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In my quest to streamline and lighten my pack load on multi-day backpacking trips, I’ve been looking into other options for some of my heaviest gear. There are ultra-light options available for almost every piece of gear a backpacker needs, but sometimes lighter is not better. Shaving a few ounces sometimes comes at the cost of usability, reliability and, in most cases, a major investment.

 

While planning for a trip to the mountains of North Carolina for a few days, I started looking at my gear and where I could cut weight. It just so happened that while I was doing this, Facebook’s algorithms placed an advertisement on my news feed for the Solo Stove. Touted as the “ultimate backpacking stove,” the Solo Stove line is stainless steel, wood-burning units. Intrigued by the idea of not needing to carry fuel, and the fact that Solo Stove was running a sale, I decided to purchase a Solo Stove Lite.

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A few days before my trip, the 9.8 oz. Solo showed up on my doorstep. I normally don’t rely on new gear without testing it beforehand so while packing, I threw my well-used, much loved JetBoil into the travel box with the rest of my gear. It wasn’t until the night before we actually headed out that I decided to give the Solo Stove a try on the trip.

 

While organizing our packs, my hiking partner handed me a small, ultralight two-piece cook set to replace the larger aluminum pot I brought along for the Solo. Even with the ultralight set, the Solo Stove/cookset combo weighed almost exactly the same as my JetBoil Flash and a small fuel canister. I really was unsure if the few ounces of weight saved would compensate for the almost instant heat and super fast water boiling provided by the JetBoil and I almost left the Solo behind. All packed up, my Go-Lite pack weighed in at a very manageable 27 pounds without water.

 

In the morning we headed out into the mountains not far from Ashville, NC into an area known as Panthertown Valley. While not a very remote area, Panthertown Valley offers 30+ miles of hiking trails of varying difficulties, including some labeled as “faint foot paths” on the map that ended up being an occasional heel print and much bushwhacking.  Our first day’s hike only ended up being about 8 miles, but we were both pretty spent and hungry when we found a nice spot to camp for the night.

 

Time came to unpack the stove set and see about getting dinner made. I collected a pile of small sticks, put a Wetfire tinder cube into the stove, added some sticks and dropped in a match, instant fire!  A few minutes later, I had a self-sustaining fire burning in the Solo and water on for my dinner. Ten minutes later the water was at a rolling boil, and I had enough left after hydrating my Backpackers Pantry meal to make a cup of coffee. All was done with just a handful of twigs and small sticks.

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I used the Solo Stove twice a day for the next three days with great results. Comparing it to my JetBoil, the Solo does take a few minutes longer to boil water and adds the hassle of finding dry fuel. But for me, having the wood fueled fire was worth it. A few of the evenings got pretty chilly in the mountains (39 two of the nights) and the open burning stove was great for warming up the hands. I have to say, I was glad we had three days of sunny, dry weather. I’m not sure how the Solo will do in the torrential rains we had last year during our trip (five inches of rain in three days), and on future hikes, I’ll probably take the JetBoil if the weather looks like it could go sour. With the need of carrying fuel removed, the Solo Stove would make a great addition to a ‘survival’ or bug-out kit. Teamed up with the Solo Stove Pot 900, the entire kit is only 16.1 oz. compared to the JetBoil Flash with a full gas bottle is about 20oz so there is a bit of weight savings. Of course, you won’t run out of fuel for the Solo!

 

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