One of the key things I had to do for walking the John Muir Trail was to reduce the weight of my basic kit. Or at least reduce the bulkiness of it. Willing as I am to haul ridiculously heavy rucksacks across the mountains for days on end, it’s apparently not very good for you. I decided I would take a 50L bag, to reduce my ability to overpack, and make it work. That meant dramatically reducing the size of my camping gear. When it came to cookwear SOTO seemed to be the answer. They came highly recommended by a friend. Here’s what I thought after 250 miles.
What you get
The SOTO Fusion Trek Stove is a lightweight stove with three metal legs that fold into eachother to carry. The screw-top gas attaches to the end of a long tube, rather than being directly below the burner. When buying the stove you get:
- wind resistant microregulator stove
- carry pouch
The SOTO Thermolite Pot Set is a 750ml hard anodized aluminium pot, designed to pair with SOTO stoves. The pot itself is very simple and comes with:
- a plastic/resin lid, with a sip hole
- an insulated pouch
- a very tiny pan handle
For more details on the exact tech specs of each of these two pieces, have a look at the SOTO Fusion Trek official product page and the ThermoLite Pot Set page respectively. (Don’t worry if it comes up in dollars only – you can buy these stoves easily in the UK and Europe.)
Using the SOTO Fusion Trek Stove
Alright then, let’s talk about using this stove. As I’ve said, I took it on 3 weeks of hiking across the High Sierra of California, from Lone Pine to Yosemite Valley. It was mostly spent at altitudes of above 2000m and there was a lot of snow on the ground. Night temperatures were well into the negatives. The unusually harsh winter was one of the main reasons I wanted this particular layout of stove. Yes, it’s all very convenient having the gas stacked under the burner. But it leaves you unable to invert the gas when the weather’s really cold. And since I didn’t know whether I’d be able to reliably get hold of a winter mix gas, I wanted that security.
The Fusion Trek stove is very simple to set up and use. The stove legs unfold from all flat against eachother into a sturdy tripod. And that’s really it. You screw the gas can onto the end of the pipe and you’re ready to go. There is no igniter, so you need a lighter or matches or some other way to create a spark. I settled on matches eventually.
To light the stove, unfold the metal handle (pictured below) and twist it anti-clockwise until you can hear gas coming out the burner – this was always a few more turns than I expected. Then apply the match. One quirk of this stove is that is burns so clean you can’t actually see the flame – or barely! That meant I ended up mostly using the noise it was making to tell whether it was still lit.
At altitudes of 2000-3000m, the stove took under 4 minutes to boil 500ml of water. Considering the factors of altitude and cold, that seemed decent.
Using the ThermoLite Pot Set
It’s hard to separate one from the other, as a stove without a pot is just a way to toast marshmallows… But here are my comments. Firstly, it’s worth knowing that you can fit a small gas cannister inside the pot. You can’t fit the stove inside (but other SOTO stoves would, if that’s important to you, it’s just the way this one folds). If you are travelling in the US, it’s worth noting that it also perfectly fits a Talenti pot inside, to fortify your experiments in cold soaking.
As with all ultralight and pared-back kit, the pot set is a little fiddly to use at first. There isn’t much of a lip on the lid, so I found it best to simply prop it on top of the pan while boiling water. If I secured it properly, I wouldn’t be able to get it off without burning my hands. Similarly, the handle is very small. You have to be careful you’ve actually got a good grip on the edge of the pan or risk dropping boiling water all over you. Delicacy is needed, but it’s fine once you’ve got the hang of it.
The insulated cover fits very snugly around the pot. It barely takes up any more room in your bag and weighs very little, but it makes a huge difference at keeping your dinner warm. To the extent that after waiting 10 minutes for mashed potato to be ready, it could still be too hot to eat, all while sitting in the snow.
What went well
All in all, I was very pleased with this stove and pot set. It did the job great. I loved having a stove that lets you invert the gas – and no piezo igniter to break was more of a feature for me! Here are some stand out successes.
Lightweight but Durable
This little stove went through the wars. It was constantly in a side pocket so probably got bashed about a lot every time I jettisoned my bag off. (I exaggerate, but anyone who’s walked a long way knows the feeling of just throwing their bag off at the end of a long day… and then remembering their kit might be a bit delicate.) I had absolutely no issues with the stove, despite my abuse. It can take a lot without showing signs of wear. Similarly the pot was always near the bottom of my pack and never showed any signs of going out of shape, despite being sat on etc. Lightweight but durable. That’s what we like.
Pan Insulation Cover
I was amazed at just how effective this simple insulating cover for the pan was. By the end of my three weeks in the mountains, I was subsisting off mashed potato. (They sell about 15 different flavours in the average Californian supermarket. Cool right?) I was fully expecting to have to eat my mash tepid because of the time taken to rehydrate. But absolutely not. Even at 3000m, surrounded by snow, my mash was piping hot. (Other foods are available!)
Could do better
And here are a few suggestions for where things could be improved.
My usual stove is an old Primus Eta which has one of those mug-pans that locks into the burner. Perhaps because of this comparison, I was constantly aware of how much heat was being lost out the sides of the stove. It is very wind resistant, but maybe some extra shielding could help redirect the heat upwards. Similarly, if you had a wider pan than my 750ml one, that might fix the problem.
Slightly Bigger Handle
Having a handle with just slightly bigger teeth – as in a deeper claw to grab the pot with – would dramatically improve it. Yes, it would be a little heavier, but when you’re tired it’s just too easy to not get a firm grip on the pot. Or in my case, think you’ve got it and have it slip off one corner of the handle as you lift the pot up. I’d happily swap a little bit more weight for a lower risk of pouring boiling water on myself – or simply having to find more water after spilling the last load. This barely happened, so I am nit picking.
The SOTO Fusion Trek stove is a fantastic lightweight winter camping stove that burns so clean you cam’t see the flame. The SOTO Thermolite pot set is a simple but durable choice of pan for long distance backpacking trips.
If you’re new here, hi – I’m Emily. I’m a female adventurer based in the UK and you might want to start here before diving into the rest of this blog. If you’re a long time reader and you’re not in my Adventure Squad, then er hello? Why not? It’s a monthly catchup email about everything I’ve been up to recently, in adventures and writing, waaaay before it makes it to the blog (if at all). See you there!