MUST confess, I’ve always had a thing for portable wood stoves. I’ve amassed quite a collection over the years.
Their usefulness in all sorts of situations just appeals to my inner bushman, and that ability to quickly set up, gather a few sticks and have your breakfast sizzling over real flames is every bit as practical as it is good for the soul.
However, despite my collection, it would be fair to say I’ve never been entirely happy with one. Some just don’t pack down small enough, the top plate isn’t sturdy, or the chamber might be too small to allow you to break away from feeding sticks into it for two minutes.
It’s a gripe I was discussing with Wild Camping International – one of the companies that I occasionally test products for. They suggested manufacturing one designed to my own specifications.
That’s no easy task. I can get a bit picky when it comes to outdoor tools. But we carefully went through my list of wants, and took it from there.
It’s unusual to be reviewing something you’ve had designed to your own requirements, but as I’m not actually selling the item it shouldn’t be too difficult to be thoroughly objective.
A few weeks after the discussions, my titanium stove arrived. I keep referring to it as the ‘birthday card’ design because that was the top of my original spec sheet – I wanted something that could pack away to the size of a birthday card and be stowed flat in my Bergen.
One of the problems I’ve had with previous wood stoves – particularly the collapsible cylinder type – is that they don’t sit well alongside other items in my pack. I’m a tidy freak. I want everything in my camp and my pack to be in its place and fitting well. Packing totally flat ticks this box nicely and, given its almost negligible weight (barely more than a real birthday card thanks to the titanium), there’s another added bonus.
My other main concern with many stoves is the size of the fire chamber. Couple that with a poor understanding of draught and it renders many of them useless.
A decent bushcrafter knows that oxygen is every bit as important as fuel – especially when you’re burning within the constraints of a chamber not much bigger than your fist.
Here though, the manufacturers have clearly done their homework. The draught is fairly constant in pretty much all conditions. Trust me, I’ve put this thing through its paces over the whole winter in just about anything Mother Nature threw at me.
The chamber is slightly bigger than most portable wood stoves, too. This is important in that it allows you more control over the heat and means you don’t have to constantly nurture it rather than attend to other things like actually preparing and cooking your food.
A good-sized chamber and the right ventilation here mean you can actually leave the flames and embers to do their thing while you get on with the important stuff. I’ve used a couple of stoves in the past that just simply didn’t have the capacity or ability to keep a flame long enough to boil water, let alone cook your dinner.
A concern with anything designed to pack flat is always going to be sturdiness. Who hasn’t put together a piece of Swedish furniture and scratched their head in wonderment about just how long it will stay up? Thankfully, this is addressed this with a clever diagonal cross-brace which also doubles up as the hob plate.
I’ve spent a full season giving this stove every question that a professional outdoorsman can throw at it. And it’s answered every single one positively. It also addresses the problems I’ve found with many of its peers and delivers the required solutions.
All in all, a really great piece of kit. I’m seriously impressed, and I would highly recommend it.
If you’re interested, they’re available on the Wild Camping International Amazon site here… https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Camping-International-titanium-stove/dp/B07L13PF74/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wild+Camping+International&qid=1552812947&s=gateway&sr=8-1.
FURTHER READING: Making campfire bread