Outside the winter months, Three Points of the Compass has been using the Soto Windmaster gas stove on almost all hikes in recent years. It has proved to be a reliable and efficient performer that has never failed in any respect. It is now a first choice for my cook kit for three season use.
The Soto Windmaster, with micro regulator, model OD-1RXN, is a Japanese made canister top stove with a tall stem and wide burner head. It was introduced onto the market in March 2013. Many will recognise the design from the similarly equipped Pocket Rocket Deluxe that was released by MSR later. Homage, rip-off, I’ll leave you to decide. The only aspect of the MSR variant that might be an advantage are the fixed-to-the-stove fold out pot supports on the MSR. Soto have gone the route of exchangeable/detachable pot supports instead. While this improves packed size just a little and does provide options, Three Points of the Compass only uses the three-arm pot-support option, which is the same configuration that the MSR comes in.
When purchased, you get the stove, the 4Flex four-arm pot support, a synthetic baggie with drawcord closure and instructions. The instruction manual for the Soto Windmaster can also be viewed online here. It is always handy to have this option as most of us tend to eventually lose or discard the paperwork that comes with a new stove. If you are one of the few who actually bothers to read an instruction leaflet, you may notice that Soto state that this stove can only operate with a 70% butane/30% propane gas mix. This is a nonsense to meet standard international guidelines. The stove will work with 100% butane or any standard combination mix. i.e.- butane/propane, or butane/isobutane/propane. It cannot be used with a 100% propane supply.
The main stove stem and burner crown weighs 60g. However a pot support has to fitted to this to use it with a pot or pan. There is either a three or four arm removable option. A 26g 4Flex pot support is supplied with the Soto Windmaster, this has four pot support arms. bringing the stove to a total weight of 86g (Soto say 87g). To fit the 4Flex, it is flexed between finger and thumb, slid onto the burner head and released. Then the four extension legs are unfolded. Across its two widths, this supplies a support diameter from 45mm to 144mm wide. I confess to having used this just twice. It is total overkill for my needs and I purchased the optional three-arm TriFlex support to use instead. This is completely adequate for any pot or pan that I take on trail and I have used it exclusively since purchase. Soto used to sell the identical Windmaster stove as a set with both 4Flex and TriFlex pot supports, it was coded OD-1RXC then.
The TriFlex weighs 7g, bringing the total stove weight to 67g. This is a reduction of 19g on the 4Flex option. The similar MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe weighs 85g. I like that I was able to choose a lighter and slightly less bulky option of pot support that suited my requirements, but I am not the biggest fan of having separate pot support arms. Many is the time I left it on the shelter floor or worse, on the grass outside, and it took a bit of searching to find it. On one day hike I forgot to even take it with me and had to crouch, holding the pot by its handles, over the naked burner head while the water heated. Unpacking at home I then found that I had packed it in the food bag after all. To negate this issue. I now loop it onto a small length of cord that holds my fire steel and little knife together. I only take it off this when I am about to fit it to the burner head and immediately return it to this as soon as I remove it after use. This seems to have solved my mislaying it.
The little Triflex support is clipped closed when not fitted. To fit it is simple. Unclip, and two arm spring apart, and slide over the burner head, ensuring the three hooks are properly gripping the burner crown. Pot supports will be at 120° to each other. The Triflex has support diameters from a minimum of 34mm to an extreme of 100mm, though obviously a pan can overhang this.
While the supplied 11g baggie is not particularly heavy, it is not really required. It isn’t the best of fits for the stove anyway, being a bit loose around it. A stove simply folded into a small piece of lightload towel protects it from damage and prevents rattling while it is stored inside a cook set. This towel also provides something to wipe up with. Mine is a quite large, if cut down, 8g ‘square’.
The Windmaster has a piezo igniter fitted. Three Points of the Compass has never been the greatest of fans of these in the past as they have always seemed a bit flaky, working ‘sometimes’ and eventually breaking and requiring ignoring or repairing. Piezo igniters also add just a little extra weight to a stove. However the one fitted to the Windmaster does seem to be well designed and well constructed. The plastic press-button is fitted alongside the flame control knob and clicks and sparks happily enough. The piezo itself runs internally up the stem, away from possible damage and emerges centrally at the top with a wide exposed tab rather than the flimsy wire found on many other stoves. It has never failed on me, not once. Admittedly I have only used this stove for three years and it will presumably give up the ghost at some point. But not yet, it has been very reliable and has gone some way to reducing my previous negativity about piezo igniters. That said, as always, I carry a secondary form of ignition, just in case. Last year it was a mini Bic lighter, this year it has been a small fire steel. Yep, Three Points of the Compass is nothing if not old school. A ferrocerium rod will spark if soaked and in any temperature conditions. If the piezo does one day fail on me, Soto do sell a replacement igniter kit for the stove.
You may have noticed the features that give the Windmaster its name. The large number of burner jets are set below a surrounding protective ring. This ring checks much of the side breeze that will cause a flame to drift. Additionally, the pot supports are low, meaning that a pan or pot sits closer to the burner head with only a small gap between the two. It isn’t perfect of course and some form of simple windshield will obviously assist still further. I usually put my pack on its side upwind and that is suffice. Alternatively, cooking, with care, in the vestibule of my shelter suffices. Also note the wire mesh that sits below the burner jets. In operation this glows red with heat and will, to an extent, reignite a flame extinguished by wind.
This is not a small stove. The main stem part of the stove measures 46mm across the burner jet and the stove stands 88mm tall, or 83mm once screwed on to the additional height of a gas canister. Apart from that you have one of the two pot supports to pack away somewhere. I wrap it all up in a square of Lightload towel and it usually sits happily inside my GSI low profile mug inside my favoured Evernew 900ml pan.
The wire flame control is large and I have handled it easily enough while wearing gloves. If coming to this stove fresh from another gas stove, it can take a little getting used to the control. The Soto is fitted with a micro gas regulator which aids in maintaining a constant gas supply, with reduced spluttering or fading as the temperature falls and as gas pressure within a canister is reduced. When firing up the stove, it seems at first as though nothing is happening. The flame control has to be rotated at least one and half times before the gas is released. This is due to the internal gas regulator. That said, simmer control is effective with this stove, though the wide burner head with large number of gas jets means that a simmer is never minimal but the jet design speads heat across a wide pattern rather than centrally concentrating it. The flame burns blue and hot. Output from the stove is 2800 kcal/h, 3260W, 11000 BTU.
Possibly due to how it handles windier conditions, meaning less gas and burn time to heat water, this stove is gas efficient. Soto state that it is capable of burning for 1.5 hours on a 250g gas cartridge which is around thirty minutes longer than the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe can deliver with the same size gas cart. The Windmaster has won a lot of support from backpackers and testers for this and other reasons. Guthook Guides held a test of six of the most popular stoves in various windspeeds and found the Windmaster the most efficient, using around 6% less fuel than its closest rival. I will not give any burn times as they are largely a nonsense, dependant on water quantity and temperature, ambient temperature and elevation, pot design and wind, amongst other factors. Suffice to say that some very clever and demanding people reckon its pretty good. It seems fast enough for me anyway, and I seldom use a full jet burn, preferring to turn the flame control down to around three-quarter of its burn capability.
The backpacker is spoilt for choice when it comes to good and efficient gas stoves. For most of the options there is not that much difference and most will bring water to a boil within a few seconds of another. However there are some aspects of the Soto Windmaster that make a difference over time or as conditions change to the worse. The Windmaster is just a little more fuel efficient than many alternatives, it is more efficient in windier conditions than most alternatives, it will handle colder conditions or low gas pressure better than almost all alternatives. For these reasons alone, this is a stove that deserves serious consideration.
Three Points of the Compass previously relied on the excellent MSR Pocket Rocket 2 and it was that stove that was used over a 2000 mile five month hike in 2018. Following that hike the MSR was a lttle worn out and required replacing, I upgraded to the Soto Windmaster and this has now become my favoured gas stove for three-season hiking. In addition to the features and positives listed above, the Soto Windmaster also has the advantage of being far quieter in operation than the MSR. If using a gas stove in colder weather, I continue to rely on the excellent Kovea Spider remote canister stove with pre-heat ability and I also continue to use the tiny and lightweight titanium BRS 3000-T stove on occasion. However that 25g stove handles any sort of breeze terribly, so is now reserved for day hikes where an additional windshield is carried or the weather forecast is outstanding. There are a handful of other gas stoves I have that might occasionally find their way into the pack, just for a change, but it takes a lot to usurp the Soto Windmaster.