Bug-Out Bag Gear Review: The Solo Stove

by Erich

We all know that preppers have a passion for gear.

And in no other instance do you see this passion come out more often then when they purchase and talk about the contents of their bug-out bags.

However, while I think it’s fantastic that people are building and getting excited about BOBs, it becomes too excessive when they try to pack them with every imaginable piece of “required” gear they find. They soon end up with a pack they can hardly get on their backs let alone lug it for a few miles.

Well, I’m not one to talk. I fell into the same trap and ended up with a BOB that was over 60 lbs.

Believe me, if you ever had to carry a 65 pound backpack more than 2 miles you’d probably agree with me – it’s not fun.

And since my legs and conditioning ain’t what it used to be, lately I’ve been on a mission to reduce the bulk and weight of my own bug out bag. One of the areas where I’ve been able to strip-down a fair amount of weight is with my backpack stove.

The Heavy “Lightweight” Stove

For the longest time I used to carry around an MSR “lightweight” gas stove along with four 8 ounce bottles of fuel. Sure the stove was only a measly 3oz, but the fuel and stove were far from lightweight, weighing a total of 35 oz (over two lbs!).

As a side note: I carried four with me since MSR recommends 4 oz. (114 ml) of liquid fuel per person per day for cooking or 8 oz. (237 ml) of liquid fuel per person per day for melting snow and cooking.

Since I was lugging my family’s and my fuel supply (which would only last around 2 days according to MSR’s recommendations) I felt I had to at least carry 4 bottles. So despite the “lightweight” designation of these cooking stoves, it ended up being too much.

Enter the Solo Stove…

The Solo Stove

Well, over the last few months, I’ve been testing out an excellent little backpacking stove by the name of the Solo Stove.

This stove runs completely on wood and other biomass so not only is the fuel renewable but best of all, you don’t have to carry it with you since it’s all around you.

Since every pound counts when you’re carrying a backpack, I have been able to save over 2 pounds of weight just because of using the stove.

In this video, you can see my review of the Solo Stove and how it works:

How it Works

Here’s the explanation of how the Solo Stove works from the manufacturer:

The Solo Stove is a natural convection inverted downgas gasifer stove that incorporates a secondary combustion for a more efficient and cleaner burn.

The bottom vents allow air to enter and flow up the bottom of the grate to feed the primary combustion, a top down smolder.

In addition, air entering in from the bottom vents heats up within the inner wall and rises up and out the top firebox vents causing a secondary combustion at the top of the stove.

The Solo Stove actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice! This technique makes for a cleaner burn which means less smoke and also allows the stove to burn more efficiently.

And here’s a visual of that process:

Having used it frequently for the last few months it’s definitely been proven to be a very efficient little stove requiring little wood to cook and boil water.

Solo Stove Specs

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)

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Solo Stove

The Good

The biggest advantage as I have mentioned is that you don’t have to carry around fuel with you. The fuel is all around you in the form of a small sticks twigs park matter and other biomass fuels.

And once you get a decent flame going, you can pretty much put any dry biomass into the hot stove and it will burn it efficiently.

The other advantage is that because of the gasification process, these little stoves are very efficient — it really doesn’t take that much fuel to cook your food or boil your water.

The Bad

The biggest disadvantage should be obvious: This stove doesn’t work well if all your fuel you find is wet.

However, with a little practice you can learn how to find dry fuel in wet conditions.

For example, even in rain you can still get dry, dead twigs and branches that are attached to standing dead or live trees (such as with most conifer trees like pines, spruces and hemlocks).

And even if these sticks you gather from the trees are a little wet on the outside, you can shave off the outer portion to get access to the dry inner core and use that for fuel.

Obviously, this isn’t the best option, but keep in mind you can also burn Sterno fuel cans or hexamine tablets inside of the Solo Stove — giving you a backup option for those days where it might be too wet or you don’t have time to go through the process of creating dry fuel.

Conclusion

All in all I think the Solo Stove is a fantastic addition to anyone’s bug out bag. Especially if you are familiar with making fires and making fires in inclement weather this is a definite must-have add-on to your bug out bag or even a replacement of your existing cooking stove option.

If you’re interested in purchasing one of these, Amazon always has the best prices: Get your Solo Stove here.

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14 Comments»

Comment by Brian
2014-01-30 18:55:16

I have two; with a kettle for each. Haven’t heard anyone say a bad word about these; everyone raves about them. Lightweight and efficient. All tools should be so well designed/practical.

 
Comment by Pat
2014-01-30 19:18:28

I just cannot see spending important space for a stove. I have been practicing building fires in all situations and making a “stove” from rocks I find around me. The most efficient one I have found is to dig a hole with a tunnel into it in the ground if it is not frozen. Once you have a fire going place flat stones over the hole for your stove. The tunnel brings in oxygen and is where you feed the fire from without disturbing your stove.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-01-31 04:54:02

Hey Pat. In a lot of ways I agree, after all “training trumps gear” right? But there are certain trade offs and for me the efficiency and ease of this type of stove outweigh the 9oz I would need to carry around. Frozen or wet ground is just one less thing I’d need to worry about.

 
 
Comment by Pat
2014-01-30 19:19:52

Maybe tunnel is not the right word. More like a small trench.

 
Comment by Amber
2014-01-30 20:08:22

Could you throw a little grill rack on there, or do you need to always use a pan?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-01-31 04:46:58

That’s a good thought Amber. I believe you could use a small grill rack but it wouldn’t provide much space for you to work with given the size of the top.

 
 
Comment by Joe
2014-01-30 21:29:52

Nice stove but the prices that I have found are steep for just stamped and formed metal. Lowest price I found was 69.99. Not exactly compact either. Seems better suited to camping instead of backpacking or in a get home bag or BOB. I have found a couple of articles on making a rocket stove out of #10 cans or paint cans. Could be adapted to a smaller diameter can. I use the folding isopropane stove with one fuel tank, a folding camp stove with fuel tablets and a “tuna” can emergency candle in my get home bag that also works in the folding stove. Also some fire starting cloth and sawdust & parafin sticks to start a fire. The folding stove with which ever fuel source is great for a quick cup of instant coffee during breaks or for hot water for freeze dried lunch. I carry a machete with the tip cut off and a military entrenching shovel in my get home bag. I can usually “skin” enough bark & surface wood off hanging dead branches to get to dry wood for a fire. The iso stove also works well when you have to keep a low profile where a fire will not do. Since home is not more than 2 days walk away from work (worst case) the small stoves work well.

 
Comment by Big Al
2014-01-31 01:21:15

Nice review Erich. As a scout leader, I have experience with this subject. One, I agree that you do not necessarily NEED a stove, but man it comes in handy. Two, I had 6 people in the Algonquin Forest in Canada for a week. We carried the MSR Dragonfly with 6 bottles of fuel. We only used 3, including training of boys without experience on the stove. (2 is 1 especially in canoes!) I now have a EmberLit stove. It folds flat, is light, and can use multiple fuels. I have the titanium version that weighs just 5 ounces. The stainless version is half the price($40), but twice the weight. It works great. The chimney effect causes a hot and efficient flame. Plus it looks cool, like a castle:-) Either stove would be a fine addition, but the EmberLit is USA made and FOLDS flat in my pack. Hope the info helps.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-01-31 04:43:37

Thanks Al. I’ve seen the EmberLit but haven’t tried it yet. Seems like a good stove.

 
 
Comment by Jim
2014-02-03 21:47:55

I have two little suggestions from the video. First, if the match might get a little hot when lighting then use one of the twigs that you light from the match and put into the others. Second, if you are using some type of spark to ignite the stove you have only look in any of your pockets for some lint to assist you. Unless you have exhausted your supply you should find some (check your navel too :-)) ).

 
Comment by dhconner
2014-02-09 13:20:07

I must say your review is thorough, and fortunately, exactly in tune with the rest of the band. Every prepper, et. al. site I’ve found gives this product a very good review. Some of these websites are little more than rehashed BS, which makes wonderful fertilizer once it cures, or a nice hot fire when dried well, but are mostly come-on’s for “the Apopolyptic Catastrophe is almost here-buy yours before it’s too late”. Keep up the outstanding work!!

 
Comment by Bronwyn
2014-03-03 12:12:29

The only real issue I see with this is that you have to wait for the cooking stand part of the stove to cool down. What is the usual time it takes for it to be cool enough to pack back up?

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-03-03 16:05:04

5 minutes at the most (it’s aluminum so it doesn’t retain heat well). Less time in the winter.

 
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