After experimenting more with this stove, I have to say the durability is really impressive.
I originally thought the air-holed storage cap, which also serves as the base for the wood fire, would be a weak point for long fires, but I haven’t noticed any warping yet.
The surprise really comes from relating my experiences with this wood stove vs. others in long duration fires.
With other wood stoves, regardless of whether they are steel or titanium, there is warping that occurs over time.
Even the thick walled firebox’s grill surface has begun to warp.
But the VitalGrill, with its thicker solid metal construction, even in the fire wall, there is no warping for fires up to two hours. I tested it for that long and was able to use the fire for both a little heat and as a continuous simmering wood stove for stew.
The only real problem with this stove is that it requires constant attention as the fuel burns rather quickly. If you don’t pay attention for 10 minutes, the flame can easily go out.
On another note, using a wind screen on three of the sides, leaving the side with the fan that draws in air completely open, markedly improves heat efficiency. I didn’t measure anything, but water definitely came to a boil faster, and the rolling boil is much more aggressive with the wind screen than without. In a windy area, use a panel folding wind screen.
When you want a small wood stove to burn for a really long time, and this requirement is relatively frequent (e.g. every day for a week or more), and demand bomb-proof reliability throughout the trip, you couldn’t do much better than this stove. Just make sure you have batteries to spare.
As wood stoves go, there are quite a number of choices out there today, and they each have their advantages and disadvantages.
This stove uses seriously solid steel construction, and compared to some other wood stoves, that’s a big plus.
the steel walls for the fuel are thicker than others out there, the legs are rock solid, and even the comparatively thin square cap is stronger than some wood stoves out there.
Where some other stoves might fall apart in long term use, the VitalGrill Survival Stove will last and last. I could easily imagine bringing this stove with me for a month long base camp where I might be doing little day hikes from a single location. In such a situation, if I could set up a small kitchen area with stone surfaces, I could leave this out there as my every day stove. It’s just that tough and durable.
The base of this unit uses thick, solid metal, and while that translates to the durability mentioned earlier, it also adds significant weight to a pack.
The fan works on two speeds and seems reliable, though I haven’t taken it out on any outings yet, so have no idea how it would do in rough weather, getting beaten up every day. At the very least, the battery pack will likely fail before anything else. It is pretty cheap plastic. Then again, who knows, maybe it’s cheapness and simplicity will allow it to function while degrading over time. the springs might rust a little or gather battery acid, and the plastic might warp a bit, and perhaps it would keep on ticking.
One nice thing about this is that you can have this unit and, say, a trangia alcohol stove, and you have a dual fuel option for very little weight gain or added materials. Typically with an alcohol stove, you need extra pieces. You really want some wind protection, and a pot stand, and if possible a way to keep the alcohol stove off the ground.
If you set up the walls of the VitalGrill, you can just place the alcohol stove inside, and you’ve covered all three requirements. Or, you could remove the VitalGrill firewall, and just use that with an alcohol stove. You’ve have the wind protection and pot stand ready to go. You’d have to deal with the alcohol stove being on the ground, but it’s still usable.
It wouldn’t be ideal for a weekend trip where pack weight was a concern, nor would it be ideal on a mountaineering trip.
This would be a good choice on a month long outing to the woods. It would probably also be useful in a rustic cabin environment. And if you’ll be in a wooded area, and rain or damp weather means grabbing wet wood, this would probably be better than many other wood stoves out there.
I’m not sure it would ever be my first choice, but it would never be a bad one.