I'd say it's a bit more work than the WSM, but once you get it dialed in that's where it stays. Depending on how you're cooking with it, (Guru, lump, briq, model, preheat) you can get extended cooking times out of it. With my competitor and the way I cook, I could get 8-10 hrs out of one load of charcoal (18 lbs?) But I usually reloaded at 6 hrs. If I didn't use the water auto-fill option (which is nice), I'd refill the water at the 4 hr mark. Backwoods use an airflow sytem that runs the smoke up through the inner walls of the smoker and releases it to the cooking chamber from the top, pushing the smoke down towards the exhaust flue in the lower section of the cooking chamber. Again, depending on the size you're talking, there is some temp differential from top to bottom, but not bad. Of course they do have a convection option that evens the temps out quite a bit. Hope this helps!