Solo Stove Lite Review After 10+ Years of Use

Solo Stove

10 years ago, I bought a Solo Stove Lite for my backpacking kit. I’m glad I have it. It was a great purchase.

But I think the reviews, the hype, and the influencers did the Solo Stove a little bit of a disservice in how it’s framed. So here are my pros and cons from using it for the past 10 years as part of my cooking kit.

Pro: Lightweight & Versatile

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First, it is lightweight. It is versatile. I’m surprised at how well it is manufactured and how well it’s designed. Compared to many of the knockoffs, you can tell that the Solo Stove is the brand name.

You can tell between the minimalist design and the small choices like how they drill the holes, the weight, and the thickness of the aluminum. It’s all very well done, very well made.

Pro: Works As Advertised*

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Second, it does work. It works. I can boil a cup of water from start to finish in between 15 to 20 minutes. It gets hot, and I actually use it on backpacking trips. I’ve used it as a complete substitute for my isobutane stoves. Unless I’m going with my kids, I don’t need to bring isobutane or any fossil fuel in the wilderness. I can power it off tiny little twigs. If you have a source of any wood, the Solo Stove works.

Pro: Perfect For Forested Trips

Third, it is perfect for the Appalachians and the entire Eastern Woodlands. The Solo Stove needs wood, but it needs a diverse selection of wood. I do all of my backpacking in the eastern woodlands, where I have lots of species to choose from, and lots of ages to choose from.

There are plenty of environments where I don’t know if the Solo Stove would work well. I would not take it to the tundra, a sensitive desert environment, or any sensitive area without a ton of trees…or in an area where there is just a lot of moisture.

Even in areas like the Ellicott Rock Wilderness or the drainages in the Smoky Mountains where it is incredibly damp, operating the Stove can be a little tricky, but again, in most of the Appalachians and the eastern woodlands, it’s all good.

Pro: Wilderness & Budget Friendly

The Stove is very wilderness-friendly. You don’t need an established fire ring to have a fire. You don’t have to establish another burn area to have a fire.

The Stove will sit safely on its own off the ground. You are not using any fossil fuels with nasty smells and pollutants.

You are burning carbon, but you are not burning off the extra pollutants that come with fossil fuels.

You don’t have that smell that hits you from the way isobutane stoves do in the wilderness. You can have a much cleaner wilderness experience.

I think there is something interesting about using the fuel at hand and not having to pack in that extra bit of weight. You also aren’t spending money buying isobutane or having to create a bunch of un-recyclable trash.

Pro: Creates A Perfect Backup Pairing w/ Alcohol Stove

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The last big pro, and the biggest one, is that it pairs perfectly with small alcohol stoves.

Solo Stove makes a small alcohol stove that works well but fits into the Solo Stove canister. If you don’t have time or you are in a very damp, humid area and you just don’t want to fiddle with fuel, having the alcohol stove in the Solo Stove allows it to have a really good windscreen.

It allows you to have a really good, stable cooking space. It gives you a good backup to the Solo Stove. I love how they have been able to do that design together. With isobutane stoves, I’ve always been paranoid about a backup heat source, especially when packing food that must be cooked or boiled. With the Solo Stove + Alcohol Stove, I have a perfect backup system.

Con: Requires Serious Practice

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For the cons, first, it requires serious practice.

On the Solo Stove website, they say –

Start up isn’t just fast, it’s easy. Exceptional airflow does the heavy lifting so even a novice can boil water in less than 10 minutes.

Solo Stove

That is seriously wrong and honestly sets Solo Stove up for a bit of failure and frustration. I wish they’d just say it’s a bit tricky at first, but worth it.

In all the promotional videos done by influencers, I love how they set the Stove out, begin to light the Stove, and then make a jump cut.

They do that jump cut from where they are lighting the match to where the Stove is fully burning. Getting the Solo Stove to burn right from the moment you start the match until it is actually burning requires feel and practice.

You don’t have a lot of space to work with. You can’t just dump leaves on it. You have to be very smart and deliberate about choosing your fuel. I have been able to get there.

My hack uses a cotton ball swabbed in petroleum jelly wrapped in a couple of leaves. Once you use those leaves, you can use the tiniest of tiny feather sticks that you have feathered with your pocket knife.

You can build from there. But again, the Solo Stove is not easy. You cannot take it out of the box and start a roaring fire. It requires practice.

That wouldn’t be a con or downside except that that is what Solo Stove pushes in their manuals and in their ads, and all their other reviews. It is a struggle, but it is a struggle that I think is worth it.

Con: Not All Wood Is The Same

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Know your fuels – from Bushcraft by Dave Canterbury

Second, you need to know your fuel. If you don’t know your fuels, you will either have a failed fire or a nasty sooty fire in your Solo Stove.

My rule is that softwoods like pine or hemlock are great for starting it. But they do not burn hot, so boiling will take longer. Also…softwoods put off soot, so your Stove is going to be nasty

Use softwoods to get it started and then switch to hardwoods as soon as you can to actually boil your water. White Oak and Red Oak are ideal, but Hickory also works well.

And again, this is why it is so great to use in the Southern Appalachians because the Southern Appalachians have a lot of choices for fuels. And the more you know your tree species, the better you can do with your Solo Stove.

Con: You Still Need a Starter

Solo Stove Lite

The third con is that you do need a strong starter. You can use leaves and twigs, but they need to be crazy dry and crazy small. And even then, because you are working in such a small space, it is just hard to do.

And so, my hack is to bring a cotton ball swabbed in petroleum jelly, which even just a half a cotton ball gives you plenty of time to get a some pine needles, a piece of a pine cone, or little piece of pine fatwood going.

Con: Can Be Dirty, Sooty & Ashy

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Gotta use creek sand to remove pine soot

The fourth con, the Solo Stove, is generally clean burning, but again, if you are using softwoods or bad wood, it can be very sooty and very ashy. The soot is actually really kind of crazy, and I have had to do quite a bit of experimentation to figure out how to boil water without coating my cookware in creosote, tar, and soot. It is pretty tricky and again goes back to the serious practice part and knowing your fuel part.

Con: Does Not Work for Groups

And then the last con is that it is truly a Solo Stove. I do a lot of backpacking with my kids, and even though the Solo Stove can boil 24 or 36 ounces of water to cook for everyone, that would take a lot of time and it would take a lot of attention.

One of the great things about isobutane jet boil is that you turn it on, you can let your water boil, you really don’t have to think about it.

The Solo Stove, while it is boiling water, always requires at least a little bit of attention. You can’t just go off and leave it for 5-10 minutes without coming back.


Overall, if you are handling your meals and want to save some money and get away from fossil fuels when backpacking, the Solo Stove is worth it.

It is also a great way to get good at making fire and getting really good at identifying tree species. Those have been excellent side benefits for me.

But I would also recommend buying the alcohol stove insert. It is a really good complement and allows you maximum flexibility without carrying a ton of weight.

The Solo Stove is great for when alcohol stoves are finicky, and the alcohol stove is great for when the Solo Stove is finicky. You can rest easy that no matter what, you will always be able to have a fire in the backcountry when you are bringing both of them in.

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