Efficient Wood Stove For Outdoor Cooking

Cut up some kindling, start a fire and get cooking. That simple premise has worked for humanity since the dawn of time.

A new wood-burning device called the Solo Stove improves upon the good old wood fire, using some simple thermodynamics to create a nearly smoke-free, super hot flame from wood, tinder or other dry, combustable material.

I’ve used the Solo Stove a couple times now in outdoors situations and can attest that it makes a hot cooking fire easily with readily available natural materials.

I forgot to wash the pot the last time I went camping, so I took the stove into my back yard to do some measurements and test by boiling 40 ounces (about a liter) of water and to clean the gunk out of the pot. Read on for more details.

The Gear: Solo Stove Titan ($120) and Solo Stove Pot 1800 ($70). Both are currently available for significantly less on sale online. Solo Stove also makes a smaller and larger version of the pot and stove.

Available: Now

Where To Test It: Backpacking or car camping anywhere there are twigs, pine cones, grasses or other flammable natural materials for fuel. At home as an emergency cooking option.

Who’s It For: Campers who want to ditch the petrol.

First Impressions: The Solo Stove is a well thought out, rugged design. It really works best when the stove and pot are used as a package. The stove nests perfectly inside the pot, making for a compact kit. The pot also sits perfectly on top of the stove.

Using the stove is straightforward and intuitive. Simply build a small fire inside the body of the stove and place the pot on top. When assembled, the pot sits a few inches above the main body of the stove letting air rush through the fire. It gets roaring quickly.

How It Works: The Solo Stove uses the principle of “gasification” to burn wood very cleanly. Basically, the design causes great airflow of pre-heated oxygen past the burning material. The result is a torch of a flame (and very little smoke) from just a little firewood.

As the company puts it, the stove actually “cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice.”

Stoking The Fire: A small opening at the top of the stove (when assembled for cooking) gives space to shove small sticks into the flame while cooking. I found that using very dry wood, you do need to keep stoking the fire as the flame will burn down pretty fast thanks to the roaring blaze.

Boiling Water: I boiled about 40 ounces (one liter) of water in 7 minutes using a small amount of wood (about 1 forearm-sized chunk of firewood chopped into small slivers).

Cooking: It’s a little tough to keep a steady amount of flame, but with practice, I think most people could cook basic recipes on the stove with little trouble. Low heat cooking could be tough to master though. This thing likes to burn fast.

Pot Specs: Size – Height 6.1 inches, Diameter 5.5 inches; Weight – 12.5 oz; Volume – 61 fl.oz (1800mL); Materials – 304 Stainless steel

Stove Specs: Packed size – Height 5.6 inches, Width 5.1 inches; Assembled size – Height 7.9 inches, Width 5.1 inches; Weight -16.5 oz; Materials – 304 stainless steel, nichrome wire; Fuel – sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomass; Boil time – 4 to 6 minutes (32 fl oz of water).

Made In: China

Awesome! No need to buy fuel, ever! Just find dry wood and get your fire going.

Flaw: No dry wood? No dinner. Sure, it’s an extreme scenario, but in super wet weather when starting a fire is tough, you better plan ahead and pack some dry fuel or be really good at starting a fire in the rain.

As with any wood fire, your pots will quickly blacken with soot. The Solo Stove comes with a carry bag to contain the mess, but blackened sooty pots are a fact of life with wood fires.

Who Should Buy It: Campers who want to cook with wood fire. Survivalists who want a stove that will work even with no access to fuel. Doomsday preppers.

Product Development: A new, much larger Solo Stove design is currently fundraising on Kickstarter. It has already been fully funded, so expect to see it added to the regular lineup soon.

The pot with enough fuel to boil about two liters of water

Contact Brand/More Beta: Solo Stove

—Sean McCoy is managing editor. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at GearJunkie.com. Photos © Monopoint Media LLC

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.