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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Primus ETA PackLite Stove > Primus Eta PackLite Stove > Test Report by Lori Pontious

Primus EtaPackLite Stove
Test Series by Lori Pontious

INITIAL REPORT - October 17, 2010
FIELD REPORT - January 04, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - March 2, 2011

Tester Information

NAME: Lori Pontious
EMAIL: lori.pontious (at) gmail.com
AGE: 43
LOCATION: Fresno County, California, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5'7" (1.7 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (75 kg)

I backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my family as a kid, and then life happened. I restarted these activities about four years ago - I dayhike or backpack 2-6 times a month. I am between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a Tarptent. I am a side sleeper and typically use a NeoAir on the ground. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.

Product information


Manufacturer: Primus
Manufacturer URL: www.primus.eu
Listed Weight (complete set): 21 oz (596 g)
Actual weight (complete set): 24.6 oz (697 g); 25.7 oz (729 g) with stuff sack
Volume: 1.27 qt (1.2 L)
Listed Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.9 in (170 x 125 mm)
Actual Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.9 in (170 x 125 mm)
Fuel: Primus LP gas canisters, or other propane/butane canisters with Lindal valve attachment
Listed Burn Time: 119 minutes on 8.1 oz (230 g) of LP gas
MSRP: N/A

Product Description

The Primus EtaPackLite (hereafter referred to as "the stove" or "the EtaPackLite") is a remote canister stove system intended for use with butane-propane canisters featuring a Lindal valve attachment. The pot is a 1.2 liter (1.27 quart) capacity, and is made of hard anodized aluminum. The nonstick coating is described as a multi-layer titanium surface. The pot has markings embossed into the side so they are visible inside and out; from the outside they are backwards. I noticed an irregularity in the heat exchanger that did not appear to influence the efficiency of the stove. The stove has a piezo igniter and three pot supports that twist out from the stove base to support the pot and the windscreen. The canister attaches to the stove via a hose assembly that connects to tubing, which runs in a U shape around the burner. The tubing must be fastened into a clip and a fitting tightened to prevent gas leak and stabilize the tubing. To pack the stove, the tubing must be raised out of the clip, or the stove will not fit.

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The provided nesting polyurethane bowl is intended to protect the nonstick lining from scratches and fits snugly inside the pot. A second polyurethane bowl covers the pot bottom, protecting the heat exchanger, and is latched on via the pot handle, which folds underneath the pot. The latching mechanism on the handle locks solidly and the user must squeeze the ends of the handle to release it from either the folded or the extended position. A sliding sleeve on the handle provides further stability by keeping the user from accidentally squeezing the sides in and collapsing the handle while the pot is in use. The windscreen collapses to a size that barely fits inside the polyurethane bowl; one of the edges sticks out slightly and deforms the bowl, but not to the extent that it does not easily slide into the pot. The windscreen is also hard anodized aluminum and slides open or collapses via a rivet in a slot, with notches to lock it in place at either end of the slot (visible in pictures below). The pot lid latches via three tabs that fit into three notches on the pot and lock when I turn the lid so the tabs catch on the lip of the pot. There are three rows of holes through which I can drain water without removing the lid (the colander feature). I am informed that the lid is "BPA free" by a green sticker that peeled away easily; on the underside of the lid is the stamp ABS, which confuses me as the manufacturer's website states the lid is polycarbonate, not ABS, plastic.

The instructions inform me that I should use Primus fuel with the stove. Since I have been unable to locate this brand locally, I will have to use other compatible fuel, at least until I can find a vendor to order Primus brand from. Initial searches tell me that I will have difficulty with this since many online retailers want to sell me an entire case! Curious that I am having so much difficulty finding the recommended fuel despite being able to find the Primus stoves in two of the four local outdoor/sport stores. I suspect that Primus stove buyers (ones in my area, at least) will also be using other brands of fuel due to this difficulty as well.

INITIAL REPORT

The literature with the stove describes it as "extremely small and easily collapsible." Small is a relative term; I would describe this as compact and packable, but not small by my standards as I have used smaller solo pots and smaller stoves. I would agree with easy to collapse. Taking the set out of the box, I noted that all components do fit inside the pot with room for a few extra items. I inserted a 3.88 oz (200.73 ml) Snowpeak canister and was able to close and latch the lid, but a larger canister would not fit inside the pot. The Snowpeak canister was a very snug fit. I will probably store smaller items, like a backup lighter, pack towel and spork, inside the pot and pack the canister elsewhere.

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Image courtesy of Primus

I set up the stove on the patio and filled the pot with water. The first two boils with the stove impressed me; bubbles formed within a minute, and a rolling boil achieved at 2 minutes 14 seconds, with the valve opened about halfway. There was a light breeze and ambient temperature was 69 F (20.56 C). The stove base seems stable as do the pot supports. I found that lighting the stove is straightforward but somewhat hampered by the windscreen unless it is lit prior to setting the screen in place. The piezo igniter worked, but took a few clicks to light the burner. The screen fits around the pot supports without difficulty and rests on a second, lower support.

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Overall, this appears to me to be a compact and well thought out set.

On the negative side: The advertised weight of the set is inaccurate - the system is 3.5 - 4 ounces (99 - 113 grams) heavier than listed. Secondly, the windscreen is made of the same material as the pot, which makes it heavier than it needs to be, as does the 6.5 inches (16.51 cm) of overlap due to the slot/rivet adjustment. As I try to minimize total pack weight and seek to shave the ounces wherever possible, I would have preferred a design that minimized overlap by fastening the screen end to end. On the other hand, this is a minor quibble, as if I were truly dedicated to ultralight backpacking, I would likely not consider taking a remote canister stove system in the first place.

On the positive side: Despite the slight deformity on one of the crimps on the heat exchanger, I appreciate the design and the quality of the stove and accompanying components of the system. The stove brought a full pot of water to a boil very quickly in my initial use. The pot supports will accommodate several sizes of pot, though the instructions say I will not be able to use the windscreen unless I use the EtaPackLite pot. I appreciate that Primus has made both pot and stove in ways that make them usable with other brands of stove/pot. One of my pet peeves with some stoves has been being unable to use other brands or types of cooking vessel. I will be experimenting with new (for me) cooking methods on the trail with this setup, as previously I have not used nonstick cookware nor done anything beyond boiling water to rehydrate freeze dried/dehydrated meals. I may also experiment with a frying pan, or with using the EtaPackLite's pot with a different stove.

The EtaPackLite is advertised as being fuel efficient, so much so that it will cut down on pack weight since that will mean I won't have to carry as much fuel. I shall be monitoring fuel consumption as I use the stove on my camping and backpacking outings over the next few months.

My thanks to Primus and to BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this stove. I am looking forward to using the EtaPackLite on my next backpacking trip.

FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS

November 5 - 7 - Point Reyes National Seashore, California. Ambient temperatures 50 - 60 F (10 - 15 C). Elevation: near sea level to 1,500 feet (0 - 475 meters). Humid, overcast, rained out on the final day.

November 13 - 14 - Henry Coe State Park, California. Temperatures ranged from 45 - 60 F (7 - 15 C). Elevation: 1,000 - 2100 feet (305 - 640 meters). Cloudy to clear skies, slightly humid.

January 1 - 2 - San Joaquin River Gorge, Auberry, California. Temperatures ranged from 38 - 45 F (3 - 7 C). Elevation: 1,100 feet (335 meters). Light to heavy rainfall, humid, overcast.

FIELD PERFORMANCE

My first outing with the stove was a weekend at Point Reyes National Seashore on the California coast, north of San Francisco. I boiled water for beverages, sometimes twice per meal; we were base camping and day hiking so were preparing breakfasts and dinners in camp. The stove performed well, boiling the water as rapidly as I expected. The piezo igniter failed to light the stove three out of four times and a bit of fuel was wasted as I repeatedly clicked to get the burner lit; finally I resorted to a lighter. I wondered about the piezo igniter itself being positioned so close to the burner that it becomes red hot when the stove is in use, but there is nothing in the instructions to indicate that this is abnormal or detrimental to its function. The piezo igniter did work the third time I used the stove, after two clicks, so the inconsistent functioning does not appear related to exposure to flame. As for fuel efficiency, I weighed the canister when I returned home and discovered that I had consumed an ounce of fuel total. Considering that I had boiled two pots of water per meal, over four meals, and wasted some while trying to get the piezo igniter to function properly, I was satisfied with this amount.

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The EtaPackLite went with me to Henry Coe State Park, near Morgan Hill, California. I shared the stove with another person, boiling four full pots of water, cooking a pasta dinner, and using the stove to steam bake fudge cake for the group. My friend also cooked her oatmeal without requiring a lesson in how to light the stove or adjust the burner. The nonstick pot was easy to wipe clean, and the stove repeatedly brought a liter of water at a time to a full boil in just a couple of minutes each time. It was less easy to simmer; the steam baking experiment was nearly a fiasco. However, as always when cooking over a backpacking stove I was paying close attention and was able to turn off the stove before the water boiled away and began to melt the silicone cups I was using to make fudge cupcakes. I was able to get a simmer out of the stove, after adding more water, by turning it almost off. On this overnight trip after four pots of water boiled, some attempts at simmering, and a pot of oatmeal, the stove used an ounce and a half of fuel. I lit the stove with my lighter most of the time, used the piezo igniter only twice - it continues to be as unreliable as previously observed, lighting the burner on the fourth or fifth try. I made a pasta dish and used the colander feature; this worked as it should, of course. The tabs on the lid lock it on firmly. However, the tabs were a little annoying to me as it became a guessing game to get the lid off the pot again. I had to keep sliding and pulling and feeling my way, or lift the pot up high to see where the tabs were so I could position them in the slots and raise the lid.

My December schedule was heavily impacted by illness, random schedule changes due to unforeseen circumstances, and inclement weather. When a friend suggested an overnight in the rain to test his tent, I packed up my large tarp and headed for the hills. In the campground in the San Joaquin River Gorge, we enjoyed hot food and drink and games of chance as we watched his tent become slowly waterlogged. Under my tarp we used the EtaPackLite to boil up three full pots of water for hot cocoa and tea, and I made pasta salad to complement the t-bone steak and fire baked potatoes. The Eta PackLite again demonstrated its quick boil time, and the nonstick pot with the colander on the lid makes pasta a snap to prepare, drain, and season. I noticed no difference in the performance of the stove until the Jiffy Pop came out - note that Jiffy Pop and a backpacking stove of any kind are not a happy combination! - but once the fake butter splatters were wiped off and the bit in the burner burned off, my companion finished popping what was left of the popcorn over the fire (imparting a nice smokey flavor via the hole burnt into the bottom of the foil pan) and I was able to resume boiling water with normal functioning of the stove. Post-trip weigh out indicates that I used 2 ounces (57 g) of fuel for the trip, which is not bad for three pots boiled, one pot of pasta cooked, and an abortive attempt at melting a cheap aluminum plate full of popcorn, all in colder temperatures and high humidity. As for the piezo igniter, again, it worked initially but failed to light the stove consistently, necessitating use of a secondary lighter to fire up the stove most of the time.

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So far, the fuel economy has been quite good. I wish the piezo igniter were reliable. I'm enjoying the fast boil and a chance to experiment with a little simple backpack cookery. For my next report, I shall be adventuring into the snow and hauling the EtaPackLite along for some more group backpacking without Jiffy Pop. See you in a few months.


LONG TERM REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS/CONDITIONS

January 9, 2011 - Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California. Ambient temperatures 30 - 40 F (-1 - 4 C). Elevation: about 5,600 - 6,800 feet (1707 - 2073 m). Clear skies, slight breeze.

January 22, 2011 - Tokopah Falls, Sequoia National Park, California. Ambient temperatures 30 - 35 F (-1 - 1.7 C). Elevation: about 7,000 - 7,200 feet (2134 - 2195 m). Cloudy, still day.

February 26 - 27, 2011 - Ohlone Wilderness, Mission Peak/Sunol/Del Valle Regional Parks, San Francisco Bay Area, California. Ambient temperatures 28 - 40 F (-2.21 - 4 C). Elevation: 390 - 3,817 feet (119 - 1163 m). Partial cloud cover, slight breeze.

FIELD PERFORMANCE

In January, I took the stove on two snowshoe outings with my hiking group, to prepare hot beverages for our lunch break. I experimented with melting snow and used closed cell foam disks cut from an old sleeping pad as a base for the stove and canister. The foam provided some insulation from the snow below (and kept my stove on top of the many feet of snow!) while it was operating. It became obvious that temperature does have a significant effect on the operation of the EtaPackLite, but as this is a common problem with canister stoves I expected this. It took longer to boil water. I also tried to melt snow with the second pot of water, which takes a lot of energy! We all enjoyed hot drinks and the stove operated without sputtering or failing. On the second outing to Tokopah Falls the piezo igniter actually worked for me, both times I started the stove. Each trip saw a slight increase in fuel consumption, of about an ounce more per trip. Total fuel used was about 3 oz. (85 g) per trip, for two full pots of water plus some snow melting duty.

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In February, following a period of rainy weather and temperature drops, I went backpacking in the Ohlone Wilderness, a low elevation trail through a series of parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. I spent the night at the backpacker campground in Sunol Regional Park and woke to frost and ice. The stove performed as it had on the snowshoe outings, with increased burn time to achieve a boil. While in use there was a slow dropoff in performance; the normal roar at half-strength slowly dwindled. Inverting the canister increased the burner output and diminished boil time. Total usage of fuel was 1.5 ounces (43 g) per my post - trip weighing of the canister. I had intended to do some more cooking with the pot on this trip, but some last minute changes en route led me to cut the outing from two nights to one, resulting in the second day being 17 miles (27 km) of hauling onward rather than the previously planned leisurely hike.

SUMMARY

In thinking about how this stove has performed for me, I can only come up with a couple of things that I found less than ideal. The piezo igniter is still inconsistent enough that I carry a lighter anyway. And, on the last couple of trips, I've had to reposition one of the pot supports repeatedly, as somewhere along the way it's lost the ability to stay put; the slightest jostle swings it askew unless I have the windscreen in place to stabilize it. Each of these is a nuisance, but not really affecting the performance of the stove.

The performance of the stove has been excellent, within expected limitations common to all canister stoves, such as decreased efficiency in cold weather and the inconsistent piezo igniter. The stove is stable, easy to use, and easy to pack. The bowls are convenient for use as serving dishes and protect the components of the stove well. This is an excellent setup for trips where I am less concerned about weight and sharing gear with others, and for some simple cooking beyond just boiling water.

I have enjoyed taking this on my group trips. While I will likely still use a lighter alcohol stove setup for longer outings where I am only boiling water, the EtaPackLite will see plenty of use in the future on group hikes or campouts. My thanks to Primus and to Backpack Gear Test for the opportunity to test the EtaPackLite.



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