SOTO STORM BREAKER STOVE
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
September 06, 2019
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
126 lb (57.20 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a co-ed scout group which made a 10-day canoe voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since college in Pennsylvania. I have hiked 1/4 of the Appalachian Trail and 2/3 of the Pacific Crest Trail. My typical trip is in the Sierra Nevada from a few days to a few weeks long. My base weight is lightweight at 15 lb (6.8 kg) while still using a tent, stove and quilt. Longer mileage summer trips are now stoveless.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: SOTO USA, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.sotooutdoors.com
MSRP: $179.95 US
Accessory Fuel Bottle (480 ml/ 16.2 oz): $18.95 US
Body only: 7.9 oz (225 g)
Gas valve: 1.9 oz (53 g)
Pump 6.0 oz (170 g)
Total Weight: 15.8 oz (448 g) total weight
Stove only: 8.0 oz (227 g)
Canister connection: 1.9 oz (54 g)
White gas pump assembly: 6.0 oz (170 g)
Total Weight (of stove, gas valve and pump: 15.9 oz (451 g)
Storage bag: 1.0 oz (28 g)
Maintenance Kit: 1.0 oz (28 g)
Heat reflector: 0.4 oz (11 g)
Fuel bottle with lid: 6.8 oz (193 g)
Total Weight of all: 25.1 oz (712 g)
Stove in use: 6.0 x 5.2 x 3.5 in (150 x 130 x 90 mm)
Stove stowed: 2.6 x 2.6 x 3.5 in (65 x 65 x 90 mm)
Pot Support Outside Diameter: 6.8 in (170 mm)
Confirmed as accurate
Made in Japan
The SOTO StormBreaker stove is a combination set-up that allows one stove to be used with either white gas or a fuel canister without priming in either configuration.
The stove itself is a robust size stove which has three pot supports that fold for a more compact stowing size. The pot supports have grooves in them to provide a slip-resistant surface for the pot. In the stowed condition, the pot supports protect the generator portion of the stove which is a tube running across the burner.
The connection at the tip of the fuel line has a cap which keeps the tip protected when not in use. The cap is tethered to the fuel hose for convenience and to keep from losing it. The stove fuel line attachment has a universal fit with either the white gas pump or the fuel canister valve assembly.
In order to work well even in windy weather, the stove has a concave burner head which is recessed below the outer edge. The burner also has over 300 individual openings to resist strong wind conditions. The stove allows a pot to sit close to the burner for maximum efficiency. All of this is to reduce the amount of time to boil while also minimizing the amount of fuel used.
The fuel consumption is claimed to be (250 g/ 8.8 oz) in 48 minutes for fuel canisters and (480 g/ 16.9 oz) in 96 minutes for white gas. Usage time is claimed to be approximately 0.8 hours for one 250 g / 8.8 oz canister or approximately 1.6 hours for 480 g / 16.9 oz of white gas.
|Canister and valve|
|White gas and pump|
The canister valve assembly is the valve which is threaded to the top of a fuel canister. The attachment for the stove is a quick-connect style with a knurled ring that is pushed back to insert the stove fuel hose and released to lock it in place. I'm not sure why this attachment doesn't have a protective cap like the other fuel openings. The canister valve has one black fixed leg and two stabilizer arms that swivel out to keep the canister stable when inverted. The flame adjustment control is a large wire loop which is easy to grasp and turn. With the stabilizer arms and flame adjustment control knob folded down, it all stows into a compact package.
White Gas Pump:
The pump threads onto the top of a fuel bottle partially filled with white gas. There is a wire support built-in to allow the canister to sit in the correct orientation (on the ground) which keeps the control dial facing up at the top. The control dial has markings indicating 'Air', 'Stop', 'Start' and 'Run' positions. It also can be locked in any of the positions by pushing it downward. Hence, it needs to be unlocked by pulling it upward. The 'Air' position allows the air to be released from the fuel bottle in preparation for unscrewing the pump. The 'Start' position is used to get the initial ignition going and then the 'Run' position is used once the flame is stabilized for cooking. The 'Stop' position is the off setting.
There is an integral pump for pressurizing the white gas inside the fuel bottle. This action is done in the 'Stop' control dial position. There is a pressure indication that appears as a red mark when the optimal pressure has been built up inside the bottle. I didn't have any white gas on hand so I tried to pressurize the empty fuel bottle in order to get the red indicator to show but I wasn't able. According to the instructions, it should take 140 pumps with a half bottle or 70 strokes with a full bottle in order to achieve proper pressure. So, I'll try again once I buy some fuel.
Like on the stove fuel hose, there is a cap on the pump assembly that closes off the attachment opening. The cap is tethered to avoid being lost. This attachment is a knurled quick-connect similar to the canister valve opening.
As mentioned, the fuel bottle was included along with a threaded bottle cap. This is normally sold separately as an accessory. Included was also a storage sack with a small zippered pocket inside and a divider. The sack closes with a drawstring cord and cord lock. There was a heat-reflective aluminum disc that is to be used underneath the stove. This will help to reflect heat back and to keep from igniting anything beneath the stove. Lastly, a maintenance kit includes two hex wrenches, an O-ring, some silicone grease, a needle cleaner and a spare filter (for the end of the white gas fuel tube).
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
My initial impression was that the stove combo seemed much as described on the website. I was happy to see that it came with a 480 ml (16 oz) fuel bottle. This is a limited time offer for the first 1000 stoves sold. The bottle is actually 700 ml (24 oz) but should only be filled to 480 ml (15 oz) for use. I have a white gas fuel bottle but the SOTO has a larger diameter opening so I wouldn't be able to use it with this set-up. While the wide-mouth SOTO bottle will certainly make it easier to fill, it is a little disappointing that it isn't the same size as other bottles for interchangeability. I could still use my old one with a cap for spare fuel on long trips though.
My next impression was that the construction is heavy-duty and impeccable. Clearly a lot of attention was paid to designing and producing this stove combo. All of the components are very well-made and seem like precision machined and assembled devices. This appears to be produced as one high-end quality product, for sure. The stove is fairly heavy which is typical for a cold-weather stove set-up and because it is built quite substantially. The weight is similar to my other white gas and multi-fuel stoves. It appears that I could use the stove with a much larger cook pot than my typical 1000 ml (34 oz) backpacking pot.
I found it easy to attach either the white gas fuel bottle via the pump assembly or a fuel canister via the valve assembly to the stove. I was able to do all of this without reading the instructions. The entire stove combo is very intuitive. However, the entire system intrigued me so much that I wanted to learn more about the design and function. So, I read the entire instruction manual that was included in order to learn all that I could about the stove.
Since I didn't have any white gas on hand, I tried out the stove with a partial butane/propane canister that I had sitting around. This won't be the preferred fuel for cold weather, but it was a nice warm spring day with temperature around 70 F (27 C) and a light breeze. The valve threaded onto the canister easily. I then opened the flame control and lit the stove with a lighter. It immediately went to a stable blue flame so I waited 5 seconds and then inverted the canister. The stove continued to burn smoothly and strongly. Simple, so far.
It was a little unclear to me whether this stove REQUIRED the fuel canister to be inverted. The website says that I can 'even invert canisters for increased performance in cold weather'. So, I read that as if it would be optional. However, the instruction manual makes it clear that after lighting the stove with the canister upright that it should be inverted after 5 seconds. Otherwise, the generator portion of the stove could be adversely affected due to burning gas instead of liquid. I decided to reach out to SOTO to clarify this and contacted their info email and got a prompt and detailed response. They confirmed that the instructions are correct and that this stove really should not be used with the canister upright.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
As mentioned earlier there was a hard-copy instruction manual included with the StormBreaker. It is entirely in English and is one sheet of paper that folds open. One side of the sheet addresses the use of the stove with a canister along with how to care for and maintain the stove. The other side of the sheet addresses the use of the stove with the white gas fuel bottle. There are also lots of cautions and warnings in appropriate locations. Lastly is the service and warranty information. There is a one-year non-transferable warranty. Overall, the instructions are quite extensive. I found them to be very clear and useful for better understanding of how the stove works and how to operate it safely.
The SOTO StormBreaker Stove is a complete set-up for using the stove with either white gas or fuel canisters particularly in colder weather conditions.
Can be used with canisters and white gas
No priming needed
Comes with accessories: storage sack, heat reflector and maintenance kit
Heavier weight and bulk especially for summer
Non-standard fuel bottle diameter opening
No protective cap on canister valve fuel opening
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During this test period I used the stove on an eight-day backpacking trip, an overnight backpacking trip and for six weeks of use on my deck during a kitchen remodel.
Sierra Nevada Foothills, California: overnight; 1,200 to 1,900 ft (366 to 579 m) elevation; 58 to 82 F (14 to 28 C) with partly cloudy conditions
Pacific Crest Trail, Cascade Range, Northern California: 8 days; 112 mi (180 km); 2,065 to 6,128 ft (629 to 1,868 m) elevation; 45 to 93 F (7 to 34 C). Conditions ranged from clear and sunny to cloudy with moderate breezes.
Home test conditions ranged from 55 to 85 F (13 to 29 C) at 1,945 ft (593 m) elevation. Some light to moderate breezes were enough to move the flames significantly.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Given the time of year, temperatures have been warm so I haven't been able to test this beauty out in its preferred element of cold temperatures. I found that a fuel canister of butane/propane mix worked well in these warm summer temperatures, but I would plan to use an isobutane/propane mix in colder temperatures.
The weight of the stove set-up for summer backpacking is a bit much so I only used the canister configuration for that to save some weight. I did a little calculating of weights with the white gas versus the canister. Adding up the weight of a full canister (13.3 oz MSR 8 oz (227 g) canister), the stove, valve, heat reflector and storage bag, I came up with a total of 24.6 oz (697 g). The weight of white gas (16 oz (454 g)) and pump along with the bottle, stove, valve heat reflector and storage bag totaled 38.2 oz (1083 g). So, from a weight perspective the canister set-up is advantageous. I expect that I would try it in the more moderate shoulder seasons and switch to the white gas set-up in full winter conditions when melting snow is needed.
Since we were completely gutting and rebuilding our kitchen (by ourselves), my husband set up a temporary kitchen on our deck. The SOTO came in SO handy! I started out using our camping two-burner propane stove which worked marginally well and then remembered that I had the new SOTO! I set it up and it worked beautifully. I still used the propane stove when I needed more burners, but the SOTO excelled.
First, I tried the isobutane canister which immediately goes to a blue flame, so I just wait the five seconds and flip the canister over. The stove on high is atomic and boils water in no time even with my full tea kettle. The flame is adjustable so I can also saute or simmer. The flame adjustment does take a few seconds to react and stabilize so it takes a little getting used to since it initially does not seem to respond to adjustments. The lowest flame setting is still fairly high. I was able to make French toast and saute vegetables, but the pan temperature was on the edge of being too hot.
I then tried the stove with the white gas by first filling it to the max line and pumping it until the little indicator pushed out enough to see the red line. It took around 70-80 pumps which is just what SOTO advertises. Then I turned the control dial to START and lit the stove. They suggest to wait 40 seconds until the orange flame stabilizes to blue. I didn't time it but it took 40 counts to go blue flame at which time I turned the dial to RUN. Pumping the bottle to maximum pressure was a little tiresome so I found myself only pumping until the stove would light. Then, I would pump while the stove was burning any time that I could hear the pressure becoming too low. This spaced out the pumping to a more manageable level for me.
The stove is a little loud due to the high energy! In fact, I had trouble knowing if my water was boiling in my kettle because I couldn't hear it over the sound of the stove. I had to wait until I could see the steam spewing out. Again, my water was boiling before I knew it. I definitely can't multi-task too far away or I'll waste fuel since the stove works so quickly. As with the canister fuel, the flame adjust takes a few seconds to react to any changes and the lowest setting is still fairly high. This stove can be used for simmering, but it really excels at the full boil! My photo shows a 6 qt (5.7 L) pot atop the SOTO which was no problem for the stove to support. Even a pot this large was fully balanced the entire time.
On the white gas pump, I like the 'AIR' setting for releasing air prior to unscrewing the pump from the fuel bottle. This is much better (and cleaner) than my old stove that inevitably sprays fuel on me when I unscrew the pump and the pressure releases. The lock on the control knob (simply pushing it down) was also useful. I found that it often locked without my intending to but that turned out to be a good thing. I knew when I tried to turn the dial and couldn't that it had become locked which wasn't an issue to simply pull up.
The full white gas bottle seemed to last forever. I kept using the propane camp stove for cooking too and went through about two propane canisters in the time it took me to use one white gas bottle. This is in no way a direct comparison since I wasn't cooking equal things for equal time, but the stove seemed to sip white gas.
Throughout the test there were days with some light to moderate breezes which moved the flamed around but I never used a windscreen and didn't have much issue with the wind affecting my cooking time.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Over the test period, I used the stove on four car camping trips.
Castle Crags Campground, Northern California: 2,053 ft (626 m) elevation; clear conditions; 55 to 93 F (13 to 34 C)
Colorado National Monument, Western Colorado: 5,771 ft (1,759 m) elevation; clear conditions; 59 to 85 F (15 to 29 C)
Royal Gorge Campground, Canon City, Colorado: 6,829 ft (2,081 m) elevation; cloudy to torrential thunderstorm conditions; 62 to 87 F (17 to 31 C)
French Broad River, Alexander, North Carolina: 2,195 ft (669 m) elevation; clear skies to morning fog; 65 to 90 F (18 to 32 C)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
At the start of this test period, we were still at home using the stove on the deck. I tried simmering on a much lower heat setting and found it to be possible. I was able to cook eggs with veggies on a very low heat with no problem. I found that the key was being patient after I turned the adjustment knob down. I had realized this before but saw that if I'd just wait a little longer, the flame would adjust. I was able to turn the flame down to the point where it sounded like the stove might turn off and stay just above for an incredibly low simmer.
We then hit the road for an extended road trip for the rest of the testing period. I used the stove with canister fuel due to the ease of use and availability at big box stores on the way. I have to admit that it took some time for me to remember to turn the canister back to upright for five seconds before turning it off. I seemed to just naturally turn the stove off when I was done and then realize that I had forgotten this step. I haven't seen any harmful effects display themselves.
While the SOTO is too heavy to be practical for summer backpacking, the stove has been great for car camping. I can use a large pot for boiling water or a large skillet for making eggs for breakfast or one-pot sautes for dinner. The stove is large enough to provide plenty of stability for large cookware. The only problem I had was with a large skillet which has a heavy handle. I had to make sure that the handle was aligned with one of the three stove supports. If I had the handle directly between the supports, the skillet would tip over.
The stove has been completely reliable and easy-to-use. I love being able to use it with both canister and liquid fuels. I used the heat reflector when I had the stove on any dirt, wood (picnic table) or bamboo (portable table) surface to protect the table or to keep the stove from catching any leaves or sticks on fire.
The flame did fine in moderate wind conditions. I was concerned at times that it was too windy to get my water to boil, but the stove always came through in much shorter time than what I anticipated. In general, the boil times were incredibly fast. I usually was off on other tasks and then realized that my water was boiling over.
I am looking forward to using the SOTO for winter backpacking and snow camping.
The SOTO StormBreaker is a robust multi-fuel stove that is designed for use in cooler temperatures but has been working fine in warm temperatures also.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.
Pump AIR setting
VERY FAST boil
Good in moderate wind
Heat reflector also protects table surface
Not as great:
Heavy set-up for warm weather backpacking
Lots of pumping for white gas pressure
This concludes my Long-Term report and this test series. Thanks to SOTO Outdoors and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.
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Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith