Rating: 5 / 5
I decided to post a review of the regular Bushbuddy wood burning stove with the Bushbuddy Ultra reviews because the stoves are identical in size and function. My regular Bushbuddy weighs about 6.5 ounces, while the Ultra model weighs 5.1 ounces. It seemed silly to post separate reviews for two essentially identical stoves.
That said, the Bushbuddy is a marvelous stove in its construction, design, performance, and ease of use.
Construction: The stove walls and floor are made of thin, but strong, 18-8 stainless steel, as is the pot stand, which nests conveniently inside the stove. The small grate above the stove floor is made of nichrome wire – very expensive and extremely resistant to heat. The tiny spot welds are themselves miniature works of art. The stove itself is quite strong, but would be susceptible to denting if not stored within a pot. My Bushbuddy fits perfectly within my GSI Double Boiler.
Design: Fritz Handel deserves an award for the elegant simplicity of this stove. The Bushbuddy has only two parts: the stove and a nesting pot stand. The double-walled design makes for an extremely clean and efficient burn. The Bushbuddy has a terrific draft; even a tiny flame causes a visible chimney effect. It appears that air follows two paths through the Bushbuddy. First, air flows in through the bottom vent holes, past the ash bin, then up through the grate, through the combustion chamber, then out of the stove. At the same time, air flows in and up through the vent holes in the outer wall, up past the hot inner wall, pre-heating the air, then through the vent holes in the top of the combustion chamber for efficient combustion. Thus, air flows in through the bottom and top of the combustion chamber. You can see the preheating effect of this outer wall path to the top of the combustion chamber when the stove gets going: flame pours through the top vent holes toward the center of the stove. It is quite impressive.
Performance: The careful thought put into the design of the Bushbuddy explains its stellar performance. If you can find one dead branch about four to five feet long – with twigs still attached, you have found all the fuel you need to cook two meals for two people. In optimal conditions, I can often bring a quart of water to a rolling boil in eight minutes from first spark to boil. Of course, wet wood and windy conditions will extend the time. Choosing a spot out of the wind will pay off with quick enjoyable firestarting.
Ease of Use: I have used the Bushbuddy on several backpacking trips in the Southern United States – and, due to an injury temporarily keeping me out of the game – extensive “deckpacking” use of the stove in my carport. Using the Bushbuddy is quick and easy. Simply break off pinkie-sized pieces of the branch, and stack them according to size: kindling, small fuel, and big fuel. I carry a hunting knife when backpacking, which makes it easier to chop the ends of thick branches into pinkie-length pieces. I get my tinder lit using a firesteel (I always carry tinder and fatwood splinters with me because I cannot always find good tinder in the bush). Then I use the tinder to light a small, toothpick -sized splinter of fatwood – and put the flaming end of the fatwood splinter below the grate in the Bushbuddy – sort of propped up on the grate. Then I use two sticks to put the burning tinder in the stove – and carefully put a small handful of twigs on top of the flame. Placing the burning end of the splinter of fatwood below the grate lets the flame rise up from below the tinder and twigs. Within seconds, the twigs are burning and crackling. Then I quickly add larger sticks until the combustion chamber is full. The draft is impressive, the flame intense. At this point I put the pot stand on the stove, which improves the draft even more. Once the Bushbuddy has a good bed of coals, I just add thick sticks every five minutes or so to keep the stove hot and flaming. I modified my GSI Double Boiler by adding a bail; I prefer to suspend the pot over the Bushbuddy for easier temperature control – and because hanging the pot reduces the chances of spilling dinner into the stove.
Downsides: Within the rational limitations of wood burning stoves, there is no downside to the Bushbuddy. Backpackers using the Bushbuddy are limited by the availability of fuel – really nasty weather – wood burning restrictions – and must deal with soot-covered pots. That’s it.
Conclusion: The Bushbuddy is nearly the perfect wood burning backpacking stove. It lights quickly, burns cleanly, uses little wood, and weighs only 6.5 ounces (5.1 ounces for the Ultra model). The only change I might suggest is putting three small feet on the bottom to keep it from slipping a bit on gravelly ground.
Two thumbs up. Five Stars. Bravo.
[I edited this review to say that the lighting technique described works MUCH better with a splinter of fatwood, rather than a twig found in the bush. A flaming twig is much more likely to go out than a flaming bit of fatwood when transferring from the lighting surface to the BushBuddy. In really bad conditions, I use Tinder-Quick Tabs or a small one-quarter ball of cotton soaked with petrolatum jelly. Those have not failed to get a fire going quickly, even with wind and wet wood.]