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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Optimus Vega stove > Test Report by Brian Hartman

OPTIMUS VEGA STOVE
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
October 15, 2013

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

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.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECS

IMAGE 4
Image from manufacturer website

Manufacturer: Katadyn Products, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.optimusstoves.com/
MSRP: EUR 94.95 (US $122.58)
Listed Weight: 6.28 oz (178 g)
Measured Weight: 6.4 oz (181 g)

Other details:

Technology: Gas Canister (Butane, Propane, Isobutane)
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 efficiency mode
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.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

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.

IMAGE 1 IMAGE 2
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 standard.

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 to tipping.

IMAGE 3
Control Valve
The Vega 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 stove.

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 stove.

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 legs
3. Screw canister onto valve housing
4. Place windscreen around stove
5. Open control valve one turn counter-clockwise and light the burner
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 its sack.

SUMMARY

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 REPORT

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.

Weather conditions 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.

1. 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 terrain.

Location: Franklin County, Indiana (IN)
Type of Trip: Trail hiking
Distance: 6 mi (9 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days
Backpack Weight: 24 lb (11 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny and very breezy
Precipitation: None
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: Off-trail hiking
Distance: 12.4 mi (20 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days
Backpack Weight: 29 lb (13 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny
Precipitation: None
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, Indiana (IN)
Type of Trip: Maintained trail
Distance: 6.1 mi (10 km)
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 cm)
Temperature: 71 F (22 C)
IMAGE 1 IMAGE 2

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.

IMAGE 3

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.

While hiking 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.

Of 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 case.




SUMMARY

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.

This concludes my Field Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

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 water.

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 outings.

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.

Overall the 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 first arrived.

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.

SUMMARY

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.

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