Wood-Gas Camp Stove: The Experience

Reviewing the WoodGas Camp Stove became a traveler’s tale. First, Willy did a post on the stove–then came the idea that we should do a review. Oh, the stories the stove could tell if it could talk. The saga started with Justin who took it camping with him. Because it rained the whole time he camped, he didn’t fire it up and sent it to me, who was also eager to review it. The package from Justin arrived in the mail the day my husband, kids and I were heading off to the New York State where I planned to fire it up. I put it (still packed in the box Justin sent it in) right in the trunk of our car. First stop: New York City-not exactly the place to light up a camp stove, although, come to think of it, if someone lived there with an access to a balcony or a roof, this stove would work. I’m not sure, though, what the NYC rules are for using an outdoor grill.

After two nights spent in Manhattan in my brother’s apartment, we headed to Sturbridge, Massachusetts with a plan to use the stove there. The friends we visited are avid campers. The husband is into wilderness camping and as his wife says, “is wild about camp stoves.” When I unpacked the WoodGas Camp Stove, he was impressed, particularly by the fan that blows air up into the stove to help regulate heat. “Neat,” he said. We tried the different fan settings, but since we were heading out to Six Flags New England that day, there wasn’t time to check it out by firing it up. He really did like the design though.

I loved the design too. The first thing I noticed when I took it out of its box was the carrying bag. I love carrying bags since I have a tendency to scatter things about. Whenever there is a bag that all the parts will fit in, I’m happy. I also liked that it’s lightweight, seems almost indestructible and uncomplicated. It is obvious that you plug the cord attached to the battery gizmo into the one of two holes–one hole is for low speed and one is for high. I didn’t need the directions to figure that out.

After leaving Massachusetts, we headed for outside of New Paltz, New York. My dad lives in the woods in the Shawangunk Mountains. It’s gorgeous there and a perfect place to light up a cook stove, but we were heading to a party for a Czech friend of his who has a weekend place on the road where my dad lives. This guy is a grilling fiend. I bought the cook stove over to show it off. There were several party guests, some originally from Italy, others from the Czech Republic and all are into grilled meats. My dad’s friend was actually grilling meat on his massive outdoor brick grill that he had built when we arrived. I showed the stove to several people–all were intrigued and impressed with the stove’s design but since everyone was drinking wine, myself included, no time to fire it up. [The photo on Flickr by Kristin Lou is very close to my dad’s house.]

Two days later, the cook stove was neatly packed back in our car for the trip back to Ohio. My husband, though, bless his heart, aims to please. “Jamie, come on down,” he hollered up to me where I sat in my office up on the third floor getting a few Gadling posts done before my trip to Washington, D.C. later that day. There he was on the front porch with matches, the cook stove, bacon and eggs. I grabbed the camera. Our neighbor friend, who is in the process of figuring out how to fuel his house by using vegetable oil from a Chinese restaurant, came over for the demo.

Both of them were VERY impressed with the WoodGas Camp Stove. My husband, who was a rafting guide in Montana and Alaska, and also worked in Alaska in a fish camp, has much practice cooking outdoors. As soon as he put sticks that he collected from our yard into the stove, added the One Match goop and a match, he could tell how well the stove worked. There was a bit of an adjustment to get the flame just right by using the fan, but that had nothing to do with the stove. Just like when cooking with gas, you play around a bit to get the right temperature. In no time, the bacon was sizzling. I took all sorts of pictures, but alas, I left for Washington, D.C. that afternoon and did not download the pictures. I have no idea what happened to them. Poof!!

Then two days ago, when another neighbor was off having a baby, her son was to be in my care. My son wasn’t home, so I had a reluctant charge until I said, “Hey, you want to cook some bacon?” His face lit up and he was across the street at our house in a flash. I figured if I was going to review the stove, I really ought to use it myself. Here’s the thing about me. I NEVER COOK outside. I’m not all that fond of cooking to tell the truth, but I was interested to see what I could do with the Wood Gas Camp Stove on my own. The lit stove in the photo is my doing. Yeah! I did have the two helpers–3 counting my daughter who took on the role of prep cook.

Out came the stove, the One Match goop, the bacon, my camera and the fixins’ for BLTs. My son’s friend got busy gathering wood. Then my son came home. We had a blast. I love this stove. First of all, the fan feature works great. I had no idea how much wood to use, but quickly figured out when we needed to add more when the bacon’s sizzle grew a bit faint. Periodically, I picked the frying pan up to check the flame as well. I added wood about three times, but mind you, these would be considered kindling. No large logs were needed, and in minutes the flame was hot enough to start cooking.

The other thing I liked about the stove was that the outside of it doesn’t get very hot. I sat close to it to make sure the kids didn’t get all that close and I didn’t feel that much heat. At times, I did let the flame get too low which created some smoke, but again this is something you’d figure out how to avoid if you used the stove regularly.

One thing I had to be careful of since the frying pan was a bit large, was to balance the pan on the stove’s grill. The surface area of this stove is big enough, but not so big to leave a pan unattended. When I was done cooking the bacon, after taking out the grease, I toasted bread. It would have been easy to keep adding courses to the meal. All I needed to do was add more food before the flame totally died out. Once when there was only glowing coals, I put in more wood and plugged in the fan gizmo and the fire started back up again.

Another handy feature is how the handle used to pick up the stove can also double as tongs. I used the tongs frequently. If someone asked me if I would recommend this stove, I most definitely would say yes. It is simple to use, is sturdy, packs well, and makes a great pan of bacon which I think is pretty hard to cook on a conventional stove. You could easily cook all sorts of things with this.

The Wood Gas Cook Stove Web site also mentions using it at the beach. This would be perfect. The design would enable it to easily be adusted to a sandy terrain.

Finished product.

[An apology to vegetarians and those who don’t eat pork, but the bacon did the job to help me see how the stove worked. And if you like BLTs, they sure were yummy.)