Saturday, December 15, 2012

Solo Stove Review And Gratuitous Dog Pics

I have been meaning to play with scientifically test the Solo Stove for awhile now. Sorry to folks with slow connections as this post is 56k death.

For whatever reason today was the day. So I got to fiddling with it.
 They come in a nice little black pouch.

The Solo Stove as packaged.

As you can see this is a really nice well made piece of gear. Yes you can make a hobo style rocket stove with a couple of tin cans and some wire but I seriously doubt it will be as efficient or durable as the Solo Stove. By all means have fun making some home made stoves to experiment with but if you want a piece of gear that is going to last the Solo Stove is probably the way to go.
The top piece/ pot holder in place.

My Pathfinder cup and Trade Knife which are being evaluated and are used to support the Solo Stove effort.

The goal today is to boil water in my cup. While hot chocolate does not require boiling water I wanted it to boil because that is a pretty ambiguous cooking need for emergency food or a variety of other things.  I gathered a variety of small twigs, a decent sized stick as well as some newspaper and cardboard to get it all going. Pretty representative of the way I start most fires.

I cannot claim to understand the physics of why this stove is so awesome as I am not a physicist, a fire fighter or a pyromaniac. However between the grill that the burning material rests on and the holes in the bottom that let air in this thing burns like crazy. It is almost a continuous effort to keep enough fuel in there for it to continue burning. I pulled out an old trick as you can see in the top pic. Instead of cutting a log just stick the end into the fire and when it burns up push a bit more in.
You can see the stove burning away with the cup of water on top of it. Also there is some of the small wood used in the fire, the container of hot chocolate, the Jim Beam that is going to turn it into a non caffeinated redneck Irish Coffee and the beer I am enjoying this evening.
The beer in question is a New Belgium Trippel. A fair interpretation of a stiff (7.8%) Belgium brew though it is filtered a bit more, probably to suit American tastes. Anyway back to the topic at hand.

The water in the cup was simmering after about 4 minutes. It took awhile longer till it really boiled after about 12 minutes. Part of that was the learning curve that to keep the stove really going I have to almost continually be putting little pieces of wood in it.
I added the hot chocolate and as you can see it is solidly boiling.

Letting the hot chocolate cool down while the stove continues burning.
Decided to toss the rest of the wood I had into the stove. It was sort of nice to enjoy some woodsman TV and think about life for awhile.
The stove burned all the wood pretty quickly and then I was hanging out letting the coals burn down.

My Pathfinder cup a but burned up on the outside. The Pathfinder symbol cooks kind of cool here. I think Dave Canterbury would approve except that I did this on concrete (due to fire concerns).

Now is a good time for some discussion on my concept of use for the solo stove. I think it would be great for simple cooking if you have primitive inclinations or are in a long term scenario. Cooking simple, quick meals for 1 or 2 people is where this stove would shine. Also in relatively barren environments (I am in the desert and feed this stove with stuff readily found around here) this stoves very high efficiency will let you maximize the small twigs and such that are available and easy to gather. You can definitely feed this stove with a knife which is really handy for traveling light.The solo stove is going into my bug out bag for sure. 

At reader request we have some gratuitous dog pics.

Dog coming out to investigate what I am up to. He things it is stupid to be outside when it is cold (well for Arizona anyway) and raining. He promptly went back inside.
Dog enjoying the old couch that is his exclusive domain. He is tired after a long day of napping, mooching people food, messing with the Christmas tree (he hides from Walker in the corner behind the tree and randomly snacks on it) and dealing with Walker.

Anyway if you are looking for a good cooking method that does not require gas/ propane/ kerosene I would give the Solo Stove a hard look.


Anonymous said...

Between their videos and your review it looks great.
But it looks like part of the self-upgrade for wilderness/emergency/everyday use would be a set of gardener's pruning shears from any home store, not only to gather fuel if need be, but mainly to be able to rapidly chop up a nice pile of 3-4" mini-logs from finger-thick branches in order to feed the thing while you cook.

Thanks for the info.


Ryan said...

Aesop, Solid idea. However that would be another thing to carry and is kinda a one trick pony. Do you need those in addition to a knife or two as well as probably a hatchet/ kukuri and potentially even a saw?

Bob S. said...

An old scout trick is to coat the outside (and make sure it is just the outside) of your pot with soap.

When it is time to wash, the soot doesn't stain. just washes right off.

Anonymous said...

Knives and saws work poorly when cutting small branches into short bits unless the desire is to practice your minor trauma skills, at least in my experience. Doubly so if you're cold, hungry, wearing gloves, and working in the dark or twilight trying to stay "tactical". A hatchet or kukri would work, but they're kinda noisy.

And rather than being a one-trick pony, I WISH I'd had a pair of garden snips countless times when constructing fighting positions, and clearing lanes of fire. They work great, and cut quietly compared to machetes/axes/saws or just about anything else. And to be fair, given the light weight of the "fuelless" Solo Stove (presuming one isn't trying to start a fire on snow-covered tundra or desert sand dunes) they don't weigh as much as even a small bottle of stove fuel, so I'd still call it a win for cranking out a pile of the kind of minilogs that stove looks like it prefers. Certainly fine for a basecamp especially, but it is "one more thing" in a pack.

I also know the soap trick Bob mentioned, but my personal preference is for less shiny implements, so I get high temp engine block paint in flat black, and apply it to the stove and outside of cookpots/canteen cups, then follow the instructions to bake it on permanently. Seems to heat up faster too, but I haven't stopwatch clocked it. (And as I'm sure he knows, soap on the INSIDE of a cookpot is a great recipe for clearing up any constipation.)

I also see the Solo Co.'s accessory cook can comes with a lid, which also helps. I've gotten handy with tin snips and 4-packs of stainless steel stovetop covers from WallyMart, and fabricated pot covers for a water bottle cup and a GI canteen cup, with flat strap D-ring picture hangers and stainless bolts and nuts for lifting it (total cost under $10), and again, I keep wondering why I wasn't that smart back when I was living in muddy foxholes 2 days out of 5 back in the murky past.

Just different ways to skin the same cat.


Ryan said...

Bob, I do recall that one. Personally I don't care too much if stuff I stick in fires gets sooty.

Aesop, A lid is a good idea for sure. As a basecamp setup sheers could be handy. While I would not be comfortable carrying them at the expense of a saw or hatchet/hawk and do not think they are necessarily useful in addition to the above implements this could be where groups shine. Maybe I carry a hawk and an ax and the Mrs has a saw and a pair of sheers or a machete. A lot more versatility than 2 of the same thing.

Rastus McGee said...

Well, I bought a thing called a kelly kettle a few years ago, it'll burn twigs and is a hell of a good do-hickey to have for packing and moving. It's super effecient and has a pot/grill for the top. From what I see it looks to be more efficient than the solo stove but I will try the solo stove to see!

Ryan said...

Rastas McGee, I am not sure how the two stack up. I think the Kelly Kettle is a good bit bigger.

Anonymous said...

This is 3 years later, but I must point out that feeding this thing 1 piece at a time is not the easy way to do it. Instead, load it up to begin with and light it from the top, letting it burn down. You'll get 20-30 minutes burn time if you pre-chop your twigs into 3/4 inch pieces that will settle down denser than whole twigs. That's a good use for pruning shears. 1 sandwich baggie full of chopped twig material makes 1 full burn.

jessica said...

I have actually read a lot of your blog posts in the last hour. I really enjoy what you are doing here. (And as a writer of fantasy novels, I'm enjoying looking at different aspects of that when you go through them in blogposts). And truly, I love world-culture building

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