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Comparing Wood Burning Backpacking Camp Stoves | What's Important and Why It Matters (Part One)

Posted by Kent M. Hering | Inventor of the Littlbug Stove on

Over the next several posts, I will present 20 considerations that are important when choosing your wood burning backpacking camp stove and show how those considerations are dealt with in four different stove designs available on the market today.  Getting ready to buy a stove and want to read the complete article now?  Just send us your request via our contact page and we will send it to you.

Quick Glance at the Backpacking Camp Stoves in this Comparison

Figure 1

Littlbug Junior Solo Titan Emberlit FireAnt Vargo Hexagon
Price $54.95 $89.99 $39.99 $39.95
Material Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel
Weight 5.1 oz 16.5 oz 6.5 oz 7.4 oz

The information in this table comes from each company's website (prices subject to change).

Table 1

Why these 4 stoves? These stoves were selected because they represent a cross section of different approaches to the considerations I will be discussing and can give you a sense of the advantages and disadvantages of each design choice.

The Considerations (Details and Comparisons)

Consideration 2 - Firebox Size and Shape: The size of the firebox determines the amount of wood the stove can hold, how much heat it can produce, how often you have to add more wood, how long it will stay lit before ash buildup cuts off the air flow, amount of time and effort needed to process wood to fit the stove, whether the stove can distribute heat evenly across the bottom of your pot or concentrates in a small area causing hot spots…

Amount of wood the stove can hold: If your stove has a small firebox, it will take more of your time and attention to keep it hot. It will also limit how much heat your stove can deliver.

How Much Wood Can These Stoves Hold?

Figure 2-1

Amount of heat produced: The heat produced by your stove is determined by several factors including the type and quality of the wood you use, air flow and the amount of fuel being burned. A bigger firebox gives you more options for heat. You may not want to operate your stove at maximum burn for cooking but it can be quite comforting for keeping you warm on a chilly night.

How often you have to add more wood: This is a major convenience factor. If you start your stove and then step away to do something else at your campsite, you don't want to come back to a stove that burned out.

How long it will stay lit: Even if you have plenty of wood in your stove, it may go out due to lack of air. This is frequently caused by ash buildup in the firebox covering the air inlets. The smaller your firebox, the sooner this will happen. Two of the stoves in this comparison permit you to remove ash without dumping all your hot embers (Littlbug and Vargo) and two do not (Solo and Emberlit).

Amount of time and effort needed to process wood: The shorter you have to cut your sticks to fit in your stove, the more time you will spend getting ready for supper. Two of the stoves in this comparison are designed to feed one end of sticks into the side of the stove and leave the other end outside of the stove (Emberlit and Vargo). This allows the use of longer sticks but also provides a path for the fire to leave the stove. One stove in this comparison is designed to permit longer sticks to be fed into the stove from the top (Littlbug). This design keeps the fuel inside the stove as the sticks fall into the stove as they burn. The Solo stove is limited to using sticks about 4 inches long or shorter.

Can You Cook with Long Sticks?

Figure 2-2

Heat distribution: If the top of your firebox is smaller than the bottom of your pot, the heat will be concentrated in a small area causing a hot spot. This isn't a problem if all you are doing is boiling water. It is a problem if you're trying to cook eggs or pancakes!

Figure 2-3

Littlbug Junior Solo Titan Emberlit FireAnt Vargo Hexagon
Firebox Capacity 113 cu in 50 cu in 29 cu in 31 in

Table 2

In my next posting of Comparing Wood Burning Backpacking Camp Stoves | What's Important and Why It Matters, I will be discussing the assembled size of your stove.  In your search for the backpacking stove that's right for you, I hope you end up choosing a Littlbug Stove! You can check out our products here.


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