Portable Wood Stove review – Updated

The Great Northern Camp Stove

I bought this little wood stove about a year ago, because I was impressed with it’s quality of construction to price ratio. Which was something in the neighborhood of $100 at Princess Auto. Like a boy with a new toy I tried it in the back yard soon after getting it home, plus I needed to do the first burn outdoors to burn off any oils on the metal and nasties emanating from the paint. I then boxed it back up for installation later in my little trailer workshop.

Compared to other portable wood stoves I’ve seen, this stove is much heavier gauge steel and is wire feed welded next to others that are tin can thin and spot welded.

The choice of buying it, trying it in the back yard, and then not installing it in my little workshop for over a year was a mistake.

Aside from better materials and build quality, this stove has one primary issue that can not be ignored. When you start the fire or open the door to feed it, it will smoke you out. No amount of damper control or door open & close speed can negate this, when you go to feed it you must have direct ventilation because the smoke pours out. The reason for this problem as I see it is the chimney pipe is only 2 1/2″ tubing, thus way too small, which may be great for portability but doesn’t work for actual usage in a ice shack, a wall tent or in my case a tin trailer. Whoever first built this stove did not go beyond testing it in the backyard before getting a bajillion of them welded up in China.

There are a few other problems with this stove

  • There is no internal baffling, thus making in an inefficient burn, baffling can allow sort of a second burn were the carbon monoxide and creosote in the smoke burn at a high temp. The ‘reburn’ will reduce the amount of pollutants emitted and creosote build up in the chimney.
  • When the stove is heated up the vent on the backside becomes near impossible to adjust
  • The little chimney cap they give you puts even more of a restriction on the already poorly chimney

Since I bought it over a year ago, and I don’t have an alternative for being able to work in my shop in cold weather, I’m kind of stuck with it. So for the time being I leave the door open while starting the fire, and open the door wide when feeding it.  To fix it I’ll need to grind and weld a new chimney flange on it. I’ll likely go with whatever the common size is for a pellet stove, which I believe is 4 or 5 inch.

So in summary I would not recommend buying this wood stove unless you have replacement chimney and a welding setup handy to alter it. The one exception might be if you needed an easy to carry stove for camping when there is a campfire ban.

While writing this up, I did come up with an idea that may make this stove work better with little modification. I’ll try an insulating fiberglass wrap along the lines of automotive exhaust header wrap. This may work along the lines of what gives a rocket stove such good draw.

Update Dec 31, 2010

I stopped at a muffler shop and bought a 3 foot piece of 2.5 inch exhaust pipe expanded on one end so that if fits on the end of the existing chimney pieces. This significantly helped with the draw, reducing the amount of smoke that escapes when adding wood to the fire. It still smokes more than I would like, but makes it much more bearable.

I noticed on the Amazon listing for this stove that customers who bought this stove also bought preparedness books such as How To Survive the End of the World As We Know It by James Wesley, Rawles and Where There Is No Doctor. Lets hope that they don’t wait till the Schumer hits the fan to try the stove out, thus smoking themselves for extra flavor when the cannibals come a callin’.

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