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Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market Report 2011
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market Report 2011 on 06/21/2011 14:19:10 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market Report 2011

Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
nimblewill on 06/21/2011 14:48:10 MDT Print View

The wood stove i have used the most for the last 3 years is my bushbuddy, but for snow melting in winter under tree level i prefer a nimblewill titanium clone, its lighter and can be feeded larger pieces of wood :

btw the holes iin the nimblewill are for using your nail stakes, with them no stability problem

Edited by Fre49 on 06/21/2011 14:52:28 MDT.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market Report 2011 on 06/21/2011 15:41:35 MDT Print View

Where is the Vargo Hexagon Backpacking wood stove? At 4.1 oz, $60, and a very compact storage shape it seems like it should be in the running.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: wood-burning SOTMR on 06/21/2011 16:59:21 MDT Print View

Nice job Chris. Getting all that info in order and presenting it in a digestable fashion is a bear.

I see no reason to give up my Bushbuddy, either.

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
Re: re: wood-burning SOTMR on 06/21/2011 17:05:13 MDT Print View

WOW - I'd never heard of many of the stoves.

I second on the Vargo Stove- It packs pretty small and flat +++ and seems very durable at a good weight and price.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market Report 2011 on 06/21/2011 17:30:20 MDT Print View

Where is the ... _____

Fully realizing that it is rarely (never?) possible to cover all bases I still would have liked to see how the Bushcooker LT 1 stove compared to the others.

I had no idea there were that many commercially available woodburners (or that the Nimblewill Nomad stove was commercially available)

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market Report 2011 on 06/21/2011 17:56:40 MDT Print View

Thanks Chris

That's quite a field test you took on - good work. Was glad to see the Bushbuddy still hanging in there.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Lightweight Wood Burning Camp Stoves--SOTMR 2011 on 06/21/2011 18:13:01 MDT Print View

The Vargo Hexagon won the "Burn Off" this past February at Henry Coe St Park for BPL gathering in Nor Cal. The Hexagon won pretty easily.

2 cents

Stephen B Elder Jr
(selder) - M

Locale: Front range CO
ratings, rankings, and scores on 06/21/2011 19:46:21 MDT Print View

Thank you Chris for your thorough analysis. I'm sure that buyers will make informed purchases because of your efforts. I wonder if it would be possible to deliver your Rating of each CTQ for each stove as an .xl or .ods file so that a person could plug in their own Importance Value for each CTQ? For example, I'm not sure that every user would consider Warming Fire Quality or LNT to be three times as important as Ease of Use or Soot Accumulation. The Rating of each CTQ is the fruit of your labor and is of great value to a shopper. The Importance Value is pretty much eye of the beholder, yet the Score is a product of the Importance Value. The Overall Normalized Stove Rating is based on an arbitrary set of Importance Values, which may or may not be consistant with what a purchaser considers important. Just a thought on scores based on importance values in general...

Thomas Choat

Locale: Wet, Windy, cold, "Westland"
Can't see the forest because all the trees are in the way on 06/22/2011 01:38:26 MDT Print View

Very timely and useful test report for me, as I have just been trying to find a better alternative to the Honey Stove I have been using the past couple of years. Mind you, it's got a lot going for it, but it has its shortcomings too. Being too short is one of them. Too fiddly assembly after several uses add heat-warp.

This test report thins out the competition a lot, but there are some other contestants out there which ought to get a similar treatment ( I am thinking now about the Swiss 'magic' stove ( 'twister' stove (

What I would like to see is a community effort to find a near(er) perfect solution to this need. Some good heads out there with ideas and some with facilities and skills to make and test prototypes- who knows what could come of that!!

Happy hiking,


Andrew Wilson
(andreww) - MLife

Locale: Vosges
Cook fires on 06/22/2011 03:09:45 MDT Print View

Loved the review. I'm a fan of these little stoves and it's nice to see them compared in a systematic fashion.

I myself am a happy owner of a BushBuddy and would never trade it in. As a stove-like substitute, it's winner: you can set it on top of the duff, burn a handful of twigs and have your meal with a minimum of wood-burning fuss, especially in LNT areas.

But once we're in wood-burning territory, I think there's room in the comparison for a well-built cook fire / tripod. I've invested a considerable amount of time (and inhaled more smoke than is healthy) working on the technique and can usually bring half a gallon to a boil about 20min after starting the whole process, using only a couple of large handfuls of pencil-sized twigs (weather permitting, of course). Considering the time-advantages/scalability over any of these stoves, it's my preferred method where legal (which is anywhere a wood-cooker is legal).

A cook-fire also has the safety advantage of forcing you to build it in the proper place, and take the proper precautions with wood burning. And as with any wood-burning, the practice makes the woods into the source of your safety and comfort, rather than the enemy.

I am always on the lookout for new technology, and wood-burning stoves have come a long way--especially for people who use wood daily to cook. The BushBuddy is a piece of art in both design and operation, and I will continue to use it for aesthetics alone. But for short-term, single-pot outdoor expeditions where fires are legal and wood available, I'm not yet convinced that there are enough advantages to recommend these tiny stoves over a tiny, well-constructed cook fire.

Hendrik Morkel
(skullmonkey) - MLife

Locale: Finland
Bushcooker LTs? on 06/22/2011 04:39:00 MDT Print View

The Vargo Hexagon isn't very good imo, so not big loss there.

However, that none of the Four Dog Bushcooker LTs were included is quite a surprise, it is almost on par with the Bushbuddy and one of the better Wood-Burning stoves out there.


I need to agree with Andrew above, that a simple cooking fire is still the lightest and best option. Living in a country blessed with the "Everyman's Right" starting a cooking fire is a common practice, and if you have fire skills (which you should have either way if you use a wood-burning stove) even bad weather is no problem; it also has a lot more atmosphere to it as a confined stove fire.

Edited by skullmonkey on 06/22/2011 06:28:09 MDT.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
This article could have been better on 06/22/2011 08:32:11 MDT Print View

I was surprised by the primitive state of the art of lightweight backpacking wood stoves and frankly what I would deem unacceptable reporting standards. The latter refers in part to the unverified reference to the fan's reliability. If you don't test it, it's unfair to make such a strong statement. Furthermore, any stove that fails LNT deserves no reporting other than to say it was rated unacceptable for violating LNT. Fuel stoking, while heavily weighted wasn't quantified. I've never found it very important since one or two charges will boil two cups of water.

I would also question the comment about the difficulty in finding quality dry fuel. I've hiked in rain-soaked temperate rain forests and never lacked for an abundance of fuel. The worst it's ever gotten is having to spend extra time carving off the damp outer layer of twigs.

My characterization as "primitive" may seem redundant in reference to wood fired cooking, but there are modern enhancements which few of these stoves utilize. For the most part they appear to be little more than pot stands with a few also acting as fire platforms.

I've researched and experimented with backpacking stoves for years, the culmination of which was my 4 oz. titanium backpacking stove that fits in and around my pot. Click here to see it. I found that the article is correct in stating that wood isn't as fast as gas. That inspired me to develop a forced draft upgrade using a sub-ounce computer fan which makes the stove competitive with canister boil times provided you pick up your wood as you hike the last half mile into camp so you don't waste time gathering wood.

Were it not for advancing age and the realization that time spent working is time not hiking, this article would likely inspire me to starting a business making a "modern" backpacking wood stove.

Edited by herman666 on 06/22/2011 08:34:25 MDT.

Jeff Wright

Locale: ...
Re: Bushcooker LTs? on 06/22/2011 09:26:42 MDT Print View

"The Vargo Hexagon isn't very good imo, so not big loss there."

Is this statement based on personal experience witht the stove?

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Re: Re: Bushcooker LTs? on 06/22/2011 09:38:33 MDT Print View

I like the Vargo hexagon also and have gotten pretty good results with it. Especially like the flat packing and easy setup without having multiple pieces.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
How much primer are you carrying? on 06/22/2011 09:42:40 MDT Print View

How much kindling/primer are you guys carrying with these stoves for a three-four day weekend? (not just the fire starter itself, since I need that as well... bic, matches, firesteel etc.)

Granted your fuel is free, but if you need to add in the weight of a film canister & vasoline soaked cotton balls, or a mini dropper filled with alcohol, that adds to the weight and I'm trying to compare top my current setup:


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market on 06/22/2011 10:33:38 MDT Print View

The article only confirms that I don't want to bother with one of these wood stoves. Admittedly, my preferred camping places are at or above timberline, where wood is scarce and should be allowed to decay to help replenish the very thin soils at those altitudes. Wood fires are usually forbidden in such places.

Not addressed in the article was the important question if any of these stoves are allowed where campfires are forbidden, whether due to high fire danger or to LNT or lack of fuel concerns. I strongly suspect that they are not, but it would be good to confirm this issue one way or the other.

In conditions where fires are legal and fuel is readily available, I'd far rather build a small open fire on an existing fire ring than haul one of these stoves. No stove to carry; the pot doesn't get any blacker; boiling a pot of water uses about the same amount of fuel; boil time may actually be less!

Your mileage, of course, may vary!

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: How much primer are you carrying? on 06/22/2011 10:53:35 MDT Print View


I carry a tiny bottle of odorless charcoal lighter to start my stove. It takes about 10 drops on a small piece of fiberglass cloth at the bottom of the stove to get a fire going. That's about 50 starts per ounce. It doesn't amount to significant extra weight.

One other thing I should probably mention. There's no question a wood stove requires extra attention. It's best for two people out for several days. My wife and I always use my 4 oz. wood stove and on a 50 miler, it saves significant weight.

I've stopped carrying it on shorter hikes like weekenders with the guys. It's too labor intensive when you don't want to be the last person packed up in the morning.


Edited by herman666 on 06/22/2011 11:05:03 MDT.

William Frederick
(bfrederi) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Thanks for the article on 06/22/2011 11:05:46 MDT Print View

Thanks for tackling this subject Chris. Like others, I'd like to see how the Mad Dog Bush Cooker stoves compare. Can we convince you to add these stoves to the report?

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re: Lightweight Wood-Burning Camp Stoves - State of the Market Report 2011 on 06/22/2011 11:26:08 MDT Print View

Hi Chris - I first have to commend you on both the comprehensiveness of your report and for taking on such a tough topic to begin with. Canister and alcohol stoves are easy to test - you can more easily standardize the fuel, get relatively consistent boil times independent of user habits, and just look at the numbers. The same is not true of wood stoves.

I agree with earlier comments that significant ground scarring (as would occur with a cookfire) should disqualify stoves from consideration. With that as a bar of admission, I would rank environmental impact based on efficiency - both the amount of wood required to boil, as well as the amount of ash waste left behind - as they are the measure of impact for stoves that provide meaningful distinction from a cookfire.

I think it would also be helpful for the performance numbers to be put in terms of boiling 2 cups (1 pint) of water (from lighting a match rather than once the fire is going), and for performance in windy/non-windy conditions to be evaluated as was done with past BPL articles on alcohol and canister stoves. While there are more variables with wood stoves, the best of them (used by a skilled operator) are comparable to all but the very fastest conventional stoves, and wind performance is a factor important for any backcountry stove regardless of the fuel used. Just as temperature was used as an important additional variable for canister stoves, I think testing with relatively wet wood would also be interesting to see for wood stoves.

But really, all minor points. Thanks for the interesting read!