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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Optimus Nova White Gas Stove > Test Report by Wayne Merry

Optimus Nova+ Stove

Test Series by Wayne Merry

INITIAL REPORT: 17 Oct 2007

FIELD REPORT: 8 Jan 2008

LONG-TERM REPORT: 25 Mar 2008

About Wayne, the tester:

Age: 34

Gender: Male

Height: 1.8 m (5' 10")

Weight: 95 kg (211 lb)

Email address: wayne underscore merry at yahoo dot com dot au

City, State, Country: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Backpacking Background:

I started overnight backpacking six years ago. I hike in various terrains from moderate/hard track walks to some off track and rivers. I like the temperature to stay above freezing, and have not camped above the snow line during winter. I enjoy going on weekend and multi day walks up to two weeks as well as day walks. I carry a moderate weight pack, enjoying a few creature comforts at camp. I would normally do at least 2 overnight or longer walks every three months, in addition to a number of full day length walks.

About the test environment:

I will be testing the Optimus Nova+ in Victoria and Tasmania, Australia. Elevations will vary from 0 m to 1500 m (4900 feet) although I may climb higher up to 2000m (6600 feet). The test will be conducted in spring and summer periods with temperatures varying from 0 C (32 F) to 40 C (104 F). Humidity varies widely during this time of year. Conditions could vary from quite wet to very dry. The Tasmanian conditions are expected to be very wet and muddy.

I expect to test the Nova+ on all my overnight or longer walks. As the Nova+ is a stove, I do not expect to make use of it on day walks.

Product Details:

Optimus Nova+ Retail pack
  • Manufacturer: Optimus 
  • Web site: http://www.optimus.se
  • Year of shipping: 2007
  • Place of manufacture: Unmarked - provided fuel bottle made in EEC
  • MSRP US$169.95

Manufacturer's description: Optimus Nova+ is exactly what the name suggests, a stove with the performance of the original Optimus Nova - plus a little more. The patent pending Powerline is added for precision flame control at a distance from the flame by simply twisting the fuel hose. Optimus Nova+ also offers the stability of wide pot supports that fold around the burner for packing convenience and its serrated burner arms assure that the pan stays in place. Details like EZ-coupling for quick connection of the burner to the pump, the quick priming burner, self-purging aluminium Flipstop pump and a built in magnetic cleaning needle make sure that user's outdoor experience are all good ones. No matter what the conditions, the Optimus Nova+ will cook up meals that make users feel right at home in nature.

Specifications for product as tested:

  • Manufacturer specified:
    • Weight without fuel pump: 311 g (10.62 oz)
    • Weight with fuel pump: 425 g (15 oz)
    • Length: 86 mm (3.4 in)
    • Width: 67 mm (2.6 in)
    • Height: 125 mm (5 in)
  • As tested:
    • Dimensions:
      • Stove diameter: 60 mm (2.4 in)
      • Strap height: 80 mm (3.1 in)
      • Fuel cord length: 250 mm (9.9 in)
    • Weight:
      • Stove: 301 g (10.6 oz)
      • Tank: 217 g (7.7 oz) for 450 ml (15.2 fl oz) tank
      • Multi took: 36 g (1.3 oz)
      • Wind guard: 39 g (1.4 oz)

Initial Report: Item Receipt & First Impressions:

17 Oct 2007

Components supplied in Nova+ retail kit

I received the Optimus Nova+ in its retail packaging, shown in the section Product Details above. The presentation of the packaging looked good. Once I opened the box, I found that it included the following items:

  • The Stove and attached fuel line
  • A 450 ml (15.22 fl oz) fuel tank with fuel pump attached
  • An aluminium wind guard
  • A repair kit including oil, 2 o-rings and a replacement fuel filter
  • A multi tool which includes the magnet cleaner
  • An instruction manual plus an insert to the manual
  • A screw in top for the fuel tank

A picture showing the included parts is shown to the right.

I have been using white gas/shellite stoves as my stove of choice for many years now, so I thought that I would be able to use this stove without much difficulty. I did follow the manufacturer's suggestion by reading the manual (yes I am a male) which I found reasonably easy to understand. The manual describes the process of installing the fuel tank onto the stove, positioning the fuel tank, priming the stove, using the stove, turning off the stove, packing up the stove and basic and more advanced maintenance quite well. There were one or two places where I could not figure what was going on, but besides this being situation normal for me, the descriptions on the side of the box helped. I would rate the manual quite well written.

First use of the Nova+ stove

After finishing up with the manual, it was time to give the stove a test run, of which the stove setup can be seen in the picture to the right. The pump mechanism worked well, and although I had the tank only 1/4 full, I was able to pressurise the tank quickly enough. I found that it is very important to ensure that the fuel line is as straight as possible. The flame level is controlled by rotating the green control which is close to the fuel tank. This rotates the entire fuel line, so if it has more than a slight bend, control is reduced significantly. I performed a test burn with shellite/white gas, which I thought primed quickly. I did have a significant flare up which perhaps meant I had not primed long enough, but no matter, a nice blue flame developed shortly afterwards. I did notice that I needed to increase the setting on the green control upwards a number of times as the stove settled down.

My impressions after the first burn were that I would quickly get used to this stove. It seemed less temperamental than my existing multi fuel stove and gave greater control given that I used the same fuel in both. My existing stove struggles to simmer at a low enough level, but the Nova+ appears to simmer at low levels quite well. My test burn did not include cooking anything on the Nova+, for this, readers will need to await my field test review, so I am not yet able to fully comment on how well I can practically cook on this thing, but my impressions are favourable.

My field test is expected to be conducted over a wide range of conditions ranging from dry to very wet. Temperatures could range from 0 C (32 F) up to 40 C (104 F). Elevations will vary from sea level to 2000 m (6600 ft). I will not, however, be using the stove in alpine environments in snow, as Victoria is moving into summer time. I will be using Shellite/White gas in the stove. I do not intend to try other fuels, although Optimus suggest that kerosene and diesel can be used in this stove. I expect that I will be using the stove for over 30 days during the test period, so it should get a good workout.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and Optimus for the opportunity to test the Nova+ stove.

Field Test Report:

8 Jan 2008

During the field testing period, I used the Optimus Nova+ for a total of 18 days on the following trips:

  • Cathedral Ranges, Victoria, 2 days: Elevations from 400 m (1300 ft) to 900 m (2650 ft) with dry conditions and low humidity. Temperatures ranged from 10 C (50 F) to 25 C (77 F).
  • South West Tasmania on the Port Davey, South Coast Tracks and South West Cape Circuit, 16 days: Elevations from sea level to 1100 m (3350 ft) with varying conditions from very wet to dry. Temperatures ranged from 5 C (41 F) to 25 C (77 F).

During the field test period, I used the Nova+ to prepare over 50 meals and countless Breakfast being prepared on the Nova+ stove hot drinks for two people. Breakfast can be seen being prepared in the picture to the right. Most of the meals were dehydrated meals, with added rice or pasta. I was also delighted to enjoy custard made from a custard/milk powered mix. Most cooking was done on a low heat, with moderate heat used to bring water to the boil for hot drinks. While I don't normally care too much for boil timings, it took about 5 min to bring 1 Litre (1.06 US Quarts) to the boil at 15 C (59F) at a moderate heat.

I found priming the Nova+ with Shellite (white gas) quite straightforward. Only a small amount of fuel is needed for priming, and this is quite handy on long trips. Once the priming flame is just about out, the stove can be turned on and quickly settles down. I noticed that the fuel flow control needed to be adjusted (increased) when cooking at low heat levels as the stove warms up. This is not a big deal, but can be an extra thing that needs attention while cooking.

Care is needed to ensure that the flow control is closed before attaching the fuel bottle to the stove. Quite a number of times I connected the fuel bottle in the "On" position, with the flow control open. This can happen because the stove is turned off by leaving the fuel flow control open and placing the bottle in the "Off" position. If the flow control is open when first connecting the fuel bottle, quite a bit of fuel is excreted, far more than what is needed for priming. This can cause flare ups, and it can be harder to judge when the stove is primed and ready for cooking.

The area of flame is quite compact, which means that thin metal cookware can be prone to burning, which I found if I was not extra careful. I was not able to prepare porridge on my thin steel pot without burning it with this stove. I did have a thicker base fry pan that allowed me to cook this without problems. The simmer level of the Nova+ is quite low, and uses less fuel than other stoves I have used. However, because the jets are close together (see the picture below), it can still burn food on the base of pots for the unwary. Flame control is quite good with this stove. The fuel line has a green knob on it, which rotates the whole line from the tank to the stove. This effectively controls an screw inlet valve on the stove, controlling the amount of fuel entering the stove. I was able to get a fine level of control of the flame. Nova+ stove with a moderate flame

The Nova+ is quite a noisy stove as a result of oscillations of fuel flow inside the burner chamber. I have noticed that this is similiar to every other kind of Shellite/white gas stove that do not have an integrated tank. The stove seemed no noisier than other stoves of a similar kind of design, but is much noisier than integrated tank fuel stoves that I have used before.

The Nova+ has three pot support arms with groves cut into them. These arms fold inwards for storage. During cooking, I found that my pots and pan did not slip on these arms, even when they were on a bit of an angle (up to 5 or so degrees). The supports have an arc, which apart from helping when stowed, presumably help the pot to be more stable, however I did find that my pots were less stable on this stove than a 4 support arm stove, especially if the pot was not exactly centre on the stove. One or two little tips took place, which explains all the black stuff on the wind guard in the two pictures. This wind guard is the same one as the nice shining new one that can be seen in the Initial Report section above.

Speaking of the wind guard, I found it quite effective in keeping the wind out and the heat in. It was easier to use than an old guard I had, and has a number of holes cut into the base to allow oxygen and the fuel cable to make their way into the stove. I used the guard every time I cooked. It does not look anywhere as good as it did when this test started, but I don't think that it is anywhere near end of life. I also feel so much safer with the fuel tank quite some distance from the flame. Being able to adjust the flame intensity by using the green adjustment knob on the fuel line is a big plus as well, as this is next to the fuel tank, rather than on the stove.

The stove is turned off by rotating the fuel bottle 180 degrees from the "On" position to the "Off" position. The stove continues to use the remaining fuel in the fuel line (cable), and this permits about 30 seconds to a minute of cooking. I liked how I could still control the amount of heat during this time, which allows me to make the most of all the fuel I use in the stove. It did not take me long to work out the timing of turning the stove off - yes I like to watch every drop of fuel! One thing to watch with this stove is the fuel line when turning the stove off. If the stove is turned off by cutting the fuel by turning the fuel line off, it will jam shut as the stove cools. This happens even if the stove is turned off the correct way (by turning the fuel bottle) and the stove flames out while on a low heat setting. In order to avoid this jamming, the fuel line needs to be opened right up while the stove cools. This can lead to problems when relighting the stove later (eg next morning) if I have forgotten that the fuel line is fully open when time comes to prime the stove. I'm not sure what Optimus can do about this "feature" of the stove as it appears to be fundamental to the design. It caught me out on a number of occasions before I finally developed good habits when lighting the stove.

Optimus suggest that 3 meals per day will use 100 ml (3.38 fl oz) of fuel per person per day. I was able to achieve fuel usage of about 85 ml (2.87 fl oz) between two people per day, which is less than half of what Optimus suggest by using the wind guard, keeping the lid on where I could and using "Dutch Oven" techniques.

About halfway though our Tasmanian trip, we found that the Nova+ was unable to prime, and upon closer inspection, it was determined that we had a clogged fuel line. My walking partner and I were able to figure out how to use the supplied multi tool to completely disassemble the stove into all its parts while searching for the blockage, which we did find. Reassembling the stove was quite intuitive, and the stove then immediately primed. The ability to be able to disassemble the stove fully in the field is a major plus for me. Another plus is that the multi tool has a magnet that can help to clear minor fuel blockages. The blockage that I described above however could not be cleared with the multitool magnet.

The only thing I really don't like about the Nova+ is the plate that sits on top of the burning chamber - this part is glowing red on its edges in the picture above right. This (the plate) is anchored in at three points onto the stove proper, but falls off too easily. It is necessary to be able to remove this plate for maintenance reasons, but it can fall off easily. I worry about losing it, and without it I don't have a working stove. I don't want to leaver the little legs on it in order to not stress the metal in them too much.

In summary, I like:

  • The fuel tank and fuel/flame adjustment being some distance from the stove.
  • Easy priming with Shellite/white gas.
  • Good control of the flame intensity.
My dislikes are:
  • The jets are close together, making it harder to avoid burning food - but this is the price paid for a small light stove.
  • The plate on the jets can fall off too easily.

Long Term Report:

25 Mar 2008

During the Long Term test period, I used the Nova+ stove for a total of 14 days in the following locations:

  • Rubicon, Victoria, Australia
    • A forested area with elevations from 200 m (660 ft) up to 1200 m (3660 ft). Temperatures were mild to hot: 15 C (59 F) to 35 C (95 F) with humidity low.
    • This was a two day walk and I carried around 12.5 kg (27.6 lbs) total weight. I walked for up to 8 hours on the longest day with few stops as I was walking solo.
  • Mt Howitt/Howqua valley, Victoria, Australia.
    • The mountain section was first in forest and then low scrub above the tree line. The valley sections were in mostly open forest. Elevations ranged from 400 m (1310 ft) to 1700 m (5550 ft), with temperatures ranging from 15 C (59 F) through to 30 C (86 F). Humidity was medium to low.
    • Mt Howitt was a 900 m (2670 ft) climb from a base camp. From there my walking group headed off for a 2 day pack carry. The day walk had 8 hours of walking, while the two day pack carry had around 5 hours each.
  • Great Ocean Walk, Cape Otway to the 12 Apostles, Victoria, Australia.
    • This was a 5 day coastal track walk with some beach sections. Elevations were from sea level to 250 m (820 ft). Temperatures ranged from 15 C (59 F) to 35 C (95 F) with low humidity. I began the walk carrying all my stuff for 5 days and a two man tent. Walking time each day was around 5 to 6 hours.
  • Howe Range, Victoria, Australia., Victoria, Australia.
    • A 4 day, mostly off track, walk. The walk consisted of forest sections, a creek and long coastal / beach walking. Elevations were from sea level to 300 m (1000 ft). Temperatures ranged from 15 C (59 F) to 25 C (77 F) with low to moderate humidity.

During the Long Term test period, I used both Shellite (white gas) and Coleman fuel. The stove continued to operate well with Shellite, but was more problematic with Coleman fuel. Coleman fuel tends to clog up the stove far more frequently than Shellite does, and as a result of this I found that I had not been using the cleaning needle mechanism with the multi tool magnet correctly. When the stove failed to prime on the third time that I used Coleman fuel, I used the magnet, and when that did not work, I disassembled the stove. After many frustrating attempts (and lots of time) to get the stove to prime, I could not get things working. I checked the O-rings and the filter and they all looked fine. I ended up losing the cleaning needle, and after at least two hours of searching, I could not find it. I ended up borrowing someone else's stove for the remainder of that walk.

Upon getting back home, I was determined to get to the bottom of the problem. First step was re-reading the instructions, on which I discovered that the magnet needs to be used at the BOTTOM of the stove. I contacted the Australian distributor of the stove, who supplied a new cleaning needle for A$13.20 (around US$12). I removed the nozzle of the stove to observe the cleaning action of the needle, and saw that the needle did nothing when the multitool was placed and moved around on the top of the stove, but clearly moved up and down when the multi-tool was moved underneath the stove. With this in mind, I reassembled the stove and did a test burn with Coleman fuel. This test burn worked well, so the Nova+ was ready to go on my next trip. While I was at the distributor, they mentioned that the stove should be "able to burn just about anything", but others had reported some difficulty with Coleman fuel. They also suggested that the stove can operate without the cleaning needle, but will require opening up for maintenance far more frequently.

For the remainder of the test period, I continued to operate the Nova+ on Coleman fuel. I found that priming is sometimes straightforward, sometimes a little problematic, but given a little persistence, the stove will prime. The multitool is needed to activate the cleaning needle quite frequently with Coleman fuel, but I did not need to open the stove up even though I operated the stove more than 20 times over the remainder of the test. My observation is that Shellite is a much better fuel to use, but Coleman fuel can be used with a little bit of patience. I found that when cooking for one person on my last 4 day trip, I used around 40 ml (1.52 fl oz) of fuel per day for a cooked breakfast and dinner, and two hot drinks per day.

My overall observations of the Nova+ have not changed greatly from where they stood at the end of the Field Test period, and the summary I provided then still stands. I still like the stove, and in particular like how I can minimize fuel wastage and usage. My experiences with Coleman fuel lead me to think that this is not my fuel of choice, but I can at least use what stores of that fuel I have left with the Nova+. To summarise my fuel experiences: Shellite works well, Coleman fuel works ok. I have not tested other fuels with the Nova+. I intend to continue using the Nova+ after the test, but mostly on Shellite.

Thanks again to Optimus and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Nova+ stove.



Read more reviews of Optimus gear
Read more gear reviews by Wayne Merry

Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Optimus Nova White Gas Stove > Test Report by Wayne Merry



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