The Soto Muka Stove Review

The snows have fallen, the weather’s cold, and winter is here. Wake up and smell the snowflakes! Winter is one of the best seasons to enjoy the outdoors — don’t sit this one out folks. Put a kit together, and go.

Part of any decent winter kit is a good stove. A lot of winter backcountry travelers consider a stove essential even for day trips. Your stove is a source of reliable heat, and when that white stuff is all over the ground, your stove is your water source. Even if you don’t consider it a day trip essential, a hot cup of tea or soup is one of life’s great pleasures on a winter afternoon in the backcountry.

The flame of a Soto Muka Stove (OD-1NP)

But what to bring? Well, if you’re going to melt snow, you’re going to need some serious BTU’s, and I’ve got a suggestion: The new Muka stove from Soto Outdoors.

A lot of liquid fueled stoves put out about 10,000 BTU’s/hour. The Soto Muka? Try 15,000+ BTU/hour. You read that right, more than 15,000 BTU’s per hour. Crazy hot!

What’s that? I lost you at “liquid fuel?”

Hey, not so fast now. Yeah, nobody likes priming. But what if I told you this stove doesn’t require require priming? Just hook it up, pump it up, and fire it up. No messing with trying to get gasoline into the little cup at the bottom. No having to snatch your hand away before you become what’s cooking. And no fireball.  Sweet!

What’s the secret? The Smart Pump.

The Smart Pump of a Soto Muka

The smart pump pre-mixes air and fuel so that you can start the stove right up without priming.  Nice.

Let’s take a look a closer look at the stove.  First off, it comes in a really nice stuff sack.  Good quality, well made, and no problem fitting everything inside.

The Soto Muka stove -- straight out of my pack.

The Muka uses a special wide-mouthed fuel bottle, so you will need to get a fuel bottle (sold separately) even if you’ve already got a fuel bottle for another stove.   Muka fuel bottles come in two sizes, 700ml/23.7 fl oz (shown below) and 1000ml/33.8 fl oz.  Of course, as with any liquid fueled stove, you have to leave some air space in order for the pump to pressurize things safely and properly, so the effective capacities are 480ml/16.2 fl oz. and 720ml/24.3 fl oz respectively.

Speaking of fuel, the Soto Muka can burn white gasoline (e.g. Coleman fuel), but unlike most other stoves, the Muka can also burn unleaded gasoline, straight from the gas station, and it can do it cleanly and well.  Sure, a lot of stoves claim to burn unleaded gasoline, but realistically, most stoves are going to be degraded by burning unleaded.  The Muka is the one backpacking stove that really stands out in this regard.

As for the stove itself, the stove itself packs down really small.  I really like the super flexible fuel hose.  The fuel hose is really easy to wrap around the stove for compact stowage.

The Soto Muka is wonderfully compact.

And, when unfolded, the Muka makes a nice stable platform for your pot.  I rate the Muka’s pot stability as Very Good to Excellent, and the pot supports themselves are very strong.  No worries here, folks.

The Soto Muka stove, fully deployed.

Another really nice feature of the Muka is that they use a “quick connect” type connector to attach the stove to the pump.  There’s no screwing or unscrewing or tight “O” rings to try to force a connector past.  It’s really quick to connect and disconnect the pump from the stove.  And, wisely, Soto has placed protective covers (see below) on both ends of the connector.  Nice touch, Soto.

Well designed covers protect both fuel connectors

Another feature on the Muka is the pressure indicator shown below.  The pressure indicator is a little “pop up” button.  When there is no pressure, the pressure indicator is flush with its housing.

The indicator is fully down (zero pressure)
When the fuel bottle has the correct pressure, the button extends outward such that a small red band (see below photo) can be seen.  So, no guessing as to whether you’ve got enough pressure, or worse, whether you’ve over pressurized the bottle and are about to have a seal failure, spilling flammable gasoline all over.

The Muka comes with this very nice, lightweight windscreen.  The Windscreen is equipped with vents that can be opened or closed as conditions dictate.  Also, thoughtfully, Soto includes a small “clip” that allows one to adjust the size of the windscreen for different sized pots.

The windscreen has adjustable vents

A lightweight windscreen is of course a two edged sword.  On the one hand it’s nice and light, but light means thin, and thin means that it’s easy to melt.   The directions say that you should keep the pot a minimum of 1 in/2.5cm from the windscreen.  Take this advice seriously.  If the windscreen shifts, melting can occur (see photo below).

The windscreen is a little thin

 Pros

One of the truly outstanding features of the stove is the Muka’s Smart Pump.  The Smart Pump is a clear triumph of precision design and engineering and is a pleasure to use.  Notice that the Smart Pump has not one but two pick up tubes.  The upper tube picks up air.  The lower tube picks up fuel. The air and fuel are mixed together during the start up phase.  This air-fuel mix is what allows the Muka to start up without requiring priming.

The Smart Pump has fine mesh enclosures on all openings inside the bottle

Another great feature about the Muka stove is that its long, flexible fuel line allows one to stand the fuel bottle on end for pumping.  When the bottle is vertical, gravity helps you pump, making pumping that much easier.  Notice also the nice, wide handle on the pump.  The pump is very comfortable to operate and is very smooth.  One note though is that the stove does require more pumping than many other stoves I’ve used.  With a 700ml fuel bottle filled to the “fill” line (480ml), the Muka’s instructions state that about 70 pump strokes will be required to pressurize the bottle.  If the bottle is half empty, 140 pumps.  On a 1000ml bottle, the instructions call for 90 and 210 strokes, respectively.  That’s a lot of pumping!  As your bottle nears empty, like when you’re getting near the end of a trip, you’ll need to pump even more.

The long flexible line allows the bottle to be stood on end while pumping.

Once you’re done pumping, it’s time to fire it up. The controls are really pretty simple.
The controls on a Soto Muka stove.

To start the stove, pull out the dial to unlock it.  Then, turn the dial to “Start” and light the stove.  The flame will be yellow/red at first.  Let the stove warm up for about ten seconds.  When the flame settles down to a nice even blue, turn the dial to “Run.”  The farther you turn the dial into the “Run” portion of the dial, the lower the flame will get.  The flame however is not a fully adjustable flame like that found on stoves with a valve at the burner.  One cannot get a super low flame with a Soto Muka.  Indeed, I was not able to effect a true simmer with the Muka.  However, I was able to turn it down to the point where, with stirring, cooking would be possible.  In other words you can do more with the Muka than just melt snow and boil water — but at the same time it’s not a gourmet cook’s stove.

To turn the stove off, simply turn the dial to “Air.” The pump will stop supplying fuel to the burner while depressurizing the tank and purging the fuel line at the same time. Unlike many liquid fueled stoves, there’s no spurt of fuel all over your hands from manual de-pressurization when you unscrew the pump, and there’s no fuel left in the fuel tube to dribble all over when you unhook the line.  Nice!  The Soto folks really did their homework when they designed this stove.

Speaking of melting snow and boiling water, how did it perform?  Like a champ.  I was quite impressed with how quickly it could melt snow and bring it to a boil.  Plenty of power.  Speaking of which, want to see the Soto Muka make short work of some snow melting?  I’ve got a video review of the Soto Muka on my blog which serves as a supplement to this written review.

A vigorous boil on the Soto Muka is no problem at all!

Cons

Concerns?  Well, I’ve got a couple.

The highly flexible hose of the Soto Muka

For one thing, the fuel hose is so flexible that it’s going to be easy to pack it wrong.  If you leave the hose for any length of time in the position shown in the above photo, you could cause a crack in the fuel hose.  A leaking fuel hose is a really dangerous thing.  This isn’t a problem per se with the stove, but the user of the stove really needs to be mindful of how the stove is packed up and put away.  Soto might wish to consider putting a rubber sheath or stiffener here at this critical point.

My second concern comes from the instructions.  The instructions state “Stop operating the stove if the ambient temperature falls below -20C (-4F) because the ‘O’ ring will temporarily harden and lose elasticity, allowing the fuel to leak.”  Really?  Well, maybe it’s just me, but -4F/-20C seems, well, a little “light.”  I mean the whole point of using gasoline type fuel is so that you can go out in cold weather — weather that would stop a typical upright canister gas stove, well, cold.  But recall that inverted canister gas stoves typically work well to 0F/-18C.  If you have to stop using the Muka stove at only -4F/-20C, then how is using a liquid fueled stove a significant advantage over canister gas?  Only -4F/-20C doesn’t really seem robust enough to me for a white gasoline stove.

Now, realistically, for many of us, that lower temperature limit won’t even matter, but for serious winter travelers and mountaineers, that limit could be very, very important.    If one is considering a Soto Muka for serious cold weather use, one should pay attention to the -4F/-20C temperature limit.

Summary

Overall, the Soto Muka is a very good stove.  With it’s precision engineering, the Muka is a pleasure to use, and there are all sorts of nice touches that show that the folks at Soto really thought this one through.

The Soto Muka:  Highly recommended (within the specified temperature limits)

-HJ

 

TECHNICAL APPENDIX

Manufacturer:  Soto Outdoors

Date available:  Currently available

MSRP:  $148

Weight:  11.5 oz/327g (pump + stove)

Packed Dimensions:  3.1″ x 2.6″ x 3.1″/8cm x 6.5cm x 8cm  (stove only)

Requirements:   Proprietary fuel bottle (cannot use other brands)

Fuel:   White gasoline or unleaded automotive gasoline

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