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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > ThermoJet MicroLite Stov > Owner Review by Cheryl McMurray

THERMOJET MICROLITE STOVE
OWNER REVIEW
BY CHERYL MCMURRAY

NOVEMBER 2009


PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY

Name: Cheryl McMurray
Age: 50
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight: 145 lb (66.6 kg)
Email Address: cherylswanATearthlinkDOTnet
City, State, Country: Garden Grove, California, U.S.

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I've been backpacking and hiking for four years, mostly on weekends year around.  Overnight trips are usually long weekend trips in the Eastern Sierras with 32 lb to 40 lb (15 kg to 18 kg) loads depending on the season.  One class two rock climb with a day pack is common.   Day hikes are 10-15 mi (16 km to 24 km) in the San Gabriel Mountains with loads of 15 lb to 20 lb (7 kg to 9 kg).  I'm a tent style camper and have experienced snow, freezing temperatures, winds (once was gale force), light rain, but mostly fair weather.

PRODUCT DETAILS

Manufacturer: ThermoJet
Manufacturer website: www.thermojetstove.com
Stove type: Alcohol Stove
Sizes: Standard and Large
Size tested: Large
Listed Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g) standard size (sack and fuel container not included)
Actual Weight: 3.2 oz (91 g) large size (listed weight for large size not stated on website)
Packed size: 2.5 in x 4 in (6 cm x 10 cm) pot support rods 0.12 in x 6.75 in (0.3 cm x 17 cm)
Operating size: 6.9 in x 4 in (17.5 cm x 10 cm)
Material: 3XXX series aluminum (burner, combustion chamber, simmer band) and cold drawn steel (support rods)
MSRP: $39.95 US (standard or large size)
Purchase Date: March 2009
Guarantee: Lifetime

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The ThermoJet MicroLite Stove is a full featured three season lightweight backpackers' alcohol stove.  It compacts down small enough to fit inside of my 44 oz (1.3 l) pot with enough room for other small items.  It consists of a burner, combustion chamber, simmer band, pot supports, 4 oz (120 ml) Nalgene bottle, green burlap storage sack and instruction sheet.  The burner uses pressurized fuel jets, is sealed with high temperature industrial epoxy and the combustion chamber doubles as a windscreen.  The simmer band is designed to provide even heating that results in faster cooking times and can be adjusted on the outside without removing the pot.  
The large stove (reviewed) is designed for pots that have a diameter between 5.75 in to 6.5 in (14.6 cm to 16.5 cm).  The efficiency of the stove is aided by having the correct size cooking pan so measurements must be taken to insure that the correct size stove is ordered.  

This stove can use a variety of alcohol fuels: denatured alcohol, methanol based gas line antifreeze, grain alcohol, 91% isopropyl (rubbing alcohol), and even 151 proof rum.  I have only used denatured alcohol in this review.

Include parts Complete unit rolled up
Include parts
Complete unit rolled up

Stored in cooking pot Top view set up
Stored in cooking pot Top view set up

Full cooking mode Simmer mode
Full cooking mode Simmer mode


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS


I have used a white gas and canister stove in the past but this is my first alcohol stove.  In my efforts to lighten up my backpacking load I decided to try this stove and see if it would work well enough for me to continue using it on summer backpacking trips.  I have already had pump issues with my white gas stove (yielding it unusable for the outing) and my canister stove has had some ignition issues in the past so I was excited about the fact that the only mechanical issues this stove could have is if I lost any parts (still possible) or something breaks.  

The sack is a green burlap material bag and I found it hard to take the stove in and out as it kept getting caught on the sharper ends of the stove unit.  I decided to leave the sack at home and just store the stove in the titanium non-stick pot that I would be using protecting the pot with a lightweight towel inside.  

The stove is very easy to set up but taking it down requires a little work.  The simmer band has a nylon band around it that is used for essentially keeping the stove compressed.  The simmer band is easy to roll up and the nylon band slides easily around it but the combustion chamber takes a little more effort.  Once rolled small enough, it can slide inside the simmer band and naturally expand to the inner circumference.  The burner slides easily into one end giving the compressed stove some structure and the Nalgene bottle slides into the other end, cap first.  I do not keep the fuel with the stove but instead store it separately so I usually fill that end with a rolled up trash bag that I always bring with.  After attempting to fill the burner with fuel the first time, I found that I did not like the design of the Nalgene container that came with it.  I prefer a squirt spout instead of the screw cap of this bottle as I was spilling a little fuel each time I poured it.  I found that the squirt spout gave me better control.  The pot that I use falls within the stated measurements for the large stove and I end up with about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) between the combustion chamber and the edge of the pot all the way around.

                                                             
1.3 liter pan on the stove.
44 oz (1.3 l) pan on stove
                                                                         

FIELD TESTING

I have used this stove on seven backpacking trips since April for a total of fourteen times heating water for breakfast and fourteen times cooking one pot dinners in a 44 oz (1.3 l) non-stick titanium pot.  I always cover the pot with the lid and only open it to check the boiling status or stir the dinner.  The testing information is as follows, all in California

Trip #1
Location: Joshua Tree National Park
Cooking elevation: 3,700 ft (1,100 m)
Cooking temperature: 34 F to 75 F (1 C to 24 C)
Conditions: Cool with calm winds in the morning, warm and breezy for dinner

Trip #2
Location: Eastern Sierra's near Lone Pine, California
Cooking elevation: 10,200 ft (3,100 m)
Cooking temperature: 50 F to 60 F (10 C to 16 C)
Conditions: Sprinkles of rain and light breezes

Trip #3
Location: Eastern Sierra's near Bishop, California
Cooking Elevation: 9,000 ft (2,700 m)
Cooking temperature: 28 F to 75 F (-2 C to 24 C)
Conditions: Cold and calm in the morning, warm and breezy for dinner

Trip #4
Location: Eastern Sierra's near Independence, California
Cooking elevation: 10,900 ft (3,300 m)
Cooking temperature: 28 F to 60 F (-2 C to 16 C)
Conditions: Cold with frost in the morning and normal conditions for dinner

Trip #5
Location: Eastern Sierra's near Big Pine, California
Cooking elevation: 11,100 ft (3,400 m)
Cooking temperature: 46 F to 65 F (8 C to 18 C)
Conditions: Cool with light breezes in the morning, light breezes for dinner

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Ease Of Use

I store the stove in my cooking pot along with matches, fork, rubber scraper and measuring cup (that fits over the end of the stove) so that everything I need is in one place.  To set up the stove I pull out the burner, then the combustion chamber being careful to unroll it.  After connecting the ends with the rivets I slide off the nylon band from the simmer band and carefully unroll it attaching the ends together.  The aluminum that extends beyond the rivets can be bent to a right angle to form a tab to use when lowering and raising the simmer band but I have not used that feature.  I then slip the simmer band over the top of the combustion chamber with the rivets offset of each other positioning it just below the holes for the support rods.  I then put the support rods in place and fill the burner with denatured alcohol.  See Efficiency for amounts.  I make sure that the water is already pre-measured in the pot before lighting the stove.  I use a match almost touching the match to the alcohol to light it and when lit, place the pot covered with the lid on top of the support rods and wait for it to boil.  One of the features I like is that once the alcohol has burned off, it cools within a minute and it can be refilled and started again or packed up.  I have tried to use a butane lighter but find it awkward to reach in without risking burns to my fingers.  

For dinners I pre-measure the water and add the dinner mix, place the lid on top and put it on the stove once it's lit.  I do remove the lid to stir occasionally and to be sure that the dinner is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  When the alcohol burns off, I let the dinner set a few minutes to absorb all the liquid and it's ready.  The website states that the flame can be extinguished by removing the combustion chamber and setting the pot directly on the burner and then blowing the flame out but I have not been able to successfully do that.  I just let any remaining alcohol burn off.

I don't find the set up of this stove any more time consuming than a canister stove and far less time consuming than a white gas stove.   It is a very simple stove to operate and with no mechanical parts I have had no failure issues.  The only maintenance that the manual states is that the jets can become clogged but with a simple pin (and care) can be cleaned easily.  I have had very few stove problems in the past but enough to appreciate the simplicity of this stove and so far the jets have not clogged.

When I take the stove down I remove the pot supports and store them immediately in my pot storage bag (they will not fit inside the pot) so that I don't forget them on the ground and lose them (a possible show stopper for the stove).  I then unhook and roll up the simmer band a little smaller than the circumference of the plastic band, insert it and let it expand to the diameter of the plastic band.  I then unhook and roll up the combustion chamber small enough to insert into the simmer band and let it expand inside the simmer band.  I then place the burner into one end and it's done.  I have found that this can be a little cold at temperatures near freezing because of the metal and the use of gloves when doing this can be difficult.

                                                                  
Stove set up with pot in place Showing the flame below
Stove set up with pot in place Flame burning

Open stove with flame
Open stove with flame


Efficiency

Since this is my first alcohol stove, I cannot comment about the efficiency of this stove over other alcohol stoves but these are my findings after using the stove in temperatures as low as 28 F (-2 C), light wind and very light rain conditions.  First of all, there are factors that will affect the efficiency of this stove.  The ground surface must be flat and level for the stove to operate at its highest efficiency.   Also, the pot being used needs to be the correct size.  It has taken some trial and error (mostly at home) to figure out how much fuel I need for the intended meal.  For me a typical meals consists only of heating 14 oz (0.4 l) of water for coffee (twice) in the morning and 9 oz (0.3 l) of water with a 1/2 pkg Knorr sides with some dehydrated chicken and vegetable additives.  

These are my findings:

Breakfast:
14 oz (0.4 l) water
0.75 oz (22 ml) fuel (measurement lines are drawn on my bottle with squirt spout)
Titanium non-stick 44 oz (1.3 l) pot
Best time was 6 min to full boil
Worst time was 7 min to full boil

I have not noticed much of a fuel amount or time difference whether boiling at temperatures of 28 F (-2 C) with very cold water or boiling at 65 F (18 C) with tap water.  The website states that 16 oz (0.5 l) of water will boil in 3 min 45 sec using 0.5 oz (15 ml) of denatured alcohol which is more optimistic than my findings stated above however their findings might be based on the regular size stove.

Dinner:
9 oz (0.3 l) water
1/2 package Knorr sides with 3 oz (85 gm) dehydrated chicken added
1 oz (30 ml) fuel

I have found that the rice dishes take about 30 seconds longer to cook than the pasta dishes but with either I take the pot off the burner when they still need some thickening up and let them set.  I have found that the 1 oz (30 ml) of fuel is very close for either dish and any burn time after the dinner is finished cooking is no more than 30 seconds.

One thing that I have noticed with the stove is its flame distribution.  It covers the whole bottom of the cooking pan as well as coming up the sides a little.  I have to be careful that the handle of the pan is moved towards the edge of the combustion chamber so that the flames don't burn the handle and melt the rubber coating.  It has not been a problem.  I do like the fact that the stove cooks evenly.  

With the type of cooking that do, I can cook enough breakfasts (two 14 oz (0.4 l) cups of coffee) and dinners for a three day, two night backpacking trip with a total of 5 oz (140 ml) of fuel which will fit into a 4 oz (120 ml) container.  Although the container is stated as 4 oz (120 ml), I have found that 6 oz (180 ml) will fit if filled up to 0.5 in (1.3 cm) from the top thus giving me enough fuel to treat myself to some freeze dried eggs on one of the mornings.

Features

I have lowered the simmer band once the dinner begins to boil but have not noticed a difference in flame size thus questioning its claim that it has a simmer mode.  I have also boiled 16 oz (0.5 l) of water using 0.75 oz (22 ml) of fuel in the same conditions when the stove is in full cooking mode and then in simmer mode and the boiling times were identical.  I have never had the flame get out of control in breezy conditions nor has it taken longer for water to boil so I can only conclude that the combustion chamber/windscreen works well in the breezy (not yet tested in windy) conditions I have experienced.  The pot support rods have worked flawlessly.  They have never slipped out and do provide a stable surface for the cooking pot.  As mentioned above, I have switched out the provided Nalgene bottle for an equivalent size bottle that has a squirt tab cap to help prevent spilling the fuel when measuring.  Also as mentioned above I don't use the burlap stuff sack as it catches on the stove edges and becomes difficult to put the stove into it and pull it out.  

Durability

After thirty plus uses of this stove, except for some discoloring and slight bends in the aluminum (mostly combustion chamber), the stove has stayed in good shape and remains fully functional.  The epoxy sealer on the burner has remained unaffected and the jets have not clogged yet and still perform like new.  The steel pot rods immediately discolored with soot from the alcohol and after wiping it off the first few times only result in a darkening color now.  They are still functioning like new. 

Cooking breakfast (coffee)
Cooking breakfast in the morning

                                                    
SUMMARY

I don't think that the ThermoJet MicroLite stove lives up to all of its claims, specifically cooking time, fuel amount and ability to simmer.  However, I do think that it is a well designed alcohol stove that works well in cold, breezy conditions and has an efficient enough cooking design to do a two night three day backpacking trip on just 5 oz (180 ml) of fuel.  Its total weight is 2 oz (60 g) lighter than my lightweight canister stove comparing equivalent parts and for light weight backpacking every ounce counts.  Since I am an early riser and like to watch the sun come up, the fact that it is a very quiet stove is a plus for my trip partners who are usually still sleeping.   It is extremely compact and I like the simplicity of its design with no mechanical parts to break.  This stove has become my favorite stove to use and I look forward to using it on many more trips.

LIKES

Lightweight and compact
Efficient even cooking
Works well in cold temperatures and breezy conditions
Simple to use
Extremely quiet
No mechanical parts to break

DISLIKES      

Did not find that the simmer band actually simmers
Sack provided is awkward to use
Nalgene fuel bottle was hard to pour from
Combustion chamber is a little hard to roll up small enough to fit inside the simmer band especially when it's cold (using gloves)

I do recommend this stove.



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