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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Optimus Vega stove > Test Report by Frances Penn

OPTIMUS VEGA STOVE
TEST SERIES BY FRANCES PENN
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: Frances Penn
EMAIL: oldhikergirl AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 57
LOCATION: Santa Ana, California
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 130 lb (59.00 kg)

I have been backpacking for six years mostly on long weekends in Southern California with two or more 5-day trips per year in the Sierras. My total daypack weight, including food and water, is usually 15 lb (7 kg) and my total backpack weight, including food and water, is usually 26-30 lb (12-14 kg) depending on the need for a bear canister. I have recently converted to a tarp, bivy and quilt sleeping system instead of a tent. I have experienced all night rain, hail, heavy winds, camping in snow once, but mostly fair weather.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Katadyn Products, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: www.optimusstoves.com
MSRP: US $94.95
Listed Weight: 6.28 oz (178 g)
Measured Weight: 6.3 oz (179 g)
Windscreen Weight: 1.3 oz (37 g)
Folded Dimensions: 5.12 x 2.76 x 2.56 in (130 x 70 x 65 mm)
Power: 1400 watt, 4760 BTU in efficiency mode and 3700 watt, 12580 BTU in 4 season mode
Fuel Type: mixed gas (butane, propane, Isobutane).
Burn Time: up to 160 minutes at maximum output (230 g canister) in efficiency mode
Boil Time: 3 min/L in 4 Season Mode, 4.5 min/L in efficiency mode depending on climate, temperature, altitude, etc.
Materials: stainless steel and aluminum
Warranty: two years

IMAGE 1
from Katadyn website


The new Optimus Vega stove is a lightweight remote canister stove with a high output burner that provides two ways of cooking in one stove. The four season mode is designed for cooking in cold temperatures, when extra fast boil times are needed, or when the fuel canister is low. When cooking in the four season mode, the gas canister is turned upside down and rests on two support legs that extend from both sides of the control valve. The efficiency mode is used to cook on a lower flame for simmering with the fuel canister sitting upright on the ground. The burner sits on the ground rather than connected to the top of the fuel canister providing greater stability during cooking.



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The box contained the stove, the windscreen, the storage bag and an instruction manual complete with many warnings about the stove being hazardous during cooking, the fuel being highly flammable and to keep away from children and clothing during operation. In addition to English, the manual was written in 13 other languages.

IMAGE 2
contents of box


The storage bag is 6 in (15 cm) high by 4.5 in (11 cm) wide. The stove in its folded condition, the windscreen, and the manual fit inside the storage bag. The storage bag has a drawstring closure. I will not carry the manual on backpacking trips.

The aluminum windscreen has rounded corners and three notches to accommodate pots of different sizes. The fourth notch fits over the fuel line and allows sufficient air flow during cooking. The windscreen also shields the fuel canister from the heat of the stove during cooking. The windscreen in its folded condition is 3.5 in (8 cm) wide by 4 in (10 cm) high. The braided stainless steel flexible fuel hose is 12 in (30 cm) long including both end connectors measuring from the stove connector to the fuel control valve connector.

The burner is stainless steel and measures 2 in (5 cm) across and has four rows of offset holes in a circular design. Two of the stove legs fold away from one stationery leg which has the preheating tube and stove mechanism attached to it for stability. The other two legs fold out forming a large stable cooking area and then fold back on themselves for storage and transport. The curved legs are painted black and are notched on the top to help keep the pot from moving during cooking. The three legs extend 3.5 in (8 cm) away from the stove forming a 6 in (15 cm) diameter base for cooking. My 7 in (17 cm) diameter pot fits nicely with little overhang.

The connector between the fuel line and the fuel control valve swivels to allow the fuel canister to be inverted for cooking in the four season mode.

IMAGE 3
connector valve right side up


IMAGE 4
connector valve upside down

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

In addition to the usual warnings not to use the stove indoors, the fuel being flammable and not to shake the fuel canister during cooking, below are the important points mentioned in the instructions.

This stove is designed for use with Optimus gas canisters containing 5% butane, 25% isobutane, and 25% propane.

The technical specifications indicate the stove is to be operated using a pot with a diameter of 8.5 in (220 mm). The warnings section states to never use cookware with a diameter larger than 8.5 in (220 mm). Both sections state that my pan and food must not weigh more than 8.8 lbs (4 kg) combined. I found this confusing so I tried using the stove with both of my pots. More details are provided in the next section.

A gap of 1 in (2.5 cm) between the pot and the windscreen should be allowed for sufficient air intake during cooking. The windscreen should not be used with frying pans. During cooking, the manual indicates that 4 feet (1.25 M) is to be allowed around the stove and 4.5 feet (1.75 M) above the stove.

The stove should be lighted with the canister in the upright position and the gas canister outside the windscreen. The stove needs to burn for 30 seconds to preheat before inverting the canister to cook in the high output mode. The canister should be kept low and inverted slowly to avoid flare-ups. The fuel hose needs to be held with one hand in position to avoid movement of the stove during the inverting process.

As this is a remote burner stove, there will always be a delay between turning the control spindle and the effect on the flame. This delay may be up to 30 seconds in the high output mode.

The only maintenance item on the stove is a small "O" ring where the fuel canister connects to the fuel control valve. The manual includes a warning to check this part to be sure it is in good working order prior to lighting the stove. The manual provides instructions for replacing this part and provides the part number. The manual also indicates that the stove should be returned to Optimus for major repairs.

TRYING IT OUT

Can you say " Blow Torch"? That was my first impression when I fired up this stove.

After unfolding the flexible fuel hose and gently running my hand down its length a few times, it was no longer kinked and now ready to use. I then connected the fuel canister, placed the windscreen around the stove and was ready to cook. Placing the windscreen prior to lighting the stove makes it difficult to get the lighter close to the stove over the windscreen. After lighting the stove, I moved my hand away quickly because the lighter flame comes back toward my hand over the windscreen.

Once I fired up the stove, it took only one minute to bring one cup of water to a boil. I added another cup of room temperature water to the first cup of boiling water and it took just one more minute to bring both cups of water to a boil. I added a package of ramen type noodles and some vegetables that I cut into bite size pieces and it took one more minute to bring all of that food to a boil. I boiled the food for 3 minutes stirring it often. I found the stove to be very stable during cooking using my 7 in (17 cm) diameter pot. I didn't need to hold the pot with its pot holder to stir the food during cooking. The stove is very efficient with its use of fuel in the efficiency mode. After cooking the food so quickly, the fuel canister did not appear to be noticeably lighter from the fuel used to cook the food, but I did not have my scale handy to confirm this.

IMAGE 5
large pot


After noticing the warning to use a larger pot with the stove, I decided to try using my smaller titanium pot with a 5 in (12 cm) diameter without the windscreen on a low flame. This worked fine but it took five minutes to bring two cups of water to a boil which is not an efficient use of this powerful stove. Since the fuel canister was low, I decided to try inverting it during cooking. The stove continued to cook without any increase in the cooking output as I expected. This was most likely due to the fuel canister being almost empty. I will try inverting a full fuel canister during my testing to experience the increased power output.

IMAGE 6
small pot

SUMMARY

This stove is much more powerful than other stoves I have used. The low center of gravity of the remote burner and the large surface area of the pot support legs combine to create a stable cooking surface for both of my pots. I am anxious to get the stove into the field to explore all of the available options for individual and group cooking with very efficient fuel use.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Trip # 1:
Location: Cottonwood Lakes area by Mt. Langley, California USA
Elevation: 11,100 ft (3,400 M)
Trip Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Trail Conditions: dirt forest trail with some rocky portions and off trail portions
Temperatures: 40 to 60 F (4-33 C)
Weather: mostly sunny with one afternoon rain storm that produced pea sized hail for 5 hours, cool nights
Group size: 5 people
Fuel Canisters used: One 8 oz. (227 g) fuel canister for the group for the entire trip

There were 5 people on this trip and used this stove for all meals. I used an aluminum 3 quart (2.84 L) soup pot to simmer soup for 35 minutes for dinner both nights. I boiled a full pot of water for hot drinks after dinner and boiled two full pots of water each morning for hot drinks and hot breakfast for the group. I appreciated how the burner provided a large stable surface when the pot was full when doing the group cooking. As the fuel canister was getting low, the burner appeared to lose BTUs when compared to when the canister was full. I turned the canister upside down and continued to cook. The fuel canister was not completely empty by the end of the trip, but very close. I was able to boil two more small pots of water on a subsequent car camp trip to use up the fuel canister.

Trip #2:
Location: Big Basin Redwoods State Park/Skyline to Sea Trail, California USA
Elevation: 1,700 ft (518 M)
Trip Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Trail Conditions: dirt forest trail with some steep rocky portions
Temperatures: 50 to 70 F (10-21 C)
Weather: mostly sunny with cool nights
Group size: 3 people
Fuel Canisters used: One 4 oz. (113 g) fuel canister for the group for the entire trip

IMAGE 1
preparing to cook dinner on Big Basin trip


This was the only stove I brought on this trip. I used my aluminum 2 quart (1.87 L) pot to boil water for hot drinks in the morning and cooked dinner both nights. The fuel canister was half empty after the trip.

Trip #3:
Location: Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park, California, USA
Elevation: 8,000 ft (2,400 M)
Trip Duration: 7 days, 6 nights
Trail Conditions: dirt forest trail with some steep rocky portions
Temperatures: 50 to 80 F (10-26 C)
Weather: mostly sunny with two afternoon rain storms, cool nights
Group size: 10 people
Fuel Canisters used: two 8 oz. (454 g) fuel canisters for the group dinners

I used this stove in conjunction with two other stoves for the entire group. I used this stove primarily for the group dinner cooking and used the other stoves as personal stoves when group cooking was not being conducted. I boiled hot water in the morning and cooked all of the group dinners and then boiled a full aluminum 3 quart (2.84 L) soup pot of hot water for washing dishes every night. The second canister was almost empty at the end of the trip.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

This stove is easy to operate and very efficient with its use of fuel. I don't need to carry as much fuel as on past trips. The windscreen works well to block the wind and direct the heat from the burner to the pot during cooking. I especially like the large stable base for my aluminum 3 quart (2.84 L) soup pot. I can stir the pot without having to hold it to prevent tipping. I have not burned any of the meals cooked with both of my aluminum pots. When we cooked quesadillas on the Glen Aulin trip, I turned the burner down as low as possible and no one managed to burn their dinner. I like the versatility of this stove. The burner can become a flame torch to boil water quickly and then be turned down to a slow simmer if necessary.

SUMMARY

This stove is a pleasure to use and with its efficient use of fuel, makes it my stove of choice. This stove is twice the weight of the stove I had previously been using, but is so efficient on fuel that the extra weight of the stove is offset by the need to carry less fuel. I especially like that this stove is so powerful and has the additional option of the four season mode for when the fuel canister is close to empty or when the weather turns to winter conditions.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Trip #4:
Location: Cottonwood Lakes area by Mt. Langley, California USA
Elevation: 11,100 ft (3,400 M)
Trip Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
Trail Conditions: dirt forest trail with some rocky portions and off trail portions
Temperatures: 40 to 70 F (4-39 C)
Weather: three sunny days, three windy and cloudy days, one afternoon of light rain with cool nights
Group size: 11 people
Fuel Canisters used: two 8 oz. (227 g) fuel canisters

This stove was used in conjunction with two other stoves for group cooking for the entire trip. The stove continued to provide great fuel efficiency at this altitude. The low center of gravity burner is versatile enough to cook quesadillas for the group one night and then cook a full pot of soup for dinner the next night. The windscreen was helpful to block the wind when set in a wide circle around the soup pot. I have found the windscreen provides good wind protection even if the cook pot is too large to allow the windscreen to click closed.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Whatever I want to cook can be accomplished on this stove. I have used my small titanium pot for individual meals, my midsize aluminum pot for small groups, my small fry pan for breakfast and quesadillas, and my soup pot for larger groups with this stove. The stove folds down to a compact size that is easy to fit into all of my pots depending on my needs for the trip.

SUMMARY

I continue to be impressed by the fuel efficiency and versatility this stove provides. I will continue to use this stove on my future backpacking trips.

This test series is now concluded. Thank you to Katadyn Products, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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