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SOTO WINDMASTER & OPTIONAL 4 FLEX POT ST
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
LONG-TERM REPORT
January 19, 2014

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Steven M. Kidd
EMAIL: ftroop94ATgmailDOTcom
AGE: 41
LOCATION: Franklin, Tennessee
GENDER:
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 179 lb (81.20 kg)

Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Soto WindMaster & Optional 4Flex Pot Support

Manufacturer: Soto Outdoors
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.sotooutdoors.com
Soto WindMaster OD-1RX
MSRP: US $74.95
Listed & Measured Weight: Stove & Included Triflex Pot Support 2.3 oz (65 g)
Measured Weight for Stove Alone: 2.1 oz (60 g)
Measured Weight for (Included) TriFlex Pot Support: 0.2 oz (5.7 g)
Measured Weight for (Included) Storage Bag: 0.4 oz (11.3 g)
Dimensions: (Stove body + Pot support): 3.6 x 4.7 x 3.9 in (9.0 x 12 x 10 cm)
Burner Output: 2800 kcal/h--3260w--11000 BTU


Optional 4Flex Pot Stand OD-1RX4
MSRP US $ 14.95
Listed Weight: 1.0 oz (28.4 g)
Measured Weight: 0.9 oz (25.5 g)
Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.7 in (14.4 x 4.4 cm)

The WindMaster is a new stove by Soto Outdoors that is designed to give superior output in windy conditions and allow the user interchange the pot support based on their individual needs. The stove includes a small TriFlex pot support that weighs 0.2 oz (5.7 g) and brings the overall weight of the stove to 2.3 oz (65 g). The company also sells separately an optional pot stand called the 4Flex that is designed for use with larger pots. The one I'm testing measured 0.9 oz (25.5 g) and when used in combination with the stove; that setup weighed in at 3.0 oz (85 g). The supports may be interchanged without the use of tools and when the stove is stored they are removed and folded for space savings.

The stoves come with a piezo automatic igniter and has a micro regulator that is designed to allow for a consistent flame in both cold temperatures and throughout the fuel life of the canister.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Over the last few years I've bounced back between canister stoves and those fueled by denatured alcohol. I really like the speed-to-boil time with a canister stove, but enjoy the weight savings and ease of use in colder temperatures of a homemade alcohol stove. For me, the Soto WindMaster certainly addresses the weight concern when considering a canister stove! It weighs well over an ounce (28 g) less than any other one I own, so I was excited to give it a shot.

The stove also allows the user to change the pot stand configuration based on individual needs. It comes standard with a TriFlex pot stand that when deployed has a wider platform circumference than two similar canister stoves I have used in the past. The mere 0.2 oz (5.7 g) stand may be removed and folded flat for storage when not in use. Below are a few images of the stove alone, with the TriFlex stand and with a GSI Halulite Minimalist pot atop this setup.

IMAGE 2
WindMaster without a Pot Stand
IMAGE 3
WindMaster with TriFlex Pot Stand
IMAGE 4
TriFlex Pot Stand and a Halulite Minimalist


























This pot appears to set securely on the canister and stove, though it is a little taller configuration than I've been familiar with. Stability doesn't appear to be a concern of mine at this time. I also use a 0.9 L titanium pot that is wider and shorter than the image above. I believe the TriFlex appears completely adequate for this pot as well.

The pot comes with a storage bag, but it appears to defeat some of the weight savings in my personal opinion, and that leaves me with one of my few concerns about the stove. The TriFlex when removed and stowed is pretty small and could potentially be dropped and lost on the trail if I'm not vigilant. The stove itself is a little taller, and although I'm not concerned with stability, it doesn't want to nest as neatly in the GSI pot above. These are both minor concerns that are likely just nit-picky on my part, but I certainly don't want to lose the TriFlex!

I also received a 4Flex pot stand that is an optional add-on to go with the WindMaster. This stand is designed for larger pots and particularly for use in group cooking. It appears to be nicely designed and is made with stainless steel. It weighs almost an ounce (28 g), so when I'm on the trail and cooking for just me it defeats my weight savings and is overkill for my personal needs. However, if I'm out with both my children and wish to use it with a larger cooking vessel I certainly see its merits and admire the flexibility Soto offers with the interchangeable stands.

IMAGE 5
Windmaster with Optional 4Flex Pot Stand





IMAGE 6
4Flex with a WWII Mess Kit






















I haven't had the stove in the field yet and I've performed no scientific testing, yet I was immediately impressed with its initial performance in the confines of my kitchen. I had an old half emptied canister of isobutene that I screwed to the WindMaster. I then gave it a quick light with the piezo starter. At full throttle it reminded me of a jet afterburner! I'm half-kidding, but serious as well. The concave nature of the stove shoots the flame straight up as noted in the image below. The flame also shot up nearly a foot (~30 cm). This was an eyeball measurement as I dared not get a ruler out to confirm it.

I placed roughly 16 oz (~0.5 L) of water into the Minimalist pot and stuck it on top of the stove. Again, this was in the confines of my kitchen with no wind and the temperature was set to 74 F (23 C) in the house. The water came to a boil in 1:42 seconds. I'm sold! I'm ready to get to the woods with this puppy!

During my field testing I'm looking forward to a 4-day 43 mile (69 km) trip in the higher elevations of the Smokey Mountains. I'll be sure to take a new canister and report on outgoing and return gram/oz weight of the fuel used and time to boil for each meal. These will all most likely be to boil water for freeze-dried meals. However, I also look forward to seeing if I can simmer and cook with the WindMaster as well.
IMAGE 7
Full Flame

After I boiled the water I noticed a peculiar odor coming from the stove. It smelled eerily similar to the odor I've noticed when engine oil spills onto to the block of an automobile. It abated after awhile, and I certainly hope this is just the newness of the product. If it does remain it may not be so noticeable in the great outdoors, but I certainly did smell it in the confines of

SUMMARY

My initial impressions of the Soto WindMaster leave me eager to get into the backcountry and start testing it. I'm impressed with the performance to weight ratio it offers. I also like that it theoretically requires no windscreen which adds soft weight savings to comparable stoves.

In a zero-wind test environment it boiled a liter of water better than two minutes faster than the manufacturer suggests for that very amount.

I certainly see more roses than potential thorns that concern me with the stove as noted below:
IMAGE 8
Full Flame with a Pot




Roses to Date:

*Stove Weight
*Time to Boil
*Suggested Wind Resistance
*Interchangeable Stand Flexibility
*Suggested Fuel Consumption (or lack thereof)

Potential Thorns:

*Misplacing/Losing the Pot Stand(s)
*Potential for Instability
*Not as Compact to Stow
*Current Post Burn Odor

IMAGE 9
Top View

















I am thoroughly excited and thankful to be testing the Soto WindMaster Stove and the optional 4Flex Pot Stand Support which the company also offers separately. I wish to thank Soto Outdoors and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me the opportunity to do so. Please check back in a few months for my field report on how it performs and hopefully I will have expanded on most of the aforementioned questions I've posed.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

3 - 6 October, 2013; Benton Mackaye Trail along the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. This trip was originally planned to take place in the Great Smokey Mountain Park, but government interference required a last minute change of plans. We therefore routed a 56 mi (90 km) 4-day and 3-night trip along the BMT starting in Reliance, TN at an elevation of 792 ft (241 m) to Beech Gap, NC. The max elevation on the scheduled route was 5080 ft (1548 m) at Whigg Meadow. At the end of day three after two up and downs and a summit of 4090 ft (1246 m) we descended to the Tellico River and one of my backpacking buddy's knees was toast. We were fortunate enough to hitch a ride with a hunter back to our drop car and made our way back to the base camp at our starting point in Reliance. This cut our distance traveled to a little over 43 mi (62 km). This first weekend of October was unseasonably warm for the Cherokee National Forest. The coolest temperature I measured was 48 F (9 C) and it reached over 82 F (28 C) one afternoon.

12 - 14 October, 2013; Fiery Gizzard Trail in the South Cumberland State Park in middle Tennessee. My five and six year old children begged to go on the mountain outing the week before, and since they couldn't make the 'daddy' trip I decided to take the entire family to an old standby location the following weekend. This was a 3-day and 2-night trip with constant elevations averaging 1750 ft (533 m) covered around 6 mi (~10 km). Temperatures measured as cool as 36 F (2 C) and were as warm as 57 F (14 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1
Prepping for some BBQ Spaghetti

I'll start this report by clarifying the foul odor I noticed in my Initial Report has since dissipated and may have been a residue from the factory. I've not noticed it again in multiple uses.

I was hoping for and expecting some cool and windy conditions on my mountainous trek, but sadly was confronted with none! However, I still used the Soto to boil water for freezer bag meals and coffee for breakfast and dinner every day of the trip. On one occasion I was hiking a little faster than my mates and was able to cook a hot noon meal in advance of them arriving for their dinner.
IMAGE 4
(OCD Calculations) Actually This Was 7 Boils

Boil time for water never took much over a minute...two maximum at anytime. This was averaging 18-20 oz (0.53-0.59 L). I would use approximately half the water to rehydrate my meal and I'd use the other half with an instant coffee to have a warm and caffeinated drink. Although there was no wind and it wasn't cool, I was impressed with the stove. I took an unused 7.76 oz (220 g) isobutane canister on the trip. It was probably overkill, but I wanted to ensure I didn't run out of fuel. The canister with fuel weighed 12.88 oz (365 g) at the outset and came in at 10.45 oz (295 g) at the completion of the trip. This covered 6 boils for me and one for my pal as he decided he wasn't patient enough to wait for his denatured alcohol stove at the end of a long trail day! So, for seven boils the stove used 2.47 oz (70 g) or an average of 0.35 oz (10 g) per burn in mild and windless conditions.

On the following weekend temperatures were cooler and winds that always gust off the gulf near which we camp. The stove performed superbly in my opinion at a temperature just a few degrees above freezing. I had two individual canisters to measure fuel consumption, one for warmer day use and a second for the cooler evening boils. In the conditions just above freezing the boils used 0.88 oz (25 g) of fuel for two burns, and came to a boil in a similar timeframe. It was pretty close to the former trip.

As I sometimes wait to the last minute to do things, it was on the very autumn day this report was due I decided to do a quick test in my front yard to satisfy my curiosity about wind conditions. I was fortunate that a cold front came in the evening before bringing temperatures hovering around freezing and winds in excess of 18 mph (29 km/h). I tested the aforementioned 20 oz (0.59 L) with no wind protection. It took 4 minutes 15 seconds to bring this amount of water to a boil and used 0.56 oz (16 g). Therefore in these conditions time to boil more than doubled, but fuel consumption was only around 1.5 times more than the milder conditions.

I did take the 4 Flex Pot Stand on the shorter trip with my family. Even with a larger pot and more folks I find this stand to be a little overkill for the style of backpacking I do. I can certainly see how it could come in handy for a larger vessel with multiple campers, but the weight penalty is more than I'm comfortable with on the average outing I take.

I haven't really had an occasion to try to simmer with the stove, so I have no feedback at this point of the test series on how it does. I will try to attempt this during my next portion of the test series.

SUMMARY

IMAGE 2
Flame On!
IMAGE 3
Boil Under Way!

To date I'm thoroughly pleased with the Soto WindMaster OD1RX and I'm excited to continue testing it in the coming months. I look forward to reporting back on having used it in cooler (sub-freezing) and much windier conditions as winter arrives!

I truly have no major thorns to report at this time. The 4 Flex is a little more stand than I need, but I can leave it at home. I have been concerned that I could lose the 3 pronged stand and to date I've been storing it and the stove in the storage bag that accompanied the stove. To save a few grams I have considered ditching the bag and using a rubber band to attach the pot stand to the stove when not in use, but I've yet to do so.

I'm impressed with the quick boil time and minimal amount of fuel the stove is consuming during each burn. I'm sure both these will change as the weather environment worsens, but I'm excited with what I've encountered to date.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

21-22 December, 2013 an overnight hammocking trip to the Virgin Falls, Tennessee wilderness area with some friends and my 5 year old son. We hiked in downhill for 2 mi (3.2 km) on day one and back out with a constant ascent on the following day. We spent the night at the Laurel Falls Campsite and received over 3 in (7.6 cm) of rain overnight with tornadic conditions surrounding the area making the multiple stream crossings a little nervy on the second day. Temperatures on the first day were over 60 F (16 C), hence the dicey weather conditions for December and dropped into the mid-40's F (7 C) after the front came through.

30-31 December, 2013 an annual overnight trip with a buddy to the Fiery Gizzard trail covering a little over 6 mi (9.6 km). Conditions were just above freezing and conditions were very wet from rain the previous several days.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The trip to Virgin Falls was the same weekend a major weather front was coming through middle Tennessee and conditions were prime for severe weather, but we were heading to the eastern edge of the potential storms. We also found a ravine that buffered us from the winds on two sides and had a waterfall on the third, so we felt pretty safe. I'm not certain my wife felt the same way...as I towed my five year old along with me. Needless to say he became the star of the trip.

I used the stove to boil two freezer bag meals and a few cups of coffee for a total of three boils. The conditions were beginning to get a little wet and although we were under tarp I was preoccupied with my little one, so I never really measured the time to boil. I can verify I didn't take very long. Temperatures out were moderate and we were protected from the wind so conditions were mild in my opinion. After returning home and weighing the fuel canister I noticed that it used 1.52 oz (43 g) of isobutane.

The second trip was around freezing and I only needed one boil for a freezer meal and coffee. This was approximately 30 oz (0.9 L) of water that took less than five minutes to boil and used 0.33 oz (9 g) of fuel.

Overall I've been really impressed with the stove. I've experienced some winds, but never really had extremely cold conditions. I do believe the nature of the stove does give some wind protections without a wind screen that similar stoves may not offer.

SUMMARY

Overall I've been very impressed with the Soto WindMaster and enjoyed using it. As someone that's tended to lean toward denatured alcohol stoves in recent times I've again become a fan of this lightweight yet versatile little stove. Ounce for ounce I find it to be very handy and user friendly. I wished I'd faced colder conditions throughout the testing period, but an opportunity never presented itself.

Post-testing I'm planning on taking a winter hammocking trip in early February to an altitude just above 1 mi (1.6 km) with expected snow around 2 ft (61 cm) deep and temperatures around 0 F (-18 C). I don't plan on using this as a primary fuel source by any means, but I will take the stove to satisfy my curiosity and I shall attempt to post an addendum to this test series.

I was thoroughly excited and thankful to test the Soto WindMaster Stove and the optional 4Flex Pot Stand Support which the company also offers separately. I wish to thank Soto Outdoors and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me the opportunity to do so, and look forward to continued use in the future.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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