When it comes to backpacking in the great outdoors you’re often only as good as the wood burning backpacking stove you bring along. Unless of course you are a ninja with magic sticks that rub together and make hot stuff explode into fire.
Since most of us haven't beefed up our ninja skills in awhile it’s no wonder several backpacking stoves have appeared throughout the years, notably the Solo Stove, Bushbox and the Emberlit.
If you can't make up your mind which of these to try out, the following handy dandy wood burning backpacking stove reviews can help.
Backpacking Stove Size Comparison
All size jokes aside for a moment, let’s take a look at the size of each stove:
- Solo: 3.8 x 3.8 x 4.2 inches, 9 ounces
- Bushbox: 4.5 x 0.2 x 3.5 inches, 6 ounces
- Emberlit: 4 x 5.5 x 6 inches ; 11.4 ounces
As these specs show, there’s not a lot of difference at close glance. The Emberlit is the heaviest at 11 ounces and the Bushbox is the lightest at 6 ounces. Unless you a hardcore ultralight backpacker the few ounce disparity between these stoves isn’t going to break your back when you store them in your backpack. However, the flat design of the Bushbox and Emberlit is a clever concept that might prove attractive for campers who want to maximize space and weight.
If you’ve read a Solo Stove Lite or Solo Stove Campfire review lately, you’ll notice that most of the reviews have been positive, and it’s mostly due to the design. The Emberlit and Bushbox aren’t pushovers, but the Solo was recommended by both Backpacker Magazine and Matt Graham of Discovery Channel, and that should tell you something about the Solo’s construction. (or their marketing power at least)
In our Bushbuddy stove vs Solo Stove test, we noticed that the Solo doesn’t emit as much smoke. We also compared the stove with the Emberlit and the Bushbox and the results were the same: less smoke for the Solo. This isn’t a fluke though as it’s due to the stove’s double wall that produces a secondary combustion and clean gasification. I don't know about you but I wish clean gasification was a feature I could add on some of my travel partners..
What this means is the fuel burns freely and with less smoke. Speaking of fuel, the Solo as well as the Bushbox and the Emberlit are all "fuel free", that is you don’t need a liquid canister or white gas to make it work. If you’re out camping it’s not practical to use these fuel sources, and fortunately all three can light a fire with twigs, barks, wood, pine cones, leaves and so on.
In our tests, all three performed well, and we had no trouble using these materials as fuel. But as we noted above the Solo generates the least amount of smoke. For some campers that is a major plus.
Bushbox outdoor pocket stove vs Emberlit stove comparisons will show that the two are not that different, but the Bushbox has the edge in terms of weight (6 ounces vs. 11 ounces for the Emberlit) and also dimensions (the Bushbox is flatter). The difference in terms of specs might seem negligible to some, but for other campers, the difference is significant.
All three stoves perform as well as can be expected. Between the Solo, the Emberlit and the Bushbox it’s a tough choice. Both, as is the Solo, are well crafted, convenient to use and have many similar features. In truth you really can’t go wrong with any, though the Bushbox has the smallest firebox capacity.
Of course capacity isn’t the only thing that a camper has to consider, as other factors have to be taken into account as well such as the feel of the stove when a pot is put on top of it. We also factored in the other stuff you’re likely to mull over such as air hole spacing, overall dimensions, how easy it is to feed wood and other fuel resources, etc. All three do a good job, but we have to give it to the Solo for overall efficiency and dependability.
The difference again lies in the design of the Solo. As we mentioned earlier, the stove has a secondary combustion that makes burning cleaner and more efficient. If you look at the way the Solo operates, the vents allow air to move freely and flow at the grate’s bottom, feeding the primary combustion. Next, you’ll notice that the air coming from the bottom vents heats inside the interior wall and goes out the firebox, producing the secondary combustion.
What does all this mean? Compared to the Emberlit and Bushbox, the Solo cooks wood smoke twice and burns them twice as well. This is what makes the stove more efficient compared to the two. However, all three are easy to light up, low maintenance and boil water fast. Once you’re done using any of these stoves, they’re easy to clean up afterward.
Another plus for each is their eco-friendliness: the fact that you can use twigs, branches, wood and other natural materials mean less pollution, and that can only be good. And all of them are easy to learn so you can use them not just in camping but during emergency situations too.
Backpacking Stove Price Comparison
The Solo Stove Light costs around $70 while the Bushbox is available online for about $45 and the Emberlit stove for $40. There’s a bit of a disparity in price clearly, and if you’re looking for the most affordable, the Emberlit is the winner here, though the Bushbox isn’t that far behind.
We also said that in terms of performance all three do well and are more than capable. However, the main advantage of the Solo is that it is built to last and made for long term use. That’s not to say the Bushbox and the Emberlit cannot last that long, but there’s a reason why the Solo is more expensive and why it’s recommended by professional campers and outdoor enthusiasts. You have to admit clean gasification is an impressive feature.
So which of the three wood stoves is the best? The answer is it depends on what you need and on your personal preferences. In terms of size the Bushbox is the most compact but it’s not by much, and in terms of popularity, the Solo ultralight wood burning stove has nearly triple the reviews of the other two. Based on our own tests you really can’t go wrong with any of the three, but if popular opinion and lack of smoke are going to be your basis, the Solo has the edge.