One essential off-grid accessory is the solar oven. It was on my list of early things we would have to build, but my Dad gave us this commercial oven (Sun Oven, from Illinois), and is it ever wonderful.
Portable. Oh so portable, because it’s ultra light, and it’s a perfect size dimensionally for picking up with two hands and toting around, even when there’s something stewing or brewing in it.
Incredibly well-designed. The inside is easy to wipe clean; there’s an adjustable landing leg on the back for easily adjusting the tilt to aim it at the sun; when you stow the reflective panels, which takes about 2 seconds, there’s a snap strap that secures them, and then there’s a suitcase handle; the exterior is molded plastic, without seams; the glass has a airtight rubber seal; it holds a tall pot or two bread pans side by side. Especially, there’s a cradle inside that holds the pot or pan, and it swings to keep the contents level no matter of the tilt you put on the oven. The cradle has a little edge to keep your food aboard. All so very very well-designed.
The internal thermometer is obscured by condensation pretty quickly when it heats up. This oven heats up very fast, hitting boiling in about 20 minutes. It takes 3-4 hours to bake, say, banana bread. I scoot it around in the afternoon and adjust the leg to keep it aimed at the sun. On a sunny hot day, I can bake two items.
It’s not just for baking of course. It boils water, cooks rice (like a dream), cooks anything in a pot, really. I even managed to burn something. I’m trying to get into bread, in the spirit of reducing things that we purchase. H.W. got a lot of discount bananas though, so there was a run of banana bread, which does very well in the Sun Oven.
I try to use it for cooking every sunny day. Every time I use it instead of the stove, I save that much propane. And when it’s hot, no one wants to heat and steam up the camper, ugh. This keeps the heat outside. I pick it up and set it in the sun, open the reflective wings, set something to bake and turn it to optimum sun a couple times during the baking, then fold in the reflectors and put it away for the night. E-Z. Awesome. I’m really glad I didn’t know until now what this oven goes for, (phew!), but it does have a lot of advantages over the bulky, heavy, less portable and versatile homemade possibilities, and I can’t imagine any possible improvements. This is the top of the heap of solar ovens.