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Why I don’t use a Wood Stove…Yet!

Lightweight Wood stoves are popular. No doubt about it.

But I still can’t get over the fact that wood stoves transfer so much dirt and soot to the rest of your gear. This view is shared by Tinny at Mini Bull Designs.

Despite this, I did purchase a new wood stove recently from theboilerwerks.com which looks like it will mitigate some of the soot issues that I find so troubling. The Bollerwerks system uses an ultralight pot called a chimney kettle that has a cylindrical hole running vertically through it’s middle. The hole is used as a chimney but also increases the surface area that can be heated by a fire. It’s a cool concept.

One of the benefits of the chimney system that intrigues me is that it might help contain much of the soot that would otherwise coat the outside of a pot. This is the main thing I want to test with this stove, once the first run has been manufactured, and I receive mine. Honestly, I’d love to be able to cook with a wood fire, but soot transfer is a showstopper for me.

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  1. A little sand and some water goes a long way toward keeping the majority of the soot off a pot. Keeping it the pot/stove in a dedicated stuff sack is all that's needed. Stuff sack gets dirty – everything else stays clean.

  2. You and Tinny clearly do not share my attitude to a bit of soot and tar. I like the smell. It's the human smell of three days hard hiking in the rain I dislike, particularly in others. I made a pot cozy to protect my rucksack's contents from soot and tar, as recommended by Bob Cartwright, and it works.

    Tinny was slightly wrong about one thing. With damp wood the stove puts out plenty of filth at the start of the burn, but as the stove heats up and starts sucking in more air, the increased output burns much of the filth off the pot. Not all, and there is usually a bit left round the top of the stove, but both my stoves fit inside pots and they fit inside cozies.

    It's dark here at 5pm just now. Getting a fire going with damp wood takes time and patience but the winter camper has plenty. And is it stretching things too far to see a glowing Ti DX in front of Trailstar pitched with one corner up as an ultralight Baker tent set up?

    I'll be interested to see how you get on with the kettle stove. Over here, finding suitable wood for burning isn't always easy, but you are surrounded by the stuff. It would be a shame not to use it.

  3. I started using a wood stove just this past year. I had the very same concerns over dirt and soot. What I finally did was to place the cooking pot into a cozy once the cooking was done. It not only kept my food warm but keeps the outside of the pot away from everything else. I also noticed the strong odor from the blackened pot is almost undetected when using the cozy. So the pot just stays in the cozy until it goes to the fire.

    Do you normally cook food in the pot or heat water for rehydration of the food?

  4. My wife and I use a Sierra Zip Stove that I've had for about 20 years. We like fiddling with it – it's the fun of a little fire with so much less hassle and risk. And we like the convenience of carrying nothing more than a spare battery, rather than a container of fuel. Ours is easy to control, and boils a pan of water in a few minutes with scraps of whatever.

    The mess is annoying, but bagging the stove and pot solves it. Leaking fuel containers are a real pain, too. We should probably move to a newer and lighter stove, but we don't use it enought to justify the cost. The chimney kettle looks like a smart idea, maybe we'll get one.

  5. If all you are doing is heating water and want a woodburning stove, try the Kelly Kettle. Burns efficiently and boils water quickly. Comes in assorted sizes to suit your needs.

  6. Came here to mention the Kelly Kettle, and saw Rob's comment above. I love mine. It's not exactly lightweight, but it burns anything and gets a brew going in minutes. Hasn't come with me on a climb, but it's a perennial favorite for some gracious car camping. And it comes from the land of my forefathers, so how can you beat that :-)

  7. What Sam said.

    "I don't use a wood stove because of soot", seriously, a bit of common sense, is all that's needed.

  8. I use a Kuenzi Hobo stove on longer trips. While it isn’t light (about a pound), it’s compact, robust, super-efficient … well, that’s besides the point. Bottom line: the stove is essentially self-cleaning, and it comes with a a sleeve, so no soot issues there. As for the pot, I just use a simple plastic bag to wrap it in, adds essentially no weight and keeps the other stuff clean. No problem there …

  9. Hendrik, chill. If I used common sense much, I would never have had such an interesting life.

    Appreciate the advice about using a cozy to insulate the soot form the rest of my gear. I will try it next spring.

    I’m doing more cooking in a pot these days instead of pure FBC. I really like ramen noodles, miso and olive oil. Hits the spot.

  10. Philip, I hear you about the soot from wood burning stoves. Even wood-gas stoves create a lot of soot and a little bit has a habit of spreading a very long way all over your gear. However, I have recently started using the Littlbug Jr stove and although it does create a lot of soot from wood burning, I’ve found that keeping my pot in a separate and dedicated stuff sack will significantly reduce the soot from spreading.

    Earlier this week I stumbled upon a website that had a video of a new type of wood burning stove that used a heat exchanger to power a small electric fan that when up to heat allowed the stove to burn smokeless but not fully sootless – but for the life of me I can’t find that site now.

    No matter what you do (based on what I’ve tried) wood burning will cause a build up of soot, you either find a way to deal with that or switch back to some other form of fuel. It’s a catch 22 situation :(

  11. I've never tried one, but the soot drives me away. I can't wait to hear about your experience with the Backcountry Boiler. I wanted to buy one, but just couldn't justify the expense without knowing whether or not I'd like cooking with wood.

  12. I was almost able to resist the temptation, but the prospect of getting one of the first 100 ever was too much of a temptation! I figured I could always treat it like an art investment or a collectors item with historical value if the idea takes off.

  13. I now have a white gas stove, canister stove, an alky stove, and a wood stove.

    I like them all. Each has advantages and disadvantages

    I understand that the soot might bother someone who likes keep things "clean". Just like the weight and noise of my SVEA 123R might be a deal breaker.


  14. Coincidently I just declared the BushBuddy Ultra one of my favorite items of 2010 :) But I admit, the soot issue concerned me too – before I actually got and used it. And no doubt, your pot will blacken and won't look anything like it did before.

    A dedicated stuff bag for your pot will take care of containing it, though. It's not like ash and won't easily spread among your gear, if this is your worry.

    Looking forward on your thoughts on your new wood stove!

  15. Philip, I am chill(ed)! I am just saying that much of the reasoning can be proven to be not applicable if some common sense, as expressed by Sam, is used. This is not meant at you per se, btw, but in general =)

    Soot is less of an issue than gas cartridges that end up in landfills, or oil which needs to dig from the bottom of the ocean so that one can use an gasoline/ alcohol burner. Just saying!

  16. I like your environmental argument much better. A good point. I'm a militant nonconformist.

  17. Looks like the Backcountry Boiler (L/W & improved Kelly Kettle) is about to be released– even BPL has a pre-order for them. Can't wait!

    PS Beware of "mKettle" a near exact copy of Devin's Kettle–and also much heavier.

  18. Long ago, I would coat the bottom of my cooking gear with dish soap prior to lighting the fire. The soot sticks to the soap, not the pot. Cleanup is a breeze.

  19. Any update on this? Are you still using it, etc?


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