Cooking Outside in Winter February 08 2014

It doesn't happen very often, but every few years a real winter mix hits the streets of Portland, Oregon. This is one of those years. Lucky for us, it gave us a chance to test our EcoZoom Versa Lite rocket stove in a few inches of snow. A good outdoor stove should be able to be used in a variety of situations while still performing well. Not having to worry about whether your stove will work in a given situation removes a lot of stress from any preparedness scenario. With a rare blanket of snow on the ground, we decided to take our EcoZoom Versa Lite outside to see how it performs in inclement conditions. We started by placing our stove in roughly 2-3 inches of snow and decided to cook with wood. First we opened both the top and the bottom door and dug away the snow a bit from the bottom door so that we could maximize airflow that might otherwise be blocked by snow. Next we placed half of an EcoZoom Ignite Disc in the stove and lit it. The starter disc ignited quickly and soon was providing a strong flame. This is where things became interesting. We purposely didn't bring out any dry wood but instead gathered a few pieces of wood that had been used as stakes in the ground for a nearby garden. The stakes had been out in the elements for months and were firmly rooted in a snow covered ground. We pulled out two of them, shook off the snow and placed the most dry end in the stove on top of the burning Ignite Disc. Like any wet wood, there was some crackling and popping with some extra smoke but before long the wood was burning nicely. As it burned we continued to push in the sticks where more wet wood entered the combustion chamber. The wet wood still burned but again with some crackling.

Winter Versa

Even some damp wood eventually heated up and burned nicely after using an EcoZoom Ignite Disc to start our fire.

As the Versa Lite continued to burn our sticks we couldn't help but notice that the snow around the base of the stove was not melting away. When we touched the sides of the stove, it was cold to the touch. The outside temperatures were around 25 degrees and the insulation of the stove was helping keep the combustion chamber hot while allowing the stove to not lose excess heat through its body. As any good insulation, what we wanted to stay warm was warm and what we wanted to keep cool remained cool. While our sticks continued to burn in the combustion chamber a light amount of snow was falling. Each flake that came into contact with the cast iron top immediately melted, but those flakes that made their way into the combustion chamber did weaken the flames a bit. This problem was easily solved once we put our pot on top of the stove which stymied snowflakes from falling directly into the combustion chamber. Once we did place our pot on the stove, the strength of the flames given our level of fuel was up to normal standards. One thing worth noting is that if you are going to be cooking outside during the winter months with your EcoZoom or taking your EcoZoom on winter camping trips, it will take longer to boil water or heat up pots or pans simply due to the outside air temperatures. This is an element of cooking outside in the cold that is inevitable no matter what type of stove you are using. This means that you will likely need a little more fuel than normal compared to cooking on a sunny day. Bringing our EcoZoom Versa Lite out into the snow was a really fun experience. One of the biggest takeaways from the experiment was that the EcoZoom Ignite Discs are very valuable to have. They are water resistant and can be stored for years without having their performance affected. It makes lighting your EcoZoom stove a breeze and they provide a strong burn for up to 20 minutes. What is even better is that they proved to be able to ignite wood and sticks that were somewhat wet by providing a consistent burn that eventually dries out wet wood enough to ignite itself. Once again the EcoZoom rocket stove proved its versatility in any condition. They make for great stoves for camping, emergency preparedness, winter or summer cabins, or just for some fun cooking on your patio.   About the Author: is an EcoZoom employee and likes to cook outdoors with his EcoZoom rocket stove on camping trips or sunny days. You can email him directly at tom@ecozoomstove.com.