ThermoJet MicroLite Alcohol Stove REVIEW

Product performance review of the ThermoJet MicroLite Alcohol Stove, a lightweight alcohol stove for backpacking.

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by Will Rietveld | 2005-04-06 03:00:00-06

Overview

ThermoJet MicroLite Alcohol Stove - 1
ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove assembled: air intake ports are open, two 1/8-inch steel rods for pot support.

The ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove is the best overall (light weight and top performing) alcohol cooking system we tested. The alcohol burner weighs only 0.28 ounce and the minimum carry weight is 3.0 ounces. This stove performed well in all of our tests, turning in some of the best boil time and fuel efficiency numbers under optimal and windy conditions. The complete cooking system rolls up into a small cylinder that fits inside a one-person cookpot. It is easy to set up and use. Cooking with the ThermoJet was as convenient as using a canister stove. I easily cooked macaroni and cheese for one person on 1 ounce of fuel using the stove's simmer band. The ThermoJet MicroLite is one alcohol cooking system that gets everything right - it's well designed, nicely constructed, and a top performer.

Specifications

• Stove ID

ThermoJet MicroLite

• Stove Type

Open jet

• Components Reviewed

Alcohol burner, combination windscreen/pot stand, simmer control band, 4 fl oz (118 ml) fuel bottle, stuff sack

• Dimensions

Alcohol burner: 2 in diameter x 1.1 in high (5 x 3 cm), stove setup: 6 in diameter x 4.3 in high (15 x 11 cm), packed size: 2.3 in x 4 in (6 x 10 cm)

• Weight

Backpacking Light measured minimum carry weight (burner, windscreen/pot stand, simmer band): 3.0 oz (85 g), manufacturer claimed minimum carry weight: 2.5 oz (71 g)

• MSRP

$39.95 Manufacturer's suggested retail price

• Manufacturer Contact Information

Synergy EC

Usable Features

Design - The aluminum alcohol burner is enclosed in a "combustion chamber" which is an aluminum windscreen/pot stand combination. Air enters through a row of 0.5-inch ports at the bottom and exits at the top around the cook pot. A simmer control band around the combustion chamber controls airflow.

Weight - The minimum setup (stove, combustion chamber, simmer band) weighs 3.0 ounces.

Flame Control - A simmer band controls the flame by limiting air intake. There is no snuffer provided to stop the stove. Burn time is controlled by varying the amount of alcohol used, snuffing the burner with a can, or using the simmer band to retard the flame.

Pot Support - The pot support is two 1/8-inch diameter steel rods that fit in four holes in the combustion chamber. The distance between the top of the stove and the bottom of the pot is 1.75 inches. The pot support is very stable, and will handle a pot up to 5.5 inches in diameter. A larger version is available for pots up to 6.5 inches in diameter.

Wind Protection - A combination windscreen/pot stand is provided. It provides very good wind protection.

Ease of Use

Setup - Setting up the ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove involves unrolling the combustion chamber and locking it, unrolling the simmer band and locking it, slipping the simmer band over the combustion chamber (if simmering is planned), placing a measured amount of alcohol in the stove, and lighting the stove. Time required is about 1-2 minutes.

Fueling - The open jet stove is very easy to fuel; just pour alcohol into the open cavity.

Priming and Ignition - No priming is needed, simply light a match and hold it over the stove. It lights with a "puff" and stays lit. Warm up time depends on air and fuel temperature.

Flame Adjustment - The simmer band fits snugly around the combustion chamber. I thought it would be difficult to adjust, but it turned out to be simple: just use two twigs to push it down on opposite sides (the reverse is not as easy). If the stove will only be used to boil water, the simmer band can be left at home.

Cold Weather Ergonomics - The main stove is easy to set up and light while wearing gloves. The simmer band is a bit tight and can be difficult to install with gloves. In cool or cold weather I found it necessary to warm the stove plus alcohol with my hands before lighting it; otherwise it would not light.

Cooking Systems - The ThermoJet MicroLite is a cooking system. It is obvious that the components were designed to work together. This stove was one of the two best performers in our lab tests in terms of boil time and fuel efficiency. It was also quite wind resistant.

Options - A larger stove is available for pots with a diameter between 5.75 and 6.5 inches. This is generally suitable for pots with a capacity of 1 to 1.5 liters. The large capacity stove costs the same as the standard stove.

Cooking Performance

I took the ThermoJet MicroLite on several backpacking trips in the Colorado Rockies. Evening temperatures were in the 50's °F and breezy, and morning temperatures were in the low 30's °F and calm.

ThermoJet MicroLite Alcohol Stove - 2
The ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove simmering noodles; a simmer band near the bottom covers most of the air intake ports.

Capacity - The ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove worked beautifully cooking for one person using a 0.9-liter titanium pot. It has sufficient capacity to cook for two people, but it would require a pot less than 5.5 inches in diameter and about 1.5 liters in volume. If cooking for two people consistently, I'd recommend buying the larger version of the stove.

Versatility - Any alcohol burner will boil water, but it requires a controllable stove to cook macaroni. The ThermoJet MicroLite cooked macaroni with aplomb. I cooked half a box of macaroni and cheese with 1 ounce of fuel. Once the noodles reached boiling, I pushed the simmer ring down to cover the air intakes. I added the dry ingredients after the noodles had simmered, just as the alcohol ran out.

Wind Effects - The ThermoJet MicroLite cooking system was one of the least affected by wind in our lab tests. This stove has an excellent windscreen/pot stand combination that provides good wind protection. However, wind does blow into the combustion chamber through the air intake ports on the windward side and causes turbulence within, resulting in heat loss.

Cold Effects - I simulated cold conditions by placing the alcohol burner and alcohol in a freezer overnight, then fueling the stove and lighting it. It would not light at first, but warming it for 30 seconds in my hands was enough for it to light, and the jets were burning within 1 minute.

Heating Efficiency

The ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove was one of the two top performing stoves in the Backpacking Light lab tests. Boil times for 1 pint of water were over a minute and a half less than the average for all the stoves tested. Fuel consumption was better than average under optimal conditions and significantly below average under windy conditions.

See performance results for all the stoves we tested in Performance Comparison Testing of Lightweight Alcohol Stoves.

Table 1: Boil Time and Fuel Consumption for Optimal and Windy Conditions
  Optimum Conditions Boil Time for 1 pint of water (minutes:seconds) Optimum Conditions Fuel Consumption (g) Windy Conditions Boil Time for 1 pint of water (minutes:seconds) Windy Conditions Fuel Consumption (g)
ThermoJet MicroLite 4:29 14.1 6:38 22.8
Average of All Stoves Reviewed 6:09 15.7 8:20 32.8

Durability

ThermoJet MicroLite Alcohol Stove - 3
The ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove packs down to about 2.5 inches by 4 inches and fits inside a solo cookpot.

Packability - The windscreen/pot stand and simmer band roll into a bundle 2.5 inches by 4 inches with the burner and fuel bottle inside. This package fits nicely inside a 0.9-liter cookpot or larger. The included fuel bottle is only 4 fluid ounces, enough for trips over a long weekend.

Durability - During my testing I assembled and disassembled this stove many times. The basic stove setup is sufficiently durable for ultralight backpacking. The stove is mostly aluminum, so it would be best to carry the stove inside a cook pot to prevent unnecessary damage.

Maintenance - None required.

Value

The ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove is a very good value at $39.95 for the complete setup. It costs more than most alcohol burners alone and more than many complete alcohol stove setups, but you are paying for efficient design, quality construction, ease of use, and the time savings of not having to tweak components to optimize performance.

Tips and Tricks

The wind protection provided by the ThermoJet's combustion chamber (windscreen/pot stand) could be improved by covering the ports on one side (about one-third of the circumference) with aluminum tape, or using aluminum foil to cover one side of the windscreen when needed. Orient the windscreen with the covered ports on the windward side to reduce direct wind effects. It works best to locate the combustion chamber on bare soil and push it into the ground slightly to seal the bottom, and then place a piece of aluminum foil under the alcohol burner to act as a heat reflector.

Recommendations for Improvement

Backpacking Light supports the development of cooking systems - a complete system that is optimized for maximum efficiency. The ThermoJet MicroLite alcohol stove system is already one of the best available, but it can be improved by:

  • Including a lightweight heat deflector to go under the alcohol burner.
  • Offering the system with a lightweight cookpot with tight fitting lid that is correctly sized for the stove and large enough to pack the collapsed stove inside.
  • Offering lightweight 8-ounce and 16-ounce fuel bottles that measure the amount of fuel dispensed.


Citation

"ThermoJet MicroLite Alcohol Stove REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/thermojet_microlite_alcohol_stove_review.html, 2005-04-06 03:00:00-06.

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