Jun 24, 2014

Review: Optimus Crux backpacking stove

A couple weeks back I asked for input on choosing a stove for backpacking. I hadn't really considered canister stoves because of the need for a non-refillable fuel supply, but when I got to digging some more I decided that at least for now, a canister stove made sense. Light, compact, reliable... the downside to canister stoves comes below 30 degrees, where the fuel gas can't evaporate fast enough to keep it lit. I still intend to pick up an MSR Whisperlite liquid-fuel stove for such times, but that's not today's problem.

Some more digging ended up with me ordering an Optimus Crux with matching Terra Weekender HE pot set. All packed up with a can of fuel, this is what it looks like:

Weight as pictured is 1 lb, 11 oz. Open the stuff sack and it reveals the large pot with fry pan/lid:

Take the lid off to reveal the fuel canister nested inside the large pot:

Slide the fuel canister out and the stoves untucks from its pouch underneath:

Unfold the stove so it locks in place, then thread it onto the gas bottle. Side note: the "stored" position for the valve handle is NOT FULLY CLOSED. Make sure you close it the half-turn or so before threading on the gas bottle.

Add a match and crack open the gas valve:

To test it a bit, I put 800mL of tap-cold water in the large pan. It started at about 66degF:

I then popped it on the stove and started a timer... and waited for a rolling boil.

Yeah. Under three minutes from "tap cold" to "rolling boil".

Here's the good: It's easy to set up, easy to light, and heats water FAST.
Downside: Like most canister stoves, it feels "tippy". It has a very high center of mass, so you've got to make sure it's on a level surface. The fold-out pot supports work great but feel like they're going to get stiff as the pivot heats and cools repeatedly. The valve is touchy. It's very easy to try for a slight adjustment and turn it off instead.

Fuel cans are $5 at BassPro, the stove was $45ish, and the pot set another $30. It all fits together beautifully and is lightweight. Since most of my pack food is going to be of the "add hot water" variety, this is a good option. If you're a camp gourmet and need to simmer, be prepared to swear a few times as you try to adjust the heat level. I'm pleased with the purchase and look forward to using it in the woods soon.


Glenn B said...

Looks like a nice little piece of technology but my backpacker's stove usually consists of whatever fuel I can find, like sticks, that I build into a nice fire. No need to lug around even the weight of a tiny stove like that. of course, it might come in handy on a life boat but if I was stranded at sea and did not have a stove, I would be happy to eat sushi.

ZerCool said...

Glenn, I love an open fire and there's nothing like campfire coffee. Unfortunately, a LOT of the wonderful backpacking areas have extremely strict rules about open fires... the region I'm expecting to be in is a "D0" drought region according to this map. If I go west at all, into the prairie, it goes up the scale in a hurry and outside burning is basically forbidden.

Old NFO said...

Nice little unit and top heavy IS an apparent issue...