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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Optimus Stella Canister Stove > Test Report by Ray Estrella

Optimus Stell+ Canister Stove
Test Series by Raymond Estrella
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 26, 2007

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrella@hotmail.com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Huntington Beach California USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or fiancée Jenn.


INITIAL REPORT

The Product

Manufacturer: Optimus of Sweden
Web site: www.optimus.se
Product: Stella+ Foldable Canister Stove
Year manufactured: 2007
MSRP: N/A
Weight listed: 8.8 oz (250 g)
Weight of stove alone: 9.3 oz (264 g)
Weight with case and wind screen: 11.7 oz (332 g)
Folded size listed: 4.1 x 4.1 x 1.4 in (105 x 105 x 35 mm)
Actual folded size: 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.6 in (140 x 140 x 41 mm)
Set-up size: 3.6 in (19.1 mm) high, 6.5 in (16.5 mm) diameter with pot supports open.

Stella in a box (kinky)

Product Description

The Optimus Stella+ (hereafter referred to as Stella or the stove) is an extremely compact high-load capacity canister stove. It is modeled after the company's Crux stove (that I own and have written about). The main component that they share is the burner. Here is a picture of all the components of the stove. It is attached to a Snow Peak fuel canister.

everything


The burner swivels on its stem to allow the stove to lay flat. (I joked in my application to test that it should be called the Optimus Prime Stella+ after the ex-leader of the AutoBots of Transformer fame.) A spring-loaded collar slides into the burner section, locking it into position. In the closed position the burner lays alongside the body/manifold of the stove. This results in a very small package. Here is a picture of it folded.

folded up like a transformer


Once it locks in the up position the collar exposes three air intake holes in the body of the manifold. Below and to the right is a picture of the burner and manifold with the piezo electrode running up the side.
burner, electrode and manifold
The burner itself is made of blackened steel from what I can tell. (I scratched the underside with an Exacto knife and the scratches were shiny, not brassy.) It is 1.9" (47 mm) in diameter. The fuel flows though a fine stainless steel mesh, and exits, burning, through a series of perforations on the top of the burner. Also exiting through a hole in the burner is the electrode of the piezo electric igniter.

Surrounding the burner are three X-shaped leg/pot-supports. They swivel around the burner from a folded or nested position to create a very stable base for the stove itself, a pot that sits on it. They are made of blackened steel also. They have some very deep notches on the top of them to keep pots from sliding too much.

Running from the fuel manifold is a braided stainless steel fuel hose covered by a braided nylon sheath. The wire that feeds the piezo electrode runs inside of the sheath also. At the other end is the control valve for the Stella. In the center is the aluminum and brass fitting for a 70/30 mix butane/propane canister that uses the EN417 standard fitting. An O-ring at the outer edge and another in the inside keep the fuel from leaking.

At the far end of the controls is the florescent green plastic control valve. It has five big teeth at the outer edge tapering down to a smaller smooth surface at the end. At the other end is the plunger for the piezo igniter. It is covered with green rubber-like material to keep the elements out. Pulling it in causes a spark to be generated from the end of the electrode back at the burner. Contrary to all other igniters I have seen or used this one has two leads coming from the electrode opposite each other. But in dry testing the spark is only coming from one of them. I will comment more about it after testing in the field.

The stove comes with a four-language manual that is very informative. It says that the Stella can support pots weighing not more that 8.8 lb (4 kg) and have no greater that 11 in (280 mm) in diameter. I would like to give props to Optimus for saying in the manual that it can be used with "any" 70/30 mix fuel blend with the proper fitting. Over 30+ years of using stoves I have become very jaded from hearing each manufacturer say that it is "only recommended for use with" their branded fuel. I have a lot of fuel here and looked for an Optimus branded canister to take pictures. But I do not have any of theirs. Thank you Optimus for allowing me to use what I have on hand.

It also comes with a storage sack that is not like what is shown in the manual or accompanying materials. Rather than being a folding, multi-pocket sack shown, it is a single 8.75 x 8 in (22.2 x 20.3 cm) bag that weighs 0.7 oz (20 g). I like it that way personally. I don't need the extra pockets, or the weight of them. It also comes with a folded aluminum wind screen. The screen is a plus since the canister is away from the burner it will not over-heat like my other canister stoves.

This concludes my Initial Report. The following is the results of the first two months of testing.


FIELD REPORT

Field Conditions

August 4: overnight in Wasatch National Forest, Ashley National Forest in Utah. The weather was partly cloudy with rain that went from sprinkles to down-pours. The temps hit a high of 72 F, and down to 45 F (22, 7 C). The elevation at camp was 10450' (3185 m).
Elevation: starting 9740 ending at 10450


August 25-26: Cleveland National Forest in southern California on an overnighter at our camping spot at Fisherman Camp. This was our low spot of the trip at 1100' (335 m) elevation. Temps got up to 90 F and a low of 55 F (32, 13 C).

September 2: Over-nighter on the Desolation Trail in the Mount Olympus Wilderness in Utah, with temps in the low 80s F (29 C)

September 8: I did a trail-finding bushwacking over-night trip to the north fork San Jacinto River, in southern California. It was extremely hot, around 90 F (32 C) in the day time. It probably got down to 50 F (10 C) that night. My camp was at 5000' (1524 m) elevation.

Observations

Before taking the Stella out I did a controlled boil. I timed a boil of one liter (33 fl oz) of 70 F (21 C) water in an Evernew titanium pot at 80' (24 m) above sea level. I turned the valve to the highest setting. It started forming bubbles at 2:00, began boiling at 3:00 and came to a full rolling boil at 3:30. That is faster than the Crux, but I attribute that to the larger surface of the bigger pot which allows a higher flame without losing it past the sides.

I really like the wide stance. It holds my largest pot (a 2 qt/l stainless steel model I use for melting snow in winter) with no worries of tipping. My 3-season pots sit on the Stella with room to spare.

The igniter has worked well at sites up to 10450' (3185 m). I really like having the piezo activation plunger away from the burner itself. And so far it is holding up quite well. I was concerned with having the wire go through the flexible fuel tube, and will continue to watch it.

While I usually just do freezer bag and dehydrated meals that just require boiling water, I have used the Stella to cook some meals that utilized the simmering capabilities. It works wonderfully. I really like the control being by the fuel.

The windscreen is another thing I like. I have tried blocking the wind somewhat on my Crux but am always cognizant of the fact that using a true reflective windscreen could lead to problems. The Stella lets me both block the wind and, I am sure, get a little extra heat from the reflective properties of the shiny aluminum screen provided.

I have been using the provided storage sack and put it and a fuel canister into my pot for travel. I have been using a bigger pot than normal as I have been cooking for two on many of my hikes this summer.

I should be getting into some colder weather to test it coming up, maybe even snow. I will report on the ability of the Stella to burn fuel from a cold canister in my Long Term Report. Please come back in a couple of months to see how it fared.

This concludes the Field Report, the following reflects the last two months of testing.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Conditions

I went on a 78 mile (125 km) three-day trip from the Rock Creek Lake area down to Glacier Lodge in the John Muir Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada range of California. The temperatures ranged from freezing to 70 F (21 C), elevations ranged from 7800' to 11800' (2380 to 3600 m) with camps being around 9000' (2740 m) each night. Terrain consisted of dirt and exposed rock at the lower elevations and snow and ice up high. My pack weight at the start of the trip was 23 lb (10.4 kg).

It went with me on a two-day hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Snow Creek road north to the Whitewater River, in the desert near Palm Springs California. The temps were a low of 44 and up to 79 F (7 to 26 C).

Observations

The Stella has continued to be an impressive little stove. It has been protected from rough treatment in my pack by carrying it inside my pot.

Because of the size of the pot supports I felt a bit silly using the little MSR Titan kettle that is my normal pot of choice. So for the past four months I have carried either a 2 qt/l Evernew titanium pot or a bit larger 2.5 qt/l GSI Outdoors Extreme aluminum pot. I stopped carrying the fuel inside though. It will only fit in the bigger pot but even in that one it is too tight and I have to strap the lid on. I now carry the fuel separately in my pack.

It has performed flawlessly. The peizo electric starter continues to spark without fail. I have never had to resort to matches although one time the wind was blowing hard enough to disperse the fuel before I could start the stove. The wind screen was in place but the wind was swirling around and coming down at me. I used my body as a block to get the Stella started. After that with the pot on the stove it worked fine.

Fuel efficiency has been superb. I weighed the canisters after each trip to know what I have left for the next time. It has averaged over 20 boils per canister or about 0.3 oz (8.5 g) per 2 cup (473 ml) boil. One canister will suffice for Dave and I for a week long trip.

I did not need to do any fine control work with the Stella on these past two trips. Just boil water, so I cranked it open and let her burn. The Stella heats the water as fast as any other stove I own. And when I factor in the time savings of being able to just screw on the canister and fire it up it really out-shines my other big stoves.

And I do consider the Stella a "big" stove even though it packs down to such a trim package. This has earned a spot in my gear room (and backpack) as a stove I will take on multi-person trips, which I plan to do more of in 2008. It is an excellent addition to its little sibling Crux. Between the two neat folders I am set for most of my back country cooking needs.

This concludes my test of the Stella+. My thanks to Optimus and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test this cool stove.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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