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Wood-Burning Camp Stove

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An inexpensive clay stove invented by a nonprofit in Oregon may hold a key to easing pollution in developing nations. This stove may help poor women and children by minimizing the tremendous workload associated with cooking and washing each day. Or, it could help fight deforestation near third-world villages around the planet.

Those are promises Aprovecho Research Center, a non-profit organization in Cottage Grove, Ore., is touting with its StoveTec “rocket” stove, which is an alternative to the cook fires used by millions each day from rural Asia to slums in South Africa.

Aprovecho has created a simple wood-burning stove with a clay elbow that focuses the heat and fire in the combustion chamber directly toward a cooking pot. According to the organization, this setup dramatically reduces fuel consumption compared to open fires used for cooking by millions around the planet.

Worker in Chinese stove factory, where the clay StoveTec units are built

The stove’s primary market is the 50 percent of the world that still cooks by open flame — people who use fire pits or stoves that burn biomass and cannot afford a modern fuel stove. Aprovecho’s refugee stoves are sold for as little as $5 to the world’s poor.

For their efforts, Aprovecho beat out hundreds of humanitarian organizations and was awarded first place in the International Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy earlier this summer. It is a U.K.-based competition that recognizes innovation in sustainable energy solutions that “address climate change, alleviate poverty and improve quality of life.”

Aprovecho stove in a traditional setting in the Marshall Islands

With its success in the humanitarian realm, StoveTec (www.stovetec.net) has made an unlikely expansion into the consumer camping market. The organization is now selling commercial versions of its stove to outdoors enthusiasts. They are made for camping and general outdoors cooking applications, like a BBQ in the backyard.

I tested the StoveTec GreenFire One Door stove, which costs $34.95. It has the same type of efficient combustion chamber as on the humanitarian stoves though with a handle, metal case walls, and a painted exterior finish. It comes with a pot skirt to focus flame heat and a stick support shelf where the wood sits.

At a camp site last month, I cut a few small pieces of wood and dropped some shredded newspaper in the stove door. A match whooshed the tinder to life, and the little sticks started to burn from the tip on back.

Aprovecho Research’s commercial StoveTec GreenFire camp stoves

As the fire burned, I pushed the sticks into the stove where they slowly charred to bright coals. The combustion chamber routed the flame and hot air toward a cooking pot, boiling a couple liters of water in about 10 minutes.

Overall, the StoveTec GreenFire was an interesting alternative to a gas camp stove. It is heavy and not very portable. It does not have the jet-like flame output of a canister stove.

But in my test, the GreenFire proved to be easy to use and efficient, requiring just a few small pieces of wood to boil water or cook a meal in a pot.

—Stephen Regenold writes a blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

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