I met Jonathon, from Wild Stoves, many years ago, when we were both at university and shared camping and wild swimming adventures together. They are a great company that enables outdoor adventurers to leave less of a trace on the environment. We asked them a bit more about where the idea for Wild Stoves came from and what they love so much about wood fires…
The idea for setting up Wild Stoves come from?
I was sitting with a group of women in Nigeria doing controlled cooking tests comparing rocket stoves with open fires (I have spent most of my career as a scientific advisor on stoves in low-income countries; I am a physicist by training). We were quite astonished at the fuel savings we were seeing over an open fire. I had a lightbulb moment, and as a keen camper and festival goer thought ‘These rocket stoves are great; why can’t you get them in the UK?’ So I convinced my wife that we should gamble our life savings on containers of stoves and we established Wild Stoves. Fortunately my hunch was right, and it turned out people here in the UK loved rocket stoves! It also turned out that no-one was really specialising in this market, so we now have customers and retailers all over the world.
What is your next big project?
I’m trying to have a gap before our next big project as it’s been a year of big ones! At the end of 2013 we launched our sister site in the USA in response to huge interest from that market, so we now have a presence there, which has been very exciting.
This year we have partnered with the manufacturers of EzyStove as their leisure-market partners. This means we have taken a stove designed for use in developing countries and set up import, assembly, packaging, and trade and retail distribution system for the stove to serve the market across in the UK, across Europe, and so far in Korea, Japan and the USA! So we’ve had our hands full. It’s been hard, but enormously rewarding. Promoting wood-fuelled camping stoves tends to put you in touch with a particularly lovely group of people.
What is your favourite campfire cooking dish?
Am I allowed to say jacket potatoes? For sheer simplicity, lack of need for any gear or ingredients other than a little aluminium foil, and the most sublime flavour. I like dishes that take something that is often seen as an accompaniment to a meal and make it so tasty that it can take centre stage.
Otherwise, given a rocket stove and a good heavy iron pot, I’d trump for a veg curry augmented with local wild greens (sea kale; nettles; wild garlic or whatever else is at hand). It also doesn’t require a recipe, and always tastes good, and different every time. I’ve made quite a few simple bread rolls, which warm from the Dutch oven always taste sublime too.
What do you love most about wood fires?
I am in awe of wood fires and they have single-handedly heated my home and family for many years; cooked much of our food; and offered their unique, undemanding company on many winter evenings indoors or outside during summer months. There’s so much to love, from the amazing science of combustion, the dancing light, the rich smell, the crackling and hissing, the wonderful work of collecting fuel and tending fire, and more. Above all I like what fire does to people; a gentle social focus, something to effortlessly fill silences in conversation, and draw everyone to a common (lack of) purpose.
Where would your perfect wild summer adventure take place?
In a field with my kids among good people at a small festival or gathering. Preferably with a hot tub / canvas sauna to hand with a stream nearby to jump into.
The winner of our #mywildsummer competition will win one of their great stoves, so don’t forget to enter your pictures here!