OPTIMUS SVEA OUTDOOR STOVE
BY RUSTY GAIDZIK
December 19, 2011
RustyGaidzik AT yahoo DOT com
Los Angeles, California, USA
6' 2" (1.88 m)
190 lb (86.20 kg)
Tester Bio: I learned how to backpack in Boy Scouts with a strong emphasis on leave-no-trace camping. I did several weekend backpacks and a couple 4 day trips. After college I got back into it. I've done some solo trips and a couple group hikes mostly 1 to 2 nights. I mostly hike Los Padres and other southern California national forests. I prefer to hike light, but as a film-maker, I often carry heavy camera gear and sometimes fishing gear. Still I manage to keep my pack in the medium light range, usually between 30 lbs to 40 lbs (13 kg to 18 kg).
Manufacturer: Katadyn Products Inc.
|Photo courtesy of Optimus|
Year of Manufacture: 1970
Listed weight: 19.4 oz (550 g)
Measured weight w/o saucepan lid: 18.3 oz (518 g)
Dimensions: 3.9" x 5.1" (100 mm x 130 mm)
MSRP: US $109.95
Tank Capacity: 4 fl. oz (0.12 L)
Fuel: White gasoline
Rating: 1400W / 4,780 BTU
Burning time: Approx. 50 minutes on one filling at high output.
Boiling time: One liter of water takes approx. 7 minutes
The Optimus Svea includes the burner with valve and a small pot with detachable handle, valve key and windscreen. Priming pump, spare parts kit, cleaning tool, eye dropper, optional starting gel, and filling funnel are sold separately.
This stove operates similarly to other white gas stoves that I have used. A small amount of fuel is poured into the well beneath the burner and ignited to warm the stove. Once warmed the gas inside vaporizes and starts flowing out the nozzle where it can easily be ignited. One tricky part about lighting this stove is that I have to put the windscreen on before I begin the process. Otherwise it can be difficult to put on after everything is hot and I don't want to risk burning myself out on the trail. At first this seemed inconvenient to me, but now I see that it is actually a very clever design. The pot stands are attached directly to the windscreen which is attached directly to the burner. It's very stable and there is no need to carry a separate pot stand or windscreen. I've since found that I don't need to take off the screen to light the stove, only to clean the nozzle or refill the tank. Also, if I had a priming pump, I would have to take the screen off to use that. At just over a pound it is not the lightest stove, but it is still relatively light and compact. As a medium weight backpacker, I find it more than adequate for my purposes.
This is a classic mountaineering stove. It has inspired many other designs because of its quality engineering. It is made of brass and has only one moving part. It has an excellent reputation for being reliable over many years of use with little to no maintenance. Although my stove is nearly 40 years old, Optimus (part of the Katadyn Group) is still producing this same stove and making them available on their website.
I have used this stove without fail all over southern California. I even used it on Mt. Whitney at 12,000 ft (3500 m). Temperatures were about 20 to 30 F (-7 to -1 C). On my trip to Whitney in June 2011 the Optimus outperformed the other stoves that were in use by our group. It boiled 16 oz of water about three minutes faster than either other the other two stoves we were using. I have never used this stove in the rain, but I have used it in snow, cold humid conditions, and hot dry conditions. The coldest temperatures and highest elevation I've used the stove were on Mt. Whitney, 20 F (-7 C), elevation 12,000 ft (3500 m). The hottest were in Los Padres National Forest, near Sespe River, 80 F (27 C), elevation 680 ft (207 m). The lowest elevation was in my backyard is West Los Angeles at approximately 200 ft (60 m), at a temperature of about 60 F (15 C).
The Optimus performs well in all the scenarios I've used it. I have only small complaints in my experience with this stove. The first is not really the manufacturer's fault, though one could argue that it is. In order to operate the stove I need a detachable key to turn the valve. The key cannot be permanently attached because it would obstruct the windscreen when attaching or removing it. The obvious drawback to this is that if the key is lost, the stove can't be operated. Ordinarily this is prevented by a small chain that attaches the key to the stove. I got my stove from my dad who got it back in the 70s. The only catch, when he gave it to me the key was missing. I cannot find an easy way to replace the key. I cannot find one for sale on the web, and making one would require a bit of time and effort. My short term solution has been to use a small VICE-GRIP pliers to operate the valve. It works, but it's hard to use, it scratches the brass on the valve knob, and it adds about 12 oz (340 g) to the weight of the stove. Not the ideal solution, but I'm not a lightweight backpacker and the reliability of the stove makes it worth it.
Second, the stove is noisy. Not the noisiest. To be honest I don't think it's much louder than other stoves I've used. Personally, noise is not a high priority when I'm picking stoves. Many of my backpacking trips are solo so being able to talk over the stove is not important to me.
My only other complaint is that when the nozzle isn't clean the stove performance can be very poor. One time I was at Sespe River in Los Padres National Forest. It was a cool March morning. I hadn't cleaned the nozzle in a while, but I didn't realize until it was already lit. Once I got the stove going it seemed like too much hassle to have to stop it, let it cool down, clean it, and then restart it. This ended up being a poor decision as it took about twice as long as normal to boil my water. So now I just give it a quick cleaning with the convenient cleaning tool before and after each use. Since starting this practice I have observed flawless operation of the stove. I couldn't be happier.
When I first got the stove I didn't like it. Since then I have gone on numerous trips with a friend of mine who has a similar Optimus stove which he also got from his dad. His had a slightly different design with a windscreen that was separate and did not attach but fit into a separate cook set; otherwise our stoves are identical. We have used our stoves head to head against our friend's newer stoves and every time the Optimus outperforms the newer lighter stoves, both in setup time and boiling time. I know the newer stoves that I have used require a bit more finesse in the operation because of priming and external fuel tanks. This may account for some of the difference in time. The point is after several nights in the mountains with this stove it has really grown on me. I don't care about the little extra weight. It works every time with little hassle. I've even grown to enjoy it for its aesthetic. It is a classic mountaineering stove which a lot of the old timers recognize. Until I find something that is lighter, more practical, and outperforms the Optimus Svea Outdoor Stove, this will be the only stove in my pack.
THINGS I LIKE
-Rugged, durable, and reliable.
-Boils water surprisingly fast, can compete with modern white gas stoves.
-Attachable windscreen and stable pot support.
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
-Nozzle must be cleaned regularly for max performance
-Valve key is hard to replace if lost
-Noise; not the quietest stove
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
Alpha Legal Video Services
Read more reviews of Optimus gear
Read more gear reviews by Rusty Gaidzik