SOTO WindMaster Review: Unflappable Powerhouse Stove
The SOTO WindMaster stands proudly as a maximalist canister stove that promises high power and unparalleled performance in the wind. Throughout the winter, Josh put the stove through its paces on coffee rides and glamping overnighters to see if the WindMaster lives up to its name. Read his in-depth review here…
I love my Trangia for its simplicity and silence in operation, but alcohol stoves suffer when the wind picks up and the temperatures drop. The low heat output and stubborn lighting in cold conditions are less than ideal when you need that hot drink the most. So, despite my soft spot for the iconic brass design, I’m back to gas canister stoves for winter bikepacking. Over the last six months, I brought the SOTO WindMaster along for coffee stops on day rides and overnighter cookouts in the damp and dark German winter to see whether the utility of the gas canister stove could displace my beloved Trangia in my kit—perhaps even year-round.
While this is our first review of a SOTO product on the site, the company is hardly an unknown quantity. SOTO builds on decades of engineering experience in designing industrial burners of all kinds. And since SOTO’s design, manufacturing, and quality control all happens in-house at their factory in Japan, it’s perhaps no surprise that their innovative canister stoves have come to be highly regarded by backpackers and bikepackers alike since the brand’s international launch in 2010. The WindMaster—confidently maximalist in its feature set—stands proud as the brand’s flagship stove with the promise of high power, strong wind performance, and unparalleled cooking prowess.
At first glance, the WindMaster towers over other upright canister stoves. At a height of 88mm (3.5”), it’s about 10mm (0.4”) taller than the popular MSR PocketRocket 2, and it’s twice the size of the BRS-3000T. The massive burner head gives a visual hint at the heat output this powerhouse can unleash. Despite its imposing stature, the WindMaster only weighs about 87g (3.1oz) including the 4Flex pot support, just 10g (0.3 oz) more than the PocketRocket 2.
I tested the WindMaster with the four-pronged 4Flex pot support that folds out to an astonishing wingspan of of 142mm, which is ideal for cooking with confidence with large pots of up to 2L in size. SOTO’s solution to making the stable pot support packable was to make it detachable. It packs down surprisingly well, and while the system is bulkier than other stoves with attached folding arms, I found it disappeared into my (admittedly capacious) cookset all the same. A slimmer three-pronged 3Flex pot support is also available, though the long throat and large head of the burner itself mean I’d likely choose a different system if I were truly pressed for space.
The large concave burner head is recessed behind a raised lip so wind can’t reach the flames. The brilliant design drastically improves the performance and efficiency in real-world conditions, and—spoiler alert—it works really well. In fact, other manufacturers have taken note and updated their designs to match in recent years.
Another notable feature ise the micro-regulator valve, which SOTO says maintains a constant output, unlike the variable nature of a standard needle valve. And the piezo ignition is a nice touch I came to appreciate. All these features add a bit of complexity and cost, but so far, the WindMaster has proved completely reliable, and SOTO provides detailed care instructions and a rebuild kit for the piezo igniter to keep the stove running for years to come.
Overall, the build quality of the WindMaster is very impressive, with no rattling parts, sharp edges, or raised burs anywhere. It’s an exquisitely crafted piece of machinery with great fit and finish, and I look forward to every opportunity I get to use it. My only real criticism here is the rather flimsy nylon bag the WindMaster comes in, which seems at odds with the impeccable build quality of the stove itself. At the high-end price point of $64.95, a sturdier carrying solution would be nice.
WindMaster in Use
The WindMaster’s size means handling with gloves or cold fingers is straightforward and not fiddly at all. Attaching the sturdy 4flex pot support to the throat of the stove is a two-second job, and the substantial construction of the 4Flex absolutely holds up to heavy loads with zero deflection. No chance of spilled water here.
The smooth flow control takes a full turn before gas streams out of the array of tiny holes up top. Punching the red button of the piezo igniter returns a satisfying fooomph as the tiny jets light in concert. In damp and cold conditions, this occasionally took a second try, and I’d always bring a lighter as backup. Once lit, the micro-regulator keeps the flame at a steady level, unlike standard needle-valve stoves, which require manual adjustment as the canister cools and the gas pressure drops. The flow adjustment is smooth and has an adjustment range of several turns for precisely dialing in the flame.
Compared to other canister stoves, the WindMaster is shockingly quiet. So quiet, in fact, that the first few times I fired up the stove, I was double-checking that I’d indeed opened the gas flow. While not whisper-quiet at full blast, the steady rushing of the WindMaster is almost pleasant and entirely compatible with socializing, whereas the hellfire scream of a PocketRocket 2 usually arrests any conversation for the duration of the burn. The WindMaster’s large burner head seems to pay dividends, providing tons of heat without sounding like a jet engine on take-off. In my opinion, the civilized noise profile of the WindMaster is one of its biggest selling points.
According to SOTO, the gentle giant delivers up to 3260W (11000 BTU) of heat, which puts it at the top of the pack for canister stoves (for reference, the PocketRocket 2 provides 2430W), with blazing fast boil times to match. Practically speaking, I don’t put much stock in boil times, as I’m not counting seconds when I’m out bikepacking. But the high output means there’s plenty of margin for boiling lots of water or cooking for multiple people even in cold and windy conditions. For a single person, the excess of power is overkill but still appreciated, since I can dial the stove down to reduce the noise and boost the efficiency of this already economical stove.
Camp chefs will appreciate the large burner head, which creates a larger hotspot better suited for actual cooking. Be aware though, the WindMaster can throw a lot of heat, and the pot sits just 9mm (0.35”) above the burner, much closer than other stoves—great for efficiency but also a recipe for burnt food and scorch marks if you’re not attentive. With a bit of finesse, however, the wind-resistant burner design and precise micro-regulator enable a stable simmer that can be dialed low without blowing out. And, using aluminum cookware, I’ve had great success cooking with the WindMaster. I came to love the piezo ignition for quickly relighting when frying up different ingredients for a Thai curry, one of my favorite gourmet camping meals.
The micro-regulator works admirably at keeping the heat output constant while the canister draws down, perhaps until 20% of gas remains. While you might think the micro-regulator could also prevent the common issue of pressure fading at low temperatures, not even the brilliant engineers at SOTO can circumvent fundamental physics. When it gets cold, the gas in the canister gets lethargic and increasingly unwilling to vaporize. This manifests in low pressure and flow at the burner, and no regulator can create pressure where there is none to start with. This is a fuel problem, not an issue with the stove.
It seemed the WindMaster succumbed to this fading a little earlier than other stoves, but in practice, this difference matters little. Technology can only take you so far, and as temperatures drop below 5°C/43°F, technique becomes more important. In cold temperatures, gas pressure can be maintained, for example, by placing the canister in water, though you’ll want to do your own research on cold-weather operation of canister stoves. You’ll want to stick to iso-butane/propane mixes that perform better in cold temperatures (such as the ones from MSR and GSI), preferably the larger ones which provide a more stable base and incur slightly less waste.
So, how does the WindMaster fare in the wind? Since the protected concave burner sits very close to the pot base, there’s little opportunity for gusts to disrupt the heat exchange. Using the stove in mildly breezy conditions, the WindMaster seemed unflappable. More detailed testing might reveal a slight decrease in efficiency, but the WindMaster is light years ahead of the laughably bad wind performance of some ultralight stoves such as the BRS-3000T.
To simulate more challenging conditions, I did some highly scientific testing in my kitchen that involved pointing a hairdryer at a low setting at the base of the pot to simulate a stiff coastal wind. While I don’t know the exact wind speed, the airflow was fast enough that it was completely impossible to light a Bic lighter, even behind a shielding hand. The piezo ignition of the WindMaster comes in handy as it lit the flame just fine. I took full advantage of the expansive real estate of the 4Flex to reposition the pot “downwind” to recapture some of the deflected heated air.
Under these adverse conditions, the WindMaster took about twice as long to boil the liter of water at max flow, which also means it burned twice as much gas. For comparison, the PocketRocket 2 was unable to raise the water temperature above 50°C, no matter how long I let it burn. All this to say: the WindMaster is ready for the windiest conditions you would want to use a stove in. Coupled with a lightweight windscreen, you have a predictable and economical companion for longer bikepacking trips in remote places where fuel consumption must be planned and managed.
- Weight: 87g (3.1oz) with 4Flex pot support
- Output: 3260W (11000BTU)
- Boil time: 3:54 for 1 liter a 20°C (68°F)
- Width of pot support : 142mm (5.6”)
- Place of manufacture: Japan
- Price: $64.95/€74.90
- Manufacturer’s Details: SotoOutdoors.com
- Relatively quiet even at full flow, especially considering its incredible firepower.
- High heat output boils water for up to 3-4 people in a flash, no matter the conditions.
- Excellent wind performance means great real-world efficiency and predictable gas consumption.
- Solid 4Flex pot support and stable simmer lend themselves to cooking fancy meals for 2-3 people.
- Integrated piezo igniter is surprisingly useful.
- Fantastic fit and finish make the stove a joy to use.
- Large-ish size and bulky pot support mean it doesn’t nest as well in slender one-person pots.
- High-flow burner is more sensitive to gas pressure drops in cold conditions. Make sure to use isobutane canisters with this stove.
- Theoretically speaking, the micro-regulator adds complexity and can’t be serviced as easily as a standard needle valve, though I haven’t had any issues so far.
- Flimsy nylon bag is disappointing at this price point.
In my season-long test, the WindMaster lived up to its name, beating the cold and wind and keeping my friends and me well supplied with hot coffee and food whenever it was called upon. I didn’t expect to love a canister stove this much, but it earned its spot as my go-to winter cooker. Coming from the silent Trangia system, I was delighted by the relative quietness of the WindMaster. The stable pot support and good simmer mean I’ll be reaching for this stove year-round whenever I expect to be cooking for multiple people, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it lands in my bag for many solo trips too. It’s difficult to find any real faults with the WindMaster. The minor size and weight penalties are more than justified by its impressive wind performance and fantastic handling. If you’re looking for a rock-solid canister stove for all conditions and all seasons, the WindMaster should be at the very top of your list.
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