Wood Burning Stoves This Summer

A Bushbuddy Stove in the Pyrenees

I’m having a flood of enquiries about wood burning stoves at the moment, particularly from those who are heading off to warmer climes. I thought it would be more useful to create a blogpost — this represents my current thinking on the subject!

There’s no mystery as to why wood is a great option when you can rely on the climate. Fuel is plentiful and free. There’s no messing around with pot cosies you just keep cooking as you don’t need to worry about fuel. And I find the burner can add to you daily routine. The photo above was taken at a lunch stop but I find that a search for wood after a pitch for the evening is a nice way of winding (and warming) down. So (with one qualification listed below) I always use wood as my primary fuel when I have the choice during the summer.

The photo shows a Bushbuddy Ultra stove which was my first wood burning stove. Although this a greta stove with a brilliant design I think there are now other, more versatile, options available.

The stoves that I would recommend considering are the Honey Stove (titanium) from backpacking light.co.uk and the Sidewinder Inferno system from Trail designs. Both of these stoves are excellent wood burners and have the advantage of also working well with small alcohol stoves and solid fuel (esbit) tablet stoves. It is worth considering the climate you are travelling to. In the Pyrenees, for example, you are always guaranteed a lot of warm weather in summer but you can also have two or three days of rain which mitt require you to have a backup fuel system.

So, let’s have a look at the systems and then compare the pros and cons.

The Honey Stove Titanium

This stove has been strangely over-looked by the lightweight backpacking community, however, this is a versatile and high performing piece of kit. The video above demonstrates the dove well. Enter Honey Stove in You Tube’s search field and you’ll find a number of useful field reviews.

The Honey Stove comes as a flat pack in a nice pouch; there is no problem storing this in your pack. Once assembled you have a large diameter stove. Pots that have a smaller diameter than the stove can be suspended below the top of the wind shield with the simple use of two titanium pegs. Pots with a wider diameter than the stove simply sit on top. If assembled properly the Honey Stove is a very stable piece of kit — the only thing you have to be sure about is getting the ‘door’ section properly dropped into place. 

The Honey Stove also comes with a gill section (which sits sits in the flat pack pouch), This is easily big enough to grill bacon on or even a burger, chop or steak!  Grilling meat does take a bit of practice though!

Wood burning performance is excellent. The Honey Stove is a simpler design than the Bushbuddy with its two chambers and ‘turbo’ effect (shared to some extent but the Inferno system) but the wide diameter means that this stove performs as equally well as its competitors. The grill plate has been carefully designed to allow for optimum airflow. The ‘door’ section is a very good size making this an easy stove to recharge in use. The wider design of the stove also means you can use bigger — and longer burning — pieces of wood when your fire is really established.

The Stove also comes with an adaptor that is specifically designed for an Evernew titanium stove. This clips into the sides of the stove and height can easily adjusted to work perfectly with your chosen pot. The height of the grate can also be raised which makes using the Honey Stove with any alcohol stove or esbit stove pretty easy.

The Honey Stove is available in aluminium as well as titanium and obviously this is heavier as well as cheaper. I think the Honey Stove will soon be available in a lighter grade of aluminium and if so this cheaper version may well be more favoured by backpackers but even the standard aluminium stove is not too heavy. As it is, the titanium version weighs 184 grams including grill and pouch. An extension kit is available which allows you to increase the diameter of the stove and this is a good idea for campsites and bushcraft trips — this extension kit also comes with a bigger grill.

The Caldera Cone — Sidewinder Inferno System



The Sidewinder is a version of the popular Caldera Cone from Trail Designs. it is designed to fold up and stash inside of your pot — this gets rid of the need to carry those horrible plastic tubes that the original cones come in.

Each version of this system is custom designed for a particular pot. Trail Designs produce manny variants for pots and you may well find one for a pot that you already own, otherwise you are going to have to by a new pot! (more below).

The system has two cones made out of titanium cones. The first is the outer cone which is easily put together and which suspend your pot above an alcohol stove or esbit stove.  The second cone — the Inferno — is the wood burning bit.  This sits inside of the main shield. You pot sits on top of the shield suspended on two (supplied) titanium pegs and so in that regard it is similar to the Honey stove. Using the two cones together gives a bit of the ‘turbo’ effect that is such an element of the Bushbuddy design; the airflow from the outside cone is directed up and blown across the top of the inferno cone producing a secondary combustion to deal with gases that have not ignited properly. In practice —while this is a great burner — I can’t really see any benefit from this claim.

The Sidewinder is a fine system and burns very effectively. A typical Sidewinder system will weight about 240 grams.


Comparing the Two Systems

Both of these systems are great wood burning stoves but they both bring different strengths to the table. So, let’s run through some of them.

Ease of Assembly

Some lightweight hikers I none — who are great fans of the Caldera system — tell me that Honey Stove is too fiddly to use. However, as a user of both I beg to differ! Let’s see.

The Honey Stove sections are assembled using interlocking tabs. These can be fiddly. the panels do distort a little in use but in practice I can usually set the stow up pretty quickly. there are occasions though when It seems to take a lot longer than unusual and I have been left curing the system — but not for too long!

The Sidewinder system is stored within a Tyvec ‘paper’ cone. This keeps the package need and tidy and ensured that the shields do not scratch the inside of your pan. The cone not only contains the two cones but also an aluminium base plate to avoid burning the ground. However, there is more. A separate Tyvec envelope carries a grate. Also in the package is a simple ‘stand’ on which the grate must sit.

So, to use the Sidewinder the two cones have to be removed from their sleeve, constructed and then assembled with the stand and the grate. I’ve been using Calder Cones for years now and sometimes I find I cannot easily assemble the cones as the connecting edge pieces won’t slide together. On other occasions, of course, these work first time!

In all honesty I’ve not times the assembly of both systems but I feel there is nothing in it really. Both systems involve a little thought and preparation and both seem to be able to periodically frustrate you. I can’t say the Honey stove is inferior in this regard.

Performance

Both systems work very well.

If there is a downside to the Honey stove it is in the side panels and the slits that are cut into them (for adjusting grates and internal holders). In high winds lames can be blown through the slits in the side panels which provide a rather exciting, flame thrower effect. In reality this is not much of a problem but if you were using this in a very dry place you would need to be vigilant about the use — it could be easy to set the hillside on fire!

The Sidewinder system is more enclosed and there is no problem with escaping flame. On the other aide of the equation the the entrance for adding more fuel when the pot is in use is tighter than the Honey Stove’s Feeding fuel into the Honey Stove is easier but this is no deal breaker for the Sidewinder.

The Honey Stove does not come with base plate which means the surface you cook on can get burnt and charred, but a simple piece of aluminium foil will do the job.

Durability

Both systems pack well. The Sidewinder is protected in your pot and the Honey Stove in its pouch — there is not much likelihood of accidental damage. While the Honey Stove panels to distort a little this does effect long term use although it does exaggerate the flame jet problem I’ve described above. The titanium foil cones of the Trail Design systems do degrade over time and require a bit of attention to avoid the pot ‘slipping’ in to the system when in alcohol mode. I’ve got one stove that could do with replacing after 5 years of continuous use but I’ve not really felt the need to do it yet.

So both systems are durable enough for even extended use.

Versatility

This is where things separate out a little.

The Sidewinder system is designed for a particular pot. I have two systems, one for a two person larger pot and one for single use. The Honey Stove, of course, can work with almost anything.

The Honey Stove comes with a grill and this can be useful, especially when bacon is around! It is also robust enough to take a lightweight frying pan. In the UK I would never carry a frying pan but if backpacking in France or Spain (in a twosome) I would as it allows you to cook meals using fresh ingredients rather than relying on pre-dried meals.  I reckon you could also use a frying pan on top of an open Sidewinder system but this is not quite as robust and the Honey Stove has the Edge here. The Sidewinder wins over the superb integration of the system.

Price

There are big differences here and may be a consideration to many people.

The Honey Stove is available in the UK and will cost you £75. It is available exclusively from backpackinglight.co.uk. (The £40 aluminium version is also available from ray Mear’s bushcraft Shop)

In the Honey Stove Pouch you will fine the side panels, the grate, an adaptor ring for Evernew stoves or Trangia burners and the grill.

The Sidewinder/Inferno system is configured differently. You have the option of buying direct from the USA or directly from ultralightoutdoors here in the UK. Remember you have to match the system to your pot. Ultralightoutdoors offer two versions for popular Evernew pots — these are amongst the best seller of all pots. Order direct from the USA and you have far more options to choose from.  I should say here that there are other systems — the Fusion and Fission systems — which is very similar but which is better suited to some other pots (particularly those that are taller). Ultrlightoutdoors caries a couple of pot options for each (all Evernew) while the US site offers a lot of variety of pots.

Buy from the USA and the Sidewinder system will cost about £130.

Buy from the UK the Sidewinder will cost about £140

The Sidewinder comes with a whole load of stuff. The kit consists of the two cones, base plate, grate and stand, a beer can alcohol stove, the gram cracker esbit stove and a fuel measuring cup. The alcohol stove comes in its own protective carrier so that yo can store in separately and safely in your pack

As I mentioned above you will probably need a backup fuel system. If you already have an alcohol stove or esbit stove the Honey Stove is clearly much cheaper but if you have to add these the Sidewinder suddenly looks a better deal.

If you buy the Sidewinder directly from Trail Designs you can opt to upgrade the stove to the Starlyte stove (at a slight additional cost). Ultralightoutdoors offer simply the standard Trail Designs stove but this is in fact a very good unit; I have been using these very happily for about five years now.

Your pot is the next consideration. If you can find a system for a pot you own the Sidewinder is cheaper but you may have to add a new pot.

My single person Sidewinder came from Ultralight outdoors who basically offer the set up for the popular Evernew 252 pot. This a great pot and my preferred single person pot, mainly because of its wide, low and stable profile. this pot will cost an additional £50!

The Choice is Yours

Honestly, both systems are very functional and effective systems. To some extent the recommendation depends on the gear you already have. If you want to continue to use existing equipment you might verge towards the Honey Stove but if money is no object — if of you are starting from scratch — they take a close look at the Trail Designs system. True you range of pot systems of the Sidewinder of limited in the UK but if you need a pot you are unlikely to find anything better than the Evernew pots that Ultralightoutdoors sell (backpacking light.co.uk also sells this range).

What would I choose?

Well, it depends!

If I’m on a weekender and there a prospect of bacon sandwiches then I’d take the Honey Stove. For two people I prefer the Honey Stove for its capacity and its easy use with the Evernew alcohol stove.  I’d probably take the Honey Stove for a two person trip. But for single backpacking I’d probably reach first for the Sidewinder system.

As we say in these parts, you pays your money and you takes your choice!

I hope this is helpful!

Here are the web links for you to continue your research!

The Honey Stove Titanium

Trail Designs Sidewinder Pages

Ultralight outdoors Sidewinder

 

Comments

  1. Stuart says:

    Or you can make your own! I’ve very successfully used a 500ml paint tin with holes drilled around the bottom and top, bushbuddy style. Then I scrunched up some chicken wire and put it in the bottom to hold the wood above the level of the lower holes. Finally I used some wire mesh from a bird feeder to act as a pot stand that holds a pot about 1.5 inches above the top of the tin. The mesh simply sits in the groove at the top of the tin.

    I think it’s also worth mentioning fire lighting. Many people melt a little vaseline and then drop in cotton wool balls into it. Let them cool and they work really well as frielighters. Half a ball should easily be enough. Drop this on top of your wood and light it.

    I agree with your all comments about a back up, Andy! I have a Whitebox which fits nicely inside the old paint tin.

  2. Stuart says:

    Or make your own! There are loads of examples online. I’ve used very successfully a 500ml paint tin with bushbuddy style holes, just a single skin version.

    Lighting the wood can be tricky but a lot of people use cotton wool balls soaked in vaseline. Greasy but effective!

  3. Stuart says:

    Sorry, I didn’t think the first comment had gone through so I wrote it again but couldn’t be bothered to write as much!!

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