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Soto WindMaster Backpacking Stove: Long Term Review


Aaron Zagrodnick

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The Soto WindMaster upright canister stove was released in 2013, and has become a popular stove in the upright backpacking canister stove market. Improving upon Soto’s now antiquated Micro Regulator OD-1R stove, the WindMaster was designed to be even lighter and was designed with wind resistance and efficiency in mind. Soto’s micro regulator valve system is utilized in the WindMaster, which Soto claims improves efficiency and operation during cold weather, where many canister stoves begin to falter. Since I’d always have to take along additional windscreens for my canister stoves in the past, the weight began to add up and before trying the WindMaster I had even been taking along an alcohol stove instead on many trips.

Soto WindMaster Backpacking Stove Review

Additionally, nights are almost always chilly here in the Rockies, so when using my canister stove I’d always have to toss the canister in my sleeping bag at night to ensure decent performance for coffee the next morning. With the release of the Soto WindMaster stove and its very light weight, I thought I might be able to leave additional windscreens behind, and the alcohol stove vs. canister stove weight gap was significantly narrowed. Additionally, with Soto’s cold weather performance claims, the WindMaster began to stack up on paper as a worry-free alternative to my standard alcohol setup with little to no weight penalty depending on trip length. Since picking up the stove in 2013, the Soto WindMaster has been my go-to stove for more than the past decade.

Soto WindMaster 4Flex Pot Support

The Soto WindMaster includes their (more stable) 4Flex pot support, which can be completely removed from the stove and has folding legs for easy packing.

Soto WindMaster Design

The WindMaster is an 11,000 BTU canister stove listed at 2.3 ounces. Instead of a folding design, the optional TriFlex pot support (about $17) is entirely removable for packing, with a clip that secures all arms together and flat when stowed. The optional TriFlex support is designed for pots with a diameter up to 5.5 inches. While the TriFlex was originally standard on the WindMaster, these days their 4Flex support with swing arms is included with the stove, allowing for the use of larger pots and / or greater stability. The 4Flex is spring-loaded, and can be removed for packing if desired. A long wire flip-down flame control handle keeps your hands away from the heat and keeps the handle itself cool when adjusting the flame.

Internally Soto’s micro regulator valve system is utilized as opposed to a standard needle valve arrangement, and a push button piezo-electric igniter is neatly integrated into the stove. Soto doesn’t guarantee operation of the piezo above 10,000 feet, but hopefully you’re already carrying an alternate fire starting solution anyway. In practice, I've used the piezo without issue to 11,000 feet, although your mileage may vary. To gain the “WindMaster” distinction, the burner head is recessed slightly below the outer housing, and the low profile pot supports bring the bottom of your cookpot closer to the flame compared to many other stoves. These features combine to minimize the amount of flame exposed to wind.

Soto WindMaster 4Flex Pot Support Folded for Packing

The 4Flex pot support arms folded in for storage and packing. The entire pot support can also be removed if desired.

Impressions

At first I was concerned about the TriFlex pot support (this option was the one included with my stove at the time) – would it offer enough stability and would it become a hassle to constantly remove and replace in the field? Additionally, I was quite curious regarding how well the stove would really perform in windy conditions by itself without the benefit of an additional windscreen. More on wind testing later, but upon receipt it became apparent that the stove is a well built and solid product, despite the very light 2.3 ounce weight specification as claimed by the manufacturer.

Soto WindMaster Stove

WindMaster with TriFlex pot support

In hand I measured 2.35 ounces including the TriFlex pot support. By itself the TriFlex support weighs a quarter ounce and the larger spring-loaded 4Flex support tips the scale at just under an ounce. The stove with the 4Flex support weighs 3.05 ounces. Operation of both pot supports is very easy and installation onto the burner head as well as removal takes just a second or two with practice. Just be absolutely sure that you read the manual and have the pot support securely installed prior to use. The optional TriFlex support packs up quite small and blends in surprisingly well with the ground on rocks and in grass, so you’ll definitely want to pack it somewhere secure. Of course, as I learned by experience, be mindful to allow the supports to sufficiently cool prior to removal. On the stove the TriFlex support offered good stability for smaller sized cookware, while the 4Flex support offers excellent stability for both smaller and larger sized pots. At 3.6” tall, the stove does sit fairly high off the canister however, but overall system stability was good on level ground even with the small 110 gram canisters and a 1.3 liter pot.

4Flex Pot Support and Evernew 1.3 Pot - Soto WindMaster

4Flex pot support coverage example on the Evernew 1.3 liter titanium pot

After you open the valve a bit and click the piezo ignition, the stove lights reliably with a single click or two and you don’t need a stopwatch to realize that the WindMaster heats things up really quickly. Turning up the heat results in a very quick boil – every time I started to think about multitasking while waiting the Soto seemed to beat me to a boil. You’re not out of luck if you need to simmer a meal, or even give lightweight baking a shot – the flame also dials down really low, so much that you can run the risk of the flame being extinguished by a light breeze, and with the micro regulator valve system, flame adjustment is very precise. On many other stoves the flame control is quite rough and it can be easy to accidentally turn the stove off when trying to dial down a small flame.

Soto WindMaster Stove Piezo Ignition

Over the course of the past decade+, the piezo ignition has needed one replacement (Soto offers a replacement kit if you ever need it), but overall the piezo has proven to be fairly reliable (always carry a backup ignition source).

The stove is on the long side, but packing hasn't been an issue with my cookware of choice. With the pot supports removed, the WindMaster will fit in both of the Ultralight Series Evernew pots I use, including with a 110 gram fuel canister in the 900ml pot, and with a 220 gram canister in an Evernew 1.3 liter pot (for more cookware detail see our 900ml and 1.3L Evernew review). In both cases this required either removal of the canister’s protective cap, or placing the canister with the cap installed inside the pot upside down. If you have trouble squeezing things in using the upside down canister method, place the stove in first. Cookware on the tall instead of wide side worked out too – the Soto fits with a small fuel canister in the Mountain Laurel Designs 850ml pot/mug (a taller, more mug-like design) without incident.

TriFlex Support Coverage Evernew 900 - Soto WindMaster

Evernew 900 and Soto WindMaster with TriFlex pot support

Performance Testing

The Soto WindMaster is excellent across both mild conditions as well as in cold conditions and with chilly canisters. Boil times are excellent. Wind performance was also excellent for an upright canister stove without additional windscreening or protection. As expected however, the stove isn’t impervious to wind which still reduced both time and efficiency – but comparatively much less so than you might expect. I tested the Soto in a variety of conditions to measure both boil times and efficiency. For the 68 & 32 degree tests, the air temperature was as specified and the water, stove, pot, and fuel canister were brought to the testing temperature prior to starting each test. The stove was tested using new 220 gram Snow Peak fuel canisters on full power unless otherwise specified. 2 cups of water were used and the test ended when the water was brought to a rolling boil. An Evernew 900ml Ultralight titanium pot was used with the lid engaged. For each test, the TriFlex pot support was used on the stove. The elevation was just over 5000 feet at a barometric pressure of 24.45 inHg. Here are the results:

Test 1: 68F, 0 Wind

Temp: 68F
Wind: 0
Volume: 2 cups
Boil Time: 2:13
Fuel Used: 8 grams

Test 2: 32F, 0 Wind

Temp: 32F
Wind: 0
Volume: 2 cups
Boil Time: 2:25
Fuel Used: 9 grams

Test 3: 68F, 10mph Wind

Temp: 68F
Wind: 10mph
Volume: 2 cups
Boil Time: 6:57
Fuel Used: 21 grams

Test 4: 68F, 20mph Wind

Temp: 68F
Wind: 20mph
Volume: 2 cups
Boil Time: N/A. 174F Max @ 30 Minutes
Fuel Used: 100 grams
Note: Test ended at 30 Minutes (water temp no longer rising)

4Flex Pot Support Spring Action - Soto WindMaster

Boil times were very fast across both testing temperatures with no wind. On paper, the wind tests may look lackluster; however we also tested one of the most popular needle valve upright canister stoves on the market today in the same conditions, and used its optional windscreen. It wasn’t able to bring the water to a boil in the 10mph test after 30 minutes on full power, using 65 grams of fuel. It got close though, a maximum water temperature of 198 degrees was recorded at the 28:25 mark.

Wind is still a factor with the Soto, but relatively speaking, performance was impressive. In the field, seek natural windbreaks like boulders, a large tree, and consider using your pack at a safe distance to help. While cooking, consider sitting directly upwind of the stove to help further, using your body as a shield. Using all these techniques, even if it’s very windy outside you should be able to cut out enough wind in the small area where the stove is operating to remain within the Soto’s performance envelope. Fuel usage for the Soto was good at full power, however I wanted to see if and how much efficiency would be affected by turning down the power at the expense of time.

Soto WindMaster Upright Canister Stove Jet Detail

The WindMaster runs a bit hot to say the least, but while this may not be the stove for the advanced backcountry chef, with practice the flame can be dialed down for slower cooking techniques in a pinch.

Test 5: 68F, 0 Wind

(Stove set to approximately 1/3 of maximum)
Temp: 68F
Wind: 0
Volume: 2 cups
Boil Time: 3:03
Fuel Used: 6 grams

Turning the stove down to medium-low definitely helped efficiency, saving 25% compared to full power, and waiting around 3 minutes compared to 2 is no big deal. Over a long trip, this efficiency could really add up, especially if it saves you from having to bring another canister. Since dialing down the heat resulted in this large of an increase I wanted to take things a step further – running the same test but essentially boiling the water as slowly as possible. Watching the digital thermometer, I turned the heat control on the stove down as low as possible while still maintaining a rising water temperature (68 degree environment). After 12:03 the water was at a rolling boil, and again, 6 grams of fuel had been used. So after a certain point additional efficiency was not observed, but regardless of time, running the stove lower will save fuel.

Test 6: 68F, 0 Wind, 0F Canister

Temp: 68F
Wind: 0mph
Volume: 2 cups
Canister Temp: 0F
Boil Time: 2:08
Fuel Used: 8 grams

The Soto had already performed well in the 32 degree test with a chilly canister, bringing water from an ice bath to a rolling boil in just less than 2 and a half minutes, not much change from performance at 68 degrees. However, with the Soto’s micro regulator valve system and claims for improved cold weather performance, I took things a bit further and left 2 full 220 gram canisters in a freezer for 24 hours at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I then removed one canister to the 68 testing environment and immediately tested the WindMaster using the chilled canister. The stove lit easily without any impression of reduced performance. 2 cups of 68 degree water were boiled in 2:08 using 8 grams of fuel, virtually identical to the performance of the stove in a 68 degree environment with a 68 degree canister.

3 Prong TriFlex Pot Support Removal and Installation - Soto WindMaster

I then took the second canister from the freezer and repeated the test with a popular canister stove utilizing a standard needle valve system. Compared to its normal 68 degree performance, its boil time was reduced from a 3:45 to 8:44. Fuel efficiency was however identical – the stove with the needle valve took a lot longer, but used the same amount of fuel as it did at room temperature (11 grams). I repeated this test informally again the next day, using the same canisters. Outside & water temperature was 72 degrees with a gentle breeze. The wind really made a difference on this one – the Soto was basically again unchanged, however the tested needle valve stove now took 12:20 using 18 grams of fuel.

Test 7: 68F, 0 Wind, Canister 8 Grams from Empty

Temp: 68F
Wind: 0mph
Volume: 2 cups
Canister Volume: 8 grams
Boil Time: 1:59
Fuel Used: 7 grams

Lastly, it remained to be seen how well the WindMaster would perform on nearly empty canisters (side note: see our backpacking fuel canister guide for more on the best options on the market). Would the design of the Soto and the micro regulator valve system work to maintain output and efficiency not only in the cold, but with canisters holding a low volume of fuel? I took a nearly empty 220 gram Snow Peak fuel canister and ran it down so that only 8 grams of fuel, or approximately one 2 cup boil at full output was left in the canister. That’s it. I then allowed the stove and canister to return to 68 degrees, and repeated the 68 degree 0 wind test as detailed above. The stove boiled in 1:59 and used 7 grams of fuel. With only 1 gram of fuel left in the canister, the Soto’s efficiency didn’t decline and the stove actually ended up using 1 less gram of fuel and boiled slightly faster than with a completely full canister.

Only after I re-fired the stove on its very last gram of fuel did the flame begin to slowly fade until all fuel had been used over the course of approximately 30 seconds. One last weigh in – the Soto had used every bit of the 220 grams of fuel originally in the canister. Speaking of empty canisters (of which there were a few after all this testing!) Jetboil makes a nifty canister recycling tool to help with that process.

Soto WindMaster Packed in MLD 850 Mug

Between the removable nature of the TriFlex pot support and the removable and / or folding arms of the 4Flex, I've been able to easily pack the Soto WindMaster inside whatever cookware I take on a trip.

Field Notes

After using the Soto WindMaster for the past decade plus field performance has been excellent across all conditions. Reliability wise the piezo igniter has required one replacement during this time, but otherwise the piezo has performed well in the field and even at altitude, although like any piezo system you'll want to carry a backup method of lighting the stove. Over time I've come to prefer to the 4Flex pot support – while the TriFex hasn't let me down, the 4Flex offers much more stability and I simply leave the 4Flex on all the time, and just fold the arms of the pot support and fold the control valve in and the stove is ready to be packed away. That said, if you only use solo-sized cookware and going ultralight is a priority, the TriFlex support may be a good option.

Save for true winter conditions where I'll take my inverted canister WindPro II stove (you can read our WindPro II review in Issue 33) the Soto WindMaster has been without question the stove I pack along on all other trips. The WindMaster has performed well from low to high altitude and from cold mornings to windy evenings...and from the desert to the mountains on countless trips. And with a more stable burn rate and performance while cooking and while using from full to nearly empty canisters, the Soto WindMaster has offered impressive performance in nearly all field situations.

Soto WindMaster Upright Canister Stove with 4Flex Installed

The Soto WindMaster has proven to have excellent performance across a wide-range of conditions.

Conclusion

The Soto WindMaster lights up like a jet engine at full power yet remains surprisingly efficient – even in less than ideal weather conditions and under changing canister pressure. But it’s not just an on or off stove, the WindMaster allows you to dial down the flame to increase efficiency or for more complex cooking. Performance across a range of ambient and canister temperatures is excellent. Wind is still a factor, but by seeking windbreaks in high winds you’ll be fine without the weight, bulk, and fiddle factor of an additional windscreen.

The removable pot supports are different, but they’re extremely user friendly and quick to attach and detach, and while you should always take a backup ignition source, the piezo igniter is cleanly integrated into the stove and makes things so easy. The price is higher than average in this category, but if fuel efficiency doesn’t quickly make up for the price difference, the performance will. At just 2.35 ounces with the TriFlex pot support, the WindMaster performed so well at times it had us shaking our heads, and is the current stove to beat in the upright canister stove category.

The Soto WindMaster OD-1RX Micro Regulator stove retails for around $70. You can find it with the 4Flex pot support here at REI Co-op as well as here at Amazon.com. If you're looking to save a little weight and space, you can also pick up the TriFlex pot support as an add-on item, or for a WindMaster option with both supports included, take a look here at Zpacks. For more on stoves, you can also read our backpacking stove guide for additional information on all types of stoves and how to choose the right stove for your next backpacking trip.

Editor’s Note: This review originally appeared in Issue 8 of TrailGroove Magazine. You can read the magazine article here featuring additional photos, pros and cons, and our star rating for the Soto WindMaster.

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