If you’ve been reading the blog for the past few years you’ve likely read about wood burning stoves for camping. High efficiency wood burning stoves have been around for many years but there’s been a renaissance in wood burning stove technology over the past decade or so. This renaissance has its roots in engineering simple technology that can be used to conserve wood fuel in the developing world.
Half of the world’s households and 80 percent of rural households in developing countries cook with solid fuels like wood, coal, crop residues and dung. Many of these households use traditional open fires or simple stoves that release smoke into the dwelling and do not make efficient use of the fuel. Dr. Larry Winiarski, director of the Aprovecho Institute, developed the Winiarski rocket stove, a high-efficiency stove with significantly reduced emissions.
Without going into all of the science behind the technology a key element is “gasification” or the creation of a secondary combustion zone that burns the gasses in wood smoke. This greatly increases efficiency and reduces emissions (see a full-sized version of the diagram above).
The Case for Wood Burning Stoves
The advantages of Scouts using wood burning stoves over propane stoves or open campfires are many:
- Learning and using the skills of building, maintaining and cooking over a wood fire.
- Reducing environmental impact to nearly zero (wood fires are carbon neutral and very little fuel is required).
- No disposable propane cylinders eliminating the cost and the significant environmental impact associated with using them. Disposing of these cylinders are also a growing problem for parks and wilderness areas. As Scouts we really do have to consider the environmental impact of the propane cylinder itself. The energy embodied in the production and transportation of the cylinder ( let alone the extraction, refinement and impact of the gas the fills the cylinder) make it an environmentally poor choice.
Cooking using a wood burning stove is faster than an open campfire, and a bit longer in comparison to a propane stove. A few extra minutes is an acceptable trade-off for the advantages gained. A good wood burning stove costs as much or more than a propane stove but that expense is offset by the savings on fuel and disposable cylinders.
The Solo Stove Campfire
Several years ago our troop replaced our propane camp stoves with a commercially produced version of the rocket stove. The only difficulty with these stoves is that they are very heavy, and that limits their use to “heavy ” camping, (nobody is taking one on a backpacking trip). We’ve also carried collapsible wood burning stoves on our canoeing trips for many years, but they require using an established fire ring.
The Solo Stove Campfire sounds like an excellent patrol-sized stove. At 2 pounds, measuring 7-9 1/4 inches it is a viable backpacking stove for a group.
As soon as I get my hands on a Solo Stove Campfire I’ll post a review. Backers pledging $99.00 will receive a Solo Stove Campfire in November (the retail price afterward will be between $109.00-$139.00) . There’s also the option to get a set of pots and a tripod with the Solo Stove Campfire for $179.00.