In our search for all things biomass we’ve come across a few clever innovations. Recently we discovered a portable woodgas camp stove that uses biomass (sticks & shrubs) as fuel, the tagline being “carry the stove, not the fuel”. We thought this was a great concept so we reached out the company that produces it and requested a sample. The owner was happy to provide us with two models including a small portable version (weighing just under 2lbs) and a larger stove along with battery packs and a solar adapter.
The wood gas stove functions much the same way that a blast furnace would. That being, fuel is supplied in the top of a metallic bucket with air being pumped up through holes in the sides and bottom. There is a tiny fan that pushes air through the base of the stove and it features two speed settings to control heat level. The air is the real key because it allows the fire to grow much hotter and burn more consistently than an open air log fire.
These portable woodgas stoves includes a metallic handle for lifting and moving the stove because it can get quite hot. The solar adapter usually comes separately and is designed to replace the AA battery pack which means you could hypothetically retreat into the wilderness for years and still cook with this stove… as long as you kept the panels clean. The benefits of this approach to outdoor cooking, verses a standard campfire or gas stove, are clear. The woodgas-stove burns much hotter, is more consistent, easy to control, and takes up less space. In many ways the stove could function even without the fan option but the blast furnace design definitely makes it easier to start, stop and control temperature. It is our opinion that this product would also reduce the likelihood of a forest fire because of the way it restricts and focuses the flame.
The woodgas-stove is one of the most useful and functional biomass products we’ve seen in a long time but it’s important to compare standard more traditional options to really determine that value. To do this we pulled out our old MSR Whisperlite Shaker Camp Stove which retails for $69.95 at most sporting goods and adventure stores like REI.
This stove is considered the standard in camping gear by many outdoorsmen and women and has been around for over 15 years. It uses a white gas fuel and can last several hours depending on fuel tank size. There are several bottle sizes to choose from and the complete weight of the unit with bottle and fuel range from 1.375lbs to 2.75lbs.
When comparing the size and space required to bring the Whisperlite vs. the woodgas-stove we determined that it’s almost a tie. When comparing the largest fuel tank for the Whisperlite vs. the smaller sized option Woodgas-Stove the Whisperlite is both heavier and takes more space in a pack. On the other hand, when comparing the smallest Whisperlite fuel tank, the Whisperlite would be both lighter and smaller but definitely would not last as long and ultimately would still cost more (for both fuel and unit cost). In many ways it seems like the Woodgas-Stove is a clear winner here; it’s the cheapest option by far, retailing at $52.50 with no refill costs, but for people in very wet or snow covered locations without access to twigs and pine cones it might be a challenge to get started. The woodgas stove also gets a bit dirty after use since it is burning wood products; black soot accumulates at the bottom and edges. The unit does include a handy drawstring bag so the mess doesn’t really present a problem, but to be fair it is a drawback. We also found that using a bit of “fire paste” or other lighter fluid product helped speed up the fire starting process when using damp biomass fuel and this would add to the cost and weight discussed earlier.
In conclusion, if you are into sustainability and cleantech and are on the market for a portable backpacking style campstove, we highly recommend the WoodGas-Stove. This thing isn’t designed for base camp at Everest but it will impress your friends (especially with the solar option), save money, natural resources, and time (not having to refill a gas tank). Check out the different sizes and options at the Woodgas-Stove online store and share your thoughts and feedback below.