G4Free Camp Stove Review
Over the years, I've used propane camp stoves, isobutane stoves, alcohol-burning stoves, and plain old fire pits to cook my food and boil water. Never have I used a portable woodburning stove, so when I got the chance to try out G4Free's collapsible twig-burning stove I gave it a try. Here's my review.
The stove dimensions are 5.2 inches x 5.2 inches at the base and 6.3 inches tall and it weighs in at 14 ounces with the pouch it's stored in. Something to note here is that an isobutane canister plus a typical stove that fits onto those canisters weighs a total of about 10 ounces. However, the G4Free stove when dismantled is about a quarter-inch thick and takes up very little room in your backpack. So you gain some weight but reduce your pack bulk.
It's made of stainless steel and goes together by interlocking the separate parts. In my video on YouTube (https://youtu.be/grPIfMG-Wrw) you can see how that's done. One thing to note is that connecting the front panel is a little tricky, but there's a reason for that. The interlocking tabs on the front panel point down on the left side and up on the right side. This locks the four sides and bottom panel together and prevents it from falling apart when you pick it up or move it.
The stove comes with two interlocking cross pieces that fit diagonally across the top so you can put a cup or pot on it, and a grill that fits on the top. I'm not going to be bringing the grill fitting when I go backpacking as it's not something I can see using. It's barely big enough for a hamburger patty.
First a Note About Fuel: As with any stove that relies on wood for heat, the selection of the wood is crucial to the success of the stove. I live and camp in the Pacific Northwest, also known as the Pacific NorthWET. This means that except for three months in the middle of summer, any wood you find on the ground is going to be either damp or outright wet. So, to ensure that the stove works well you want to walk through the forest snapping off dead branches from trees. These branches will be drier than those on the ground and thus take less effort and time to get the fire going. They will also smoke a lot less. Additionally, it's a good idea to take your knife and scrap off any bark on the branch as that's where the majority of the dampness will be found.
Once I had the stove assembled, and the ground under where it would be cleared, I put in half a toilet paper roll with some dryer lint and vaseline, piled over that a load of little twigs and then put a match to the toilet paper roll. Because the bottom of the stove has lots of holes and there are holes in the side, it draws in air very quickly and easily. The stove was soon burning through twigs and branches and had flames shooting up 8-12 inches above the rack where I was going to put my pot. Putting on some bigger pieces of wood slowed it down a little allowing me to put on my pot. I'm fairly familiar with BBQing using wood as that's what we did in our family so controlling the level of heat and flames wasn't difficult. My pot of soup was soon simmering nicely and was heated all the way through with no burning onto the pot.
Once the pot was off the stove I pushed in a few branches about as thick as my thumb and enjoyed a toasty and controlled fire as I ate my soup. Sitting under my tarp lean-to as the rain fell seemed to make the soup taste even better. :)
In the photo above I've let the fire burn down. Once the twigs and branches are all burnt up, it only took about 5 minutes (remember, this is in November and it was raining) to be cool to the touch and I could put it back into its pouch.
I'm not sure if this will become my permanent stove for backpacking, but I will be bringing it with me when I backpack in the winter. Having the ability to start a small fire using just branches and twigs broken off trees (the only kind you can find in the winter), will be a definite plus. It'll provide much needed warmth, is easy to get going, and is a lot safer to have under my hammock tarp than a full-fledged fire pit.
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