If you frequent these pages on a regular or semi-regular basis then you might recall my time spent with a Fire maple petrol stove. As is so often the way – things were going well until they suddenly weren’t. I could have thrown in the towel or at least tried to smoother any potential fire with it at that point but I felt that doing so would also be doing a disservice to all the other petrol stoves out there. I licked my burns briefly then set about looking for another stove that would hopefully fulfil my petrol ambitions.
|You could easily be forgiven for thinking it was a gas stove couldn’t you?|
Aside from the obvious issues of reliability, my initial criteria hadn’t really altered. I wanted a stove that could run on most liquid fuels with a high output but in a package that was as compact and light as it’s possible for a petrol stove to be. For many in a similar position, MSR would perhaps be high on their list but I’ve had a Drangonfly previously and didn’t really get along with it and the Wisperlite design has changed and now features non-foldable legs which meant accepting a larger pack size. I briefly looked at Primus but the weight and price was a little more than I wanted to carry or ideally pay. For a time it appeared that I’d have to accept more compromise than I’d hoped and re-prioritise or at least it did until I came across the Soto Muka.
The Muka isn’t like most petrol stoves in that it doesn’t burn liquid fuel; it still uses petrol but before burning it, it first turns it into vapour. The benefits of doing this include removing the need to prime the stove, a far cleaner burn which in turn means virtually no soot or residue, much quieter operation than those stoves that utilise a ‘roarer’ jet and generally a stove that behaves more like one fuelled by gas than petrol. Add the relatively low weight and again relatively compact size and it was a fairly easy task to part me from some money.
|The legs fold beneath the stove rather than around it which adds to the compactness.|
The very first thing I noticed when excitedly removing it from the box was the smell – it almost reeks of quality. The whole thing has a feel of exacting precision about it. Plastic parts are scarce but those that are present don’t feel ‘plasticky’ in any way. Each setting on the control dial falls into position with reassuring click that removes any need for second guessing. I could go on and provide ever more lavish cliches but there’s really no point because only if you fondle one in the flesh will you know exactly what I mean. The supplied instructions do make operation seem quite complex at first but in reality it’s pretty straightforward and after the first test fire you’ll know exactly what you’re doing. Just like other petrol stoves, the Muka consists of three separate parts – the burner, the pump and fuel bottle. However, do be aware that for some reason a fuel bottle isn’t deemed to be part of the stove and must be purchased separately. The Soto bottles also feature a different sized opening so you can’t use a bottle from another manufacturer I’m afraid.
|This is the tell-tale on the pump. When you see the red line, stop pumping.|
After putting some fuel in the bottle without overfilling it, your first task is to screw the pump onto the bottle, then attach the fuel line from the burner to the pump. It’s a quick release fitting, so just slide the brass sleeve back and insert the line. Now that everything is assembled, you need to pressurise the fuel bottle but before you do, just make sure that the dial on the pump is set to ‘stop’. It will take a little more pumping than you might be used to; eighty to a hundred pumps sounds like rather a lot but it’s not taxing and it’s soon done. You’ll know when the pressure is sufficient when the red line on the tell-tale becomes visible. Once you have adequate pressure, turn the dial to ‘start’ and light the stove. It should ignite straight away and after no more than a few seconds settle down and all without any flaring or undue drama. Once lit you can now adjust the flame / output with the dial just like you would any other stove. Control is pretty good for a petrol stove and simmering is possible but do remember that there’ll be a slight delay between you turning the dial and the stove responding. Once lit, I’ve taken to giving the pump an additional few strokes as the bottle can lose a small amount of pressure on initial start up … just keep an eye on the red line and it’ll let you know whether to top the pressure up or not.
|I love this dial, it has perfect clickiness.|
Once you’ve finished cooking, you can do one of two things. Should you be wanting to pack the stove away, then simply turn the control dial to the ‘air’ setting. This will shut off the fuel supply to the stove and also allow the pressure within the bottle to escape. It’ll take about three seconds for the fuel within the line to burn off and the flame go out and about another twenty seconds for the pressure to be fully released. Once that’s done, simply disconnect the fuel line, unscrew the pump from the bottle and put everything away. If you’ve finished cooking for the moment but envisage requiring the stove again, then once you’re ready just press the dial down. This locks it in position and acts as an emergency stop but it only shuts off the fuel and doesn’t release the air pressure meaning you can restart it later without the need for any more pumping. See, I told you it sounded complicated but really it’s not once you try it for yourself.
|Lighter not included, it’s just there so you can gauge the size.|
Soto claim an output of 4650 W which in simple terms is a lot; The aforementioned MSR Dragonfly has an output of 2800 W, the Primus Omnifuel stove is 3000 W and something like a Jetboil flash has around 2900 W. The burner itself weighs 163g and the pump a further 170g which for those who don’t do maths is 333g. Obviously, there’s the weight of a bottle to consider too but given that there’s different sizes available, we’ll ignore that for now. I’m certainly not going to pretend that it falls into the ultralight category but if you were cooking for a group or needed to melt snow to provide water, then that’s a lot of output for not that much weight.
So far, I’m very impressed but it’s also early days. I can see no reason to think that the Muka won’t continue to behave itself but time will tell. I shall give it a couple of months and report back but in the meantime if you’d like one, then expect to pay around £120 which includes the stove, pump, windshield, tools and spares but not a fuel bottle.