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Solo Stove Review and Comparison

Solo Stove Review

Solo stoves are stainless steel, smokeless fire pits and camp stoves designed for home and camping use. If you’ve ever been frustrated having to move your chair all around the firepit to avoid the smoke (and not being able to escape it!), these are the fire pits for you.

Left to Right: Lite, Campfire, Bonfire

I was very hesitant about my first solo stove purchase. I got sucked in with the slow-mo flame videos on their website (it’s mesmerizing, check them out), but it took me weeks to actually decide to buy it. I now own three different styles of them and use them in the backyard, car camping, and backpacking. They really are absolutely every bit as great as they look on the website.

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How the Solo Stove works

The double walled design promotes airflow through the bottom holes and out the top and results in a beautiful, efficient burn. Solo explains the design:

Airflow: Rising hot air, and the absence of oxygen created by the combustion process, pulls air through the bottom vent holes. This air movement fuels the fire at its base while also providing a boost of preheated air through the vent holes at the top of the burn chamber.

Secondary burn: Vent holes near the top of the burn chamber allow preheated oxygen to fuel the flame resulting in a more complete combustion and a hotter fire with less smoke.

~ Solo Stoves

Solo recommends burning hardwoods (birch, maple, hickory, and oak) because they will burn longer and will not create smoke. The Smokeless claim to fame is only true if you burn hardwoods.

We will be burning beetle-kill spruce from our property until maybe the end of time, so ours is not totally smokeless with the softwood spruce, but it’s still much less smoke than a traditional fire pit and we’ve been very pleased with it.

Solo Stove Size Comparison and Different Models

Solo makes 6 stove models, including 3 Camp Stoves and 3 Fire Pits. This review focuses on the 3 models we own, 2 Camp Stoves (Lite and Campfire), and 1 Fire Pit (Bonfire).

They have sales all the time. Current sale prices are in parenthesis, these are prices you can typically expect to pay and can get even deeper discounts during major sales.

Solo stove comparison
The three models detailed in this post, the two camp stoves are shown inside their stainless steel nesting pots, and the Bonfire inside the weatherproof Shelter

All styles of fire pit have upper rings which can be turned upside down to store them flat, and flipped up when you have a fire. This ring helps with airflow on the fire pits, and gives you a good place to rest pots and pans on the camp stoves.

I don’t recommend trying to keep three fires going at once (why would you?) but we really wanted to test them all out side by side, and it was doable! I did feel like a squirrel preparing for winter as I scurried off to keep feeding the smaller two though.

Fires left to right: Lite, Campfire, Bonfire

NOTE for the Camp Stove Models: There are some locations where you shouldn’t burn downed biomass, always check with local regulations (state parks, national parks) whether this is OK to do in your area.

Solo Stove LITE Review

  • Weight: 9 oz
  • Height/Diameter: 5.7″ tall / 4.25″ diameter
  • Fuel: Sticks, Twigs, Pine Cones and Other Biomass
  • Cost: $89.99 ($64.99)

The Lite is the smallest Solo stove and the one that started it all. Designed for backpacking, it is tiny, and allows you to not carry any fuel in with you. You can use small twigs, pinecones, and lichen (fruticose lichen can be a great fire starter but unless it’s plentiful in your area try not to harvest much as it takes a long time to grow) to start a quick and efficient fire in the Lite.

You can also buy firestarters, or make your own at home (suggestions for DIY fire starters here and here)!

The design is especially useful if you’re taking a plane somewhere that you intend to backpack; Hawaii is a particularly difficult place to find fuel, and depending on your arrival time it can be a scramble to hit up a store before getting to your basecamp.

Starting the fire is very easy due to the optional air flow. Maintaining a fire can be trickier, you’ll need to enlist all your little campers to gather up tiny sticks for you. You’ll be amazed how many sticks you find! Try to take them from a large area to minimize your impact; leave some sticks where they are for the decomposers.

Before you light them, have at least a little pile ready to feed. Lite on left, Campfire on right.

Solo Stove CAMPFIRE Review

  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Height/Diameter: 9.25″ tall / 7″ diameter
  • Fuel: Sticks, Twigs, Pine Cones and Other Biomass
  • Cost: $149.99 ($104.99)

The Lite is great for backpacking, but if you are car camping you have space for the Campfire! It’s still easily portable

My 7 year old carrying the Campfire inside the Pot 4000 down to the lake to make breakfast

Some campgrounds require that you have a fire within the fire ring only (some National Parks, and during wildfire season in some areas). You can put the campfire inside the fire ring to adhere to those regulations and still enjoy a quick easy fire that you can put out whenever you want.

Using the Campfire in a Denali National Park fire pit

Solo Stove BONFIRE Review

  • Weight: 20 lbs
  • Height/Diameter: 14″ tall / 19.5″ diameter
  • Fuel: Logs up to 16″ long
  • Cost: $149.99 ($104.99)

If you’re looking for a backyard fire pit, the Bonfire is likely what you’ll want. It’s a great size for a family. I think it’s a great balance between giving out some heat, a very pleasing flame that 6 or so people can easily sit around, and yet doesn’t use up a ton of wood (like the Yukon).

Image from Solo perfectly captures the mesmerizing flames

The Bonfire is the bestselling size with good reason. It’s perfect for the yard, and is portable enough that if you have a large vehicle or RV you can bring it with you on adventures. It would be great for dispersed camping where there aren’t fire rings and you don’t want to impact the area.

The Bonfire is 20 pounds, so it’s definitely portable. It’s a little unwieldy, but I can carry it around the yard by myself without issues.

This wood will all be complete ash by the time it’s done burning, no half-burned logs!

When you’re first lighting your fire, arrange your logs however you like to get it going quickly, but solo recommends: To minimize smoke and optimize your flame, don’t fill the wood above the holes at the top of the fire pit. This definitely provides the best looking flames too, and then just toss a log in (seriously, just toss it in) once in a while after you have your hot coals.

The fire pit is extremely forgiving about when you put in new logs, and while it still contains consumables it is very hot and will easily ignite a new log. The Solo consumes all the wood you put in it completely, so when you’re ready to be done stop feeding, make sure it is cool, and then you’re free to move about the campground! You can just dump the ash into a fire ring if you’re car camping, it makes very little ash and is very easy to pick up and empty.

Other Solo Stove Models

There are three models we don’t own: the Titan (camp stove, between the size of the Lite and Campfire), the Ranger (smallest size fire pit, between the size of the Campfire camp stove and Bonfire fire pit), and Yukon (the biggest fire pit).

The Titan is a good backpacking option for larger groups or bigger meals. We mostly boil water when we’re car camping, and the Lite works great for dehydrated meals and hot drinks. If you’re wanting larger capacity, the Titan offers that, weighing in at 16.5oz (compared to the 9oz Lite).

The Ranger seems like it would be a great size for car camping, and for the backyard. I went with the Campfire for car camping because we usually have so much other stuff we’re bringing I wasn’t sure we’d have room for the Ranger, but I think if we had one I’d find room for it!

We don’t own a Yukon but we have friends who do and they are enormous. They eat wood at a far greater rate than the Bonfire does, but they also radiate heat better. The Yukon would be a great choice if you regularly have large gatherings, and have an ample supply of wood. If you have to buy your wood, definitely go with the Bonfire.

Cooking on a Solo Stove

Solo stoves are not meant for cooking directly over the flame like a fire pit grate (they do make the Solo Grill for doing this!), but you can definitely make it work for cooking all your meals and beverages. They can heat your food up if you hold or balance a grill grate over them, and will work for using a frypan (which you may also need to hold depending on the size stove you’re using).

Warming up pre-cooked sausage patties and biscuits for breakfast

Solo also makes a tripod that you can hang the pots from if you’re making a soup or stew

The Solo Tripod in use

Of course you can also put the pots directly on the fire whether you’re boiling water or cooking inside the pot. The sized pots for each model stove work excellent for this, but you could use any pot.

I rarely want to start up a campground fire ring anymore because I know it will be hours before it’s dead out, or I’ll have to pour water on it and leave half charred logs which I don’t like doing.

The Solo consumes all the wood you put in it completely, and relatively quickly, so when you’re ready to be done stop feeding and then you’re free to move about the campground!

Solo Stove Accessories and Cookware

Fire starters, wind screens, alcohol burners, roasting sticks, tripods, and nesting pots are all available to go with your Solo stove. Gear kits are also available, but I bought just the Stove and Pots separately as I had most of the other components already and didn’t think a windscreen would be necessary (and I haven’t wished I had one).

Fire Pit Accessories

I highly recommend the FirePit Stand and Shelter for the Ranger, Bonfire, and Yukon fire pits. Neither come cheap, but they make the fire pit use a lot easier. With the fire pit stand, your fire pit can go on your deck or on your lawn… well, anywhere! With no worries about damaging your grass or wood. I really believe it should be standard on these stoves, but it’s well worth the extra money.

The Shelter is a waterproof cover so once your fire pit has cooled off, you don’t need to worry about carrying it away at the end of the night. These fire pits are stainless steel and very high quality, but you will eventually get some rust in them. Investing in the shelter will help keep them in good shape as long as possible.

Camp Stove Nesting Pots

I have a titanium pot that I love, and that has accompanied my backcountry adventures for decades. But I couldn’t resist the stainless steel nesting pots for the Lite (the Pot 900) and for the Campfire (the Pot 4000), and they are so nice to have! The Pot 900 holds, you guessed it, 900 mL of water, and weighs 7.8 oz. The Pot 4000 holds 4,000 mL of water and weighs 1 lb 13 oz.

Left to Right: Lite with Pot 900, Campfire with Pot 4000, Bonfire.

The stove and pot each come with their own carry sack, and that helps keep everything tidy and clean.

Lite nested within Pot 900, without their stuff sacks.

Both camp stoves in their stuff sacks and nesting pots:

Left: standard size camp mug, Lite stove nested inside Pot 900, Campfire stove nested inside Pot 4000.

Roasting Sticks

These are a splurge but they are excellent. Very sturdy, great for hot dogs and marshmallows. I even use two of them to transport a foil pan off the campfire. They also have blunt tips so you don’t have to worry about any puncture injuries if someone gets poked.

Pure excitement over some perfect sunrise-roasted marshmallows

The sticks are very sturdy while in use, but unscrew in the middle to fit in a carrying case for easy transport.

Corporate / Collegiate Branding

Solo stoves will also put your company logo on them for a great corporate gift, and there are a few (3) college logos to choose from also.

Downsides to Solo Stoves

Solo Stoves eat wood quickly, and if you don’t have access to a good supply of wood that could be a problem.

Solo stoves also concentrate most of the heat UP rather than OUT. This means that you need to sit closer to enjoy the heat from it. This could be a plus for warmer weather fire pits, but if you’re looking for a lot of heat output you’ll need to get close.

Warming up with a little heat from the Campfire

For the Camp Stove models, it’s not quite as easy as turning on your Pocket Rocket and having water boiling in an instant, you do have to gather biomass and start the fire, then continually gather more biomass to keep it going. With willing gatherers, this just adds to the fun. But it can be a drag if you’re just wanting to relax, or if you like to wake up and caffeinate RIGHT AWAY.

Conclusion/Summary

Solo Stoves are smokeless wood burning machines. The design is efficient and beautiful, and easy to start a fire in. You’ll probably find yourself having fires more often, and kids will love gathering biomass to fuel them.

Related Articles:

Solo Stove Review and Comparison

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