The Soto Windmaster Stove: Powerful & Portable
The Windmaster from Japanese outdoor manufacturer Soto Outdoors, is one of the best designed and most portable stoves on the market. For the past year, Lew has been cooking real meals on the road in all sorts of weather conditions with his Windmaster. Read on for his thoughts on this little cooking wonder.
My first forays into bikepacking were filled with plenty of 'learning experiences'. Packaging up mistakes in such a phrase helps me feel somewhat better about shivering through the night in a summer sleeping bag as temperatures drop close to freezing, or bonking hard when I had not packed enough to eat. When taking on multi-day rides, something I learnt early on was the need for proper fuel and how much my mood is impacted by not eating real food. I also love cooking so gels, bars, and electrolyte powder just don't cut it for me. I’m someone who enjoys pedaling away from towns and villages with a bag of ingredients, eventually finding somewhere to camp and then taking the time to cook something from scratch.
I’m always met with intrigue when I ride onto a campsite (wild-camping in England isn’t strictly allowed) and put up my tiny tent, no car in sight. “Where have you come from, then?” is usually the first question and it’s often quickly followed by “have you got everything you need?” It’s usually the folks in caravans or huge family tents that kindly offer cups of tea and a biscuit, which I’m always grateful for. But it’s even more rewarding to answer that I’ve got everything I need and then break out the stove. Smiling gleefully, I’ll put together the Windmaster, fry off some onion and garlic, add some meatballs and chopped tomatoes and then sit that aside to boil some water for pasta. The utter look of shock when friendly strangers realise you really can carry everything you need for a wonderful adventure on a bike is one of my favourite moments of any trip.
About Soto Outdoors
Soto Outdoors has a fascinating back-story with industry leading technology since 1978. However, their story didn’t begin with recreational outdoor products. Instead, the Japanese company’s heritage can be traced back to an industrial flame torch used to burn weeds. It wasn’t until 2010 when Soto Outdoors was launched as we know it today. Their multi-award winning burners lean on their long-standing innovation and with winter temperatures as low as -40°C in some places of the country, Japan has some of the most brutal conditions to test outdoor products. There’s no wonder then that the company—whose name actually translates from Japanese as 'outdoors' - shines out as industry leaders in portable outdoors cookware designed to stand up to the elements.
Design & Portability
Being Japanese-made, it’s no surprise that the quality of the Windmaster is exceptional. There are smaller alternatives on the market, like the MSR Pocket Rocket, but the strength in the Windmaster is its portability and robust design. Weighing only 87g, the four-prong pot support fills me with confidence, even when using on slightly uneven surfaces and is worth the additional 10g of weight over the MSR (touted as the Windmaster’s nearest competition). It simply doesn’t falter when it comes to holding a pan, something that I can’t say is true of smaller, three-pronged options. I’ve used frying pans, mugs, and saucepans on this little stove and had absolutely no problem with the stove itself. The only downside of the design is the removable pan support. The spring design pushes open and clips onto the flame base easily and is sturdy enough not to accidentally be removed. However, it’s easy to lose when dismantling the stove to pack up and could be lost whilst packing away kit. It’s almost like Soto Outdoors knows this too as they actually sell the pan supports separately should such a thing happen.
The long and tall nature of the Windmaster design does mean that it can sometimes feel a little top-heavy. The stove itself is sturdy but when coupled with a small mix of propane, butane, or isobutane canister (it’ll work with any) it can sometimes feel like it’s going to topple. For this reason, I carry with me a canister support which just widens the base a little and prevents any wobbling if I’m slightly overloading the Soto Outdoors in any way. It’s an extra weight and, for those counting grams, isn’t absolutely necessary but it is something that I’d encourage if you’re a little clumsy like me.
Usage & Performance
The Soto Outdoors website suggests that the Windmaster can boil 2 cups of water in less than 2 and a half minutes in windy conditions and there’s no reason I’d disbelieve this. If anything, I’d wager that’s conservative. My own experience has never really put the timings to the test but it’s noticeably quick. For this review, I boiled half a litre of water in a sheltered setting with a butane propane mix yielding a time of 87 seconds. Inevitably, different conditions and different fuels will give different results so it’s probably best to say: it’s fast and won’t struggle.
Whilst planning this review, I waited for a warm, sunny day to capture the photographs. The day never came and the forecast wasn’t changing so, rather than put it off any longer, I headed out to really put the Soto Outdoors through the rain and wind test, or so I thought. It passed both with flying colours. Assembling the Windmaster in the rain using the simple screw thread attachment directly onto the gas canister, I made no attempt to shield it from the wet. On the contrary, I left it sat in the rain for five minutes before lighting it thinking that I might have found some way to be able to write something negative. I failed as the flame lit with no problem using the built-in igniter. From there, my only hope for something bad was letting the wind do its worst. And, again, that didn’t disrupt the Windmaster. I deliberately left the pot to boil 500ml of water without an additional wind guard and found that it didn’t struggle, even with the micro-adjustable valve only partially open on the gas canister.
...the Windmaster name isn’t a joke, it’s a description.
The Windmaster is a powerhouse, there’s no doubt about it, managing to take on up to a litre and a half of water according to the recommendations of Soto Outdoors. For a single-person stove, I can’t really imagine a situation where more than that would be needed but I’d be tempted to say it’d probably do more than that too. From all my use over the last year with this little stove, not once have I encountered a problem. It has reliably lit each time without the need for a lighter (though I do carry one just in case) and has never blown out due to the wind. Of course, for efficiency, I often prop something up nearby to block any wind, but the Windmaster name isn’t a joke, it’s a description. The dipped design enables the pot to sit close to the flame and arches to help prevent the wind from causing much of a problem at all. Soto Outdoors describes this as their built-in windscreen and it’s hard to argue with that.
Generally speaking, the Soto Outdoors Windmaster is suitable for just about any bike-packing adventure where a cup of coffee or a rehydrated meal is needed. If you’re someone who enjoys eggs in the morning, this stove is more than sufficient and, perhaps best of all, it’ll fit in the size of your palm. Handy, if you’ll excuse the pun.
I find myself taking the Windmaster in my bag on almost all my rides, whether that’s bikepacking or just heading out for an afternoon spin. When things get wilder, and civilisation is left behind on multi-day adventures, the Windmaster has me covered for my cooking needs. But it’s more than just that; I take the Windmaster to be able to enjoy a coffee on shorter rides or boil enough water for a hot chocolate. The perfect package of weight, power, and portability mean that, for me, there’s no better stove.
Get it here for $70 USD.
|Highly portable because of the removable support prongs|
|Lightweight at only 87g|
|Wind-resistant due to concave design|
|Reasonably priced when relatively compared to competition|
|Removable pan-support could be easily misplaced|
|Marginally heavier (10g) than other industry-leading brands like MSR|
|Tall design feels slightly unstable on uneven ground|