CAMP KITCHEN

Solo Stove Review: Why This is the Best Bio-Fuel Backpacking Stove Available

Solo Stove Review
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

Everyone has the same needs when it comes to a backpacking stove. Small profile, lightweight, and easy to use are the three most popular. Maybe multiple fuel options make the list. Cost certainly comes into play as does durability.

But what really sets each stove apart? Which one is the best value and the best performer? That is a hard question. But I think we found an answer. In this Solo Stove review the best cooker becomes pretty apparent. This stove is head and shoulders above the competition.

Yes, those are pretty bold words but this is a pretty bold stove. It features some design elements that you just don’t find every day. Elements like secondary combustion. That’s right.

Product Specifications

  • Gear of the Year Winner – Recommended by serious survivalists including Discovery Channel’s Matt Graham. Winner of 2014 Gear of the Year award from 50 Campfires & Section Hiker.
  • Patented Design – less smoke.
  • Fuel is Free. Uses twigs, leaves, pinecones and wood as fuel.
  • Lightweight & Fast boil time. Boils water in 8-10 mins (34 fl oz water), weighs only 9 oz. 
  • Compact space saving design. 

Check the price on Amazon

This stove is so amazing it burns the wood twice. Well, that’s not really what secondary combustion means but it does use great industrial design and the laws of thermodynamics to create an incredibly efficient solo wood stove. Truly, this cooker is no joke.

Solo stove bonfire

But efficiency aside, what else are you looking for in a solo camp stove? Durability? 304 Stainless steel construction has you covered. Lightweight? How does nine ounces sound? Portability and packability? Check and check.

The assembled stove stands at less than six inches tall and is not even five inches across. It fits in a standard pot. You won’t even know it’s in your pack, until it is time to cook. Then it will make its presence known. Because this stove can cook.

From ignition to boil in less than ten minutes. That’s fast. And the fuel used to generate this heat? You did not have to pack it in. It was gathered off the forest floor. Nice.

Solo stove cooking

I am pretty enamored of this little cooker and I think by the end of this review you will be also. It’s a rugged piece of equipment that performs well and won’t break the bank. But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s break this stove down and really tear it apart.

Look at every aspect and compare it against some other popular stoves on the market. In the end, you should have enough information to make a quality choice on your own. Me? I know which one I’m going with. Of course, I’ve already read the review.

Review

Packaging

The Solo Stove Lite comes in a nice compact package. The box is basically square, around 7 inches on each side, with a Solo Stove logo printed on the side. When the box is opened, it reveals a black fabric pouch, encapsulating the stove.

The pouch is lightweight but I like it because it is functional. It is clearly marked with a high visibility white logo and will make for a great way to keep the dust out of the stove when not in use. You can find this stove in the dark and it will be ready to use when you take it out.

The box lacks any form of protection against damage caused by mishandling during shipping. I understand the stove is basically a double walled stainless steel cylinder and is protected against scratches by the storage pouch, but I still think some padding would be nice. Of the numerous reviews I have read about this product, none have noted damage upon unboxing so maybe my concerns are unwarranted.

Solo stove box

Speaking of the unboxing, if you blink you will miss it. The stove has two parts, a stove and a ringed pot holder. That is all. The ring stores neatly inside the stove when not in use and then slides out, inverts and rests on the stove for cooking. This is about as easy as it gets. And I appreciate easy.

Design and Durability

When the Solo Stove was designed, durability was definitely a top priority. I am not sure I could damage this stove if I wanted to. It is basically a double walled stainless steel cylinder five inches or so high and around five inches across. Solid 304 stainless.

How do you hurt it? It won’t bend. It won’t break. It won’t corrode. No rust weakened joints. No joints at all for that matter. It’s just a solid little burning machine and it should last as long as you. Maybe longer.

I appreciate simple design. I especially appreciate simple design that is highly functional. The Solo Stove Lite offers just that. Of course, the stove accommodates air flow. Without air flow the fire doesn’t happen.

Solo stove parts

But Solo Stove takes the concept of airflow and puts a turbo on it. Holes evenly dispersed around the bottom of the stove lead to chambers embedded in the double walled cylinder. Here, the air is superheated, creating a wood gas. The chambers lead to ports at the top of the stove where the wood gas is ignited.

Burning wood gas is very hot and creates very little smoke. This design feature is why the stove works as well as it does. Maximum cooking for minimum fuel. Exactly what backpackers and campers are looking for.

Small Size and Portability

One of my pet peeves is when a manufacturer makes a smaller version of a product to satisfy portability requirements and loses all the functionality which made the product great in the first place. The Solo Stove Lite does not suffer from this problem.

It is small. 3.8 inches by 4.25 inches when packed. Think about it. That is really small. Even when you take the ring out, flip it, and place it on top the stove is not much larger. 5.7 inches by 4.25 inches to be exact. At first, I thought maybe this unit was too small. But after seeing countless videos of outdoorsmen using the stove to quickly boil water and cook food I was convinced. The smaller size works.

Solo stove bag

For me, portability is a huge factor in choosing a stove. Size is not the only determining factor in deciding if a tool is portable. How easy is the stove to set up? How many small parts do I have to keep track of? Is the stove small but the accessories take up my entire pack? All of these questions are answered positively by the Solo Stove Lite.

As I said before, it comes in two pieces. You could accidentally drop them and they could conceivably land fully assembled. There are no other components. Once stowed in your pack you are secure in knowing that when it is time for a meal, you will literally be cooking within a minute.

Built to Nest

If you are a backpacker you are adept at nesting items for storage. There is no other way to fit what you need in your pack. Gear that is irregularly shaped poses problems. Items with sharp edges are unwelcome.

The stove is built to nest. The shape and the packed height make it a perfect candidate for hiding away in the confines of a slightly larger cylindrical vessel.

Solo Stove Camp

Solo Stove offers several products to nest your stove inside. Windscreens and pots seem to be the most popular. But the little wood burner will not just fit inside solo stove products. A multitude of reviewers have found products from an array of manufacturers which will comfortably save space by housing the Solo Stove while in transit.

This is a great feature of the stove and is invaluable for long or technical trips where more gear is required. Every ounce counts but so does every square inch. The Solo Stove Lite allows you to use every bit of your pack without wasting space.

Uses Multiple Fuel Sources

The Solo Stove Lite is billed as a wood burning stove. It specializes in burning bio fuel, scavenged from the local area. But what if it is raining? Or snowing? What if you are stopping for the night in the dunes? No need to worry. This stove can utilize other fuels as well.

Perfectly designed for use with a spirit alcohol burner, you can still prepare a meal when the weather turns sour. Most canisters will fit. Simply rest the alcohol cartridge on the mesh grate at the bottom of the stove and your flame will be at the perfect height to heat the bottom of your cooking vessel. No problem.

Solo stove with alcohol burner

While Solo Stove makes an alcohol fuel cell to fit this stove, many other manufacturers do as well. Providing alternative fuel options is a great decision on the part of Solo Stove. Many areas do not allow fires, or open flame cooking. Many of us enjoy hiking in inclement weather. It increases the challenge. No matter the conditions, the Solo Stove Lite has you covered.

Patented Air Flow System

Double walled stainless steel is rapidly becoming the industry standard for insulation in beverage containers and coolers. So why should the same properties not be applied to cooking? But the Solo Stove Lite takes this feature one step further.

By using the principles of thermodynamics, air is drawn into the space created by the dual layers of steel and is super-heated by the fire. Ports at the top of the inner wall eject this wood gas into the flames of the fire and they are ignited, creating a very hot burn. It’s ingenious and incredibly efficient.

Fuel Efficiency

When hiking I value fuel efficiency greatly and I also put a premium on wood stoves that burn hot. When scavenging around a camp site sometimes the wood is not as dry as I would like. But if my fire is hot enough even damp sticks will burn.

Solo stove burning wood

The double combustion of the Solo Stove Lite expands your options for fuel sources. Once the fire is burning it will accept anything that is combustible. That is incredibly useful in the fall and winter or even early on a summer morning.

No Unfolding or Assembling

Most portable wood burning stoves fold flat for storage. This is not a horrible thing but if the parts warp from heat or the interlocking tabs get bent while in the pack, assembling your only cooking source can be a nightmare.

The Solo Stove Lite does not require extensive assembly. Flip the ring over and you are ready to go. No fumbling in the dark or struggling to read faded instructions through groggy eyes. Flip the ring and cook. Easy.

Value for Money and Guarantee

The Solo Stove Lite is not cheap. This price point puts it somewhere in the middle when compared to competitors with similar construction and performance. But when you consider the advanced design and quality materials, value begins to emerge. The Solo Stove utilizes a patented design, unlike other stoves.

Solo stove and pot

The company offers a multitude of compatible accessories and is a proven name in the outdoor merchandise market. For a middle of the road price you are buying a brand with a proven track record and an unlimited amount of favorable reviews. Although not inexpensive, the Solo Stove Lite is priced to reflect the quality and craftsmanship it contains.

Solo Stove offers a one-year warranty against manufacturer defects on the Lite model of its backpacker stove. Any flaws should be apparent in that time. Most purchasers take their new stove for an immediate test run. Any problems should become noticeable after a few burns.

Similar Models and Competitors

Ouspots Backpacking StoveOUSPOTS BACKPACKING STOVE

The Ouspots Camping Stove is nearly identical to the Solo Stove Lite in outward appearance. Roughly the same dimensions and weight, it has dual walled construction and features the same unique air flow system which creates amazing heat and fuel efficiency.

Crafted from stainless steel, the Ouspots should be durable and rust resistant as well. Overall, the Ouspots is a good alternative to people who like the Solo Stove design but are shopping on a budget.

And it is a forgiving budget. Priced at approx. $19, the Ouspots will not set you back to greatly if you decide it is the stove for you. Of course, you are not buying a brand with a proven track record. The design is identical but not all stoves are created equally.

The manufacturer claims the stove is made from stainless steel but does not specify the grade. No warranty is mentioned in the literature surrounding the product. Maybe this matters to you and maybe it doesn’t. It’s cheap.

If it is as flimsy as several reviewers stated you are not out very much if it fails. If it works like a champion and fulfills your wildest camp cooking dreams, you scored a great deal by buying the Ouspots Camping Stove.

Fameley Wood Camping StoveFameley Wood Camping Stove

Priced at approx. $20, the Fameley Wood Camping Stove is definitely easy on the wallet. And, it packs a lot of features into a small package. Disassembled it is even smaller than the Solo Stove Lite, with a height of under three inches. But it is heavier at more than 12 ounces.

Both of these numbers are a result of the design. Family has chosen to break up the Solo Stove’s ring into several components. There are five in all, two of which are used only when burning alcohol tablets as fuel. Fameley says their stove is made of hardened stainless steel.

No warranty information is available on the seller’s page. Several reviewers complained of rust showing after a few uses. Still, the Fameley stove is cheap and it packs down to a very small size. If you are on a budget, it could be a good option. Especially if you are more interested in burning alcohol than bio-fuel.

Iregro Portable StoveIregro Portable Stove

The Iregro Portable Stove is virtually identical to the Fameley Wood Camping Stove. Same size, same weight, same five-piece design, and the same dual walled air flow system. The difference? The Iregro has four foldable pot holding arms as opposed to the Fameley’s three arm approach.

Iregro claims this adds stability to the cooking vessel. None of their eight reviewers weigh in one way or the other. Iregro does not mention the material their stove is made from. Nor do they include a warranty. But it is only approx. $18. Not much of a gamble if the materials turn out to be less than optimal.

None of the reviewers had a negative experience so maybe the stove is a true bargain. Again, if you feel the Solo Stove is out of your budget, maybe the four-armed stove from Iregro will be more your speed.

Overview

The Solo Stove Lite is a proven commodity in the wood burning backpacker stove category. Small enough to be carried easily for long distances yet sturdy enough to survive abuse on the trail, the cylindrical design gives the stove functional strength and durability.

Taking the simple approach, this stove only has two pieces. That’s it. A stove and a ring. The ring fits inside the stove for storage and you pop it out, flip it, and set it on top to hold your cooking vessel. Keeping track of two parts is easy, making the chances of leaving a piece at home very slim.

Unlike some of the competitors listed above, the Solo Stove Lite is made from 304 Stainless Steel and carries a one-year manufacturer warranty. With no moving parts, this warranty seems sufficient. After all, it is a simple design and any defects in manufacturing should show up quickly when exposed to extreme heat.

Solo stove 2 parts

This stove is one of the most fuel-efficient bio-fuel stoves on the market. Yes, I know the competitors all claim to have the same “unique air flow system” that makes the Solo Stove brand special but the systems are not identical. The Solo Stove moves air through two parts, not five.

The mouth at the top of the stove is narrower, changing the air flow within. And the Solo Stove is primarily designed for bio-fuel, not alcohol. With an open grate as opposed to a solid pan, the Solo Stove Lite creates tremendous draw which is converted to higher temperatures and increased efficiency.

All this performance comes in an attractive box and is contained in a functional carrying pouch. The Solo Stove Lite is ready to use moments after delivery. Set it up, fill it with free fuel from your immediate surroundings, and eight to ten minutes later you are boiling water. For a bio-fuel stove that is very fast. And easy.

Using solo stove

This stove has superior performance. Yes, it is far more expensive than several stoves which appear to be similar in design, but on close inspection the attention to detail make it a wise investment for the serious backpacker looking for a wood burning stove.

PROS:

  • Small size
  • Easy two-piece assembly
  • One-year warranty
  • Quality materials
  • Free fuel
  • Accepts alternative fuels
  • Nests inside cooking vessels for transport

CONS:

  • Limited to single cooking vessel
  • Higher price than closely related designs
  • Does not fold flat
  • Hard to keep clean (soot)

There you have it. The Solo Stove Lite, a great bio-fuel burning stove. Small enough to fit in any pack but powerful enough to boil water in a flash. Well-built from quality materials, the Solo Stove Lite will meet your cooking needs in the outdoors for years and years. Truly, the Solo Stove Lite is an excellent choice for those in the market for an exceptional stove.

Buy on Amazon

Do you own a Solo Stove Lite? What about a different wood burner that you can’t live without when out on the trail? Share your insights with us and our readers by leaving a comment. We would love to hear which stove you think is best.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bradley Page
Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!

  • Nancy King

    I’ve been using the Solo Stove Lite for the past year and a half on my camping trips so I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot to review it: I think it’s been great! The wood burns very quickly and evenly and it is built to last. You can’t go wrong with this stove!

  • Bradley Page

    When I first saw this in Youtube, I thought : “no way, this stove is too small.” Curiosity got the better of me and I bought one and reviewed it, as well. This is indeed a dynamo. I’m sorry I underestimated this little stove. But so glad I tried it!

  • Allen Federico

    I am a really big fan of the Solo Stove. I’ve found it’s good for so many different things! It’s cooked up bacon and eggs very well and I’ve even used it to make coffee in the morning. It’s also great that, as the author mentions, it has such a small profile and it puts out a good deal of heat. It’s a great backpacking stove!

  • Bradley Page

    This is a great stove and has been awarded for its great design. Have you noticed that there’s less smoke? It’s so compact and I love the fact that it can boil water quickly and it’s very compact. Very affordable, too.