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Optimus Terra Cookset
Test Series by Mark Wood
Last Updated March 17, 2008
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Biographical Information
Product Information
Field Conditions
Initial Report - Oct 17, 2007
Field Report - Jan 8, 2008 Long Term Report - Mar 17, 2008

Biographical Information
Name: Mark Wood A Brief Introduction
I grew up camping with my parents and had taken a few short backpacking trips, as well as a couple of 10-day trips before I got married. While my wife and I have enjoyed car camping and day hiking for close to 6 years, we have both decided to make backpacking a permanent part of our lives. Our trips are generally shorter (2 - 5 days) over rocky, hilly terrain. My general pack weight for a 3 day trip is around 25 lb (11.4 kg) including food and water.
Age / Sex: 27 / Male
Height: 5' 11" (1.8 m)
Weight: 250 lb (113 kg)
Email Address: mwood_bgt at markandkc dot net
Web page: http://www.markandkc.net
Location: Chenango County, NY, U.S.A.

Product Information
Logo
Manufacturer: Optimus
Year of Manufacture: 2007
URL of Manufacturer: http://www.optimus.se
MSRP: None Listed
Listed Weight: From Website: 21 oz (600 g)
From Packaging: 23 oz (650 g)
Weight as Delivered: Frypan: 5.3 oz (150 g)
Small Pot: 7.5 oz (212 g)
Large Pot: 5.55 oz (158 g)
Pot Gripper: 1.55 oz (44 g)
Stuff Sack: 4.2 oz (120 g)
Total: 24.1 oz (684 g)
Materials: Cookset: Hard-anodized aluminum with DuPont (tm) Teflon coating.
Stuff Bag: Neoprene / Nylon
Volume: Frying Pan: None Listed
Smaller Pot: 56 fl oz (1.65 L)
Larger Pot: 57 fl oz (1.70 L)
From the packaging: "The Optimus Terra is more than just a hard anodized aluminum cook set. The slim-fit stuff bag works as insulation keeping your food hot, your fingers from burning and saving fuel by reducing warm-keeping time. When packed the stuff bag protects the non-stick surfaces and eliminates pan rattle when hiking."

Field Conditions

Numerous locations will be visited during the testing time frame. My usual backpacking areas are the Catskill and Adirondack regions of New York as well as some Northern Pennsylvania trails such as the West Rim Trail. Also, the Finger Lakes Trail passes very close to my home and I often incorporate this into my "regular" destinations.

In general, temperatures will range from around 10 F (-12 C) to 75 F (24 C) during the testing time frame. Over the last few years, Upstate New York has experienced very heavy rains in the fall and a decent amount of very cold weather.

Elevations in my normal hiking areas generally range from 500 - 2500 ft (150 - 750 m).

The Optimus Terra cookset will accompany me on all my backpacking trips as well as any car camping or day hiking where I will cook hot meals. It will be used primarily on an Optimus Nova stove burning white gas.


Initial Report - October 17, 2007

First Impressions

The Optimus Terra arrived in a standard cardboard package containing a brief description of the product and some basic facts such as weight and pot and pan size. All pots and pans were neatly wrapped in plastic and packaged in such a way that there was no scratching or rubbing of any kind.

The Terra contains three cooking pans/pots, a plastic pot gripper and the insulated stuff sack. Both the frying pan and smaller pot are DuPont Teflon coated and have ridges on the bottom to keep them from sliding around on the stove. I believe these are also designed to improve the surface area for better heat transfer. The larger pot has neither of these features. Both pots fit securely in the stuff sack when it's acting as a pot cozy. All three cooking instruments have a sturdy feel to them and feel in no way flimsy or weak. I was also happy to notice that the bottoms of the pots are relatively thick (at least for camping cookware) so I hope this provides even heat distribution.

Ridges
Ridges on the bottom of the Frying Pan

Unpacking the cookset I immediately noticed that the Frying pan is packed on the outside of the neoprene stuff sack and held on by elastic straps with a plastic buckle. This is the secret to keeping things from rattling and a quick shake shows that it seems to work. This also means that the frying pan cannot act as a lid while the pots are inside of the stuff sack. Hopefully, the steam and condensation will not cause the inside of the stuff sack to become too messy. Unbuckling the clip and removing the frying pan exposes a small pocket which contains the pot gripper.

Pot Gripper Pocket Exposed
Frying pan removed -- Exposes Pot Gripper Pocket

The pot grippers themselves are made of a sturdy feeling plastic. I understand the choice to go with plastic pot grippers (keep from scratching the Teflon coating), and they appear to grip the empty pots quite well, testing will reveal if they are strong enough to lift a full pot of water. They fit nicely in their pocket and therefore, don't appear to rattle.

Pot Grippers
Pot Grippers out of Built-in Pocket

Setting the pot grippers aside, I pulled the lid of the stuff sack back to reveal the two larger pots. There is no fastening system with the lid but it does securely stretch over the rim of the pot and seems to hold securely. The two pots nest quite securely inside of each other but are not difficult to separate. They are almost identical in size and shape. It does appear to be possible to leave either of them at home if you wanted to lighten the cookset.

Two Large Pots
Two Large Pots Side by Side

Removing all pots from the insulated stuff sack reveals that the sides of the sack are stiffened such that they remain upright while a pot is being inserted. This should make it much easier to place a full pot of hot water in the stuff sack to keep warm. Both larger pots fit securely and it appears from initial testing that the pot grippers provide enough downward pressure to slide an empty pot in the stuff sack completely.

Stuff Sack
Stiff Sides on the Stuff Sack

Overall, this appears to be a very well thought out product with many useful features. Testing will provide more in depth feedback regarding actual use.

Care Instructions

Inside of the pots was a small booklet with multi-language instructions and a piece of paper with the DuPont Teflon logo. Both of these contained similar instructions for care and use. In summary, wash the cookset with warm soapy water before first use and after each use, don't use metal utensils to avoid scratching the Teflon coating and never machine wash the pots. It is also mentioned that it is not a good idea to overheat the pots (heat without anything in them). The booklet mentions that to clean the slim-fit stuff bag, "use warm water and mild detergent."

Summary

My initial likes and concerns can be found below:

Likes

  • Nothing appears to rattle!
  • Integrated pot cozy.
  • DuPont Teflon coating should make cleanup easy.

Concerns

  • I'm a bit concerned that the inside of the stuff sack will become messy from putting steaming hot food in there.
  • The Teflon care instruction sheet is a bit hard to understand.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.


Field Report - January 8, 2008

Field Conditions

Over the past two months, numerous day trips as well as a couple overnight trips have been taken. In total, I would approximate that about 25 meals have been cooked in an assortment of the pots and pan in this cook set.

On a 3 day car camping trip to Allegany State Park, the Optimus Terra cookset was the sole cookset for a group of three people. On this trip, temperatures ranged from around 30 F (-1 C) at night up to around 60 F (16 C) during the day.

During the numerous day trips, temperatures have ranged from as low as 5 F (-15 C) up to 65 F (18 C). During all of these trips, the cookset was used with a Brunton Optimus Nova multifuel stove.

Field Usage

After two months of use, I have to say that I'm quite impressed with the Optimus Terra cookset. I've cooked everything from spaghetti, eggs and sausage to boiling water for coffee and Raman noodle soup. The pots show minimal wear and are holding up great. The DuPont Teflon coating isn't scratched, but I have been quite careful to only use rubber spatulas and plastic utinsils. Cleanup has always been easy with both the Teflon coated pot and pan as well as the non-Teflon pot. I've never had the need to do anything but boil water for noodles or raman in the non-coated pan, a quick scrub with some camp soap makes it good as new.

Packing the cookset after use is a simple affair and everything is held quite securely in the cozy. I have noticed no rattles while carrying the cookset so I do believe that this is the quietest set I've ever used!

During the car camping trip, I tried cooking some more complicated meals. I made spaghetti one night and used the non-coated pan to cook the noodles while the Teflon pan was used for the sauce. I really appreciated the pot cozy here since I only had one stove -- it allowed me to keep the sauce warm while I boiled the noodles. I also used the cozy when we cooked raman for lunch. I am still learning how long I need to leave food in the cozy for it to completely cook, but the cozy seems to work really well. Raman was quite easy -- as was instant stuffing. However, I did have some slightly under cooked noodles for macaroni and cheese one day.

Cooking Spaghetti

The grooves on the bottom of the pans are one of my favorite features. The Optimus Nova multifuel stove I use has serrated pot support arms and they fit perfectly in the grooves on the bottom of these pans. This makes for a very stable cooking solution -- so stable that I didn't have to hold the pot with the pot grippers when stirring.

Cooking Sausage

My only two minor complaints have to do with the pot cozy design and the plastic pot grippers. The problem I have with the pot cozy is the fact that the smaller frypan, which is used as a lid, does not fit inside of the cozy with the pots. This means that all condensation and food splatters hit the top of the pot cozy when it is closed around the pot. Thus far, it does seem to clean reasonably well, but I would rather not worry about it. With respect to the pot grippers, I appreciate the plastic design since it doesn't scratch the Teflon coating. However, they do not feel very secure when lifting a large pot of water. I haven't dropped anything yet, but I really don't want to spill boiling water on myself or anyone else.

Summary

Overall, I have been really happy with the Optimus Terra cookset. While I do have my minor complaints, its performance has been outstanding thus far. My likes and concerns can be found below:

Likes

  • DuPont Teflon coating works great!
  • Ridges on the bottom of the pots make these pots very stable.
  • They really don't rattle during hiking!

Concerns

  • The inside of the pot cozy / stuff sack tends to get a little dirty.
  • The plastic pot grippers seem a bit unstable with a full pot of water.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Long Term Report - March 10, 2008

Field Conditions

Upstate New York has had very sporadic winter conditions during the first two months of testing. However, it has given me an opportunity to test the Optimus Terra in varying conditions.

During these two months, I have totaled about 6 full days of usage (sometime multiple meals). Most of these excursions have been in and around my home on both private and state owned land with my Siberian Husky for day hikes / photography excursions. Temperatures varied widely during these trips from around 38 F (3 C) down to 5 F (-15 C).

A couple more planned trips included outings with a friend to a local state park. These trips both occurred in early January when there was a decent amount of snow present.

All of the trips taken in the last two months have seen either water heated or a full meal cooked. All meals were prepared over an Optimus Nova Multifuel stove.

Long Term Report

After four months of use, I'm still impressed with the Optimus Terra Cookset. It's survived being packed, heated, cooled rapidly (in the snow) and shows very little wear. There is only minor scratching of the DuPont Teflon coating and these small scratches don't seem to affect the non-stick properties at all. I'm still careful regarding my utensil selection (no metal utensils) but I've found I'm a lot less careful with how hard I stir or scrape. I can't complain at all with the durability.

Regarding the packing of the cookset, I still find it to be very quiet with no rattles. I'd actually forgotten about this feature until hiking with someone with a different cookset. I could hear the rattle of pots in his bag which reminded me that I hadn't heard that noise in a while! I really don't miss it either!

I've used the pot cozy a decent amount and it's starting to show some stains on the inside from splashed or spilled food. I've washed it a few times in the sink at home and the stains really aren't too noticeable. The use and effectiveness of the cozy are in no way affected. I'm also starting to get a bit better at timing my meals so that they properly finish cooking in the cozy. Ambient temperatures do seem to affect this, so it's somewhat hit or miss. If anything, I've learned to error on the side of overcooked. Crunchy noodles really don't appeal to me after a long, cold day of hiking.

As mentioned in my field report, I'm still enamored by the grooves on the bottom of the pans. I find that I worry a lot less about my pots slipping off the stove and this allows me to fill them quite full (such as melting snow for water) without having to worry about them becoming top heavy and spilling.

With everything else about this cookset being made so well, the pot grippers are still a bit of a disappointment. While they do function fine and have not broken or cracked, the plastic material is simply a bit too flexable to securely hold the largest pot when full of water or food. As I mentioned in my field report, I do understand that metal would have scratched the non-stick coating so this is clearly not the proposed solution. However, I would recommend that the grippers be made out of a somewhat stiffer plastic or have a silicon coating on the clamping surfaces to prevent the pots from slipping.

Summary

I've really appreciated the subtle details that have gone into this cookset. It's been a pleasure to use and I foresee it lasting for a great while. My final impressions can be found below:

Likes

  • Still loving the DuPont Teflon! It's very durable and creates exceptionally easy cleanup!
  • All cooksets should have the ridges on the bottom of the pots.
  • They pack so quietly that I soon forgot how loud cooksets could be!

Dislikes

  • I do have stains on the pot cozy. Not sure what could be done about this except to offer some sort of lid to go over the pot.
  • The plastic pot grippers need some sort of non-slip surface on the clamping end or need to be a bit stiffer. As it is, a full pot of water is a bit precarious.


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