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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Primus ETA PackLite Stove > Primus Eta PackLite Stove > Test Report by Jamie Lawrence

Primus EtaPackLite Stove

IR1

Image Courtesy Primus

Test Series by Jamie Lawrence

Initial Report – 25th October 2010

Field Report - 4th January 2011

Long-Term Report – 1st March 2011

Tester Information

Name:

Jamie Lawrence

Email:

jlawrence286 (at) gmail.com

Age:

29

Location:

Hobart Tasmania, AUSTRALIA

Gender:

Male

Height:

1.70 m (5' 7")

Weight:

70 kg (154 lbs)

I was introduced to backpacking/tramping/hiking as a young child in Boy Scouts and through my school physical/adventure education. After leaving school, I mainly did short daywalks until recently when I started to re-walk some of Tasmania's key routes and try others I have yet to attempt. I mainly walk in the winter months, in Tasmania's central highlands area. I prefer light gear, extended walks (3-5 days) in a group of 3 people, or shorter walks (1-3 days) walking solo. I generally carry a base weight pack of around 8 kg - 10 kg (17 lbs - 22 lbs).


Initial Report

25th October 2010

Product Information & Specification

Manufacturer:

Primus

Year of Manufacture:

2010

Manufacturer's Website:

http://www.primus.eu/templates/pages/default.aspx?sectionid=6720

MSRP:

Not Listed

Listed Weight:

596 g (21 oz)

Measured Weight:

700 g (24.7 oz)

Pot Size:

1.2 L (40.4 fl oz)

                                                                                                                                               

Primus refers to the EtaPackLite as being a stove, but my first impressions add increasing blur to the gray area between a stove and a cook system. In essence, the EtaPackLite is a gas powered stove with an integrated windshield and pot that features a built in heat exchanger. The whole unit folds to allow it to be stored inside the pot, with sufficient space to include a small gas canister.

On their website, Primus lists the technical features of the EtaPackLite as:

·         2,000 w / 7,150 BTU/h heat output

·         Boiling time 2.5 minutes

·         Burn time 119 minutes using 230 g (8.1 oz) LP Gas canister

·         Piezoelectric ignition

 

IR2

The EtaPackLite Components (Image Courtesy Primus)

 

Initial Impressions

A bushwalking stove for me is always about trade-offs. I am constantly concerned about weight of fuel v heat output, ease of use v options for different styles of cooking (as opposed to just boiling water) and most of all, how much space does it take up in my pack! It took me only a few minutes of playing with the EtaPackLite for my thoughts to start to consider that maybe I had finally found the 'perfect' combination for my outdoor cooking needs. Yes, I was immediately impressed with the construction, feel and design of this system.

Having used quite a few different stoves, ranging from liquid multi-fuel stoves to simple alcohol burning stoves, I think I am usually pretty handy with a stove. With this in mind I immediately located the instructions booklet (which with hindsight is rather useful) and put it to one side and then pulled the whole stove apart and assumed I could simply make it work. How wrong I was! I had a few minutes of fumbling around before I figured out that I needed the instructions manual to get the stove ready to use. Firstly, the burner head can be separated from the hose and heating tube by a simple screw fitting (not connected when received), the burner also pivots and tilts to allow for easier storage. Once I had connected the hose/heating tube and locked the burner into place, I was ready to go. I attached a near new iso-butane canister and immediately hit problems. I couldn’t get the piezoelectric ignition to light the gas. To test the gas I lit a match and was able to get the stove to light. I then had a closer look and discovered the tip of the piezoelectric ignition was bent, leaving too large a gap between the ignition and the burner head. A quick bend with my fingers to close the gap and a few test clicks produced a nice bright blue spark. I turned on the gas and ignition! Straight away I have found that it is basically not possible for me to light the EtaPackLite with the windscreen in place as the button for the ignition is not easy to get to as the windshield covers most of it. This is easily avoided by lighting then placing the windshield in place.

 IR3

Packed in Bag


I was immediately struck with 2 things. Firstly, just how loud this stove is at full throttle, it is loud! A steady and healthy roar is produced, much louder than my other canister stoves, a lot similar to that of my MSR Whisperlite. The second point I noticed is just how high the burner flame is and how hard it is to see. The flame is a very pale blue (lighter than I would’ve expected) and extends to about 12-15 cm (4.7-5.9 in) from the burner head. A note to self, stand well clear when lighting, especially in a confined space.
Once lit, I filled the pot with about 1 litre of water, added the windshield and placed the pot on the burner with the lid attached. I am pleased to announce that a) a watched pot does actually boil and b) when using the EtaPackLite, it boils in around 2 minutes 12 seconds. I repeated the test again with a second pot of water once the whole unit had cooled. Again, the water was at a full rolling boil in around 2 minutes 14 seconds. I undertook this test in my backyard at around 70 m ASL (230 ft) on a still afternoon with temp around 16 C (61 F). The water was taken straight from the garden tap so I am unsure how cold it was, but it was cool to touch.

I was pleased to find that I can simply place the pot on the stove and don’t have to be too particular about seating the pot to ensure it is on the stove correctly. This has been an issue for me in the past when I have used pots that feature an inbuilt heat exchanger. I have also found it quite limiting to not be able to interchange cookware between stoves because of their integrated design. I can already see some light at the end of the tunnel with the EtaPackLite in this regard. Once the unit had cooled again I figured it was time to test how easy it is to pack the EtaPackLite up into the stuff sack. This was all simple enough. I do like the addition of the polyurethane bowl to act as a liner for the pot to protect the non-stick coating. The burner was easy enough to compact down, except I did have an issue with the now bent piezoelectric ignition preventing the burner from fully lifting, but I flicked it out of the way and all was fine.

The windshield was a little hard to get to collapse into its smaller size but once locked in place, held its shape nicely. It is a very snug fit getting the windshield inside the bowl, as there is a tiny lip left on the windshield which catches on the plastic. I will monitor this over time to see if this causes any ongoing damage. Once all the components were inside the pot, the lid screws into place, the handle folds under the pot which holds the plastic heat exchanger cover in place. Easy! The stuff sack is more than big enough for the EtaPackLite plus I added a large box of matches. I also imagine I could fit in a small tea-towel or similar. I only had large canisters of gas which are too big to fit inside the pot so I will need to purchase a smaller one to test if it is possible to store a canister as Primus suggest.

Summary

My initial impressions of the Primus EtaPackLite have been good. Overall I think it is a well designed and simple to use outdoor cooking system, or is it a stove?? I am not quite sure. I think the fact that I can use other types of cookware means it is a stove, but the use of the pot makes it a system. Either way it was super fast at boiling a couple of liters of water. For me it is appealing to be able to interchange cookware and be creative with what I prepare in the back country. I am sure that a super ultralight die hard may find this a heavy and chunky unit but I like it so far.
 
Likes:
·         Easy to set up and use
·         Fast boil times
·         Feel of quality construction
 
Dislikes (but of a very minor nature)
·         Large difference between the listed and measured weight
·         Issue with the Piezoelectric ignition
·         Tight fit of the windshield when packed inside the pot
 
This concludes my Initial Report of the Primus EtaPackLite Stove. Please check back in around 2 months for the results of my field testing. My thanks to Primus and http://www.backpackgeartest.org/ for the opportunity to test this product.


Field Report

4th January 2011

Field Locations & Conditions

I commenced my field testing of the Primus EtaPackLite stove on 3 outings. The first of these was a 3 day bushwalking trip to summit Mt Anne (1,425 m/4,675 ft) in South West Tasmania. Unfortunately the weather was unseasonably cold, with snow/hail falling and temps dipping to around -1 C (30 F). We camped at around 950 m (3,116 ft).

I also took the stove out on 2 separate camping trips. The first of these was to Cockle Creek, a coastal location at the south eastern tip of Tasmania. Over the 3 day days I was there we had bright sunshine with temps reaching about 17 C (62 F) but got cool in the evenings to around 5 C (41 F). We also received a decent dumping of rain, which made for a soggy end to the trip. The second camping trip was again at a coastal location, on the Tasmanian west coast. Again the weather was wet, with rain and temps similar to my Cockle Creek trip.

Performance in the Field

So far I have used the EtaPackLite to prepare a range of food ranging from simply boiling water for drinks (using the supplied pot) to cooking some juicy steaks and fish with a frying pan.  As I experienced in my initial test at home, this stove is capable of boiling water rather quickly. In a couple of instances whilst at Mt Anne, I was able to set up the EtaPackLite and boil a couple of liters of water (enough for a few of us to have a soup or hot drink) in less time than my mate was able to set-up, prime, light and boil water using his MSR Whisperlite. Given the cold and somewhat un-enjoyable conditions, this was very handy as it meant I could spend more time inside my dry and warm sleeping bag reading a book rather than standing out in the wind and rain. Also on this trip we prepared a tuna curry type dish (eg, we forgot some key ingredients and had to make something out of nothing!), some re hydrated potato, fried some salami and prepared some rolled oats for breakfasts. For this trip I packed a full 220g (7.76 oz) canister assuming it would be heaps! I was very wrong, as my slightly warm breakfast on the last day will attest. I was using an isobutane/propane blend gas, which I understand is best for the cooler conditions. It was not a Primus canister, but I have never had issues with my other gas stoves using various brands of canister. Over this trip I was cooking for 2 and the entire canister was used.

FR1

Multi pot cooking with the EtaPackLite



For both my camping trips, I again packed a 220g (7.73 oz) canister, of the same brand I took to Mt Anne only a few weeks earlier. These trips appeared to be more successful from a fuel consumption perspective. Again I boiled water for beverages and also prepared some pasta. I also removed the windshield and used a standard frying pan from home to cook some steaks and fish that I had caught. The frying pan was very stable and felt secure. There was very little wind at the times I cooked with the frying pan so the removal of the windshield had no noticeable impact on reduced performance of the stove.


In general terms, the EtaPackLite is great when a high heat output is required (eg, boil water quickly) but I have had a few issues with trying to achieve a simmer. When I prepared a satay type dish during my Mt Anne trip I wanted to reduce the sauce a little and allow some dehydrated vegetables a chance to rehydrate before the sauce boiled off. It took me quite some time to find the ‘sweet spot’ on the valve to allow just the right amount of gas to produce a subtle flame that didn’t go out. It was trial and error and I had to relight the stove a few times before getting it right. As my testing continues, I hope to get to learn to find this ‘sweet spot’ more easily.


I have a couple of little issues with the design of the stove. Firstly, it is basically impossible for me to light the stove using the piezoelectric ignition with the windshield in place as there is simply not enough room for me to get a good purchase on the click button. I also find I have to bend the tip of the ignition into place more often than not to achieve a decent spark to get the gas to ignite. Due to the proximity to the burner, the igniter tip glows red hot during use but this appears to be unrelated. The other frustration is the bayonet style lid attachment. I find it really difficult to fit the lid as it is not obvious when it is locked in place. I usually have to align the tabs then place the lid down. An improvement to this design could include tabs to stop the lid rotating once it is locked in place. Having said this, once the lid is locked in place, it is certainly secure and the incorporated colander makes draining pasta or vegetables super easy. I would prefer a clear lid as I find this is easier to check on the contents of food rather than having to always open the lid fully and therefore loosing heat.

FR2

Sunset from Mt Eliza, en route to Mt Anne


Whilst these are little issues, my major concern has been the fuel consumption. I know that the internal temp of a gas canister needs to reach a certain point for the optimal vaporisation of the internal gases. I also know that as a canister empties, the pressure drops and thus it becomes harder for the gases to vaporise (someone please email me if this is completely wrong!). If a canister is too cold, the gases can’t vaporise or blend and thus performance of the stove is reduced. Radiant heat to keep the canister ‘warm’ is usually the easiest way of counteracting this process. This became particularly obvious during my Mt Anne trip when I was trying to boil a pot of water. After about 3-4 minutes the water was just warm, not even close to boiling. As an experiment I placed the base of the canister in the warm water, as it was noticeably cold to touch. I immediately heard the flame from the burner start to ‘roar’ and there was a noticeable increase in the heat output. I tried to keep the canister warm with my hands and even inverted it (I was running low on gas at this stage) but this was not as successful. In the end it took some 8-9 minutes to boil the pot of water, and I suspect, use a lot of fuel in the process.  Whilst the conditions on Mt Anne were bad, being very cold and windy, I was cooking inside a small stone hut so wind was not an issue. I still expected that the temperatures were within the operational range of this stove. I considered the use of a full 220g (7.76 oz) canister for the time I was away as excessive. I had improved consumption during both my camping trips, using around 2/3rds of a 220g (7.76 oz) for both trips. Again I tested the ‘dipping’ approach as first thing in the morning I noticed the canister was very cold and the performance of the stove had dropped away.


I still find that set-up and pack down is really easy. I've also used the included bowl on a couple of occasions and found it is good for holding food and easy to clean, as is the pot, especially for sticky foods like rolled oats or custard. Unfortunately the tight fit of the windshield has caused some major scratches to appear in the bowl which I am concerned will result in plastic flakes contaminating my food. This hasn't happened yet but I will be keeping a close eye on it during my further testing. The other issue I have had is that 2 of the support legs have become very loose, and won't stay in place, swinging quite freely. I think one may have become bent a little, but I am unsure how. The pot still sits well and the windshield holds the arms in place so it is not a major issue at this stage.

Summary

So far I have enjoyed using the Primus EtaPackLite stove. I am now more convinced that it is in fact a stove and not a cooking system as I have successfully used other non-proprietary cookware on the stove. I have been impressed by the ease of use, in particular the non-stick coating resulting in simple clean up. I have been very disappointed by what I feel is poor fuel consumption but this may simply be my error rather than the fault of the stove. My other annoyances are of a minor nature and would not at this stage prevent me using the stove further. I am now firmly in our Summer months so hopefully the warmer weather will allow me more time to get out and cook up a storm!


This concludes my field report of the Primus EtaPackLite stove. Please check back in March for the results of my long-term testing. My thanks to Primus and http://www.backpackgeartest.org/ for the opportunity to test this product.


Long-Term Report

1st March 2011

Field Locations & Conditions

I concluded my field testing of the Primus EtaPackLite stove on an overnight walk in the Mt Field National Park in addition to taking it along on a couple of day walks in the Mount Wellington Park. As we have been in summer, temps have been good, ranging from around 10 C (50 F) to highs in the mid 20’s C (Mid to high 70’s F). I had no rain and little wind during my outings.

Performance in the Field

As was the case in my Field Report, my use of the EtaPackLite has been enjoyable. Although a little bulky for day outings, it was handy to be able to throw the stove in my pack with a decent sized frypan and have a makeshift BBQ sitting on a rock overlooking the city from Mount Wellington. At the time I had friends visiting from interstate who just loved the view. As the EtaPackLite has such a wide base, it was easy to find a good spot on a flat rock to sit the stove on and cook away. As I was using a large frypan, I was not able to use the windshield. This didn’t appear to cause too many issues as there was very little breeze.

 

My overnight walk to Mt Field East was a pretty simple affair. The walk from the carpark to Lake Fenton is only about 45 minutes of relatively flat track walking. There is a small hut at the lake shore which became overnight camp. Elevation is about 800 m (2624 ft) and the weather was fantastic, bright blue skies and warm weather (23 C/73 F) during the day and about 14 C (57 F) at night. There was no wind. As a result, sitting by the lake and preparing a meal was a genuine pleasure, a reminder of why I love getting out into the wilderness. Given I usually use sheltie (white spirit) stoves, I found the EtaPackLite was great as I didn’t have the lingering odour of the fuel and, given it was a bit dry, the extra risk of fuel causing a fire. As we were not carrying packs very far, this was a gourmet affair, we cooked steaks for dinner and had eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast. A real treat! I was able to also whip up some popcorn late in the afternoon to enjoy with the beers that had been chilling in the lake. The bowl that usually lines the pot was good to throw some popcorn in after it was cooked. The strainer holes on the lid also made it really easy for steam to escape and helped me from overcooking the popcorn. On this particular trip we mainly used a frying pan but the pot was also used to boil water for drinks and washing dishes.

 

During my initial field testing I experienced what I felt was very poor economy from my fuel canister. During the trip to Mt Field I purchased a new 220 g (7.73 oz) canister just to see if I would have the same consumption issues I experienced during my Mt Anne trip earlier in my testing. I managed to use nearly a full canister on this short trip. However I was using the stove in a much different way, and the weather was a lot warmer. I had a lot more success in achieving stable simmer and lower flame setting, which enabled us to cook toast (it was great!). This is mainly about finding the ‘sweet’ spot with the control valve and also accounting for the excess gas in the fuel line when making the adjustment. Consumption was pretty high, with only about 30 g (0.96 oz) of fuel left in the canister, however we did have the stove going for long periods of time so I actually thought this consumption was relatively reasonable. I did have to invert the canister a few times towards the end of the canister to maintain a high flame output.

 

The overall condition of the stove is still very high. There are clear signs of use from the discolouration of the pot supports and scratching in the bowl from storing the windshield. The pot looks as new and I have been extremely impressed by the durability of the non-stick coating. I get the impression that the pot would last for many years with minimal extra care. The ignitor has remained an issue, usually requiring a bend back in place to make it light. I always carry a lighter or matches regardless of being able to light a stove with on board ignition so this isn’t so much of an issue. As highlighted in my field testing, a couple of the pot supports have become loose. This is still the case but no others at this stage have become loose. The whole unit still functions pretty much as it did from the first use out of the box.

Final Summary

During my testing of the Primus EtaPackLite I have found it to be a really enjoyable and versatile stove. Given I have had such success using multiple types of cookware, including the pot, I am finally comfortable calling the EtaPackLite a stove rather than a cooking system. There is certainly no doubt about the quality of the construction, I am sure I could rely on the stove for many years to come with next to no maintenance.

 

The ultimate question: Will I continue to use the EtaPackLite into the future? Without a doubt I will, depending on the weather and my expected cooking requirements. If I am simply boiling water, probably not but if I want more heat control, the ability to use multiple types of cookware and am not too fussed about carrying fuel canisters, I will definitely pack the EtaPackLite.

 

This concludes my testing of the EtaPackLite stove. My final thanks to Primus & www.backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

 



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