The Soto Windmaster wins our Editors' Choice Award. It's relatively lightweight and has a piezoelectric igniter that works every time. The big pot supports work well with lots of cookware. It simmers well. And should the wind pick up while you're slaving over dinner, fear not, it lives up to its name. There are more fuel-efficient choices in our test, and we wished that the control valve had a bit more resistance for fine adjustments. We also didn't like having to put on and take off the pot supports. That said, our testing team would still happily take this stove on our next backpacking trip.
Soto Windmaster Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, works in the wind, great piezo lighter, very stable for small canister stove
Cons: Not the most fuel efficient, pot supports pack up separately from stove
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Soto is not yet as widely known as some of the other brands in this test. However, the Windmaster has been around for a few years and is distinguishing itself as a very high performing small canister stove. Part of its appeal is its performance in the wind. It must be getting noticed because the burner head of the more recently-released MSR PocketRocket Deluxe looks almost the same…
The longer the trip, the more important fuel efficiency becomes. The Windmaster is above average when it comes to fuel efficiency. It burned 0.5 ounces of fuel bringing one liter of water to boil in calm conditions. This is equal to some of the integrated canister stoves, which have design elements that improve efficiency.
In our 2 - 4 mph wind test this stove used 0.7 ounces of fuel to boil one liter of water. That's a great number for a small canister stove. The fact that it can stay lit at all, never mind boil water, in the wind is impressive enough. While this is becoming a common characteristic for small canister stoves, they still perform best when they're sheltered from the breeze by a pack or maybe in your (well-ventilated) tent vestibule. It's not the most fuel-efficient small canister stove in our test group, but the vast majority of users won't notice the difference.
While attentive and thoughtful stove operation will help you get the most out of this model, if you have to be cooking in inclement weather, check out an integrated canister or liquid fuel stove.
Most of the small canister stoves in our review fall in the 1 - 4-ounce range for weight. We don't think weight is of enormous significance when comparing one small canister stove to another. More weight gets you more features. Any small canister stove that's lighter than this one is lacking some niceties. At 3 ounces (85 grams) the Windmaster weighs in at the slightly heavier end of the spectrum, which is what we expect from a fully-featured model. Our testers are beginning to suspect that 3 ounces may be the ideal weight for this type of stove. Lower than this and you're sacrificing some features that most backpackers want for little gain.
The Windmaster burner alone weighs 2 ounces. It's compatible with two different pot supports. The 4Flex is what we tested and is great for pots 6 inches in diameter or greater. It weighs 1 ounce. The Triflex pot supports are for smaller pots and only add 0.3 ounces. The included stuff sack weighs 0.5 ounces.
If you're out with a bigger group you could bring 2 of these stoves for half the weight of a single liquid fuel stove.
If all you ever eat in the backcountry is instant food, skip this section. If you've been thinking about investing in a frying pan to make some quesadillas in camp, or perhaps fry up some fish you caught with that ultralight fly rod, this metric is for you.
Small canister stoves are generally pretty good at simmering, and so is the Windmaster. The first quality we look at for simmering is how low we can turn the stove down before it goes out. Our testers found it could be turned down so low that it is easily blown out by any disturbance in the ambient air! Even resistance from the control valve lets us dial in the exact amount of heat we need. We would have liked a little more resistance when turning the control valve.
The third quality that contributes to good simmering is the size of the burner head. The Windmaster sports a burner head that's about 1 3/4 inches across. This is on the larger end of things for a small canister stove and really helps distribute the heat across cookware, leading to fewer scorched spots in the middle of the pan.
Ease Of Use
The Windmaster is one of the easiest to use stoves in our review. It saw a lot of field time with our testing team because we don't want to spend valuable backcountry time messing around with our stove.
Our testers don't like keeping track of parts and prefer stoves that require as little assembly as possible, so we aren't fond of having to put on and remove the 4Flex pot support. Nevertheless, the pot support is big and sturdy and easily handled cookware larger than 1 liter.
The piezoelectric igniter on the Windmaster works every time. We took many trips with this as our only stove and never took a lighter out of our backpack. This technology has been incorporated reliably in a number of stoves for many years. We wish all stoves had a piezo and that they were all this reliable.
The control valve wire is about 1.5 inches long and is generally easy to locate. The bigger cookware that this stove can accommodate can sometimes make it a bit harder to find the wire.
Our testing team thinks boil times are relevant, but shouldn't be the primary consideration with stove selection. We don't think most backpackers will notice much difference between the boil times of these stoves in real-world conditions. Users should be aware that their behavior when operating the stove has a huge influence on how long things take to cook.
The Windmaster has respectable boil times. With no wind, it boiled a liter of water in 4 minutes and 42 seconds. In front of the fan blowing 2 - 4 mph it was still able to boil a liter of water, albeit in 7 minutes and 24 seconds. Most of the other small canister stoves were not able to boil water in the wind in less than 15 minutes. The Windmaster also beat most of the liquid fuel stoves' wind boil times.
Though it is one of the more expensive small canister stoves in our test the combination of low weight and generous pot supports give it some versatility, boosting its value. We think the high performance of the Windmaster makes it a good value.
We like the Soto Windmaster. The solid piezo igniter and pot supports make it easy to use. We wish all the piezoelectric igniters in our test were this reliable. The gourmet cooks amongst us also appreciated the ability to simmer with this unit. However, it was this stove's performance in the wind that impressed us the most. The Windmaster was one of the first small canister stoves we used that could boil water in front of our test fan. This stove does everything previous Editors' Choice Award winners have done - and then some. This is the stove our testers consistently reached for when they could choose any model in our review.
— Ian McEleney