The raison d'être of this stove system is to provide a more efficient and safer cook stove for third world users. If you surf around their website you’ll find some pics and videos of it in action.
Looking at the Versa stove from a prepper angle is similar but different - or is it different but similar? Depending on too many variables to count, a third world environment is likely to be encountered here sooner or later, whether it be a short term crisis or the long emergency. The Versa Stove fits in well to many situations. It comes securely packed in a hexagonal box. I remember reading somewhere that a hexagonal is perhaps the most efficie
nt use of space when packing stuff together. This eye for efficiency seems to run from design through packaging. Unfortunately, the product is made in China and I guess the boxes pack well on
The first situation that popped in my head was one where the power grid is out and water supply is questionable. The Ecozoom folks stated you could start a fire with just the stuff laying around your yard. I put them to the test, and they passed. I picked up some twigs off the ground, from 1/8th inch diameter or so to about 1/2 inch. For kindling I found a piece of newspaper and used a Bic. Random twigs - some dry, some rotted, quickly caught. For the next fire, I shaved some twigs and feathered some of the dry ones for tinder and used a fire steel; the fire again started easily, there is a good updraft, the area is protected from capricious winds and also likely rain. There was a minimum of smoke. There would be little light signature using the stove compared to a campfire, especially when using the skirt, especially if using charcoal or chunk wood with the upper door closed.
The fire started easily with an excellent updraft inherit in the design and I was quickly using the thicker twigs. The “Stick Support” was very handy, far more useful than I had expected (see below for pic). The Stick Support allowed the use of longer twigs without having to break or cut them. It was reminiscent of making a campfire with 6 foot logs where just one end is placed in the fire and are pushed closer as the end burns. I forget where I learned this technique -- either in USAF SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape) training or from camping with more experienced folks. Once established, the fire quieted quickly to embers with the lower door closed and quickly developed flames when I opened the door all the way. The heat stays concentrated by the narrow chamber to the bottom of the pot. An adjustable metal skirt (not shown here) that fits between the heat-emitting flu and the pot further directs the heat to the bottom of the pot improving e
fficiency simultaneously allowing the use of a round bottomed pot.
Moderate amounts of water quickly came to a boil. Heating oil to fry foods should be easy but I haven’t tried that yet. Adjusting the heat by using the lower door will allow cooks to simmer foods.
Using charcoal was also easy and efficient. I did not do a direct comparison with my BBQ, but given the efficacy using random twigs and sticks, the Versa stove will likely do well.
It is an effective, low tech stove that can efficiently burn just about about anything.
It is not intended to replace a high tech, minimal weight cook-stove for mountaineering. On the flip side, the user isn’t dependent on bottled fuel and can use whatever is at hand. It weighs about 25 lbs and not intended for back-packing nor inclusion in a BOB [Bug Out Bag]. It does have a place in prepping. Again, in a situation where power is out and the water is tainted -- floods, storms and worse -- it will shine. It will burn a large variety of fuels -- from commercial charcoal or prepared fire wood to twigs and branches. It will efficiently cook just about anything that can be placed in a stew pot or frying pan. It is much more efficient than cooking over a campfire or BBQ. It has an appropriate spot in the garage or wherever your emergency kit is stowed.
At first I thought the that the stick support be constructed so that it can double as a grating to grill food but using a pot is far more efficient given the small but intense area of heat. The support will not be needed if using charcoal or dung (not tested) as fuel.
In this picture, note how handy the stick support is for twigs and sticks of variable lengths. As the fire burned, I just pushed them into the combustion chamber and adding new sticks was a no brainer. Also note the thick ceramic insulation on the upper door which comes more into play when using charcoal (or dung) and the door is closed. The ceramic insulation surrounds the entire combustion area but the sides do get hot. Again, the design is efficient, a few twigs in the combustion area, some tinder in the protected damper area where ashes latter accumulate, and I had about 2 cups of boiling water 7 minutes after the fire started (not established, but 7 minutes after the tinder caught). That’s fast. Nor would that amount of sticks have boiled anything when used as a camp fire. Boiling water in a ‘situation’ is very fuel intensive, the Versa Stove is an efficient method.
In the picture below (from their web site), the lower door is open and the fuel area is closed. This would be the set up for charcoal (or other concentrated fuel), and the lower door is open allowing a full updraft. If using sticks, the stick support would be in front of the upper door and the door would be open. As the sticks burn, simply feed them into the combustion area. Control temperature using the lower the door as a flu.
Pros: Easy to use - starting and maintaining a fire; multiple fuels; very efficient and effective; small light signature, little smoke.
Cons: Weight (no way around this one, but then, you have less need to transport fuel such as propane so it may be a wash); the twig support packs separately increasing possibility of loss.
EcoZoom's Zoom Versa stove, model ZV-VMC26, is versatile because it can burn wood, dried biomass or charcoal. You use the top door for wood and biomass and the bottom door for charcoal and to control airflow. Like the Zoom Dura, the Zoom Versa features an abrasion resistant and durable ceramic combustion chamber with a 10 cm in diameter vertical section that forces the gases to mix with the flame, decreasing harmful emissions and adds a refractory metal liner to the inside of the combustion chamber that protects the ceramic insulation, increases the life of your stove, and improves combustion efficiency. This stove features our new hinged combustion chamber doors enabling for an effortless conversion from wood to charcoal fuels. Both the main combustion chamber door and the damper door (bottom door) have reinforced metal frames and have hinges that serve to securely close the doors and regulate airflow. The Zoom Versa also has a durable, reformulated 6-pronged cast iron stovetop that improves heat transfer for all pots including round bottom pots and woks.
- Stove: D-11 in H-12 1/2 in
- Upper Door: W-4 1/2 in H-2 3/8 in
- Lower Door: W-2 3/8 in. H-1 3/8 in
- Shipping Weight: 26.75lbs / 12kg
- Refractory metal combustion chamber
- Abrasion-resistant, lightweight ceramic insulation
- Two internal grates to hold both wood and charcoal
- Two hinged doors
- 6-pronged universal cast iron stove top
- Stick support
- Adjustable galvanized steel pot skirt
- Painted sheet metal body with reinforced doors
- Plastic and steel handle