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Exclusively at REI: The Soto Muka Stove

Shopping for a backpacking stove?  A new model has turned some heads here at REI: the Soto Muka.

Why it's noteworthy: The Muka is the first liquid-fuel modern-day backpacking stove that requires no priming—a big leap forward in convenience for liquid-fuel stoves. It also uses either traditional white gas or unleaded gasoline, which is a plus when traveling internationally and white gas may be tough to locate. The Muka is available exclusively at REI through mid-June.

Soto MukaWho might appreciate it most:
• Fans of liquid-fuel stoves.
• Backpackers who hike in cool conditions or at high elevations where overnight temperatures dip below freezing.
• Backpackers who travel in groups of 4 or more.
• Anyone comfortable handling liquid fuel and attracted to a high-performance stove.

Liquid-fuel stoves vs. canister stoves: Canister stoves are clean and convenient, simple and light. It's why recreational backpackers love 'em. I've used canister stoves on nearly every backpacking trip for the past 4 years. But knowing how much fuel is left inside a canister is always a guessing game, and canister stoves underperform when temperatures drop close to freezing. They can also seem a little slow if it's the only stove available for a large group. In these situations liquid-fuel stoves excel.

Priming basics: Liquid-fuel stoves typically require priming—a few drips of fuel must be collected in a priming cup beneath the stove's burner and ignited. This heats the stove's loop-shaped vaporizing tube so liquid fuel traveling through the fuel line converts to a gas and creates a steady blue cooking flame. Potential downsides: 1) If too much fuel is put in the cup, some could spill out and start a fire and 2) priming often leaves a sooty residue on the stove's burner and pot supports.

Muka = no priming: The Muka requires pumping, but not priming. Expect to crank out a dozen or more strokes when preparing to operate the Muka. When do you know you've pumped enough? A small indicator near the pump handle pops out and a red line appears. It's similar to the pop-up temperature indicator used when cooking a turkey. Next, lift the control dial into the up (unlocked) position, twist it to Start and light the stove. When lit, twist the dial to Run and cooking can begin. (As with any product, always read manufacturer instructions before attempting to operate the stove.)

More pumping: To maintain pressure, you'll likely have to pump more strokes, perhaps many more, once the dial is switched to Run. If the Muka has a downside, it is the frequent pumping required to maintain optimal performance.

Weight: Combined, the burner head and pump system weigh 11.6 ounces, according to Soto. I tossed both units on a scale and found that estimate to be accurate. The pump is compatible only with a Soto-made bottle, which has a wider mouth than MSR or Primus bottles. Soto bottles are sized at 700ml (weight: 4.2 oz. when empty) and 1,000ml (5.3 oz.), but neither bottle can function if filled beyond their fill lines—480ml (16.2 fl. oz.) for the 700ml bottle, 720ml (24.3 fl. oz.) for the 1,000ml bottle.

To extinguish: Twist the dial to Air. This extinguishes the flame and expels residual fuel vapor—a handy feature. Twist to Stop and push the dial down to its locked position.

Included: A vented windscreen, which minimizes excessive pressure buildup if the windscreen tightly surrounds a cooking pot; a maintenance kit that includes a multitool (with 2 hex wrench heads), various O-rings and lubricant for the pump.

Impressions: As of this writing, 3 of the 5 customer reviews logged are 5-star evaluations. (To read them, click the Reviews tab on the product page.)

While tinkering with the Muka in REI's Quality Assurance Lab with REI colleagues, I heard mostly favorable comments. One observation involved the amount of pumping necessary to optimize performance. (Dozens and dozens of strokes might be required in the field, we presumed.) When operating the stove in a strong wind, we figured the windscreen would be an essential item. We liked the wide, stable pot supports, the clever way they fold up around the burner head to create a compact package, the length and flexibility of the fuel line, the overall quality of the materials.

In our indoor tryout the Muka delivered plenty of heat (Soto estimates a cup of water will boil in 3 minutes) and decent but not spectacular flame control; the ability to simmer appears to be modest to OK. It was the stay-clean no-priming feature that won over many hearts. The Muka looks promising. Check out the Soto-supplied video to see it in action, and to learn more about stove selection in the REI Expert Article How to Choose a Backpacking Stove.

T.D. Wood is an REI staff member.

 

Posted on at 11:49 AM

Tagged: Muka, Soto, backpacking, backpacking stoves, liquid-fuel stoves, priming and stoves

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SturmScourge

Unfortunately, this stove is not the first liquid fuel stove that requires no priming. The lighting procedure shown in the video is basically identical to the procedure used for the Snow Peak White Gas Stove (GS-010R), which also requires no priming. The GS-010R was Backpacker Magazine's Editors' Choice in 2001...

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SturmScourge

Sorry, don't want that to sound like I'm a hater.

Not having to prime your stove is a great concept and great feature (which is why I got the Snow Peak), but I haven't figured out why more manufacturers don't use it...

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T.D. Wood Staff Member

@SturmScourge, thanks for your observation. I was unaware of the Snow Peak White Gas Stove. Even Backpacker magazine (April 2011 Gear Guide issue, page 148) claims it is the first modern no-prime liquid-fuel stove. Thanks for your input.

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Tamerlin

I got one of the Muka stoves from REI... and found that it leaked fuel through its generator unit when I lit it. I took it back and got a replacement... same problem -- and I followed the instructions carefully both times, in order to be sure. So I'm going probably going to return it, and before considering another one, light it in the store to test it to make sure that this not an endemic problem. Otherwise, I'll look for one of the Snow Peak white gas stoves, which for some reason doesn't appear to have gotten much attention.

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