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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > SolHuma Vital Stove > Test Report by Kurt Papke

SolHuma Vital Stove

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - March 24, 2009

Field Report - June 2, 2009

Long Term Report - August 2, 2009

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 55
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 220 lbs (100 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Moved July 5, 2009 to Tucson, AZ
Backpacking background: mostly in Minnesota - I have hiked all of the Superior Hiking Trail and Border Route.  This last year included hiking in Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, Colorado, south and North Dakota and Oregon.  My preferred/typical backpack trip is one week, but I started doing more short trips this year.  I typically use a white gas stove in winter, a Jetboil PCS for 3-season use, and occasionally a DIY alcohol stove.  I normally backpack in areas that have a good supply of burnable wood.

Initial Report

The SolHuma Vital stove burns dry wood or dung, not refined fuel.  It does not rely on a draft to oxygenate the flame, it has an electric fan that forces air up through the bottom of the fire.  It is being marketed as a survival, humanitarian and backpacking stove.  The emergency or survival use makes a lot of sense: there is no stored fuel to degrade over long storage periods, and the fuel is a self-renewing resource.  In theory, this stove can be used as long as dry fuel can be gathered, and as long as charged AA batteries are available.

Product Information

The manufacturer did not provide the battery type for the information in the following table.  All of my measurements were made with Duracell alkaline cells.

Manufacturer: SolHuma Inc.
Year of manufacture: 2009
MSRP:
79.00 $ CA
Manufacturer website: http://www.solhuma.com

Listed
Measured
Dimensions L x W x H (folded):
8 x 4.9 x 1.8 in (20.4 x 12.5 x 4.6 cm)
8.07 x 4.8 x 1.8 in (20.5 x 12.3 x 4.6 cm)
Dimensions (in use): 8 x 4.9 x 4.9 in (20.4 x 12.5 x 12.5 cm) 8.07 x 4.8 x 4.7 in (20.5 x 12.3 x 12.0 cm)
Weight without battery
1.5 lb (700 g) 1 lb 11.6 oz (777 g)
Weight with battery:
Not listed
1 lb 13.3 oz (825 g)
Battery life:
35-40 hours
TBD
Minimum cooking surface:
2.5 in (6.4 cm)
The listed cooking surface implies only about 1/8 in (3 mm) of overlap for the cook pot and the support rods.  Possible, but a bit precarious.
Maximum pot weight:
50 lbs (24 kg)
Not measured

Note the discrepancy between listed and measured weights without battery.  I weighed the unit after my first use, so there was a little bit of ash residue in the unit, but not enough to account for a 77 g (2.4 oz) difference.  A point of clarification: 700 g is actually 1.54 lbs, not the 1.5 lbs listed by the manufacturer.  The difference gets a little bit bigger if one compares to the US unit of 1.5 lbs (680 g).

Some of the features I'll be exercising during the test include:
  1. Folding stainless steel thermal shield.  The sides of the firebox collapse and can be tucked away underneath the stove.
  2. Controls include fan speed (Off, I and II) and an airflow damper.  I am intrigued by how these two controls will be used in concert to control temperature.
  3. Six feet for stability.  Could be hard to keep from rocking on an uneven surface.
  4. Pivoting support rods.  The pot support rods twist out from the thermal shield.
  5. Removable stainless steel diffuser plate.  This distributes the air flow from the fan.
  6. The power source (battery pack) plugs into/unplugs from the end of the unit.

Initial Use

Pots to be used

A stove is only half of a cooking system, the other half is the pot.  The thermal conductivity of the pot and its base surface area both can have a huge impact on stove performance.  In my case I plan to use two pots with the Vital Stove:
  1. A 2 liter (2 qt) aluminum pot.  I use this primarily with my white gas stove during the winter.  I need the large capacity to melt quantities of snow in a reasonable period of time.  Diameter: 5.75 in (14.8 cm), weight 7.7 oz (218 g) with lid.
  2. A 0.8 liter (0.8 qt) titanium pot.  I use this vessel mostly with my alcohol stoves.  It better corresponds to my 3-season water-heating and cooking needs, and is small and lightweight.  It has a much smaller base surface area however, and I'd expect heat transfer to be much less efficient.  Diameter 4.4 in (11 cm), weight 9.7 oz (274 g) with lid.
Aluminum pot bottom before-afterNote that the thermal conductivity is roughly proportional to the bottom surface area, which is proportional to the square of the diameter.  Since the aluminum pot is 30% larger in diameter, I'd expect the conductivity to be about 70% better.

The bottom of the pot is shown in the picture at left.  The top half of the photo shows a reasonably clean bottom before using it with the stove.  The bottom half of the picture is what it looked like after my first use.

As can be seen, prevention and/or management of soot buildup on the bottom of the pot will be one of the things I'll be learning about during this test.  SolHuma recommends applying a thin coat of dish detergent before putting a pot on the fire.  I did not do this for my first use, but I'll be playing with some techniques during the Field and Long Term report periods for how to deal with this issue with wood burning stoves.


Packaging, Labeling, Instructions and Unpacking

Packaging and instructionsThe Vital stove comes packaged in a cardboard box with a 4-color printed sleeve which contains all the specifications and usage instructions as shown in the photo at left.  There is no documentation insert in the box, everything is supplied on the sleeve with its flip-up/fold-out sheet.  All documentation and instructions are printed in both English and French.

I found the instructions (under "Easy to Use" in the photo) and the step-by-step pictures that went along with them easy to follow.

The only issue I had was with step 1: I couldn't get the thermal shield to slide out from underneath the stove base.  I finally determined that one of the stove feet was bent in, causing undue friction against the shield plates.  Since there was no damage to the packaging, the bending of the foot must have occurred prior to shipment.

I had no choice but to bend the foot out, as there was no other way the shield was going to come out.  In doing so the foot support cracked.  Fortunately, this seems to be only a cosmetic problem, as there is plenty of support from the heavy-duty bracket, though I can see if I handle the stove carelessly I could break it off.  I contacted SolHuma customer service to see what they wanted to do about the issue.  They are sending me a new base which is in-shipment at the time of this Initial Report.

The good news is with the foot properly bent out and/or cracked, I was now able to remove the thermal shield and restow it with no problems.

Assembly, Inspection and First Impressions

Power supplyThe stove goes together with no problems.  In normal use, the only assembly is placing the thermal shield on top and plugging in the power supply.  Before first use I had to insert to AA cells in the power supply, as the unit does not ship with batteries.

The bottom view of the power supply is shown in the photo at left.  To install batteries, the Phillips-head screw shown in the lower left is unscrewed, the top cover pops off, batteries are inserted, the cover is replaced, and the screw re-inserted and tightened.

This was not a problem at home, but I did need to procure a small Phillips-head screwdriver.  I am a little concerned about battery replacement in the field.  I do not normally carry a screwdriver that fits such a small screw in the field, and I can also see where dropping the screw and losing it in the grass could be a real issue.  The screw head is quite small, and the Phillips style is difficult to improvise a tool for.  I would have preferred to see a more field-friendly closure.


Set up stoveThe photo at right shows the stove set up on my patio.

The power supply is plugged into the unit.  Cord length seems about right: short enough no to get in the way, long enough to be able to operate the unit safely.  The slide switch that controls fan speed is labeled "I-0-II" on the casing, corresponding to Slow, Off, and High speed.

The pot supports are rotated in towards the center to maximize stability.

The draft control is shown in the lower right fully extended (open).  This is closed pushing the control in to the housing to shut down the draft.  The sheet metal seems a little flimsy - I'm a little concerned this could end up getting bent which could cause problems with opening the draft after unstowing from my pack.

The rest of the unit seems incredibly heavy-duty and rugged.  The base is all cast metal, the thermal plates are steel.  Manufacturing quality appears good: I could find no evidence of any sharp or rough edges.

The thermal shield and pot supports seem about the right size to use with an alcohol stove.  One of the things I hope to experiment during the Field and Long Term report periods is using a simple alcohol stove as an adjunct heat source with the unit on wet rainy days where I may not feel like looking for wood, or dry wood is difficult to find.  In essence I would be using the Vital Stove as a windshield and pot support for my alcohol stove in this configuration.

First burn

Burn baby burnI promptly set up the stove on my patio, and went out into the woods to gather some dry sticks.  Fortunately I have a big brush pile with lots of dry, dead branches.  I gathered a bucketful of #2 pencil-diameter twigs and a few larger and thinner pieces.  I crunched up a half-sheet of newspaper into a ball, put it in the firebox.  I broke up my smallest twigs and threw them on top.  I lit the paper on fire, then turned the fan on Low.  The twigs caught fire immediately.  I threw in some moderate-sized twigs, turned up the fan to High and in a minute or so had a roaring fire as can be seen in the photo at right.

When I initially turned the fan to High a big puff of ash was thrown up.  Nothing flammable or dangerous, but enough that having a cover on the pot was a good idea.

I put 2 cups (470 mL) of water into my aluminum pot, put the cover on and put the pot on the fire.  It started to steam after about 5 minutes.  Shortly thereafter, my fire went out.  With the fan on High, small twigs are consumed at a voracious pace.  I re-lit the fire and put the pot back on.  I had a full boil in about 11 minutes from the time I first put the pot on the fire.  This will not be representative of typical boil times, as it included the time I needed to re-light and get the fire going again.

When I was done using the stove I left the fan on and the remaining wood quickly burned itself out.  I emptied the ashes, left the unit to cool, and returned about 5 minutes later to find the stove cool to the touch.  I removed the thermal shield, folded it up and inserted it back into the base for storage.  The power supply easily disconnected from the base.

With the fan on High, this stove is quite a blowtorch.  I set the fan to Low, and my pot of water continued to boil nicely for another 10 minutes or so, with much lower fuel consumption.  I added twigs and small sticks from time to time to keep things going.

Summary

The SolHuma Vital stove appears to be an effective wood-burner.  Construction is sturdy and robust.

Likes:
  • Easy setup and disassembly
  • Fire lights quickly
  • Very high heat production
Concerns:
  • Cracked foot
  • Dealing with soot when repacking stove and pot
  • Field replacement of batteries
  • Rapid fuel consumption
I am really excited to take this stove out into the field.  I love the smell of a wood fire, but rarely make a campfire when I backpack.  I hope to make a lot of S'Mores (strange American food containing marshmallows charred over a fire, chocolate and graham crackers) over the embers!  I am looking forward to doing some cooking in the backcountry where longer simmering times are required, such as rice and lentil dishes.  I normally cook meals that require only boiling water to conserve fuel consumption, or in some cases a short pasta boil, but I have always wanted to cook more of the grocery-store meals that require 20-30 minute simmer times.  I am hoping to leverage the infinite fuel supply available for this stove to remove my cooking constraints.

This concludes my Initial Report.

Field Report

Resolution of Cracked Foot Problem

I contacted SolHuma to let them know of the problem with the cracked stove base foot mentioned in the Initial Report.  Within four days I had a new base.  Great customer service!  The rest of this Field Report was conducted with the replacement base.

Test Conditions

Dates
March 28-April 4, 2009 April 23-26, 2009
May 1-3, 2009 May 20-24, 2009
Location
Ozark Trail in south-central Missouri located in the Mark Twain National Forest
North Country Trail (NCT), Heritage section in northern Wisconsin
Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) between Split Rock and Tettegouche state parks.
This was a car-camping trip, so only short sections of the trail were hiked in and between the parks.
Kekekabic Trail through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of northern Minnesota.
Altitude
925 ft to 1650 ft (280 m to 500 m) 1250 to 1800 ft (380 to 550 m)
650 ft to 1500 ft (200 m to 460 m) 1450 ft to 2000 ft (440 m to 610 m)
Terrain
Heavily forested with oak and hickory.  Many streams, one lake.  Continual climb & descent of Ozark mountains. Heavily forested mix of deciduous and pine.  Streams, rivers, waterfalls, one beaver dam crossing.  Granite outcroppings.
Heavily forested mix of birch and aspen.  Day 1 and 2 were ascent/descent trips, Day 3 was constant up-and-down. Burned and blowdown areas to dense forests of poplar and spruce.
Weather
Coldest nighttime low was 26 F (-3 C), warmest daytime high was about 70 F (21 C) Nightly lows near freezing, daytime highs ranging from 45-65 F (7-18 C)
Nightly lows just below freezing, daytime highs ranging from 45-65 F (7-18 C).  Day 3 was sunny. Lowest nighttime temperature was 29 F (-2 C), highest daytime temperature of 80 F (27 C).  Very windy much of the week.

Observations

Ozark Trail

On this one-week backpacking trip I used the Vital stove at least once/day, primarily for my main meal.  A few days I used it two times/day, either for hot breakfast beverages, or a hot lunch.

First trail useMy first meal on the stove is shown in the picture at left.  There were three issues:

1. As shown, I tried using aluminum foil to keep the pot free from soot.  This did not work -- the foil burnt through in several places due to the high heat from the stove.  Not a stove problem, more of a learning experience.

2. One of the pins holding the thermal shield together fell out and was lost.  I was able to continue using the stove, but I had to be careful to not bump the thermal shield and let any of the hot embers fall to the ground.

3. I had a devil of a time getting the thermal shield out from its storage position beneath the stove.  It just does not fit very well in there.  After a few days of struggling with it, I didn't bother to stow it between the stove legs, I just left it loose.

Otherwise, the meal went well.  As can be seen from the picture, there was melting snow on the ground that had wet much of the available fuel.  Nonetheless, I was able to get a fire going and keeping it going without problems.

On this trip I used dryer lint saturated with petroleum jelly as a fire starter.  Before departing on the trip I swiped a bunch of lint from our laundry room, melted a few tablespoons of petroleum jelly on the stove, and added lint until all the fluid was absorbed.  I then stored and kept the starter mass in a zip-top baggy.

The starter worked just "OK".  It was a little hard to start with a match, and got my fingers horribly greasy removing a chunk from the bag.  I didn't want to grease up my bandanna by wiping off my fingers with it, so I did the best I could to get the excess petroleum jelly off my fingers by wiping them on the ground.  The lint/petroleum bits do burn for quite a while, and were very successful in lighting my fuel.

I found that small finger-sized pieces of wood worked well and were highly available on the trail.  I started the fire with sticks as slender as I could find, then added thicker pieces once it was going.  Even thicker pieces would have burned longer, but are too hard to break with my hands.  The SolHuma video shows large chunks of wood being used as fuel, but I don't know how I could obtain these larger diameter pieces in the backcountry without bringing a saw.  The types of wood on this trip were typically oak and hickory, as those are the main types of trees in the terrain.  They both burned extremely well with high heat output.

Vital Stove on the trail
Vital Stove on the Ozark Trail

As shown in the above photo, what I found worked the best for me when using the stove for the noon meal was to position the stove right on the trail itself, preferably with someplace to sit next to it while cooking and feeding the fire such as the log to the left in the above photo.  This worked particularly well on the Ozark Trail as the treadway has a lot of gravel and is very fire-resistant.  The above photo shows that by day two I had abandoned the use of the aluminum foil to protect my pot.

Vital Stove on Bell Mountain
Vital Stove on Bell Mountain

The above photo shows an ideal setup: the stove is position on a large granite boulder making it impossible to accidentally set a fire.  The sticks shown in the foreground were my typical fuel, in this case the picture was taken before I broke them into small enough pieces to fit the box.

Vital Stove by a creekThe picture at right depicts several key points:

1. I found it advantageous to use the stove near a water source for cleaning purposes.  Between the petroleum jelly on my fingers, soot from the pots, and food bits on my hands/face I set up the stove near a creek or lake whenever possible.

2. This photo is from day five of my trip and the pot is getting noticeably blackened not only on the bottom, but well up on the sides and even on the handle.  I found it helpful to dip the pot in running water after cooking was complete to both rinse off any loose soot, and to cool down my meal for quicker eating.  In creek beds as shown to the right with gravel bottoms I could swish the pot in the gravel to remove as much soot as possible.

3. The sticks shown to the left of the stove are the typical length and the optimal diameter for burning.  I believe in this picture they were hickory.

Though I have mentioned the issue of soot on the pot several times in this report, I was pleasantly surprised at how little build-up I had on the pot and the interior of the stove.  This stove burns so hot, that there is almost no smoke produced.  Also, I was fortunate to have hardwood to burn, I may have more issues in the future with creosote if I use pine sticks.

One of the issues I had discovered by this time is I consistently forgot to open the damper completely when starting the fire.  I could still get the fire going with the fan on High, but it certainly works much better with the damper open.

I did find the damper very useful for simmering.  By turning the fan down to Low, and closing the damper about 80% I could maintain a reasonable low boil for making rice.

Ash disposal: I found that burying the ashes in a cat hole was the best way to dispose of them.  It left no trace, and a damp hole in the ground is unlikely to catch fire in the event that I hadn't let the embers go out.  I found that if I simply let the stove cool while I ate dinner, by the time I was cleaning up the stove was cool to the touch and all the embers were out.  Nonetheless, it is a good idea to be cautious about disposal.

Bagged upOne more note on soot control: as shown in the photo at left I found that storing both my pot and the stove in a zip-top plastic bag prevented any mess in my backpack.  The pointy parts of the stove eventually caused several tears in the bag, but this was not an issue as any soot was still prevented from rubbing off onto my pack or its contents.

I did find the stove reasonably easy to pack.  I simply laid it down on its feet near the bottom of my pack and jammed other gear on top of it.  The stove is not fragile and suffered no ill effects from such packing.


Thermal Shield Pin Follow up

After returning from my Ozarks trip I contacted SolHuma customer service on April 9, 2009 to see how they wished to proceed.  They answered immediately and indicated they would send a new thermal shield, which arrived April 20, 2009.  Once again, great customer service.  The rest of this report was conducted with the replacement shield.

NCT Trip Observations

This trip was conducted with the new thermal shield.  I had no problems with the hinge pin falling out.  I did have issues with the thermal shield fitting in to the base, and continued to stow it sideways (loose) in the slot.

Dirty riceI used the Vital stove for cooking dinner the 3 nights we were on the trail.  Nights 1 and 3 were Zatarains meals (dirty rice, red beans and rice with pepperoni), night 2 was shepherd's pie.

The picture at right is from night 1 at Copper Falls State park.  This was a car camping night as the hiking party was driving in from around the state.  The meal I was making can be seen in the box at right in the picture.

I find the Vital stove to be an excellent match for these kinds of meals that require long cooking times.  The dirty rice meal was about a 25 minute simmer, and the red beans and rice meal just over a half hour.  On this trip I found I was becoming more adept at simmering.  It requires turning the fan to low, closing the damper about 75%, and making sure there is not an excess of wood in the burner.  I found 3-4 small sticks to be just the right amount: enough to keep the fire going, but not so much that the hot fire burned the food on the bottom of the pot.

RampsThe last night on the trail brought a special treat.  One of the other hikers taught me to recognize and pick wild onions or leeks, also known as ramps.  We picked them along the trail and munched on them as we hiked.  They are so flavorful that the hikers toward the rear of the column could smell them when folks in the front chowed down.  These plants were growing in profusion -- after a while we saw so many of them that we didn't bother to stop and pick them.

At left is a photo of a large bunch I picked on the last night on the trail.  I dug them up with my cat hole trowel, trimmed them with a knife, washed and cleaned them in water in my cooking pot and sliced them into bite-sized pieces.  I tossed them into the pot bubbling away on the Vital stove for the last 5 minutes of cooking.  This was quite a treat: the flavor and texture was an extraordinary accompaniment to the Zatarains Red Beans and Rice.

SHT Trip Observations

This was a car camping trip (Finland State Forest CG).  I used the SolHuma Vital Stove for one dinner, a reprise of Zatarains Red Beans and Rice but with the addition of a package of Little Smokies sausages for protein.  I was cooking for two people, myself and my camp mate.  My camping mate was amazed at how little wood was required to get the water boiling and simmer for 30 minutes -- only a handful of small sticks.

On day 2 of the trip I gave a presentation at the annual meeting of the SHTA on my 100 Mile Wilderness hike of May 2008.  At the end of the talk I did a little show-and-tell of the gear I am currently testing.  The wood stove really caught everyone's attention, and a crowd of attendees came up after my talk to ask questions and inspect the stove more closely.  There seems to be a lot of interest in wood-burning stoves in Minnesota, because fuel is bountiful on the trails.

Kekekabic Trail Observations

One things this trip did not lack was available wood for burning.  The trail has been decimated in the last few decades by a blowdown by straight-line winds and several major fires.  Finding sticks to burn consisted of cleaning up the campsite area of twigs!

Interestingly one of the other hikers in the group also had a forced-air wood burning stove, an old Sierra Zip stove so I had a chance to compare the two side-by-side:
Solhuma and Zip
"She-who-starts-fires" with her Zip stove, the Vital Stove in the lower left

The Zip stove is known to be easily tipped, but this one was modified with a custom base for stability.  Both stoves performed equally well, though we didn't do a controlled experiment to see which one boiled water first.  The other campers were impressed by the Vital stove's detachable thermal shield; it folded up much more compactly than the Zip.

By this trip I had fallen into a predictable usage pattern: Vital stove for cooking dinner, Jetboil for quick boils of hot water for tea at breakfast.  It is just too much hassle for me to light a fire every day first thing in the morning to boil water for a hot beverage.  Interesting, the rest of the group followed a similar pattern but used an alcohol stove in the morning.  That was my intention as well, but I ran out of time before this trip to build another alcohol burner.

Summary

I have really enjoyed using this stove in the field.  It is extra work to use wood fuel, but I find I have to distinguish my feelings about using a wood-burning stove in general from my thoughts on the SolHuma Vital Stove in particular.  I really liked the freedom of having an unlimited amount of fuel to make meals that required longer cooking times.  I don't really like the sooty mess that comes from burning wood, but that is an issue with any wood-burning stove and certainly not unique to the SolHuma Vital stove.

Strengths:
  1. Quick-starting
  2. Hot fire for quick boils
  3. Good temperature control with variable speed fan and damper
  4. Durable
  5. Reasonably compact for packing
Areas for improvement:
  1. Stowing the thermal shield under the unit between the support legs is bothersome, and the fit is very tight
  2. Better retention of the pins that hold the thermal shield together
  3. Perhaps improved labeling would help me remember to open the damper when I start the fire
This concludes my Field Report for the SolHuma Vital Stove.

Long Term Report

Test Conditions

Dates
June 11-14, 2009
July  11-12, 2009
Location
North Country Tail (NCT), Chequamegon section in northern Wisconsin
Mt. Lemmon, just north of Tucson, Arizona
Altitude
1050 ft to 1650 ft
(320 m to 500 m)
7450 to 9100 ft
(2271 m to 2774 M)
Terrain
Heavily forested with maple and pine.  Streams, lakes, bogs and beaver dams. Mountain meadows rocky ridges and trail.
Weather
Coldest nighttime low was 41 F (5 C), daytime highs around 74 F (23 C), very light winds.  Mostly sunny with rain shower June 13. Nighttime low of 60F (15 C), daytime high at lower altitude of 88 F (31 C)

Observations

North Country Trail

I used the Vital stove for cooking breakfast and dinner on day 2 of the hike.  Breakfast was cheese grits and lots of tea, so I needed a lot of hot water for cooking.  Dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce.  The stove performed flawlessly for these meals.  Wood used was small maple sticks.

I had about a dozen companions on this trip, and several of them expressed a lot of interest in it.  One of them thought the stove would be great for family outings when cooking for several people, which greatly diminishes the weight carried per person.  He thought it would also give the younger folks something to do, picking up sticks, feeding the fire, etc.  I know I have enjoyed this aspect of the stove all along; it is pleasant to have an activity around dinner time.

Mt. Lemmon

On July 5th I moved to Tucson Arizona for a new job.  I took enough backpacking gear with me to continue my testing, but not all of it.  I didn't think I was going to need my winter sleeping bag for a while!  My backpacking gear including the SolHuma stove were packed tightly in a duffel bag.  I left the stove outside of the backpack in the duffel suspecting that TSA would want to have a look at it.

I was able to get out for a 1-night backpacking trip the weekend of July 11.  I drove up to the top of Mt Lemmon, hiked down to the Arizona Trail trailhead, and continued downhill until I got tired from the altitude and constant strain on my quadriceps.  I had noticed some nice camping areas on the way down, and climbed back up to right near the Arizona Trail head where I had spotted a great campsite with a terrific western sunset view.  Camp was set up, and I immediately prepared to cook my evening meal with the SolHuma stove.  I took some pictures of the stove in operation at sunset on the mountaintop, but they returned to Minnesota with the camera and my wife :(

When I was ready to light the stove, HORRORS!  The slide switch was broken off!  This must have happened in transit as the duffel bag was loaded/unloaded from the airplane.  Fortunately it broke off with the switch in the High (II) position where I last left it.  I plugged the battery pack into the stove and had a roaring fire in no time and was able to cook my meal with no problems.  The only downside of this condition is I cannot use the Low setting for simmering, and to turn the fan off I have to unplug the battery cable.

Summary

My overall opinion has not changed since I write the Field Report, and the list of strengths and areas for improvement still hold.

The broken slide switch was the third malfunction of the unit I experienced: cracked base foot, thermal shield pin falling out and lost, and broken slide switch.  This unit has had far more reliability problems than I would have anticipated given its relative heft.  My bottom line is this is a stove that attracts interest wherever it goes and performs well, but needs some re-thinking to make it more robust for daily use by backpackers.  I do not treat my gear gently, but I don't abuse it either, so I suspect my use would be quite typical.

Many thanks to SolHuma Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



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