User Review: Soto Muka
Price Paid: a gift
Construction and fittings: Solid, very nice connection fittings, folds elegantly.
Pump is solid metal parts, very sturdy design. Simple, easy to open and service. Pump is wider diameter than a Whisperlite, hence the wider mouth on the bottle (and thus, the requirement for a proprietary bottle.
Weight: The burner weighs 5.6 ounces, and packs more compactly than a Whisperlite. The pump weighs 5.8 ounces, and is significantly longer than the Whisperlite pump; it is not going to fit into your 1 quart pot. Overall weight at 11.4 ounces is slightly lighter than the Whisperlite burner + pump.
Stability: Very stable assembly. Lower pot stand height than a Whisperlite. It is also possible to run the stove with its legs folded if you want to, placing it between rocks to support a really large kettle.
Start up: With bottle 3/4 full, I pump it about 125 times to get it up to pressure. Starts without priming, very little flaring of orange flame, and settles into a hot (blue) flame quickly. Once I switch from start up to run mode, I may need to pump it another 10 or 15 times.
After that, I will not need to pump it again--for the rest of the meal's cooking. And I don't have to move the bottle closer or farther from the heat to keep it running well. The connecting hose is longer than a Whisperlite, because bottle heat is not necessary to maintain pump pressure. This stove keeps atomizing fuel due to the high pressure you have pumped into it, not due to the heat of the tank or burner unit.
What this means is that the stove will run STEADY, at high heat or at a simmer.
High heat: Output in BTU's is hotter than a Whisperlite International, boiling the same amount of water 30 to 60 seconds faster (no precise number here, I've misplaced my notes of the time trials).
Noise on high is louder than a Whisperlite, but significantly quieter than a Dragonfly. It won't block conversation in the kitchen the way a Dragonfly will.
Low heat: THIS STOVE WILL SIMMER!
You can simmer with a Whisperlite, if you don't pump it up more than 15 strokes or so, but you have to fuss with it constantly unless the bottle is in the sweet spot of about half full. I bake bread with an Outback Oven on the trail, so simmering is a must for me. With a Whisperlite, I have to hover over the stove the whole time, tinkering with the heat control.
The Soto Muka stove runs STEADY, because it is running on that high pumped tank pressure. You can set it on a simmer and walk away. I tested this by running a quart of water at a low simmering boil. The stove maintained this simmer without any activity on my part for 45 minutes. I think it would have continued for significantly longer, but I had to turn it off and go to a meeting at that point.
While using an Outback Oven, I found it possible to turn the Soto Muka TOO low, and have it burn STEADILY at a temperature that wasn't quite hot enough to get the job done! (This is also true of the Dragonfly.) This would be impossible with a Whisperlite. So this stove's temperature range is wide enough and steady enough to cover any camp cooking requirement.
When simmering, the Soto Muka is noisier than the Whisperlite's simmer (the latter's simmer is virtually inaudible). This means that the Soto's simmer is audible enough that you can tell it is running, under the Outback Oven, without having to check it frequently. And, as I've said, it will maintain that burn rate quite steadily. Once you figure out the right power output for baking, you can set the stove up and leave it to bake the bread while you are pitching your tent or doing other camp chores.
Cleanup: The stove doesn't get sooty. You don't get soot on your hands or gear. You can flush the line with air pressure from the tank when you turn it off, so you don't spill fuel from the line when you disassemble it. If you don't vent it, you can leave it sitting all night pumped up, and pressure will be there to start it again in the morning.
Overall convenience: The stove starts quickly, and gets up to running heat quickly, once it is pumped up. But pumping it up 125 times or more takes some time, and some effort. I can probably get my Whisperlite up and running faster than this stove, since to simmer I only pump the Whisperlite 10 to 15 strokes. I'll use up that time I saved starting the Whisperlite later, washing the soot off my hands.
Once the stove is running, life gets easier with the Soto. The control valve works very well, you can choose your rate of burn, set it, and forget it. Faster boils (if you want them), and slower, steady simmers. The Soto beats the Whisperlite hands down here. The Dragonfly can probably hold its own against the Soto in terms of steady temperature range -- but makes a lot more noise, enough noise on high that conversation is difficult. Again, the advantage is to the Soto.
Fuel efficiency: I haven't quantified this yet. The BTU output of the Soto (running wide open) is quite high, and this is a way to run through fuel more quickly. With any stove, as with a car, if you take a little longer to get there, you'll get better mileage. hikin jim says he's using more fuel with this stove. What I don't know -- is he heating things more quickly with it, and burning through fuel faster for that reason?
I remember a 9 day trip to the Wind River range where my buddy with the new Dragonfly went through half his fuel in the first three days. Once he realized that he didn't have to run it on high, and slowed it down, he finished out the trip with fuel to spare. With the Soto Muka stove, you can certainly slow it down if you want to.
At some point I'll do some baking comparisons of this stove and the Whisperlite, and weigh the tanks before and after, to try to quantify the fuel consumption of each.