Name: Ernest Engman (AKA SGT Rock)
Age: 35
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 155 pounds
Email address: sgtrock@hikinghq.net
City and State: Fort Polk, Louisiana
Date: 31 August 2002

This review is also on my site: www.hkinghq.net

Backpacking Background: I've been backpacking and hiking as long as I can remember. My first overnight backpacking trip was in the late 70's on the Appalachian Trail. Places I've hiked: 350 miles of the Appalachian Trail - sections in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Bankhead Forest, Alabama. Sipsey Forest, Alabama. Pinhoti Trail, Alabama. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. Desert of New Mexico and Texas north of El Paso. Kistatchie National Forest, Louisiana. Slick Rock/Joyce Kilmer Forest, North Carolina. Cradle of forestry in America, North Carolina. Standing Indian Trails, North Carolina. Many more. My current gear selection is in the lightweight realm with a summer base weight between 10-11 pounds and a winter base of 13.75 pounds.

Similar products used: Trangia Westwind, Roy Robbinson Cat Stove, Turbo V8 stove, Simmering Soda Can Stove.

Location: Tests were conducted in the Kistatchie National Forest and Fort Polk.

Description of location:

Kistatchie - west central Louisiana 90 meters above sea level in pine forests with some hardwoods mostly level and easy trails.


 

Braslite Stove - lightweight and tiny

Picture courtesy of Brasslite.com

Price: $55 (Micro), $60 (Solo)

Weight (manufacturer): 1.4oz (Solo) 1.2oz (Micro)

Weight (tested):

Solo = 3.7 (with Sta-Bil bottle, simmer ring, and windscreen per instructions)

Micro = 3.4 (with Sta-Bil bottle and windscreen per instructions) Brasslite Micro - even smaller!

Fuel type: Alcohol

Capacity:

Solo = 2.0 ounces (60 ml)

Micro = 1.0 ounce (30 ml)

URL: Brasslite

 The Design

The Test

The Evaluation

**16 November 2002 Note: Aaron has changed the line slightly. What was formally the Solo is now the Micro, what was formally the Duo is now the Solo, and a new stove called the Duo is being introduced. Look forward to an upcoming review update with the new Duo. Additionally, all stoves now come with a 16ouce Sta-Bil fuel bottle which has the measurement stuff built right in, no extra bottle to carry around**


Design:

The Brasslite stoves are pressurized alcohol stoves. There are some homemade versions of pressurized stoves out there you can build, but they are made from aluminum soda cans. These stoves have a loyal following, but a few long distance hikers have told me they didn't last for them past about 500 miles (although a few have reported longer lasting stoves). Besides that, they are more difficult to make than non-pressurized alcohol stoves because they require precise burner hole sizes, attention to detail using certain glues, and a lot more time invested in building one.

The Brasslite stoves solve all the problems inherent in building a soda can pressurized alcohol stove. First thing is you buy it - there isn't any learning curve in how to build it because that has been done for you. Aaron Rosenbloom (the inventor/builder) has instruction on his site and invites you to use them to make one yourself, but after reading what goes into one, you will most likely decide it's worth the $55. As a stove builder, I see this stove as a piece of functional art. The next problem Brasslite solves is that they are made of brass and steel - it solves the other problem which is durability. Unless you hit it with a heavy rock or use it to pound in tent pegs, this stove should last forever.

Let me discuss the details of the design of the Brasslite stoves.

Brasslite Solo

First thing is the stove has a main fuel chamber and priming cup made of brass. On top of the fuel chamber is the filler hole that uses a thumb screw as a filler cap that is simple to use and doesn't require you to tighten it for the stove to work - but it must be in place or the stove will not develop pressure to work correctly. Around the thumb screw are small holes that serve as burner jets. The priming cup is at the base and requires a small amount of alcohol to heat the inner fuel chamber and begin creating the pressure required of the stove.

Brasslite Solo with simmer ring in place

On top of this is a metal pot stand similar to the ones I use on the Turbo V8. the main difference is I use galvanized steel hardware cloth, the Brasslite has stainless steel mesh. It is very stable for pots up to 1.5 liters and has a small slot in it for inserting the simmer attachment. The simmer attachment is a small flat disk that closes off most of the burner holes while still allowing some to fire. With 12 ml of alcohol I could simmer for about 7-8 minutes.

The stove comes with the simmer attachment (except the Micro), a set of instructions, and a 1 ounce (30 ml) fuel bottle. To judge a better how much I wanted to use, I added measurement marks to the side of the bottle in 6 ml increments. These instructions include safety warnings, some notes about the stove, and instructions on building the windscreen and heat reflector from simple aluminum foil. While it is easy to make the windscreen, it ended up weighing as much as one made from an oven liner, but is slightly less durable. I would recommend making one from an oven liner to the size Aaron specifies in his instructions.

Filling the Brasslite Solo with the supplied filler bottle

When filling the stove, I found it a good idea to start with the priming cup first so I could get exactly the amount I want there, then add the rest to the fuel chamber. Some fuel will spill out on the top of the stove when you do this, but that is nothing to worry about. If you get too much fuel on the prime, it will start off like a jet, and if you get too little, it will go out before the stove lights all the way.

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The Test

Cooking on the Brasslite Solo

 

 

 

O.K. now for the numbers.

Weight: Solo = 1.3 ounce stove (with simmer ring), 0.5 ounces windscreen, 0.3 ounce filling bottle, 1 ounce for 20 ounce fuel bottle. Total = 3.1 ounces.

Micro = 1.1 ounce stove, 0.4 ounces windscreen, 0.3 ounce filling bottle, 1 ounce for 20 ounce fuel bottle. Total = 2.9 ounces.

Tests

Standards:

1.       2 cups of water at room temperature Ė 75 degrees.

2.       Pot used is a Snow Peak 720ml titanium pot with lid.

3.       Stove used the windscreen per instructions given with stove.

4.       Alcohol was tested in 6 ml increments, starting at 6 ml alcohol. Priming fuel came from the measured amount.

5.       Each amount was double checked using a scale. The weight of one fluid ounce of alcohol is .82 avoirdupois ounces.

6.       Each Test was repeated three times, the average was used.

7.       Starting time was when the stove was lit.

8.       Stoves were allowed to completely cool between tests.

9.       Barometric pressure here was 30.15, the boiling point was determined to be 212.43 degrees.

10.    Altitude is 90 meters above sea level.

11.   For temperature readings, a Thermocouple was used hooked to a digital multimeter.

12.   Air temperature was 75 degrees with the stove fan running to simulate a light wind.  

13.   Scale used was a Royal EX3.

Solo Performance:

Temperature 6 ml fuel (1 cap full) 12 ml fuel (2 caps full) 18 ml fuel (3 caps full) 24 ml fuel (4 caps full) 30 ml fuel (5 caps full)
150 degrees n/a 270 seconds 190 seconds 185 seconds 175 seconds
175 degrees n/a n/a 275 seconds 250 seconds 220 seconds
200 degrees n/a n/a 355 seconds 330 seconds 280 seconds
Max heat 134˚ 164.5˚ 212.5˚ 212.5˚ 212.5˚
Time to max heat 215 seconds 320 seconds 400 seconds 350 seconds 305 seconds
Time above 175 degrees n/a n/a 205 seconds 255 seconds 380 seconds
Burn out time 215 seconds 330 seconds 480 seconds 505 seconds 600 seconds
Avoirdupois ounces (weight) .16 ounces .32 ounces .49 ounces .65 ounces .83 ounce

Micro Performance:

Temperature 6 ml fuel (1 cap full) 12 ml fuel (2 caps full) 18 ml fuel (3 caps full) 24 ml fuel (4 caps full) 30 ml fuel (5 caps full)
150 degrees n/a 215 sec 210 sec 190 sec 180 sec
175 degrees n/a 285 sec 270 sec 240 sec 230 sec
200 degrees n/a n/a 310 sec 290 sec 280 sec
Max heat 138.5˚ 195˚ 212.5˚ 212.5˚ 212.5˚
Time to max heat 215 sec 345 sec 350 sec 330 sec 320 sec
Time above 175 degrees n/a 60 sec 85 sec 190 sec 280 sec
Burn out time 220 sec 345 sec 355 sec 430 sec 510 sec
Avoirdupois ounces (weight) .16 ounces .32 ounces .49 ounces .65 ounces .83 ounce

Some conclusions based on these tests.

1.  Normally I use non-pressurized alcohol stoves. These stoves rely on lots of air flow and the fuel achieving a boil to vaporize better. These stoves operate well with fuel levels below 18 ml because they rely on simple air + fuel = flame. Nothing fancy. They are easy to make and don't require much durability in the materials.

2. The Brasslite stoves are pressurized systems. The fuel heats up inside the chamber creating pressure and jets the fuel out like a pressurized gas stove. The more fuel, the greater the starting pressure; the less fuel, the worse the starting pressure. The pressure is a great way to enhance performance but requires sturdier material. There are some soda can models of alcohol stoves that do pressurize, but they do not last because the aluminum cannot survive the sustained heat and pressure they create.

3. Because a non-pressurized stove only needs fuel and air - a small amount of fuel (like 6 or 12 ml) can cook efficiently for heating water to minimum cooking temps (175 degrees) and actually achieves temperatures faster at lower fuel amounts because there is less pressure to counteract the fuel boiling at lower amounts.

4. Because a pressurized stove needs pressure, lower fuel amounts (12 ml and below) perform poorly because the fail to create pressure. Both pressurized and non-pressurized stoves seem to have a middle performance level where they equal out - 18 ml. Following up that thought, the Brasslite stoves perform exceptionally well at fuel amounts above 18 ml.

5. Selection between the two stove philosophies depends on some factors. If you want to go very weight economical and heat water to just 175 degrees, then maybe a homemade stove is what you want. But if you want to get a really hot boil going on, and maybe are using a pot and cooking meals that are bigger than 1 pint - then a Brasslite Solo would be a great choice. It's light, heats great, and works better the more fuel you add. To verify this I put a pot with 1 liter of water over the Solo using 36 ml of alcohol. It achieved true boil and kept going for quite a while.

The Micro at full speed6. The Brasslite Micro is designed to improve on the pressurized stove design for better fuel efficiency for solo hikers by reducing burn chamber size, thus increasing pressure at lower fuel amounts. Because it is smaller - it is a little lighter, but because it is smaller it is a lot more efficient at lower fuel amounts and can achieve the higher temperatures the non-pressurized stoves achieve at fuel levels of 6 and 12 ml.

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Using my time Hiking vs. Weight scenario here are the numbers:

Red = Worst performer

Yellow = #3 Performer

Blue = #2 performer

Green = Best performer

**Note. For purposes of this illustration I am considering my fuel bottle a 20 ounce soda bottle. The example demonstrates making two hot meals a day.

14 Day Hike Brasslite Solo Stove Weight: Trangia Westwind Brasslite Micro Stove Weight: MSR Pocket Rocket Weight:
Hiking Day 1.0 ounces fuel a day 0.8 ounces fuel a day (30 ml) 1.0 ounces fuel a day .6 ounces fuel a day
Day 1 17.2 19.1 16.9 15.9
Day 2 16.2 18.3 15.9 15.3
Day 3 15.2 17.5 14.9 14.7
Day 4 14.2 16.7 13.9 14.1
Day 5 13.2 15.9 12.9 13.5
Day 6 12.2 15.1 11.9 12.9
Day 7 11.2 14.3 10.9 12.3
Day 8 10.2 13.5 9.9 11.7
Day 9 9.2 12.7 8.9 11.1
Day 10 8.2 11.9 7.9 10.5
Day 11 7.2 11.1 6.9 9.9
Day 12 6.2 10.3 5.9 9.3
Day 13 5.2 9.5 4.9 8.7
Day 14 (fuel for one meal left) 4.2 8.7 3.9 8.1
Base (out of fuel) 3.7 8.3 3.4 7.9
Total Weight over 14 days 149.8 194.9 144.6 158.0

The Micro and the Solo are both lighter over time than a MSR Pocket Rocket over the same period. And if you set a re-supply system that is even shorter than 14 days, you can achieve very, very low overall weight over time. The main choice in deciding is whether you plan to go solo or as a pair. If you go solo and want fancy meals or as a pair with minimum requirements, then the Solo is the right choice. If you're solo and want the lowest possible weight and only need simple boil and cook, use the Micro.

Comparing both the Solo and Micro to the other manufactured alcohol stove out there (the Trangia) they beat it hands down in weight over time.

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Trail Test

The real test is using the stove on the trail and seeing if the stove is too complicated, fragile, or if there are any other problems that would make it a pain to use on a day to day basis. Admittedly I didn't get to test this stove on a real trail, but I did get to put it through some of the toughest field conditions possible - a JRTC training rotation at Fort Polk, LA.

I did not get to use this stove every single day, but I did get to use it regularly. When I did it performed like a champ. The Brasslite Solo was always consistent in regards to boil times and fuel usage. With the windscreen it did well even in light breezes but required a little extra wind break in higher winds.

One thing that should be mentioned is that there is a little extra set up time involved in using this stove that I don't see with some other alcohol stoves. With the Brasslite you must pour fuel from your bottle into the filler bottle, then put fuel into the stove. It takes a few extra seconds but isn't a show stopper.

In November my unit went to Gunnery training and the Solo came with me. It has become a part of my normal field gear. I also have a Sta-Bil bottle which eliminates the need for a separate measuring bottle.

The guys in my Troop love the Brasslite Solo (formally Duo). I had so many questions asked about it; people were highly impressed by the weight and performance. What nailed it though was the morning the cooks didnít make coffee. I had some filter packs I scarfed from the cooks earlier, so I fired up a one liter pot with a filter pack using the Brasslite and made pots of coffee for them while serving breakfast chow. I was boiling pot after pot using about 18ml of fuel at a time in 40 degree weather with cold water and made GREAT COFFEE! Using the Sta-Bil bottles, I could to quickly measure, fill, and light the stove. I went through about 4 pots of coffee that morning, then I did it again about 3 days later when we ran out of coffee again.

The only concern I had was the soot seems to build up on the top of the stove. If you notice the picture from the manufacturer and my pictures (taken after MANY uses) the shiny stove is almost black. My concern is that over time the burner holes MAY become clogged, but time will tell. Honestly I believe the pressure the stove creates while in use will keep the holes blown clean, but just in case it might be wise to have a small piece of metal wire that would weigh almost nothing to clean the holes with in the event of a clog. A trick I tried, that worked, was a sewing needle from my repair kit which worked, but I'm afraid the larger diameter needle may accidentally enlarge the burner holes over time which would alter stove performance.

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Conclusion

Brasslite Solo with the simmer ring while lit

The stove's weak point in my opinion is simmering. While I've seen some homemade stoves that can simmer 10-15 minutes on a 6 ml of alcohol, the Brasslite simmer isn't adjustable and may get about 7-8 minutes off the same fuel. It runs at a very hot simmer (about 175 degrees) - and any attempt I made to reduce the heat put the stove out. To carry that further, I don't recommend simmering with alcohol stoves anyway - a pot cozy is more efficient weight and fuel wise. So if I were using the stove, I would leave the simmer ring behind anyway.

Would I recommend this stove? Well yes I would. It is slightly higher in price than some other manufactured stove, but the weight and quality is great. For a person that doesn't want to screw around with making a stove, wants a quality made stove, and wants a durable stove, the Brasslite is just right. Personally I'm happy building my own stoves and can live with the less durable soda can models, but not everyone wants to do that. I will say that I am very tempted to ditch my Turbo V8 stove for the Brasslite Micro.

So if you are going to get one, the big decision is which one - after all they both cost the same.

If you are planning to do most of your hiking with a partner, then the size and performance of the Solo (especially when full or close to full) is vastly better than my homemade stoves, and makes it MUCH BETTER suited to hiking with a partner. It will heat a 1.5 liter pot with 48 ml of fuel just fine where most other alcohol stoves could not.

Cooking with the MicroIf you plan to hike solo, then the Micro stove is a better choice IMHO. It's smaller burn chamber allows maximum efficiency at lower fuel amounts where a solo hiker can cook almost any meal without needing a true boil. Yet it still has the ability to cook at higher temperatures like the Solo if needed.

My recommendations:

If you buy either of these stoves, I would recommend a) making a windscreen from an oven liner, b) ditching the simmer plate and making a pot cozy,

And for the Solo:

c) keeping your pot size about 1 to 1.5  liters and always using 18 ml alcohol or more.

And for the Micro:

c) keeping your pot size about a liter or less and always using 12 - 24 ml alcohol.

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