Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Soto - micro regulator stove OD-1R


To be able to contact a manufacturer these days and receive a personal reply solving your problem is a rare thing.

Not only did Tomo at Soto achieve this, but he replied immediately, offered me options for solving said problem and kept me informed throughout. And when head office in Japan could not help because it was holiday season, Tomo organised for the American office to ship the replacement part, all for free  - OUTSTANDING!!! With products winning awards and wonderful customer service, the only way is up for Soto!

I feel that I am in some way doing Soto a disservice in starting with this mention of a problem, (actually a manufacturing 'defect') but in some ways these after market services are what actually distinguish one purchase from another. Often we won't have experience of alternative products, but it is safe to say that these days in most sectors, there are many products which will perform their intended function admirably, so what really stands out is aftersales; warranty, information, and how problems are rectified - the dreaded 'customer service' or lack thereof.


In my research, I looked at many examples of similar products, but none fitted the bill, for me, quite so well as the OD-1R, despite its lack of awe inspiring name, as from other brand offerings; Rocket, Reactor, Devil, Dragon, Zip Flash...

Having experience with a Trangia set up and alcohol burners, I decided I wanted the reliability of a gas stove. I had spent much time, effort and of course money putting together my ideal lightweight set up. It started with my intentions of long distance cycle touring, but on seeing the benefits, it organically spilled over into every aspect of my enjoyment of the outdoors, culminating in a full hike/camp set up of just over 6 kilos, without water, which I tested to great success and satisfaction on the Camino de Santiago Pilgrims trail across Spain.

Main considerations of course, lightweight, small pack size and not too extreme a price tag, when we are talking about minimal gains for big bucks. 73 grams including a built in igniter, at £70 the OD-1R ticked all the boxes. No messing around with a lighter or matches in a high wind, just get the gas flowing and click the igniter.

There were many canister top stoves like this, at around the same weight, but add an igniter and weights almost doubled. This little thing seemed a bit too good to be true and so alarm bells started ringing. Why were other manufacturers not able to offer an equivalent? So I read up more on the 'built in igniter' situation. Turns out, in the past, built in igniters were none too reliable. They can get affected by wind and being a piece of outdoor kit, it is not ideal that they succumb to the inevitable rust, muck build up etc. Well, Soto's solution to this problem is to have an internal igniter, within the burner post. This protects the igniter from the outdoors and so improves ignition, which, as we can all understand, is pretty high on the agenda when it comes to stove performance.

I looked at the equivalent jet boils and their efficiency, but pack size wasn't all that fantastic and nor was the weight by comparison. I looked into all aspects of weight and pack size, considering overall cooking set up and the different combinations each stove type allowed. Despite this, the OD-1R still stood out for me. I then read up on the clumsiness of a canister top stove and so came across the standalone burner with connector tube.

Still hooked on  the light weight and size of the OD-1R, I came across an elegant (lightweight) solution to the instability concerns.

'Super legs'
So, exhausted from trawling the internet, I committed!

First thoughts

First thoughts on receiving the product were just how small and light it really was, how well put together it seemed. The one thing that I noticed straight off and that many people on checking it out had also noticed was the seemingly flimsy pot supports. You can see from the image how they fold away.

The legs pivot upwards into their usable position and then the pivot slides down to lock out. To pack away, you simply pull the legs upwards and pivot them down into the position you see here.

Noticing this as a potential pitfall, I was always very careful to make sure I locked them out properly before loading them with pot weight.

Unfortunately though it was a leg that failed for me whilst out. The stove was still usable, but a bit of a tilt was required to stabilise the pot in the future. Thank God for my super legs!


So what can I give you compared to all these other reviews which are worth checking out on the same product.
- Test Report by Curt Peterson
- LFTO review
- Pete's blog

I really find that no matter how much you look for reviews, you can't get enough information when you are looking into buying kit and as much as magazine reviews are enlightening and you get all your measured tests done, what you can't necessarily get is layperson's terms usage experience. Those little quirks of experience that can only come from ongoing usage. And when you are still not sure what to get, you make a choice, sometimes a reasoned one, often based on price, sometimes on asthetics, but you are never quite sure, so I suppose I can in this case tell you that if you are in the same situation as me, not totally sure, if you go ahead and buy it, then if it does go wrong, Tomo is a reasonable man and there to help out, so you can be safe in that knowledge. And because of that, I also want to help Soto and compliment them and their product, because they have treated me superbly and I have gained much pleasure from my reliable little stove, so with that in mind...


Standard twisting installation onto the top of the gas canister. Extend the regulator handle which neatly folds up for storage. This allows you to unfold the pot supports/legs. Once locked, all you need to do is give the smoothy actioned regulator handle a few good twists until the gas is flowing and then click the large red igniter button - As easy as that!

The igniter is damn reliable as well, so much so that I now, rightly or wrongly, don't bring a lighter as back up. Two or three clicks at worst and you have a roaring gas stove.

And when it comes to packing away, the OD-1R comes with a neat little bag, which stops you scratching your expensive non-stick pans, if you store the burner within.

With this stove the simplicity of the process is the key!

Aside from what I hope is an anomoly in the leg failure, the main negative to note is the lack of wind protection. The effect of wind is noticable, both visually and when it comes to heating time. However if, like me, it is a matter of wildman/woman pride for you to achieve suitable protection from a tree or other wilderness feature, then this is not such an issue. It is a noteworthy point nonetheless.

This burner kept me sane on a lonely and cold cycle tour when hot food was imperative, has assisted in many a wet wood fire start, and easily fed four people on the Camino de Santiago, in wet conditions and at temperatures as low as -5. It has definitely had a hard ride and I had this in mind when I first tried it after a 6 month trip away. I attached a canister and despite my concerns, it lit after a couple of clicks of the igniter. I am now convinced of it's performance and longevity -  A trusty companion for the outdoor life.

Next generation

So if you haven't noticed, I am a big fan of this stove and I was excited to see Soto advertising their more recent offerings. It is refreshing to see that they have developed what from the product name is to be the replacement for the OD-1R, the OD-1RX, which now incorporates an updated burner head to address the one area, where the performance was only average in the tests (and in the real world), wind protection.

Check it out for yourself, I think if my OD-1R wasn't looking like it was going to last forever, then this would be on my shopping list... or maybe I'll just donate the 1R to a friend and upgrade anyway!