An eco-friendly, lightweight, portable, and easy to use wood burning stove
Take a step closer to a sustainable camping setup by cooking on the Solo Stove Lite. The double-wall construction of this insanely efficient wood burner provides enough heat to boil water in under 10 minutes without the need to carry or use gas. It has a highly stable base that can hold large pans with an impressively even heat spread for ‘proper’ camp cooking. Plus, the whole thing packs down into a small cooking pot for lightweight backpackers and long distance hikers as well as car campers.
Read why this eco-friendly camping stove is slowing camp life right down.
Solo Stove Lite: The stats
|Best for:||Long distance backpackers, international travel, woodland camping|
|Weight:||255g / 9oz|
|Stove size:||10.8 x 14.5cm / 4.25 x 5.7 in|
|Fuel used:||Sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomass|
Features of the Solo Stove Lite
Air ventsThere are two sets of air vents that cleverly work in combination to produce as much heat as possible. One set of vents is on the outside of the stove to draw air in at the base. This air goes in one of two directions: into the main body of the stove to fuel the fire from below or up through the inside of the stove wall where it is heated. This heated air then comes out of the second set of vents on the inside of the stove near the top to provide a secondary burn of preheated air.
Towards the bottom of the burn chamber is a nichrome wire grate. Wood or biomass sit on top of this grate and air comes up from below it to fuel the fire. As fuel burns, the ashes fall easily through the grate to rest in an ash pan that prevents the vents clogging and also protects the ground below from the heat.
When packed away, the cooking ring sits neatly inside the main body of the stove. Flip it over to use and it sits on top of the stove to provide a highly stable platform for pans up to 9 inches (23cm) in diameter. The high sides of the cooking ring provide excellent wind protection whilst the side vents allow enough airflow to keep the fire fed. There is a gap on one side of the ring which allows wood to be fed into the stove without removing the cooking pan.
As mentioned, the cooking ring fits inside the stove. The inside of the stove also houses a small alcohol burner and some fire lighters. The whole thing fits inside a small drawstring bag that protects your other gear from soot or ashes.
Solo Stove Lite review
Cooking is a big part of camping for me. I relish the idea of arriving at camp with time to enjoy the surroundings, time to set up a little camp kitchen and time to enjoy the process of creating something yummy using basic ingredients and equipment. Yet over the last few years my mega efficient Jetboil Flash has changed that. I’ve found myself packing easy ‘just add hot water’ type meals, which are, admittedly, pretty tasty! They’re also excellent when you don’t have time to dwell over mealtimes, or when you arrive at camp late.
But I’ve missed the experience of proper camp cooking in the middle of nowhere. I also have almost empty gas canisters coming out of my ears! And I don’t like that. I don’t like the waste of the canisters themselves (though they do get recycled), and I don’t like the fact that I’m burning gas when there’s a more sustainable alternative.
So I was delighted to try out the Solo Stove.
In all honesty, I was expecting to only use the Solo Stove for car camping trips or picnics with another type of stove and fuel source at the ready as a backup. But after its first trial use down at the beach one evening, my expectations altered immediately. As such, I’ve used it on hiking overnighters and a SUP camping trip with no backup stove other than a small bit of rubbing alcohol and an alcohol burner that fits inside the Solo Stove. And now that I have a much greater understanding of what burns well, how much fuel is needed and how long it takes to get going, I won’t be taking the alcohol burner on future trips where low weight is important.
Having gotten very used to instant cooking at the press of an ignition and the turn of a gas control lever, I was a little dubious about having to start a fire each time I want to cook. However, what initially seemed a bit of a chore is now one of the things that I love the most about the Solo Stove. It’s not an instant process. It takes a little bit of preparation to collect some fuel and arrange it in size order so that it’s easy to grow the fire as it matures. It takes a little bit of time to set the fire and then a little bit of patience to nurture it into a fire that it good enough to cook on. All of this doesn’t really take much more than 10 minutes, but in that time life has slowed down and simplified. It’s not all business: cook, eat and crack on to the next thing. It’s a process that makes the finished result all the more enjoyable. For me, it’s what camping is all about, regardless of what the main focus of the adventure is. Camp cooking is an adventure in itself and one that the Solo Stove truly brings to life.
Anyway, I digress. Even if your fire lighting skills aren’t what they should be, the stove is designed in such a way that getting it started really is as easy as striking a match. I place a small piece of vaseline dipped cotton wool beneath the kindling, ignite it with a lighter and watch as the magic happens! It needs constant attention to start with and it doesn’t like being overfed. Patience is key. But once the fire has a small core of heat (this takes a couple of minutes) it can be cooked on. You need to keep feeding the fire every couple of minutes with twigs whilst cooking.
Once you’ve finished cooking, or campfiring, leave the stove to cool down completely. Then simply tip the ashes out and pack it away.
What about wet wood?
Yes, rainy weather can be a problem. However, due to the type of wood needed (very small twigs and sticks), it’s usually possible to get right into the undergrowth to find something that is dry enough. I’ve used twigs that felt damp (but not wet) on the outside. They smoke a little, then water starts to bubble out of one end, and then they start to burn. It slows everything down, and is a little risky if there has been prolonged rainfall, so worth bringing along a backup alcohol burner.
When it comes to speed, there’s no way the Solo Stove will ever compete with the super fast cooking times of the likes of the Pocket Rocket or Jetboil Flash. Those things are built to boil water at the speed of light! It takes around 10 minutes to boil half a litre of water on the Solo Lite. But because it never gets super hot (like gas stoves), I’ve yet to burn any food. Which also means easy cleaning with nothing stuck to the bottoms of my pans. So although it’s pretty difficult to control the temperature at which you are cooking, you generally don’t need to worry about too much heat (unless your fire is blazing, in which case you just need to add less wood and let it cool down!).
The stove also continues to perform very well in windy conditions. In fact it is barely affected by the wind at all. My only comment on this is that it burns wood more quickly in the wind (though no less effectively). So you’ll need to have more wood than usual at the ready. Also, be sure to position the gap in the cooking ring so that is positioned away from the wind.
The stove fits perfectly into my small backpacking cooking pot set (in the header image), which usually fits in a small gas canister and my Pocket Rocket. It also fits into my large GSI cookset (in below image) with room to store food in.
The Solo Stove is ideal for overseas adventures. I wish I’d had it last year when I flew to Montenegro for a hiking trip. Once I was there, I really struggled to find liquid fuel or gas canisters that were compatible with my multi-fuel stove. I ended up buying a very cheap, bulky and heavy stove that worked with the gas that was available. If I’d had the Solo Stove I could have easily picked up some rubbing alcohol as backup fuel and just used sticks and twigs the rest of the time. Well, now I know!
The stove is also excellent to use post-meal as a mini campfire. It puts out just enough heat to take the chill away, adds a lovely ambiance to the evening, and also minimises the impact of a fire on the ground when wild camping.
And finally, though the Solo Stove Lite is designed to be big enough to cook for 1-2 people, I’ve found it to be fine cooking for 3 or 4. Yes, everything takes a little longer in a bigger pan with more food in it. But if you keep the flames well fed and the heat constant then it’s most definitely doable. You also have to take a little more care when using bigger pans. But I’ve been very impressed with how stable it is, even with large pans.
What I love the most about the Solo Stove Lite
I love that it uses a sustainable fuel source. And I really love that it’s drawing me back to proper camp cooking and forcing me to take my time over cooking in the wild.
What I don’t love so much about the Solo Stove Lite
There are certain scenarios (camping above the tree line, in the rain etc) in which I’d struggle to rely on it without a backup fuel source. Thankfully, the Solo Stove Alcohol Burner fits nicely inside the main stove.
The Solo Stove Lite has reignited my love for proper camp cooking. The fire needs nurturing throughout the cooking process and there is also no pressure to cook quickly to save fuel (both environmentally and from a survival point of view!). The result is a more leisurely and enjoyable cooking process that slows camp life down.
Add to that its lightweight and packable design, efficient combustion process, and easy to use versatility, and you’ve got yourself one highly desirable and eco-friendly camping stove.
Two VERY big thumbs up from me!
Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this product free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.