Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Soto Amicus – First Look

I just took possession of a new Soto Amicus, which is an upright canister stove, i.e. a stove that sits on top of a canister of gas.  This is Soto's third upright canister stove introduced to the US market, and I'm thinking that this may be their strongest entry yet.  We'll see.  I have just started to evaluate the stove.

UPDATE 18 December 2017:  My finalized Review of the Soto Amicus is now available.

So, first impression:  It's small.  Nice.

 I haven't measured it against my Soto Microregulator or my Soto Windmaster, but even without measuring, I'm pretty sure it's smaller than either, and it's certainly smaller than the Windmaster which is considerably taller.

 It comes with a little stuff sack and of course a set of instructions.

 It's roughly as wide as my hand.

 I measure the stove at about 3.5 inches tall (roughly 9 cm) from the base to the tip of the pot supports.
 Now, the thing that Soto has caught a lot of flak for is their pot supports.  Soto makes good stoves, perhaps the best engineering and the best manufacturing quality currently available (at least in the US market with which I am familiar), but people have not liked the ergonomics of Soto's pot supports.

On Soto's first canister stove in the US market, the Microregulator, the pot supports were a little floppy.  You'd rotate them into place, but if you moved the stove or bumped it with a pot, the pot supports would flop back down.  It wasn't a complete design disaster, but it was kind of a hassle, and people complained.

On their second entry, the Windmaster, they had two interchangeable pot supports, a small one that came with the stove, and a large one for bigger pots that was purchased separately.  When in place, they were solid, but you took the supports off to pack up the stove.  The smaller of the two supports was a dull grayish color, and was easily lost.  It never bothered me.  I always used an ultralight mini carabiner and clipped the pot support to the valve handle the minute I took the supports off the stove.  But apparently a lot of people lost the little clip on pot support, which basically rendered the stove unusable – there was nothing to hold up the pot.

So, now Soto's third entry, the Amicus.  I think they've got it right this time.  The pot supports rotate into place but there's a little hook on the outer rim of the burner.
 On the pot support there is a little hole.
One rotates the spring loaded pot support into place, and after the pot support passes the little hook, the spring pulls the support to the right, seating it on the support.  It's actually a very smart piece of engineering.  Once in place, the pot supports do *not* come undone.  And though they're fairly thin, they have some sophisticated reinforcing designed into their shape.  Just yanking them by hand, they feel really solid.  These supports are way more solid that the pot supports on the MSR Pocket Rocket, and the Pocket Rocket has done very well for legions of hikers over time.
I said it at the beginning of this post, but it bears repeating:  No one, and I mean no one, is doing the kind of sophisticated engineering that Soto is doing, and no one is matching Soto's manufacturing precision.  That's not to say that other stoves aren't doing some pretty advanced things, but no one matches Soto's amazing attention to detail in both design and manufacture.  Soto is making the highest quality stoves in the US market, hands down.

There are four serrated pot supports which when emplaced support a pot well.

Soto's first entry, the Microregulator, did fairly well, but the MSRP was $60, placing it at the upper range of upright canister stoves.

Soto's second entry, the Windmaster, was lighter and with it's two pot  support options, very flexible, but it's MSRP was $70.  When one can get a good solid stove like a Snow Peak GigaPower (a classic upright canister stove design) for $40 as well as other similar stoves for about the same price, is the Windmaster really that much better that one would be willing to pay an additional $30 for it?  Really?  Your stove is worth 175% of a Snow Peak GigaPower or an MSR PocketRocket?   I don't think it sold well enough.

Soto's third entry, the Amicus, has an MSRP of $40 for the version without the piezoelectric ignition and $45 for the version with the "Stealth" ignition.  That's right in the range of the most common upright canister stoves.

By the way, the piezoelectric ignition of Soto's upright canister stoves is the best of any stove available in the US Market.  It's light, it doesn't jut out and catch on things (the wire runs up through the burner column), and it's freaking reliable.

Gone how ever is the regulator valve.  Apparently to get the price down the more complicated valve had to go.  Now, is this a big loss?  Not really.  The regulator valve is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but it was so overhyped.  People thought that some how the regulator valve would allow one to operate the stove at far lower temperatures than other upright canister stoves.  Um, no, not really.  While nice, the relative pressure in the canister is a function of the percentages of the various component gases in the fuel mix (propane, isobutane, and "plain" butane), the elevation above sea level, and the temperature.  A valve holds back the pressure and can only adjust for pressure drops if and only if there is additional pressure available in the canister.  I guess what I'm saying here is that  it's not a big sacrifice to give up the regulator valve.  Most people would not be able to tell the difference between a stove with a regulator valve vs. one with a conventional needle valve.  Incidentally, almost all of the popular upright canister stoves have a conventional needle valve, and they've done just fine for years.  So, like I say, no big sacrifice here.

Will it sell?  We shall see.  How good is it?  Well, check back in a few weeks; I hope to have my evaluation done by mid-December.


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