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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > Optimus Terra > Test Report by Leesa Joiner

Optimus
Terra Cookset
Initial Report
October 17, 2007
Field Report - January 8, 2008
Long Term Report - March 8, 2008

Personal Information:
Leesa Joiner
Age: 46
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 7" ( 1.7 m)
Weight: 160 (72.5 kg)
Location: Southwestern Maine
Email: leesaj@gmail.com


Background:
    My camping, hiking and backpacking experiences include trips varying in length from one-day hikes to two-week trips.  Most outings involve my three children, while my style isn't as 'high adventure' as some, I do enjoy the time we spend outdoors.  I guess backpacking with three children could be considered adventurous in itself.
    In the past, my load was super heavy - think pack mule.  Now that the kids carry all their own gear, plus the two oldest help carry the food, etc, my load is lighter.  I still go for durability over weight when selecting gear.  While enjoying the outdoors, I spend time hiking, geocaching, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and camping. I spend almost as much time outdoors during the winter as I do during the summer.


out of the packaging
Product Information:
Manufacturer: Optimus      
Year Manufactured: 2007
Website: http://www.optimus.se
Listed Weight: 650 g (23 oz)
Weight as Measured: 655 g (23.1 oz)
Gourmet Pot Capacity - 1.65 L (1.74 qts)
Frying Pan Capacity - 1.65 L (1.74 qts)
Large Pot Capacity - 1.7 L (1.8 qts)
MSRP: Not Available on website

Set:Advertised Weight: 650 g (23 oz)
Set:Weight as Measured: 655 g (23.1 oz)
Gourmet Pot  213 g (8 oz)Capacity - 1.65 L (1.74 qts)
Frying Pan 155 g (5 oz)Capacity - 1.65 L (1.74 qts)
Large Pot 162 g (6 oz)Capacity - 1.7 L (1.8 qts)
three pots together



Product Description:
The Terra arrived in good condition.  It is a very interesting set-up, to say the least.  Out of the package, it looks almost like someone put it together wrong.  The 'lid' is actually the skillet.  Once the cross strap is unbuckled, the top lifts off, and nestled inside are two pots.  The smaller pot and skillet are teflon coated and have grooves on their bottom surfaces to improve stability on a stove.  All three are constructed of hard-anodized aluminum.   The stuff bag is insulated Nylon/neoprene to provide a 'cozy' for keeping foods warm.   A snap on plastic pot gripper is also included with the set, and will attach to each pot or the skillet.  The grippers fit easily into the outside pocket of the stuff bag.  All the pieces fit securely together, with no rattling noise when moved around.
    A small multi-language instruction booklet is included, which describes how to care for the cookset (it is also available at the website as a .pdf).  The care of the set is fairly simple - wash in warm water with a mild detergent.  

Initial Thoughts:
    The website points out these three features:    
    *  INSULATED STUFF BAG saves fuel and keeps food hot longer.
    * DUPONT TEFLON COATING
    * HARD-ANODIZED ALUMINIUM

These three features address my primary questions in regards to testing this set.  I know other thoughts about this set will arise after I have a chance to use them.

*      How well does the stuff bag work?  Does it keep food warmer, longer than without it?  How much longer, warmer?   Does it really effect fuel use?   Is it easy to clean?  What effect does the steam from hot food or water have on the Nylon/Neoprene material?

*     How durable is the Teflon coating?   I try to be careful not to scratch the surfaces of my cookware, but scratches happen.  Will they spread?  How carefully does it need to be treated?  Will pieces of the Teflon flake off?  How easy will it be to clean?  What if food gets burnt on?

*     How hard is the aluminum?  Will it bend or warp if bumped or dropped?  Can it take being squished into my pack?  What effect will the heat/flame have on it?  The pans bottoms are fairly thick - hopefully allowing for even heat distribution.


While testing, I will note how well the three pots perform, both together and individually.  I'm hoping it will allow me to increase the amount I can cook, as well as the variety of items.   I am interested to see if the two pots can be used as a double boiler.  That would add another dimension to my outdoor cooking!   Because we are coming into winter weather, I am anxious to see how well the pot cover holds in heat.  A very important part of all this is - how does the food taste?  I would hope there is no transfer of taste from the pots to the food, I have had that experience before and can still remember the taste.   Clean up is another area I will be looking at, how easily do they clean up?  Is the non-Teflon pot noticably harder to clean than the other two?  Will it need special care?

Our temperatures are falling, we had our first killing frost last week.  Daytime temperatures are perfect for hiking, cool and brisk. Over the next four months, are temperature typically fall to well below 0 degrees F (-18 C) at night, with daytime temperatures between 0 and 20 degrees F (-18 and -6 C).  I have three overnights planned in the next few weeks, and some full day trips.  We cook all our meals on overnight trips, and at least one meal per day trip.   I tend to cook things that I have packaged myself, along the lines of Jambalaya, Pasta and sauce or Rice and chicken with different seasonings.  I dehydrate my own beef and use that or frozen chicken, depending on the weather and length of time before eating.      For the next few months, my hiking and backpacking will take place within Maine and the White Mountain National Forest.  The areas are all within a few hour's drive, and easy to get to for a weekend or a full day.   There are so many places we haven't explored in our own area, that we are focusing on those places for now.  The terrain ranges from rocky pathways, to improved trails.  We usually stay below 3500 ft (1067 m), especially as the weather gets nasty or unpredictable.  

I enjoy cooking outdoors and am really looking forward to seeing what I can do with this cookset. Thanks to Optimus and Backpackgeartest.org for this opportunity.  Pictures are taken from http://www.optimus.se/
Please check back in two months for my Field Report.

Field Report
January 8, 2008

Over the last few months, I have used the Optimus Terra Cookset numerous times and in a variety of weather conditions.  Most of my trips have been in Western Maine, Central Vermont and Northern New Hampshire.   I may be the only person who can gain weight on a hiking trip!  I love to cook and experiment with different cooking techniques, foods and seasonings.

 On my first of two weekend trips, I took my kids to Vermont and we hiked and camped at Wilgus State Park along the Connecticut River.   We hiked along the Pinnacle Trail, about 8 - 10 miles (13 -16 km) a day, returning to camp at night.   The weather was cool for early November.   The highest day temperatures were only in the low 40s F (4 C), with night-time temperatures dropping to close to freezing.  There was virtually no wind while we were cooking or hiking - it did pick up during the night though. The night we arrived, I cooked up some chicken with noodles and mushroom soup.  To make this, I first boil the noodles in the largest pot, once they are almost cooked, I poured out most of the water, then added the mushroom soup.   I then added the cut up, just cooked chicken.  While this was slow cooking, we set up camp and looked around.    Less than 20 minutes later, it was ready.  The kids and I ate all of it, cleaned up the pot by filling it with water and letting it cool.  Right before bed, I dumped out the water, and wiped the pot with a clean rag.  It looked as good as new.  The following morning -I woke up to my two kids cooking scrambled eggs in the frying pan.  I actually woke to them arguing about whether they should add cheese or not to the eggs.  They decided against it - mostly because they didn't want to have to wash the pan out if the cheese burned.    The eggs were great - and the pan again wiped clean.   Of course, cooking eggs in camp is a lot easier than out on the trail.  So - out on the trail we went.   We hiked for about 3 hours or so, and then found a spot that we wanted to stop and take some pictures.   I started to make lunch while the kids explored a little.  Before we left home, we made up bags of cut up vegetables, beans, rice and then added a little cheese and mexican style seasonings.   I heated water, added it to the bags and wrapped them in my jacket.   By the time the kids got back, the food was cooked and tasted very good.  It was like a very thick soup.  Again, I filled the pan with water while we ate - and then just wiped it clean.    We hiked back to camp and hung out with some others for a while.  When we arrived at camp, I heated water and added it to some dehydrated meat and Jambalaya mix I made.  By the time the kids were ready to eat, it had reconstituted and cooled off.   We relit the stove and heated it over a low heat.  
   
What I found this first weekend, was that the pans all heat evenly, and have no 'hot spots' that can sometimes cause problems.  They seem to heat quickly, saving cooking time and fuel use.   Although only the large pot and fry pan are teflon coated, I have not had an issue with food sticking on any of them.  The large pot and fry pan also have grooves around their bottoms, which seems to keep them from sliding around on the stove, while food is being stirred, etc.  
   
The next opportunity I had to use the cookset was early December.  The weather was cold, snowy and windy.   I ran into some problems keeping food from freezing, but for the most part things went well.  We made beef tips with noodles the first night.  That involved using both the largest pot for boiling the noodles, and the fry pan for cooking up the meat.  We always take two stoves with us when we hike overnight, so that wasn't a problem.  We hiked in an area of the White Mountain National Forest, near Stowe, Maine.   The area is great for hiking or snowshoeing, and also ice fishing.  My kids met up with some others who were ice fishing, so they decided to do that for a while the second morning we were there.  I ended up snowshoeing for a while.  When I got back, the kids wanted me to cook some venison that one of the other families had offered to share.   It was a great opportunity to meet some new people and show off the cookset.  They were definitely impressed with how quickly the meat cooked.   I just fried it up with some garlic and butter.   We also made some make-shift potato pancakes from left over potatoes they had.  It was a great meal, and a great time.  Afterwards, we all went for a hike until early afternoon when the weather turned really nasty - high winds and heavy snow.   The forecast said it would be short lived, so we headed into the little town nearby and went to the bean supper (it is a Maine thing).  While there, we figured if it was still nasty out, we would head home - south and away from the storm.  If the weather looked to be clearing, we'd stay.   When we got back to where the tents were set up, there was about 3in (76 mm) of new snow - but no more was falling so we stayed.  It turned out to be one of the more fun trips we've taken lately.  In the morning we snowshoed about 6 miles (9 km), which was a great workout on the light, fluffy snow!

Once home, I took the set apart, inspected it and gave it a good washing.   I found no scratches, which is pretty surprising for a cookset used outdoors.  I really like this set - the pans heat evenly, hold the heat well, are very scratch resistant and pack up into a nice, compact amount of space.  

I've also used the set on a few day hiking trips, with the same results.  I was happy that the set fit in my day pack, as well as it did in the smaller pack.  The compact size is definitely a plus.

I haven't had the chance to use the stuff bag as cozy.  It hasn't really fit in with what I've been cooking.  I do plan on using it as a cozy while in the long-term testing phase.  I plan on cooking in the large pot, and using the cozy to keep it warm, allowing others to eat as they are ready.  As a stuff bag it works well to hold all the parts together, and also give a bit of protection while they are packed.    The pot gripper works well, and allows for moving the pots while they are hot.  

I am very happy with this cookset- it works well, and so far appears very durable.   I have a few snowshoeing trips coming up, along with a multi-day trip in February.  During March, our weather will hopefully warm a bit and allow for more backpacking trips that we can set up camp along the trail.   My only negative comment would be that it is very tough to pour liquid from the pots into another container.  I made quite a mess pouring boiling water from the large pot, into the storage bags.  On the positive side, the pot gripper kept me from burning my hand.  I'm sure it would have been much more difficult, if I had to hold the pot with a cloth pot holder.

I am really looking forward to continued testing of this set.  Check back in about two months for the Long-Term Report, giving the 'rest of the story'.

Long Term Report
March 8, 2008


Final Summary:

Over the last two months, I used the cookset on 2 long weekend trips and three day trips.  During the overnight trips I decided to use up some prepackaged backpacking meals we had.   The weather had turned much colder with night time temperatures in the 10 to 15 degree F range (-12 to -9 C) and day time temperatures hovering around freezing.  Between needing to take more and heavier clothing - and the problem of food freezing, taking packaged meals  seemed like a better idea.    It worked out well, the cookset was used to boil water, and the cozy was put to good use, as an insulator.  I definitely found the cozy to be useful at holding the heat in while the food reconstituted. I was able to boil the water, add the food, put the pot in the cozy and let it set for about 10 minutes.  At that point the food was ready to eat.  Heating the water in the largest pot with the fry pan serving as the lid, helped to heat the water more quickly.   These lower temperatures did affect cooking times.  It took longer to heat the water to the boiling point, and caused the water to cool off faster.  This was just a minor issue that required me to adjust my planning, but didn't affect the overall quality of the food.  I did end up reheating my son's food, because he was busy with something else, and didn't come to eat right away.  This was a bit of a challenge - trying to slowly heat the chicken and rice mixture, without scorching it.

During this time I also used the cookset on three day trips. These trips involved snowshoeing - which really worked up an appetite for all of us.  I used the set to heat both soup and water for hot chocolate.  It worked well for both purposes.  It is easy to throw into my day pack, and doesn't take up much room.   I am impressed with how sturdy the set is, as it has not suffered any 'dings' or dents.  The cooking surface has maintained its Teflon finish, even though I haven't been overly careful.  There are no scratches at all, and only one nick that is fairly high up the side of the biggest pot.  It shouldn't effect future use - and it doesn't appear like it will spread.  I did look very closely at it, and the spot doesn't seem to have loose edges, that could flake off.

Overall, I have found this cookset to be very well made, and durable.  I am impressed with the durability of the cooking surface, and the pots ability to distribute the heat evenly.  I like the way the set packs together - and that my stove fits inside.  This not only keeps everything together, it protects the stove from getting damaged in my pack.  I had reservations in the beginning about the handle being sturdy enough to hold the pots if they were full of hot liquid. That turned out to be a non-issue.  I didn't find any negatives  - my only suggestion for improvement would be to offer a larger sized version.   There is nothing wrong with the set as is - but for my use, a larger size would be better.   I will still pack it - especially on trips with just one other person.

Thank you to BackPackGearTest.org and Optimus for the opportunity to test this cookset.  





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