The Petromax Rocket Stove rf33 combines stack effect and wood boiler principle to achieve efficient combustion of biomass, writes Mike Gormley.
Perhaps more so than ever, this stove should be on the ‘wanted list’. With the cost of fuel, whatever type that may be, on the rise the Petromax Rocket Stove will enable you to cook up a meal with little more than a few sticks of wood.
If you are looking to knock up a bacon and egg breakfast or a hotpot over a longer period, this is all possible on the Rocket Stove rf33. Put it together with a Petromax Dutch Oven and you are away. The fuel can be no more than a few bits of cast-off wood or dry sticks you can pick up around the woods or hedgerows or really any combustible material such as pine cones. In effect any biomass fuel.
If you are into wood stoves then this all gets easier, but don’t make the mistake I did on my first try with the Rocket Stove. Having a good supply of firewood, I re-split some of my logs into smaller ones and got the fire going. In no time at all the pot of stew was going mad ~ as was my wife Jean ~ as it was a slow cook type meal. Lesson learned and no harm done, but now I’m in much better control I’m very impressed with the small amount of wood it takes to adequately fuel this particular stove.
The cylindrical stove body is stainless steel and the main cooking element is cast iron to retain heat for cooking. Being a bit over 7kg this is not the stove to pop into the side pouch of your Bergen but, this said, it is really quite portable. It has fold-down handles and is very robust. The guide to support the fuel sticks is simply unhooked.
When I first got the Rocket Stove I was looking for some means to control the airflow, and so the temperature. This it does more or less on its own. Air is drawn in at the base through a ring of vent holes and can also enter via the fuel feed orifice, which has a drop-down door to limit the flow. It is recommended that this is closed unless refuelling, but I found it worked well if you have longer sticks which can be fed in as they burn and supported on the removable fuel support. A bit like the Kalahari Bushmen that, to conserve hard-found fuel, place sticks end on in the form of a star and move them into the fire as they burn at the ends.
The stove’s fire happens in a quite small combustion chamber in the centre. This is surrounded by the stove body which retains the heat and sends it up to the cast top / pot support, which has a small hole in it to concentrate the heat into the pan. Any pan, pot or kettle will do but I find the cast iron Petromax Dutch Oven works very well as it also retains the heat. With dry wood it takes little time to get the fire going and the stove is soon ready to cook on or make a brew.
The Rocket Stove lends itself very well for those who like to cook outside at home, or on the beach if not too far from a vehicle or boat. Which brings me to a hobby horse of mine. This is a so much better option than those single use ‘disposable’ BBQs that far too many people use on beaches and in the countryside and then leave behind; often to set fire to the surrounding area or to burn some unsuspecting person as they stand on it, when all neatly covered in sand. I am sure readers here are not among those inconsiderate people.
Back to the review. This stove suits well those who venture out on expeditions and would work very well for boat / canoe / vehicle-based trips. Most expedition routes would offer a reasonable supply of biomass fuel, from driftwood to windblown twigs and sticks. As well as feeding the firebox through its own door you can also drop fuel down the ‘chimney’, as it were, when the cooking pot is not on the top. Clearly it is advisable to keep a day or so’s worth in reserve, but in general fuel will be about and, importantly, free. So much better than having to rely on and acquire gas or liquid fuel when in remote areas.
As soon as I was introduced by our friends at Whitby & Co to this stove, new to the UK at the time, I was quite taken by it, but now I’ve had a chance to use it a fair bit I really appreciate it. Petromax supply a long list of accompanying items of kit to go with the Rocket Stove so most things have been thought of to make your life in the bush as easy as possible. You even get a recipe book, so all you need to do is head out into the garden, or into the wilds, and just add wood and fire.
[images © Mike Gormley]