: Height 3.8 inches, Width 4.25 inches
Assembled size: Height 5.7 inches, Width 4.25 inches
Weight: 9 oz
Materials: 304 stainless steel, nichrome wire
Fuel: sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomass
Boil time: 8-10 mins (32 fl oz of water)
Slim Call, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.