I don’t consider myself a survivalist by any means, but if I had to choose one of my many camp stoves for the zombie apocalypse, it would without a doubt be my Bushbox Ultralight Outdoor Pocket Stove.
This cleverly-designed little firebox stove has all the qualities that make a great piece of outdoor gear. It is lightweight, compact, durable, and adaptable to a variety of heat sources and cookware.
The Bushcraft Essentials Bushbox Ultralight Outdoor Pocket Stove is the perfect stove for the ultra minimalist, who doesn’t like to be weighed down with gear and doesn’t mind the extra effort involved with cooking over an open fire. But it is also a great compliment or backup stove for multi day trips deep into the backcountry where fuel conservation is key.
A True Multifuel Stove
Without a doubt, the greatest advantage of any firebox stove is that it can be used with nearly any type of burnable organic material you find lying around, but the Bushbox Ultralight is also a great cook platform (and windscreen) for alcohol burners, fuel tablets, canned gel fuels, and a variety of other cooking approaches.
The reason for this is the clever adaptable design of the Bushbox Ultralight. Slots in the side pieces allow the user to adjust the height of the bottom grill plate, making it extremely adaptable to stoves of varying sizes, strengths, and heights.
More than anything else, this is why my Bushbox Ultralight stove would be a primary item I would choose for a bugout bag for the zombie apocalypse.
So, let’s break down some of the ways you can cook with it.
Whether you call it a firebox stove, twig stove, wood-burning stove, or hobo stove, having the ability to cook with just a handful of twigs and sticks that you’ve laying around on the ground is truly freeing. As long as you can find something to burn, you will never run out of fuel.
Think of a firebox as simply a tiny, contained and controlled cook fire. It is basically a campfire shrunk down to the size of your cookpot, which makes it incredibly efficient in terms of the amount of wood it takes to cook a meal.
Another reason the firebox designs work so well is that the fire draws oxygen from below. This not only makes a super efficient fire, but also cuts down a lot of smoke – an important aspect when you are cooking.
Below we’ll go over actually cooking with a firebox stove using sticks and twigs. But for now let’s look at some other ways you can cook with the Bushbox Ultralight.
When it comes to ultralight cooking with liquid fuel, alcohol stoves are tough to beat. Not only are they generally compact, lightweight, and efficient, but the fuel is widely available and easy to find practically anywhere.
You can use rubbing alcohol (91% denatured alcohol) from any drug store or Heet (or similar) fuel stabilizers that can be found at gas stations and auto parts stores.
Alcohol stoves come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from a simple homemade beer can stove, to ultralight titanium stoves like the , to the traditional Trangia-style burner.
Why the Bushbox Ultralight Firebox is such a great compliment to these alcohol stoves is that it acts as both a pot stand and a windscreen, while still offering the option of cooking with twigs should you run out of alcohol.
The Bushbox Ultralight also updrafts the alcohol stoves much better than would be if they were sitting directly on the ground, Basically this means they get more oxygen and burn more efficiently. And as mentioned above, the bottom grill plate can be adjusted so that the flame of the alcohol burner is the ideal distance from your cook pot.
If you have a Trangia type burner, you will want to have access to the flame control ring while cooking. While setting up the Bushbox Ultralight, place the grill plate in the bottom slot. This should allow you to access and flame controller through the side piece with the fuel feed hole.
This is a great setup for adventure picnicking, where the heavier weight of the Trangia is worth having control over the flame for more elaborate culinary exploits.
Solid Fuel Tablets
Solid fuel tablets like Esbit or hexamine work great in the Bushbox Ultralight. If you are suing the tablets by themselves, simply place the tablets right onto the grill plate. The holes in the grill plate will allow the tablet to get plenty of oxygen and burn with maximum efficiency.
Keep in mind that this may also make them burn quicker, so don’t waste time once they are lit. After you’ve gotten some experience cooking with the tablets, adjust the bottom grill plate on the Bushbox for better efficiency.
There are Esbit stoves out on the market that could be used in conjunction with the Bushbox Ultralight, but this seems like overkill and unnecessary weight if you have the Bushbox Ultralight. Putting the tablet directly on the grill plate will also allow you to light it from underneath. Simply pick up the Bushbox Ultralight with the tablet inside and hold a lighter underneath.
Sterno and Similar Canned Gel Fuels
Sterno is not the “go to” camp cooking fuel it once was, but it is still a viable way to cook while out on the trail and works wonderfully with the Bushbox Ultralight.
Just as with the alcohol stoves mentioned above, the adjustability of the Bushbox Ultralight allows you to find that perfect flame height for the cooking conditions, cookware, and volume of food you are heating.
Honestly, it never dawned on me that the Bushbox Ultralight would make a super cool, ultralight charcoal grill, but a friend clued me into this neat trick.
Put the grill plate on its lowest setting and add 4 or 5 charcoal briquettes. Attach the trivet and Boom! You have a tiny charcoal grill! While I haven’t tried boiling water with this method (it would undoubtedly work), I did grill a chicken thigh once and it was fantastic!
If you are going to use the Bushbox Ultralight as a grill, it’s a good idea to grease up the trivet before cooking to keep sticking to a minimum. Once the charcoal is fully lit, simply lay your chicken (or a small steak) directly on the trivet.
The Perfect Backup Stove
I’ll be the first to admit that the convenience and flame control of a lightweight canister backpacking stove is hard to beat (read my review of the BRS-3000T Titanium Stove here). But for longer trips where weight and space in your pack is critical, those fuel canisters are a real pain. Especially when they are empty, since you are carrying dead weight that takes up a lot of space.
The perfect solution is to carry the Bushbox Ultralight as either a backup or a primary stove. By using it for meals that require less cooking finesse (like boiling water for coffee), you can save a lot of fuel, which can be used for those meals where flame control is critical.
These days, I always carry it as a backup. It has really saved my trip on more than one occasion when I thought I had more fuel in my canister than I actually did.
I’ve also used it as a makeshift windscreen before by assembling it without the trivet and setting it upside down over the burner of my canister stove. It was awkward, but it worked.
Ultralight and Compact
This stove is light!!! Weighing in at 61 grams (82 grams with provided stuff sack), the Bushbox Ultralight is lighter than most of the lightest backpacking canister stoves on the market – and that is NOT including the weight of the fuel canister or a windscreen!
But where it really shines is how compact it is. Since it disassembles into a flat, pocket-sized package, it literally fits anywhere.
The biggest problem is losing it. Once it slipped down into the water bladder compartment in my backpack and I thought I lost it out on the trail. I was just about to order another one and luckily came across it while taking inventory of my gear before placing the order.
I’ve even found that the Bushbox Ultralight stove will fit perfectly into a 750ml titanium pot if you don’t use the cloth stuff sack it came in. I sewed up an alternative out of silnylon and velcro and now it fits perfectly with plenty of room for other cooking paraphernalia.
The dimensions when disassembled are 12cm x 9cm (4.7” x 3.5”) and only 1.5mm thick!
A Durable Piece of Gear
Bushcraft Essentials makes the Bushbox Ultralight Pocket Stove out of 0.3mm stainless spring steel. It is crazy thin, but surprisingly durable due to the high quality materials and clever design.
There are some tiny tab holders that hold the trivet in place that I keep thinking will break off or bend at some point, but they never do. After a few years of monthly use, my Bushbox Ultralight still assembles and disassembles perfectly with no problems.
The side plates will get a curve to them with use, and if this bothers you, simply assemble the stove the opposite way a few times. The grill plate will also warp a bit with use, but I would be shocked if it didn’t considering what its role is.
The stove is definitely stainless as there is no rust whatsoever, but mine has lost all its silvery shine. I think it’s still there beneath the burned on tar and grease residue, but I don’t mind the tarnished look. After all, that’s part of the appeal of cooking with a firebox stove.
Adapting to Different Kitchen Setups
Another great feature of the Bushbox Ultralight is its adaptability to different sized cookpots. Bushcraft Essentials really knocked it out of the park on the design here.
For smaller camp mugs and cookpots, you will want to use the trivet and set them directly on that. I’ve heated up water in my TOAKS 450ml mug this way on many occasions and, while it works great, you do have to be mindful that the mug is going to get pretty hot. Use a hot pad and let it cool sufficiently before trying to drink from it.
When cooking with slightly larger backpacking cookware to much larger, kitchen style pots, you don’t actually need to use the trivet. It does add a bit of strength, but not enough to be a necessity in my opinion.
I have a variety of TOAKS cookware and my 750ml titanium pot fits perfectly in between the small pot holder tabs on each of the side plates. Larger pots actually sit up on these tabs, which makes sense since you would want a slightly larger fire and need the flames to spread out more.
See what I mean about Bushcraft Essentials design? Freaking fantastic!
Assembling the Bushbox Ultralight
The Bushbox Ultralight Pocket Stove is made up of five pieces: two identical side plates, a side plate with an opening for feeding wood, a bottom grill plate, and a top trivet plate.
The first time you assemble the Bushbox Ultralight is a bit of a challenge and you will be worried about bending or breaking something. But the pieces are very strong and the design, again. is ingenious. Once you get the hang of it, you can have it together in 30 seconds or less.
I’ll run you through how I assemble mine.
STEP 1: Link Two Side Plates
Pick up two of the three side plates. It doesn’t matter which ones as the only difference is the fuel feed opening. In terms of assembly, they are completely interchangeable and can be assembled in any order.
Cupping them in your hands, link the tab and slot and make sure it is locked into place.
STEP 2: Insert Bottom Grill Plate
Next, insert two tabs of the base plate into the desired slots on the two side plates. The key here is to keep tension on the two side plates by lightly squeezing the outer ends of the side plates together with your fingers. You should feel the baseplate lock into place.
Once you have done this a few times it gets really easy.
STEP 3: Attach the Remaining Side Plate
While keeping tension on the outer ends of the side plates, insert the tab of the remaining side plate into the corresponding slot of the assembled side plate. Carefully push the side plate into place against the grill plate so that the tab goes into the proper slot.
Now, insert the remaining side plate tab into tab into the corresponding slot and lock into place. You should now be able to take tension off the first two side plates and the stove should hold its shape.
STEP 4: Attach the Trivet
This last step is optional unless you are using a very small cookpot or are going to grill on your Bushbox Ultralight. Most of the time I do use the trivet, but only so I don’t lose it – and I’m sure it does add some strength to the stove.
Lay the trivet on top of the stove approximately where it needs to go and insert on tab into place. Holding the stove and pushing on the trivet against the assembled tab, slip a second tab into place. Repeat the technique for the last tab.
Assembly Options to Consider
As mentioned above, you can assemble your Bushbox Ultralight Stove with the grill plate in any one of three positions. But you can also switch the grill plate and trivet, or just use the trivet as a base plate if you are using an alcohol stove.
You can also order an optional extra grill plate or trivet, and Bushcraft Essentials also has an optional solid ash plate to catch ashes when using the stove in an area where forest fires are a concern or you just don’t want to leave any trace.
I’ve never felt the need for any of the optional plates, but I’m glad that the manufacturer offers them as options – or spare parts.
Using a Firebox Stove
If you’ve never used a firebox stove before, there are a few things to consider
Letting the Firebox Stove Cool Down
We’re not going to get into firebox cooking here, but there is a very important aspect of firebox cooking that really applies to the Bushbox Ultralight: allowing the stove to cool.
Once you are finished cooking, either let the wood burn out by itself, or, using some sort of tongs or hot pad, shake or dump out the wood in a safe place where it can burn out on it’s own.
Important: Do not pour cold water on a hot stove!
Let the stove cool down by itself. Trying to hasten that process by pouring cold water on a hot stove can severely warp it and weaken the metal. Once the embers have either been removed or have burned themselves out, the Bushbox Ultralight will usually cool down to the point you can touch in a minute or two.
Make Sure it is Legal
One huge gray area with firebox stoves is whether or not they are considered an “open fire” or not. While this hardly matters in a place where you can have a campfire, in many parks and public lands, open fires are either restricted or outright prohibited.
These laws are important to follow since forest fires are becoming more of an issue these days and one small spark can destroy thousands of acres of wilderness and even nearby homes and businesses. Always check before making the assumption that it is legal to use your stove before lighting it up.
Again, the great thing about the Bushbox Ultralight is that you can use it with other types of fuels and cooking methods to best suit nearly any situation.
Cleaning a Firebox Stove
If you are new to cooking with firebox stoves, you will quickly learn that this is not a clean approach to camp cooking – especially if you grill on your firebox stove. Consider it part of the fun!
One trick is to always carry a small Ziploc bag with you. If the stove is particularly messy and you won’t have a chance to clean it until you get home, just drop the pieces in the Ziploc and throw it in your pack.
The best thing I’ve found for cleaning a firebox stove is Barkeepers Friend, which is a product similar to Comet, but safer to use around food and cookware. Simply scrub each piece of the stove with Barkeepers Friend and a brush, and let dry on a paper towel.
Accessories and Complementary Gear
Here are a few things that can make your experience with the Bushbox Ultralight much more enjoyable and the stove more versatile.
Optional Stove Parts
As mentioned above, Bushcraft Essentials offers optional grill plates, ash plates, and trivets. You can order these directly from the manufacturer in Germany, But I was able to find all three on Amazon. Here are the links:
A Better Storage Bag
Bushcraft Essentials also makes a more durable storage bag for the Bushbox Ultralight which I also found on Amazon.
It looks to be very well made and a definite upgrade to the cloth sack the stove comes in. The upgraded pouch also has a D ring for clipping to things, but I’ve never been a big fan of hanging gear off of clips that can fail. Especially expensive gear that stands between me and a hot meal!
As I mentioned earlier, I sewed up a small silnylon pouch with a strip of velcro to keep my stove in. I totally suck at sewing and it is an ugly looking little pouch, but it keeps the stove filth off my other gear better than the cloth sack and, more importantly, it allows the stove to fit into my TOAKS 750ml cook pot. The gather on the cloth sack stuck up too much to fit inside with the lid on.
The Perfect Cook Pot
Speaking of the TOAKS 750ml cookpot, if you get this stove, I highly recommend getting this pot with the bail handle (read my review here). This is a fantastic combination, and it you figure out a solution for the stove pouch, the Bushbox Ultralight will actually fit inside!
Go away zombies, I’m cooking!
Final Thoughts on the Bushbox Ultralight Pocket Stove
The Bushcraft Essentials Bushbox Ultralight.Pocket Stove has got to be one of the most versatile and well-designed pieces of ultralight outdoor cooking gear ever made. It really is in my top five favorite pieces of gear ever and I never go anywhere in the outdoors without it.
Even if you are getting it to use with an alcohol stove, I really do recommend trying to use it as a twig stove. The satisfaction of cooking with a firebox is sublime. Not only are you whipping up a hot meal from renewable fuel you found on the ground, but you are also not adding to the demand for very wasteful fuel canisters. And then there is always something to be said about the experience of cooking over an open flame.
The last consideration is the price. The Bushbox Ultralight is a bit on the expensive side, but it is incredibly well-engineered, super light, durable, and puts a lot of outdoor cooking power in your pocket for the money. Check out the current price on Amazon here.