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Leon's View

Review: Is the Wood Mite Gravity Feed Rocket Stove the best choice for emergency use?

Review: Is the Wood Mite Gravity Feed Rocket Stove the best choice for emergency use?

Everyone, IMHO, ought to have a biomass stove in their survival/emergency gear. The Wood Mite Stove may be what you’re looking for.
by Leon Pantenburg

Wood Mite supplied this stove for a review. I was not paid to write this, and all I guarantee on any review of any product is a fair shake. At the time of publication, Wood Mite has no advertising relationship with SurvivalCommonSense.com.

So you’re picking through the rubble after a disaster. You must boil water for drinking or cooking. What happens when your stove runs out of fuel?

five inch wood mite lit

The Wood Mite Five Inch Gravity Feed Rocket Stove is fueled with sticks, twigs and other biomass.

Or you end up in a long term survival situation and have to cook and boil water for several people. With a conventional campfire, you’ll have to gather large amounts of good firewood to cook. Eventually, you’ll have to spend a lot of time and go further and further from the safety of the camp to gather wood.

Or suppose you’re looking at a biomass stove because you’re tired of using expensive charcoal for outdoor cooking?

None of these scenarios will be an issue with a biomass-fueled stove. Such a stove works well with twigs, small sticks, pin cones or virtually anything that will burn.

That’s where the Wood Mite™ Five Inch  Gravity Feed Rocket Stove™ may fit in with your emergency gear. All Wood Mite rocket stoves are hand made using high carbon steel in northeast Oklahoma.

Wood Mite stove designer and fabricator Michael Hester says he got the idea for the Wood Mite designs by looking at other rocket stoves and “adding my own twist per say.”

“I didn’t reinvent the wheel of course, I painted it another color,” he wrote on a blog post.

“I own a welding business and became interested with rocket stoves as a hobby that turned into a money-making idea,” Hester wrote.  “My designs are portable, effective and promote good airflow characteristics, along with a simplistic, but effective, design that is very sturdy and will last for years to come.”

Unpacking the Five inch Wood Mite revealed what appeared to be a sturdy, well-designed stove.

Here is the good stuff:

Small size: The small dimensions (nine inches long, six inches wide and nine inches tall)  mean the stove can be carried and packed easily. Weighing in at about five pounds, the stove is not too heavy for an emergency kit. On the other hand, this wouldn’t be a good choice for backpacking.

With any biomass stove, the weight of the actual stove is all there is. You don’t have to figure in the weight of fuel cylinders, or worry about packing along a  long term fuel source.

wood mite side view

The Wood Mite appears to be bulletproof.

No moving parts: The more parts something has, the more chances it has to break.  The Wood Mite is solid chunk of steel.

Packs easily: I don’t particularly like the sharp edges and angles of the design, but that is personal preference. I do like the compact size. The best way to pack this stove would be in a plastic milk crate.

Works efficiently: Every biomass stove works on a fraction of the wood it would take to fuel a campfire.

Durable: A welder friend of mine commented that the stove is well-made and appears to be almost bulletproof. I didn’t try to destroy the stove, but the quality materials and good welding indicate that the stove could take a lot of abuse.

No so hot on:

Can’t regulate heat easily: There are no mechanisms for regulating heat, so you’ll have to practice with the stove to figure out how much wood to add or subtract. For boiling water, you want high intensity heat, fast. The Wood Mite can supply that.

It’s a given that most biomass stoves require on-going fuel feeding, but I have noticed that several SilverFire stoves (check out the reviews)  have adjustable drafts that help regulate cooking temperatures.

Sharp edges: The top of the stove has 90-degree angles on all four corners. Under normal use, this probably wouldn’t be a problem, but I’d hate to snag a shirt sleeve on one of them while cooking something.

Lighting: The best way I’ve found to light a biomass stove is with a ferrocerrium rod and cotton balls and Vaseline. Put twigs in the top of the ignition chamber, then place the lit cotton ball on a stick and insert it through the fuel port.

I didn’t have problems figuring this out because I have several biomass stoves. But this technique is not intuitive, IMHO,  so practice lighting the stove at home. Also, the X-shaped grill top limits the size of the fuels that can be be inserted. Be aware of this before you rely on large pine cones for ignition.

Do you care?

The stove would function on charcoal quite well, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a biomass rocket stove?

wood mite five inch stove

Top view of the stove.

Anyway, a standard briquette won’t fit in the top, meaning the charcoal would have to be inserted in the fuel port and kinda poked forward into the ignition chamber. Personally, that is not a deal breaker for me, since I don’t foresee ever having charcoal, but not twigs, for fuel.

High carbon steel will rust. The stove comes finished with black chimney paint (I think), and once that coating is burned off, the metal is vulnerable to rusting, particularly if it’s used in a damp environment. That’s another thing I’m not concerned about.

After extensive use, at some point you may need to take a wire brush to clean off the rust, and then re-paint it. Rustoleum™ makes several high heat paints that could be used, and you could even change the color.

For more info on the Wood Mite Stove company contact Michael @atomicarcwelding@gmail.com.

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Leon's View

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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