Ultimate Survival WetFire Stove
Test Series by Sophie Pearson
Initial Report - August 16, 2009
Field Report - November 10, 2009
Long-Term Report - January 12, 2010
Name: Sophie Pearson
Height: 5' 8" (1.71 m)
Weight: 180 lb (82 kg)
Email address: sophiep3 at gmail dot com
Location: Tampa, Florida, USA
I first started backpacking as a teenager in England. I did a
28-day trip in the Arctic, but most of my backpacking experience
has been weekend to 10-day trips, in a range of terrains and climates.
I am a volcanologist so I also do day hikes carrying loaded packs over
intense terrain. Nowadays I am generally in sub-tropical climates. I
am heading increasingly towards ultralight packing, and unless I am
sharing I use a bivy. I try to pack around 20 lb (9 kg) for long
weekend trips but have carried over 50 lb (23 kg).
August 16, 2009
Manufacturer: Ultimate Survival Technologies
Year of Manufacture: 2009
MSRP: Not listed
I have kitchen diet scales, but they do not go to a low enough increment to register the cube weight, or to know more than that the stove is between 0.25 and 0.5 oz (7 and 14 g). All I can tell is that the combined weight of the stove and tinder (still in its wrapper) is just over 0.5 oz (14 g).
|Weight||0.46 oz (13 g)||Under 0.5 oz (14 g)|
|Collapsed length||3.1 in (7.9 cm)||2.8 in (7.1 cm)|
|Collapsed width||1.3 in (3.3 cm)||1.2 in (3.0 cm)|
|Collapsed height||1.8 in (4.6 cm)||1.9 in (11.7 cm)|
|Open radius||N/A||2.4 in (6.1 cm)|
|Open height||N/A||2 in (5.1 cm)|
|WetFire cube weight||0.2 oz (5.7 g)||Very little!|
The Ultimate Survival WetFire Stove is touted as an ultralight, all-purpose stove that weighs under half an ounce. It is designed to work with a WetFire tinder cube in any weather conditions. It is basically made up of a small tray that the cube sits into, and three rotating legs that keep the tray off the ground and hold a cup or pan over the flame. It is entirely made of titanium.
The stove comes in a fairly thick plastic, sealing envelope that it is designed to be kept in. As well as the stove and a piece of the tinder cube there is a piece of card that explains how to use the stove. It seems fairly self-explanatory; open the legs of the stove, place it on a level surface, put the tinder in it, light the tinder, put a pan or cup on top. It also says that it takes 5 to 6 minutes to boil a cup of water, although this may be longer in wet or windy conditions and it may need a windscreen. The card also emphasizes that the area must be cleared of anything that is not to be burnt, and all three legs must be on the ground.
This is the lightest stove I have ever come across. It is also tiny. The titanium is thin, and my first thought was that it would be easy to bend the legs. However, as it is stored with the three legs against each other that should create some extra strength. The idea of this stove is so simple, basically it is a tray to hold a tinder cube. Therefore it is the tinder cube that will make or break the stove. The stove comes with one cube, but extras are sold in packs of 8. This means that how much I can cook with it will be totally dependent on how many cubes I bring with me, and if any of them will not light.
The cube of tinder dictates how much and how well I will be able to cook. The legs rotate for transport and storage.
The stove is stored with the legs all rotated together in a reusable plastic pouch that also fits the tinder. Although the plastic is fairly thick, it seems like the stove legs could puncture it. To use the stove, the legs are rotated so that they are spaced evenly around the tray. The three legs and the tray are all held together by a pin through the center of the tray and the end of each leg. This means that all parts can rotate separately. At the moment the bottom leg is stiff but the other two legs and the tray rotate easily. The tray sits close to the ground, only 0.4 in (1.0 cm) above it, but on a slight slant because of the different positions of the legs. The sides of the tray are 0.25 in (0.6 cm) high, so the tinder cube comes above the top of the sides of the tray. This could potentially create problems with sparks or flame escaping, and with the flame blowing out. We shall see!
The stove sits very close to the ground.
So far this seems like a really incredibly light, small and simple stove. I will be using it a lot over the next few months, but my initial thought is that it seems slightly flimsy, and I would not trust it as my only source for cooking. With its tiny size and weight it is no problem to pack it and another stove though, and it seems like it would be a great addition to a first aid/survival kit. I am definitely interested to see how well it cooks in different weather conditions, how long it takes to cook water and how much water it can cook. Check back in two months for the field report to find out!
November 10, 2009
I used the stove on a 3-day kayak camping trip in northern Florida, where temperatures were between 55 and 95 F (13 and 35 C). I also used it on an overnight hike to climb Half Dome in California, where temperatures varied between 35 and 85 F (2 and 30 C). We hiked 13 miles (21 km) with 5000 ft (1500 m) elevation change. It sat in my pack after Half Dome as I traveled to England, Italy, New Zealand and Oregon, but I only did day hikes in those places. I then used it on a 3-day camping trip in eastern Florida, with similar conditions to northern Florida.
This stove is far sturdier than I thought it would be. It sat in my fully stuffed pack on a number of flights and is not showing any dents or bends. It also seems nice and sturdy on the ground and so far I have found that with a wide range of pots/saucepans it does not show any sign of falling over.
The stove can hold a wide range of pots and does not seem in any danger of falling over.
It is really easy to light. So far I have not tried to light it in the rain, but with a single match held over the tinder cube in any other conditions, it catches immediately. This makes a nice change from my wood burning stove! I have not used a windshield, and even in strong wind a pair of hands blocking the wind was enough to get it lit. We then put rocks around the stove to stop the flame blowing sideways and it worked fine, with no danger of the flame going out.
It does suffer from the same problem as my wood-burning stove - blackening pots and pans. They get so dirty, and it actually seems to be harder to clean them than with the soot from a wood flame. This is a major downside as it means that everything gets black and dirty that comes into contact with the pan, including me. The tops of the legs of the stove and the base of the tray are also permanently black now. My friends complain of an unnatural smell associated with the tinder too, but I have not noticed it.
Pans get very black from this stove, as does anything else that comes into contact with them. The tinder cube is almost finished here, with only a few more seconds of flame left.
Although the tinder cubes light easily, they do not last all that long. I have found that one cube will get a cup of water to the point where bubbles are breaking the surface, but not to a rolling boil. More water than that it is nowhere near boiling. I also tried to pan fry 2 eggs on the stove (as propane stoves are just too hot and burn them). After 2 cubes they were pretty much there (using the cubes sequentially not together), but we did finish it off with a propane stove. The flame gets progressively smaller as the cube runs out, and after the cube has gone out there is generally still a small black cube of burnt tinder left in the tray that has to be dumped.
I have ended up taking this stove on trips and using it to make hot chocolate, or to heat water for a one-person dehydrated ration pack, but it is not up to anything more than that. As it is so light though it is no penance to carry it (even climbing Half Dome, which for a Florida resident is some elevation change!) and it makes a good addition to a safety kit so that in a pinch there is always a source of hot water.
2 tinder cubes were almost enough to fry 2 eggs. There is always some tinder cube left in the pan afterward.
January 12, 2010
I used the WetFire stove on one more backpacking trip in Withlacoochee State Forest, central Florida. We covered 18 miles (29 km) in 2 days with elevation changes of around 80 ft (25 m). The temperature varied between 55 and 80 F (13 and 27 C) with no rain. I also took the stove on a number of overnight kayaking trips and four day-hikes, in eastern and western central Florida. We covered between 5 and 10 miles (8 and 16 km) on each hike with negligible elevation change. Weather was similar to in Withlacoochee except for the final hike where the temperature was a chilling 26 to 44 F (-3 to 7 C) with really bright sunshine.
The last 2 months I have only used this stove on one trip. Although I carried it on many more, I was always with other people and it is just not powerful enough to do anything more than boil a cup of water. Even then, I discovered that it took 2 of the cubes to get the water to boiling point. Because it is so light I like to carry it with me though, as one cube can heat the water enough to make a difference if my stove ever dies. If I am going for one night somewhere where weight is really an issue I would use it too, but for anything more than that it will remain a backup.
On the overnight hike I used it on I found the same things as before - it lights really easily, makes the pan really black, and can only get a cup of water to boiling point. One cube does last around 5 minutes, but the heat output is not enough in that time to get more than some bubbles in the water. For a rolling boil or with anything more than one cup (say for a ration pack) it takes 2 cubes, either together or sequentially. I never tried to use the stove in the rain, but I always found it extremely easy to light with just a match. A definite improvement over my wood-burning stove! Even when it was windy it lit fine and stayed lit. It is well-enough designed that I wasn't worried about setting fire to anything around the stove or it falling over, and in fact I cooked sitting in my hammock, a very luxurious-feeling setup that I would not try with some other stoves!
The stove is stable enough and the flame well enough contained that I felt safe using it while sitting in my hammock in an area with lots of dry leaves.
The WetFire stove is an extremely light-weight but sturdy stove that folds up extremely small. The tinder cubes that go in it light very easily, but coat pans in a black soot. The power output is just enough to get one cup of water to boiling point with one cube, meaning that this is better as an emergency backup stove, or when cooking for one where pack weight is the most important issue. I will continue to carry this stove with me on future trips just in case (especially as it is so easy to light whatever the weather), but will revert to my old stove for normal usage.
Fits a range of pans
Stays lit well
Flame fairly compact so don't have to worry about lighting ground/things nearby
Low power output
One cube takes 5 minutes to get one cup of water to boiling point
Coats pan in black soot
Smells unnatural (say my friends, I have a poor sense of smell)
This concludes my report. Many thanks to Ultimate Survival Technologies and to BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Ultimate Survival WetFire Stove.
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