I thought carefully about whether I should review the new titanium Honey Stove. Manufacturers Bob and Rose Cartwright are good friends and I do like to feel that I am being impartial! However, this is such good piece of kit that I thought I’d take the risk. I wouldn’t want backpackers to be missing out! Wood burning stoves are great pieces of kit to use in the field and this on is both effective and versatile.
There are no photos associated with this review. There are both photos and videos over on the backpackinglight.co.uk site. These are comprehensive and, more importantly, give an accurate representation of the product in use.
- The Genesis of the Honey Stove
- The Modular Honey Stove
- The Honey Stove in Use
- Cooking with the Honey Stove
- The Honey Stove with an Alcohol Stove
Immediately this article was published I’ve had someone arguing with my findings on the basis of using one of the competitor stoves.
For this review the Honey Stove TI was compared with a Bushbuddy Ultra, a wood burning stove that I have used for 8 years. For the alcohol comparisons I fired up the Honey Stove with the Caldera burner and compared fuel use with the same burner used in its original aluminium cone. The Honey Stove was also used with the Vargo Triad. I have used both the Caldera and the Triad stoves for some years.
These tests were made outside in a variety of weather conditions.
Wood Burning Stoves
Using a wood burning stove is both great fun and practical. Here in the UK our weather tends to be a bit on the wet side but when we hit a dry patch wood burning stoves can come into their own. There’s usually not much of a problem finding fuel on the ground and, of course, wood and organic fuel comes free. In drier climates — in the warmer parts of the USA and in Southern Europe — wood burning stoves really come into their own. During my last trek in the Pyrenees I relied almost exclusively on a wood burning stove. Because fuel is not limited you can cook for longer, avoid relying on pot cosies and just ‘cook’ more. Being able to boil up lots of water without worrying about fuel is a real joy. If you are always cautious with fuel this might seem a bit odd, but using a wood burner is very different to using a canister or alcohol stove,
My favourite wood burning stove has been the Bushbuddy Ultra, and ingenious design which has received a lot of publicity over the last few years. But — certainly in UK conditions — the Bushbuddy is not always easy to use. For this review I have concentrated on the Honey Stove but I contrast its performance with the Bushbuddy when appropriate.
The Genesis of the Honey Stove
The Honey Stove is now new, it has been available for a few years now, what is new is that it is now available in titanium. The new ti version runs in at under half the weight of the original stainless steel version.
I’ve had an original Honey Stove for a while now but its weight has always discouraged me from taking it with me on a backpacking trip. As a result I hadn’t really had much experience of using it in the field, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t reviewed it. The new Honey Stove feels much lighter in comparison to the original. The titanium package is comparable to the Bushbuddy and also to other pieces of kit such as the Caldera Cone system that I have been using over the lost couple of years.
While lightweight backpackers may not have used the stainless steel Honey Stove a great deal the bushcraft community have really taken it to heart. Now, after using the ti out in the field I can see what they have been raving about — and also what I have been missing!
The Modular Honey Stove
The Honey Stove utilises a simple but ingenious modular design. The Honey stove is flexible and can be used in a number of configurations. The simple design is relatively easy to manufacture and this no doubt accounts for its price. The titanium version is more expensive than the stainless steel original but for a titanium stove it is very price competitive, indeed, nothing can touch it for versatility, price and lightness combined.
The stove arrives in a flat, thin, pouch that is designed to carry not only your stoves but timber, fire steels, disposable lighters and so on. On unpacking the pouch you find a series of very light titanium plates and adapters as well as a stainless steel grill!
In ‘main’ mode the stove is constructed with 5 side plates and a ‘door’. Each of these has two tabs on either side and these simply slot together to form a hexagon shape. A base plate clips inside the stove and this is the support for your fuel.
The pack also contains a second baseplate — more later. This allows you to configure the Honey Stove in a lighter configuration. Basically, you can use just three side plates and the door together with the smaller base plate. Leave the rest of the kit behind and you have a smaller but lighter wood burner and multi purpose stove.
But I shall start with the stove in ‘main’ configuration.
It does take a while to get the knack of slotting all of this together. Overall, this reminds me of using ‘meccano’ when I was a kid! The side plates have a number of thing slots in them which enables you to change the height of the base plate or grate. This flexibility can be useful when using the stove with an alcohol burner but for burning wood there seems to be no real reason to use any other slot than the lowest one.
Once assembled you realise just just how large the diameter is, a full 12 centimetres. Most lightweight backpacking pots are of a smaller diameter but they are easily catered for. Each of the panel slots has a slightly rounder hole at each end which is designed to take a thin titanium tent peg. With two tent pegs in place the stove can easily carry any pot. The large diameter of the Honey Stove means that this is a very stable stove.
The Honey Stove in Use
You place tinder and dry, small, pieces of wood in the chamber and then light. Yu can place your pot on the stove immediately. The fire can be fed easily via the ‘door’ panel.
The size of the stove means that it can take a lot of fuel and some quite big pieces of wood. In practice this means that I don’t have to feed it quite as often as the Bushbuddy, although this depends on the weather conditions. If you have used quite a bit of wood when the fire dies down you are left with quite a lot of hot cinders and this has benefits for cooking (more later).
For me one of the areas in which the Honey Stove really scores is in dealing with a variety of weather conditions. In windy weather I find the Bushbuddy quite difficult to use and I tend to need a sheltered spot to set it up in or I have to improvise a rather large windshield. But the Honey Stove is its own windshield and so long as the door of the stove is not taking the full blast of the wind you’ll find it very effective. Some air can move through the side plate slots but this is not a problem in windy conditions, in most conditions wood burning stoves benefit from a bit of draft.
In wind I have found that the suspension of the pot ‘inside’ of the stove walls is a really big advantage. With the Bushbuddy your pot sits high above the stove and wind whistles between the base of the pot and the top of the stove effectively meaning that you use up fuel at a very fast rate. However, with your pot suspended in the top slot or the second slot you have a set up that is far more resilient to wind.
The Honey Stove really excels in calm weather. The large diameter catches what wind there is far more effectively than a smaller stove. In such still conditions I often fund myself blowing over the fuel — again the large diameter of this stove makes this a relatively stress free process. If the flames die down usually only one puff is needed to being them back to life.
Combustion is very effective. The grate or base plate has a number of holes in it to ensure there is a proper flow of air through the fuel. Bob has spent a long time perfecting this seemingly random system of holes and it seems to work. Once burnt out you are left with fine white powder which tells you that combustion has been very efficient.
So, heating water is not problem and when you are using wood you can afford to fill you pot more than you usually would, or you can use a larger pot without worrying about using too much fuel.
Cooking with the Honey Stove
There are lots of wood burning stoves that can boil water, however, there are few backpacking stoves that can ‘cook’ as efficiently as the Honey Stove.
Initially, I had assumed that I would leave the stainless steel grill at home but I then realised that the large diameter of the stove meant that I could actually use the stove to cook things. Bacon sandwiches for breakfast anyone?
On colder days I have often taken some bacon with me into the hills. I fire up the stove and make myself a drink and then place two halts of a bread bun on the grill to toast. Then the bacon. This can cook nicely over glowing cinders but in fact the height of the stove means that I usually cook it over an open flame — the height here means that you have properly flame grilled food rather than torched grub!
I don’t know how you feel about this but I have found this to be a real improvement over a cold sandwich. Setting up the stove also means that I have more of a proper rest which is important when hiking. I’ve not tried it yet, but I can’t see why the grill couldn’t be used to cook bigger pieces of meat, chops, steaks and so on. Or how about cooking corn or cooking an aubergine/egg plant so that you can make a dip? Easy.
Also when using in the grill you will find that the stove is stable enough for you to balance more than one pot on top of it should you need to.
The Honey Stove with an Alcohol Stove
The Honey Stove is also designed to be used with a small alcohol stove. The stove sits on the bad plate with the Honey Stove effectively acting as a robust wind shield. Again, versatility is a feature here. Use the stove in its smaller configuration and you will find that a Trangia burner fits in nicely. The small base plate is also designed so that the legs of the Vargo Triad Stove can ‘clip’ into it making for a very stable and secure set up. The Triad is a very cheap, light and very effective stove. Once you have finished cooking you can blow the stove out and poor unused alcohol into you fuel bottle using one of the legs as a pourer. The Triad works so well with the Honey Stove (and with the Pocket Stove) that my Triad has been dragged out of retirement on a few occasions now.
I was surprised by next experiment.
As I mentioned above my favourite alcohol stove over the last few years has been the Caldera Cone. The Caldera stove itself is a very simple beer can design but it is light and I have found it to be very effective and efficient. The Caldera comes with a small plastic measure which allows you to quickly learn how much fuel you need to bring your chosen pot up to the boil. Over the years I have found this simp system to be very fuel efficient. I’ve also assumed that that the aluminium cone itself also adds to the efficient and heat builds up towards the top of the cone and little is wasted into the environment.
The Cone stove is too wide at the base to fit into the smaller Honey Stove configuration (though I know of at least one hiker who has used wire cutters to cut it down so that it can fit). I simply placed my stove onto the full sized base plate and used tent pegs to arrange my port at about the same height from the stove as it would have been in the cone. Again, the pot sat below the top of the stove giving it a lot of wind protection. Measuring out my normal fuel measure for my pot basically gave me the same results as I do with the cone. So, the Caldera burner with the Honey Stove seems about as efficient as the cone system itself.
Many lightweight backpackers have been using the Caldera Cone system and so these little burners are quite popular. Using the burner with the Honey Stove obviously gives you are more versatile system as you can easily burn organic fuel when it is available. Caldera themselves produce a combination kit that combines an alcohol stove and wood burner but this is more expensive than the Honey Stove/Caldera combination and may be not as an effective wood burner as it doesn’t have the Honey stove’s wide diameter.
I have sen a few comments — and have had a few enquiries — about the durability of the Honey Stove TI. The titanium panels are very thin as the grade of titanium used here is probably smaller than that you will have encountered before. However, the panels are strong and as the whole thing flat packs down it should be quite difficult to damage. The stove fits into its own robust pouch and here are no rough edges to penetrate through and puncture your sleeping mat! The material obviously discolours from heat, and the Honey Stove can get very hot. My panels have warped slightly but this does not hinder stove assembly or create any real problems in operation — there will be marginal gap between panels but this will not present any real problem in windier conditions. I can see no reason why this stove should not last for years with minimal but sensible care.
As I write this I am preparing for the 2012 TGO Challenge. I have often wanted to take a wood burning stove with me on the Challenge but never actually have. The reality of the weather conditions usually wins over the romantic notions of using a wood burning stove. But this Honey Stove scarscely weighs more than the Caldera Cone system (when encased in its plastic protector tube). So — unless the weather forecast is dire — this year I will carry the Honey Stove TI and the Caldera burner and will hope to use wood as much as possible. I had thought I would use the stove in smaller setting but I doubt I will and will probably knave the small base plate at home. I could reduce weight by leaving the grill behind but I will almost certainly take it with me as the visibility of cooking over a grill will add real pleasure to the trip.
The reduced weight of the titanium Honey Stove makes for a great backpacking stove. I have always loved my Bushbuddy but the Honey Stove TI scores over it in several important ways. Firstly, the larger diameter and fire box of the Honey Stove means that it is easier to load up with fuel and it has the capacity to take larger pieces of wood which is useful if you want the stove to burn for some time. The Honey Stove can kick off quite a lot of useful heat and can almost be used as a small camp fire. Secondly — and critically in the field — the Honey Stove is better in windy conditions.
The Honey Stove also scores in versatility terms. Over the last year or so the Backcountry Boiler from boilerworks has received a great deal of publicity. This is a great stove created by a genuine backpacker. But the stove is almost twice the weight of the Honey Stove (complete kit), is just as expensive when you consider importing and only boiled water! You would be hard pressed to fast a bacon sandwich over one of these! (the boiler is also not available a the moment).
For lightweight backpackers the Honey Stove TI has no peers. This is a very effective and very versatile piece of kit. If you are looking to experiment with a lightweight, wood burning stove, then really this is the place to start. There really is not reason to look elsewhere. This package is that good!