Optimus Stella+ Stove
TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER
July 29, 2007
INITIAL REPORT - July 29, 2007
FIELD REPORT - October 11, 2007
LONG TERM REPORT - December 13, 2007
5' 9" (1.75 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids
are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do a few weekend
hikes per year, although now that my sons are older, I have had the pleasure
of 2 weeks backpacking at the Philmont Scout
Ranch in Cimmarron, New Mexico and 2 weeks of canoeing in the Canadian wilderness.
I like to travel "in comfort", so I often
pack a little heavier than needed, but I'm trying to cut down. With all of my
investment into this trip, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
July 29, 2007
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.optimus.se
MSRP: US $99.95
Listed Weight: 9 oz (250 g)
Measured Weight: 9 oz (250 g) (Note: does not include aluminum windscreen or bag.
With these items included, total weight is 11 oz (312 g)
Closed: 5 x 2 x 4 in (12.7 x 5.1 x 10.2 cm)
Open: 6 in (15.2 cm) diam x 4 in (10.2 cm) height
I was excited to receive the Optimus Stella+ stove, having read about it on
various backpacking sites. It comes packaged simply, with the stove itself,
a large aluminum windscreen, and a storage bag. (Note the 1 inch (2.5 cm) grid
in the photos, for a sense of scale)
Before taking the stove out of its package, I spent some time trying to identify
an Optimus dealer in town, as I was hoping to do my initial tests with genuine
Optimus fuel. After about an hour on the Internet and phone calls to 2 high-end
camping stores in town, I concluded that Optimus fuel was not obtainable, and I
ended up going to a sporting goods chain store in town and purchasing a 250 g (8.8 oz)
canister of the recommended 70/30 butane/propane fuel from a different manufacturer.
I took the stove out of the box, and was impressed by its compactness.
The legs are constructed of fairly heavy metal, and the gas tubing also seems
quite sturdy. Initially, it was somewhat difficult to open the stove from its
collapsed state, but after opening and closing it a few times, it now moves fairly
easily. There is still significant friction to keep the legs from moving without
effort, but it takes just a moment to open it and prepare it for use. When the legs
are unfolded, the stove has a 3-point base, which provides it with good stability.
When I initially set it up, one of the legs was propped off the ground by the fuel
hose, which is a little stiff at this time. However, once I put a small pot on the
top of the burner, it settled down nicely.
When folded, the stove legs do not lay flat, which provides them with their cool
cylindrical appearance when open. The burner head folds flat to the plane of the
legs by means of a ball joint and sliding cuff. The burner locks in the flat
position (i.e., the position used for cooking). When it is time to fold the stove,
the cuff is simply slid down about ½ inch (1 cm) and the burner head can fold over.
The end of the hose has 3 components: the burner control valve, the connection to
the gas tank (containing a rubber O-ring), and the piezoelectric starter. The burner
control is marked with a '+' and a '-', so it will be easy to determine which way
to turn the knob to adjust the flame. I tried pushing the button when the stove
wasn't hooked to anything-nothing noticeable happens.
TRYING IT OUT
With my recently purchased fuel canister in hand, I made sure the burner control was in the 'off' position. I connected the stove easily to the top of the canister, and detected no leaks by sound or smell. I next tried opening the valve, and was rewarded with a hiss of gas escaping through the burner. I gently pushed the igniter and the Stella lit and started cranking out heat. I played a few minutes with the control valve, and was able to vary the heat from a low flame to full power. When running on high, there is some discoloration of the blue flame by yellowish elements, which is either a coating on the burner stand which will burn off with a few uses, or it is the burner stand itself. I did not run the stove for more than a minute or two, so I will keep an eye on this question as the test proceeded.
After turning the stove off, the burner stand is quite hot, but it took only 10-15 minutes to cool off before I could stow the Stella in its pack.
For the Field test, I will be using the Stella+ as my primary cooking stove on
all upcoming campouts. I am planning to test the manufacturer's claim that it
can boil a liter (33.8 fl oz) of water in about 3 minutes, and get a sense for how
much cooking I can get out of a single fuel canister. I will also keep an eye
on the burner stands to see what happens to them with more usage. If time
permits (i.e. either on the Field report or the Long-term report), I am hoping
to try out the stove with other fuel mixtures after I speak with a representative
from the company to make sure this will not damage the stove. Specifically,
Optimus recommends using 70/30 butane/propane, but I would like to try out
isobutane mixtures, or possibly other fuel ratios to see how these affect stove function.
Please check back in 2 months for my Field Report on this item.
Thanks to Optimus for providing the Stella+ stove for testing, and to
BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the chance to optimize my trail cooking.
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October 11, 2007
I have carried the Stella with me on three trips, and have cooked with it twice.
Of the trips where I used it for cooking, one was in central Ohio, where the
weather was hot, around 65 F (18C) at night up to 90 F (32 C) during the day.
When I was cooking, it was probably somewhere in the middle of that range. The other
trip where I used the Stella (and had a chance to do some spec testing) was somewhat
cooler. I had my thermometer out when testing and it was right around 50 F (10 C)
when I was using the stove.
As noted in my Initial Report, the Stella packs up very small and I usually tuck
it into one of the corners of my pack. The fuel canister is a bit bulkier, but I
still find it easy to stow. As I have used the Stella more, it opens (and closes)
very easily now, but the legs do not have a tendency to move unless I am pushing
on them. The stove remains incredibly easy to use, and I have no concerns when
I ask my 11 year old son to set it up and start heating water. Even though the
stove has a good 3-part base and is stable when loaded, the gas line tends to
push the stove up to one side, such that it is resting on 2 legs and the line.
This will bear further watching as I try out some new lightweight pots on the stove.
One feature which I did not previously appreciate is the fact that the stove
cools very quickly. In general, it is comfortably warm to touch within 5 minutes
after the burner is turned off, and could probably be packed up if I was in a rush
to get going.
How well does the Stella function? On the first trip where I used it, I did not
do any formal testing, but used it "normally". It did a nice job in doing simple
cooking, things like boiling water, and cooking noodles. I also used it to cook
with a trail oven, and it worked really well for that.
On the other trip, I did some formal testing with a couple of pots I had on hand.
For each of the tests, I measured how long it took to boil 1 liter (33 oz) of
water, starting from ambient temperature, which was 50 F (10 C). Initially, I
boiled water in my coffee pot, which is an aluminum pot with a diameter of 5.25
in (13 cm). In this pot (with the lid on, although I took it off every minute to
check the water), it took 5.75 minutes to reach boiling. Next, I tested my small
pot, which is a non-stick pot with a diameter of 6.75 in (17.5 cm). For this pot,
I tried it with the top off so that I could watch it better. Under these
conditions it took about 6.5 minutes for the water to boil. Finally, I tried my
large pot ,which is also a non-stick coated pot with a diameter of 9.25 in (23.5 cm),
which I used with the lid. In this largest pot, it took just over 6 minutes to reach
a boil. The manufacturer's website claims that the stove can boil water in as
little as 3 minutes, although they include the disclaimer that the time depends
significantly on conditions. Thus ,although the times I measured are somewhat higher that
those advertised by Optimus (which were presumably measured under different conditions),
the time to boil still seems comfortably fast. Plus, the fact that
it takes only a few seconds to set up the stove makes it seem much faster.
WEAR AND TEAR
So far, I have not noticed any significant wear and tear on the stove.
I will keep an eye on this as the test moves into its final phase.
To date, the Optimus Stella+ has functioned somewhat better than I expected.
Although the time needed to boil water is a little bit longer than advertised,
the fact that the stove is so easy to use more than makes up for it. Setting up
and lighting the stove is a snap, and the 3-legged design provides excellent
stability. I also really like the small size and easy packability of the Stella,
making it simple for me to make this one of the last items
placed into my pack. I am still trying to figure out how long one fuel
canister would last me in the backcountry, or how many canisters I would need to
bring for a weeklong trek.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the Stella so far, and I will try to round
out some of my impressions as I continue to test it over the remainder of the test.
One item I plan to address specifically is the ability of stove to cook things at different
heating levels. So far, I have used the stove mostly to boil water (which was then
used to cook), but the flame is easily adjustable, and I hope to try some simmering, etc., and see
how that goes.
This concludes my Field Report on the Optimus Stella+ canister stove. Please check in
back in about 2 months for my final report on this item.
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December 13, 2007
Over the past 2 months, my backpacking activity has been severely limited by
a small fracture in my wrist (which has finally healed!). I carried the Stella
stove with me on two trips: a low-intensity lightly-loaded overnight in early
November on which I didn't try cooking, and a long day hike in the Mohican State
forest in mid-November.
On the latter trip, the weather was about 60 F (15 C) and somewhat
windy. I stopped for lunch at the bottom of a blind gully where there was a small
waterfall. I decided to take a short rest and have tea after taking some photos of
the rock formation. I set up the stove on a large rock, taking advantage of the
fact that the canister didn't need to be included on the flat surface. On my first
try, I put the pot and about 12 oz (350 ml) water on the stove, and the gas line promptly flipped the
setup over, spilling the water as shown in the photo.
I set it up again a
little more carefully, and it was fine. After turning on the flame, I walked over
and took some photos of the water trickling over the rock ledge. Within the 5 minutes I spent taking
photos, the water was already boiling (note the steam rising!).
At the end of the
afternoon, I decided to heat up some soup. Because I was up on top of a ridge,
it was quite windy, but use of the windscreen prevented any problems. The soup came
to a boil within a few minutes, but I turned the stove down low and left it to
stay warm as I enjoyed the quiet afternoon. The Stella was easily adjustable,
and I was able to keep my soup warm without boiling or burning it.
Overall, I really like the stove. I have not had any mechanical problems with
the stove and it has not appeared to have suffered from my putting it and out
of my pack many times, even if I wasn't cooking on it. In terms of the ability
of the Stella to cook, I have found it to function very well. I can set it up
within a minute or two, and it really cranks out the heat when turned on full.
It also has a very good control knob, and is readily able to provide low heat
without going out, which is a problem I have had with some other gas stoves.
The only drawback to my mind is the fact that the gas hose remains somewhat stiff
and had a tendency to flip over the stove if I wasn't careful with it.
Overall, I have found the Optimus Stella+ Canister Stove to be an excellent stove,
and I plan on continuing to use it on any backcountry trips where I expect to cook.
Although not a plus or minus per se, it is worth reiterating that this stove uses
canister fuel, which may be a consideration for those looking to purchase a stove for backpacking.
Things I liked about the Optimus Stella+:
Things I disliked about the Stella+:
- Light and portable (both for weight and size)
- Simple and very fast to set up/put away
- Cooks rapidly
- Good control of heat output from low to high
- Electronic ignition very efficient
- Tends to flip over if not carefully set up
This concludes my report on the Optimus Stella+ Canister Stove. My thanks once again to
Optimus for providing this little beauty for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org
for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.
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