Solo Stove Lite: Wood-burning Backpacking Stove

I recently had the opportunity to test out the Solo Stove Lite and Pot 900 combo on a trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Solo Stove sent it to me without charge to write up this review, but the opinions here are my own. I’m going to let you know the pros and the cons as I see them. In the end, however, I gotta say that I love this stove and it will probably replace the MSR SuperFly in my pack.

Solo Stove Lite + Pot 900 Combo
Solo Stove Lite + Pot 900 Combo nesting design

 A Stove for Campfire Lovers

To understand why I love the Solo Stove so much, you need to know a little about me. I’m the type of person who can sit around a campfire for hours. Poking and tending a wood fire is one of life’s great pleasures. If campfires don’t give you the same visceral satisfaction, then the Solo Stove might not be for you. Also, you might be dead inside.

The Solo Stove is basically a canister in which you build a small fire. The canister on the Solo Stove Lite is pretty small, so there’s only room for small sticks and twigs. This means that you have to keep an eye on it almost constantly to make sure the fire doesn’t go out. For someone like me though, tending the small fire is utterly satisfying. To be clear, I wouldn’t want to do this all night. It’s no replacement for the pleasure of a real campfire. But in the short amount of time that it takes to boil water for a meal, the Solo Stove is an enjoyable experience.

 Reduce Your Environmental Impact

Solo Stove Lite + Pot 900 Combo
Solo Stove Lite + Pot 900 Combo

At my company, Campfire Outdoors Ltd. Co., we are a small business partner with the Leave No Trace Center for Environmental Ethics. We chose to partner with LNT because we believe that the outdoors should be enjoyed in a responsible way. The Solo Stove fits very well with the principles of Leave No Trace.

A traditional cook fire requires much more fuel and, unless you use an existing fire ring or build a mound fire, will leave a scar on the land. The Solo Stove requires a very small amount of wood to boil enough water for a meal. The integrated heat shield of the Solo Stove also allows you to set it on the ground without scorching the earth beneath it.

Typical propane or other gas fuel stoves also create waste in the form of empty gas canisters. With the Solo Stove, you use very little wood fuel and there is no waste other than the minimal ash left behind.

Solo Stove Tech: Gasification

I may have over-simplified it earlier when I said, “The Solo Stove is basically a canister in which you build a small fire.” It’s actually a pretty special canister. The Solo Stove is more like a can within a can, both of which have thoughtfully engineered air flow holes. You can see the airflow in the cut-away illustration below better than I could explain.

Solo Stove Cut-Away Diagram
Solo Stove Cut-Away Diagram

The objective of the double-walled construction and air flow design is a process called gasification. The air holes feed oxygen both into the fire itself, but also around the inner wall. The air moving between the walls exits at the top of the stove, feeding pre-heated oxygen back into the fire. This creates two points at which combustion is taking place: the burning wood in the stove, and the pre-heated oxygen at the top of the stove. In principle, the second combustion of oxygen ignites the smoke that comes from the burning wood. As a result, there is very little smoke from the fire. In my test, this worked well when the fire was burning hot, but there was smoke when adding new fuel to the stove.

Cooking Time Efficiency

In my test run, it took about 6-8 minutes to get 30 oz. of steaming hot water. Keep in mind, this is enough water for a couple meals. The water was at a rolling boil after about 9-10 minutes. This is considerably longer than using my MSR SuperFly, and longer still than my buddy’s JetBoil. For me, the extra few minutes are a non-issue. You are camping or backpacking, not racing after work-week deadlines. Sit back and enjoy your surroundings and listen to the sound of the crackling fire in your wood burning stove. Let it ease your mind that you will avoid throwing an empty fuel canister in the garbage.

Solo Stove Lite + Pot 900 Combo
The Solo Stove boiled water in about 9-10 minutes in our test.

Solo Stove + Pot 900 Combo

The combination of the Solo Stove Lite and the Pot 900 is nice. The stove in its storage bag fits perfectly into the pot, which has its own storage bag to contain everything. Of course, you can use any pot with the Solo Stove, but it’s nice to have the two nest perfectly together. You can even store your matches or fire starter inside the stove. The combo weighs 1lb. 2oz. all packed up. Any backpacker knows that’s a little on the heavy side for a stove and pot. If weight is your primary concern, you may want to exchange the Pot 900 for a lighter titanium or aluminum pot.

 Conclusion: A Solid Stove

I’m personally going to keep the Solo Stove as my go-to for camping and backpacking. The weight does not bother me all that much since I pack pretty light to begin with. Not having to buy more fuel canisters is a huge plus, especially since I’m almost out of the fuel that I have for my MSR SuperFly. I can understand if other people have different priorities when packing for a camping or backpacking trip. The difficulty of building and tending a fire might be a barrier to some, even though there is little skill involved with the Solo Stove. Ultralight backpacking enthusiasts are definitely going to want something lighter. Everyone has a different concept of the ideal camping stove, and that’s just fine. You do you.

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Here’s a short video of my field test: