I have a thing for wood burning stoves. Especially the camping variety. I’ve amassed an ever growing collection of them over the last couple of years. Too many according to Doric Diversions Chief Financial Officer ( my wife ! )
My ultimate goal is to have a lightweight, highly efficient stove that fits in a small backpack for when I go bush-biking.
If you haven’t heard the term bush-biking it’s a combination of bikepacking and bushcraft. Think of it as Bear Grylls on a mountain bike with Mark Beaumont’s bike luggage.
I like comfort on my expeditions. However this has its downside in that you need a certain quantity of equipment to be comfortable. Criteria for equipment selection is small, light and functional. Otherwise cycling anywhere becomes a chore. Very quickly.
This is where stoves like the Wild Stoves Woodgas MKIIt come in. Small, lightweight, efficient and simple. Made of quality stainless steel and weighing 280 grams it’s light for a stove. It’s also very compact when stowed measuring just 6.6cm high and 13.6cm in diameter.
I also love the fact that the fuel is free and easily collected from the forest floor. No need to carry fuel and no need for chopping firewood. Meaning I can leave the axe at home.
What’s so efficient about a wood gasifier ?
Normal wood fires burn air and partially combusted woodgas release from the wood. This is called the primary burn. Woodgas stoves are designed to burn wood more efficiently and cleanly than an open fire. This is due to what’s called a secondary burn.
There is still a primary burn at the base of the fire. The secondary burn occurs because of the twin wall design and the laws of physics. Cold air is drawn up between the outer and inner walls of the stove and is heated by the primary burn. It is then injected into the top of the burn chamber where it mixes with the smoke and ignites.
This makes for far more heat, less soot and a smokeless burn. The stove essentially becomes a gas cooker like you have at home. You can see the secondary burn in the photo below.
Before going out in the wilds, I test new equipment at Doric Diversions HQ. Woodgas stoves can burn wood or biomass (pine cones, wood pellets and even dried cow dung). I chose to use wood based cat litter pellets purchased from a local supermarket. They are cheap and burn well. It also gives me a standard benchmark for testing any stoves that pass into my collection.
I started the test by filling the stove with pellets. A quick internet search suggest to fill the burn chamber to just below the air holes at the top. I then added tinder. No, not something from the internet dating website, but shavings from a fatwood stick.
Fatwood or Maya sticks are made from the wood of pine trees grown in Mexico. They have an 80% resin content which makes them excellent for lighting fires.
Experience has shown that it’s very difficult to get wood pellets burning using a firesteel. So I lit the fire with matches. Within 5 minutes I had a secondary burn going. I did my usual test of boiling a mug of water which took less than 4 minutes. Very impressive and I enjoyed a nice brew of green tea.
The pellets burned for about 60 minutes before the flames went out. Heat for nearly an hour with one fill of pellets is what I call a good result.
With testing done, I was ready to try the stove in the real world. Next day I packed the stove into my backpack, jumped onto the fatbike and headed for the Battle Hill.
It was a beautiful November day. Cycling was good and I surprised myself by cycling all the way up to the small steps and then up the steps. Fatbikes are pretty good at that sort of thing. Lots of traction.
Even though the sun was shining it was bitterly cold with a biting wind. Going round the Battle hill once it was time to head up to the community hut and get some shelter.
One thing I’ve learned is that you need a large fire to heat yourself if you’re in an exposed windy location. Better to seek shelter and have a smaller, more controllable fire.
Once at the hut, the first thing I did was gather a handful of smallish sticks. About the thickness of a finger works best. I use a pruning shears to cut the firewood into small pieces. It took 5 minutes to gather the firewood and a 5 minutes to cut it to size.
My stove sits inside my titanium cooking pot along with a Trangia alcohol burner. It’s always good to have a backup in case you can’t find dry wood or when you are pushed for time. All in weight for this setup is 800 grams including the bio-ethanol in the Trangia.
Assembling the stove took all of one minute. It comes in four parts that fit inside each other like one of those Russian nesting dolls. It requires no skill to put together. If you can put a lid on a kettle, you can assemble the stove.
The only thing I will say is that the pot support system is fiddly compared to the Mk1 stove.
I filled the burn chamber with firewood and added some fatwood tinder. I carry a small windshield in my backpack and placed it in front of the stove. It helps make lighting the fire easier. With a flurry of sparks from my firesteel and a couple of huffs and puffs the tinder was lit.
It was a little more challenging to get the flames to take a hold of the firewood though. The cause was the bark on the wood. It acts like a sealant preventing the woodgas from being released. It also creates smoke when first lighting the fire.
I should have remembered this from my last outing! Note to self – when using bark covered hardwood, remove bark from top layer of firewood on stove.
Ten minutes later gasification started. I poured 700 ml of water into my cooking pot and covered it with the smaller pot. Boiling point was achieved in under 5 minutes. I was impressed.
Removing the pot from the flames, I scooped some green tea into my tea infuser and popped it into the pot. I do like my green tea!
While the tea was brewing I warmed my hand with the heat from the fire. One other very good use for the windshield is to deflect heat back toward myself. Without the windshield heat radiates upwards in all directions and simply goes to waste.
I savoured my tea. Then another mugful. And the fire was still going.
The fire was alight for about 45 minutes and I was able to warm myself on the embers for a further 15 minutes.
When the fire was out completely I emptied the ash from the combustion chamber. There wasn’t much to empty. Testament to the efficiency of the stove.
I disassemble the stove using my multi-tool so that I didn’t burn my fingers, and left it to cool outside the hut. It didn’t take long. Perhaps only a couple of minutes. It was 4.15pm and darkness was closing in.
I packed my kit into my bag, put on my woolly hat and covered my nose and mouth with my buff. It was pretty cold.
A quick downhill dash followed by a sprint up the main road and I was home in 5 minutes.
My experience with this stove was a positive one. I can safely say that it’s a keeper. It will remain in my backpack to be used thought the winter. I really like the whole experience of gathering wood, getting the fire going and heating myself by the fire.
There are only a couple of niggles with the stove. The first being the pot support which I find fiddly. The second is that it needs a windshield to get the most out of it. None of these points are deal breakers.
At the end of the day if I want a stove that radiates heat outwards I’ll use my Folding Firebox ….. but that’s a review for another day.
Wild Stoves Woodgas Stove Mk IIt, £49.95 from Wild Stoves
Doric Diversions rating : 4 / 5
- Small, lightweight
- Highly effecient
- Burns wood and biomass
- Can be used with a Trangia burner
- Pot support is fiddly compared to Mk1 version
- Needs windshield to make best use of heat
- Not for those who just want a quick brew without the effort of getting a fire going
Link to items in this article :
Wild Stoves , Light my Fire Maya sticks, Firesteel
I am learning all the time David!