OPTIMUS VEGA STOVE
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
October 15, 2013
HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
bhart1426ATyahooDOT com |
||5' 9" (1.75
||145 lb (65.80
I have been backpacking for over
20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA.
In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and
being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid weight backpacker.
I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than
the bare essentials with me while on the trail.
PRODUCT INFORMATION &
|Image from manufacturer
Manufacturer: Katadyn Products, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.optimusstoves.com/
EUR 94.95 (US $122.58)
Listed Weight: 6.28 oz (178 g)
6.4 oz (181 g)
Technology: Gas Canister (Butane,
Dimensions: 5.12 x 2.76 x 2.56 inches (130 x 70 x 65 mm)
Power: 3,700 W / 12,580 BTU in 4 Season Mode and 1,400 W / 4,760 BTU in
Manufacturer listed boil time: 3 min/L in 4 Season Mode and
4.5 min/L in efficiency mode
Manufacturer listed burn time: up to 160 min at
max. output (230 g canister) in efficiency mode
The Optimus Vega stove
(hereafter called Vega or stove) is a lightweight remote gas canister stove that
can operate on butane / propane gas or conversely on liquid propane in what the
manufacturer refers to as integrated 4 season mode. When running in 4 season
mode, the canister is turned upside down and supported by three small legs that
are built onto the stove's control valve. This allows liquid fuel to power the
stove with consistent fuel pressure in cold temperatures as well as faster boil
times when compared to vapor gas. Optimus recommends vapor gas mode (also
called efficiency mode) for normal conditions as it offers better efficiency and
more precise cooking with a lower flame.
The Optimus Vega stove came
neatly packaged in a small cardboard box. Inside was the stove along with an
aluminum windscreen, storage bag and operation manual. The picture on the left
shows everything that was included in the box.
The stove itself is made up of four parts, which are permanently connected
together: the burner assembly, support legs, flexible fuel tube and control
valve. The burner is stainless steel and is 2" (5 cm) in diameter. As seen in
the photo above right, approximately 2 in ( 2 cm) of the preheat tube extend
over top of the burner. The purpose of the preheat tube is to vaporize liquid
fuel when operating the stove in 4 season mode. Ignited fuel then exits the
burner though a series of holes on its top side. Optimus states that the Vega
stove is designed for Optimus gas canisters containing 50% Butane / 25%
Isobutane / 25% Propane with a threaded valve certified to the EN417
Surrounding the burner are three curved legs, which also serve
as pot-supports. These legs are approximately 3 in (7.6 cm) long and are made of
steel that has been painted black. The legs swivel out from a nested position
to create a very stable base for the stove as well as cookware sitting on top of
it. The legs are also notched on top to help prevent pots and pans from sliding
around. Given these features and the stove's overall low profile, it appears
that it will be plenty stable for most pots and pans. I prefer the remote
canister design to stoves that sit directly on top of their fuel canisters
because I've found the remote canister stoves to be more stable and less prone
stove connects to the fuel canister via a 12 in (30 cm) long flexible fuel hose
and control valve. The hose is made of braided stainless steel and is
permanently attached to the stove on one end and to the control valve on the
other. The control valve incorporates a wire handle and two wire support legs
that work like a tripod to support an inverted canister for cooking in liquid
gas mode. The valve also has a fitting that allows it to swivel on the fuel
hose to prevent the line from getting kinked or twisting. Inside the valve body
where it screws onto the fuel canister is the only maintenance item on this
stove, a small O-ring that can eventually wear out and is therefore replaceable.
Optimus even lists the part number for this item in their manual. The valve
handle is bright green in color and requires less than two full turns
counterclockwise to completely open. It will be interesting to see how well
this handle is able to regulate the amount of fuel flowing to the
To prevent the stove from being snuffed out in heavy winds, a
lightweight aluminum windscreen is provided. The windscreen can be formed into
a circle to encapsulate the stove or setup as a wall to block wind from one
direction only. When folded up for storage the windscreen measures 3.5 x 4 in
(9 x 10 cm) and when opened it is 4 x 27 in (10 x 68 cm). There are four
notches in the windscreen; three of them are used to adjust the diameter of the
windscreen for different sized pots. The fourth notch is in the center of the
windscreen and is simply an opening to allow the fuel hose to pass through. Of
course the windscreen also protects the fuel canister from the heat of a lit
For means of transporting the stove and windscreen, a black nylon
storage bag was included in my kit. The bag is approximately 7 x 6 in (18 x 15
cm) and is large enough to hold the stove, windscreen and manual with room to
spare. The Optimus logo is proudly displayed in white on one side of the bag
while the top of the bag has a draw string that can be tightened to prevent
items from falling out.
Finally, the stove came with a manual that is
very informative, albeit heavy as it's 148 pages long and written in 14
languages. The manual does a good job of describing setup, operation and
maintenance of the stove with detailed drawings. One interesting note is that
the manual cautions to never use cookware with a diameter larger than 8.5 in (22
cm) and to never place more than 8.8 lbs (4 kg) total weight on top of the
stove. Setup instructions are as simple as the following.
1. Fold out
control valve handle and make sure it is fully closed
2. Fold out the stove
3. Screw canister onto valve housing
4. Place windscreen around
5. Open control valve one turn counter-clockwise and light the
6. Adjust control valve as needed for height of flame
TRYING IT OUT
During my initial test of the
Vega stove I couldn't get it to light. After a few minutes of testing I
determined the problem was due to a faulty canister that, despite being brand
new, wouldn't output fuel. I had bought this fuel canister a few days earlier
in anticipation of the test and it would take me 25 minutes to get back to the
closest store to buy a new one. Thank goodness this mishap didn't occur in the
wilderness on a backpacking trip.
An hour later I was back at home with a
new canister and this time the stove lit up immediately. I played with the
control valve for a few minutes to see how easy it was to vary the heat from low
flame to full power. Next I filled a pot with 1 liter (34 ounces) of water to
see how quickly it would boil. It took about 5 minutes to achieve a rolling
boil with the canister turned upright in efficiency mode. After turning the
Vega stove off, it cooled down within 5 or 10 minutes so that I could stow it in
The Optimus Vega stove appears to
be sturdy and well-engineered. During Initial Testing, it was very easy to set
up and light. I am anxious to see how well it simmers and look forward to
putting it through its paces on the trail.
This concludes my Initial
Report on the Optimus Vega stove.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the past two months I have
taken the Optimus Vega stove on two backpacking trips and one day hike and have
used it to cook breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
this summer have been very pleasant with daytime highs averaging 81 F (27 C) and
nighttime lows down around 68 F (20 C). Rainfall this season has been average
with almost 14 inches (35 cm) of rain during the past 2 1/2 months.
Franklin County: My first trip during this test period was a two day outing to
Franklin County, IN. I hiked mostly on wooded trails across hilly
Location: Franklin County, Indiana (IN)
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 6 mi (9 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days
24 lb (11 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny and very breezy
Temperature Range: 70 F to 79 F (21 C to 26 C)
2. My second trip was to Oldenburg, IN in Southeastern Indiana over 4th
of July weekend. During this two-day outing I hiked mostly off-trail and
covered 12.4 miles (20 km) across moderately hilly terrain. Elevations ranged
from 570 ft (174 m) to 710 ft (216 m) and daytime temperatures were in the low
80's F (28 C).
Location: Oldenburg, Indiana (IN)
Type of Trip:
Distance: 12.4 mi (20 km)
Length of Trip: 2
Backpack Weight: 29 lb (13 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny
Temperature Range: 72 F to 83 F (22 C to 28 C)
3. My third trip was a day hike at Strawtown Koteewi Park in
Noblesville, IN in early August. I covered 6.1 miles (10 km) on flat terrain
and established trails.
Location: Strawtown Koteewi Park, Noblesville,
Type of Trip: Maintained trail
Distance: 6.1 mi (10
Length of Trip: 1 day
Backpack Weight: 14 lb (6 kg)
Sky and Air
Conditions: Overcast with light to moderate rain
Precipitation: 0.5 in (1.3
Temperature: 71 F (22 C)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Vega stove performed
wonderfully on all of my outings. My usual meals were eggs, oatmeal and tea for
breakfast and soup or stew for dinner. For lunches I alternated between cold
sandwiches and cooked rice or noodles with tuna or salmon.
Most of the
time wind was not a concern but even when it was, the Vega had no problems.
While in Franklin County on my first trip of this test period, it was very
breezy for most of the afternoon and evening. I set up camp on top of a hill
but when it came time for dinner I considered heading down into the valley to
cook since it was so windy where I was. As it turned out, I cooked on the ridge
and, although it took half a dozen matches to get the stove lit, once lit it
never went out. The windscreen and powerful burner of the Vega did a great job
in difficult conditions.
So far I've tried 3 different pots and pans with this stove and am
impressed with the stability it provides. The wide stance of the legs created a
stable base even on unlevel ground while the serrated teeth on the pot holders
kept my cookware (and food) from sliding onto the ground.
the stove took up very little room in my backpack. I typically put it and the
fuel canister inside my cookpot and stuffed the windscreen wherever it would
fit. Despite the jarring and jolting of my backpack, I never worried about the
stove breaking due to its sturdy design.
In addition to cooking while on
the trail, I tried my hand at making pancakes in my backyard one weekend after
my kids had a sleepover. I was able to precisely control my cooking temperature
with a simple twist of the control valve, clockwise or counterclockwise.
Although I haven't sauteed vegetables yet or simmered spaghetti sauce, I am
quite confident that the Vega stove could easily handle both tasks.
course it hasn't been cold enough to test the stove in 4 season mode, but this
feature can also be used when a canister is running low on fuel. My plan,
therefore, is to wait until my current canister runs out and then try inverting
it to see what happens. I'm curious how much additional cooking time it will
buy me. Of course I'll buy another one and keep it in my backpack just in
I really like the Optimus Vega
stove. It is easy to set up, quick to light and a joy to cook on. I have had
no problems controlling the heat output of the stove. I can go from boiling
water to cooking pancakes with a simple twist of the wrist.
concludes my Field Report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND
During the long-term test period
I used the Optimus Vega stove on two more outings as well as to cook a few meals
at home. My outings included a three-night trip to Southern Indiana where we
had great weather with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70's F (23 C).
On this trip I used the stove to cook and simmer various meals. The stove
provided a stable base while cooking and I had no issues with my pots or pans
sliding or tipping over. My second outing was an overnight trip to the Charles
Deem Wilderness where I hiked several loop trails for a total of 16 miles (26
km). On this outing I carried a small pack that weighed about 15 lbs (7 kg)
with all of my supplies, food and water. Terrain in the area was hilly so I
really enjoyed having the smaller and lighter pack. The weather was also cooler
with occasionally strong breezes. On this trip I only used the stove to boil
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During long-term testing, the
Vega continued to perform flawlessly. It was thrifty with fuel, it lit
immediately every time I asked it to, and it required no maintenance whatsoever.
Overall I was very happy with the performance of the Vega stove and how
well it conserved fuel. Coming into this test, I was a little apprehensive
about switching from my liquid fuel stove to a canister stove. The main reason
was that I really liked being able to open the top of my liquid fuel bottle and
see exactly how much propane was in there. It has also been very convenient to
add or remove fuel to the bottle using a one gallon (3.8 L) liquid propane
container I keep in my garage. In this context, before heading out on the trail
this test period with the Vega canister stove I purchased another fuel canister
so that I would be prepared when the first canister ran out. When the old
canister finally did run out, I flipped it upside down and was able to get
almost 8 minutes of additional burn time before it was completely out of fuel.
Having first-hand knowledge that I can get additional run time out of an almost
empty canister makes me feel more comfortable using this stove for backcountry
Noteworthy as well is that although the cool windy conditions
on my second trip extended my cooking times noticeably, the stove's flame never
blew out despite heavy wind gusts. I'm also happy to report that the stove
required no maintenance or cleaning during my four months of testing.
Eventually I know I'll have to replace the rubber o-ring in the control valve
assembly but I suspect it will be years before it wears out.
stove remains in great condition. The burner assembly and preheat tube are
slightly discolored from use but this has no effect whatsoever on its
performance. Quite frankly I wouldn't have even noticed the discoloration if I
hadn't gone back to look at some initial photos I took of the stove when it
The Vega is very well designed and perfect for
backpacking. It is simple to set up, fun to cook with, and it is compact and
lightweight to carry. On all of my trips it had great heat output when boiling
water but still allowed me to dial back the fuel supply when I wanted to cook
delicate foods or simmer.
This test series is now
concluded. My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Katadyn for the opportunity to
test the Optimus Vega stove.This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org
Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
Read more reviews of Optimus gear
Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman