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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cook Sets > Past Primitive Deluxe Cook Kit > Test Report by Lori Pontious

Past Primitive Deluxe Cook Kit
Test Series by Lori Pontious

INITIAL REPORT - June 29, 2011
FIELD REPORT - October 4, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - November 28, 2011

Tester Information

NAME: Lori Pontious
EMAIL: lori.pontious (at)
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Fresno County, California, USA
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. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.

Product information

Manufacturer: Past Primitive
Manufacturer URL:
Listed Weight, kit: 12 oz (340 g)
Actual weight, kit: 10 oz (283 g)
Stove weight: .8 oz (23 gm)
Container (drinking and mixing bowls, plus ring) weight: 2.2 oz (62 g)
Fuel bottle weight: 1.15 oz (33 g)
Pot and lid weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
Pot lifter weight: 1.25 oz (37 g)
Syringe weight: .2 oz (8 g)
Foam gripper weight: .1 oz (3 g)
Windscreen weight: 1 oz (28 g)
Microbytes utensils weight: .7 oz (21 g)
MSRP: $75.99
Product Description

The Past Primitive Deluxe Cook Kit (aka the kit) is based around the Keyhole Classic Stove (aka the stove), one of two alcohol stoves made by Past Primitive. The kit consists of a storage container/bowl set, a Microbytes spork and spatula set, a syringe for measuring fuel into the stove, a foam holding pad, a pot lifter, windscreen, 8 oz (237 ml) fuel bottle, and 21 oz (621 ml) pot with lid. The stove features a built-in primer ring base and removable pot stand. Per the Past Primitive website, this set should weigh "about 12 ounces" and weighs slightly less, as reflected above. I found that the contents are as represented on the website, except for a slight difference in labeling colors/logo. All pieces of the kit looked new and without blemish upon my receipt of the kit on June 26, 2011.

The kit also includes safety warnings and instructions for using the stove. The fuels recommended for this stove are ethanol, methanol or isopropyl alcohol; I will be using either ethanol (denatured alcohol) or methanol (methyl alcohol, usually found in stores here in California as HEET in a yellow bottle). I prefer not to use isopropyl with alcohol stoves as it leaves soot on the pot.

Having used a number of alcohol stoves made by cottage gear manufacturers prior to the Keyhole Classic, I appreciate of the quality of the stove. Most alcohol stoves are made of recycled materials and this one is no exception. Like so many stoves I have tried to make, the body of the stove is made of soda cans. The base and primer pan is a mason jar lid. Unlike so many stoves I have tried to make, the components of the stove are put together well, without gaps or creases in the aluminum. The jets are evenly spaced. The pot stand stays in place when seated. The pot is a burnished aluminum can with threads, and a lid that screws closed. (The lid should not be closed while the pot is on the lit stove.)

All the components fit neatly inside the 4 cup base with room for a lighter. The kit takes up slightly less space than one of my camp shoes. I am not certain whether that is a reflection on the size of the kit or the size of my feet!


Initial Report

I set up the stove on the front porch for a trial burn. The stove holds up to 1.5 oz (44.36 ml) of fuel; I used the syringe to add 0.68 oz (20 ml) and then put a little in the primer ring. I didn't add enough in the primer and the stove went out. My second attempt the stove primed and blossomed, and I put the pot full of water on, set the windscreen in place, and timed the boil. At 2 minutes 30 seconds there were bubbles. At 4 minutes 30 seconds I noted rapid bubbling. The stove ran for six minutes and sixteen seconds before burning out. I noticed that the flames lost their intensity about ten seconds before going out. I used the pot lifter to move the pot from the burner, and used the foam to grip the pot to pour the water. All items worked as expected.

The syringe does make precision possible; the stove has a very small center hole, and without the syringe I can see how difficult it would be to fuel the stove without losing some in the process. The Keyhole Classic Stove, according to the manufacturer's website, will boil a pint of water with .6 oz (18 ml) of fuel, so it should be possible to boil the amount of water I need with a minimum of fuel waste. I heated 2 cups, 5 oz (621 ml) to a temperature that would have been acceptable to me for hot beverages. This is all I need and will allow me to save fuel, since I filter all my water - I don't need a rolling boil to sterilize the water and I am fine with a little extra waiting for rehydrating meals.

I will be monitoring fuel economy, performance at varying temperatures and elevations, and using the various components of the kit to eat, drink and be merry on the trail.

Field Report

Field Locations/Conditions

Ostrander Lake, Yosemite NP, California, July 2 - 4. Elevation: 8,500 feet (2591 m). Temperature range: 38 - 45 F (3 - 7 C).

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP, California, July 22 - 24. Elevation: 8,750 feet (2667 m). Temperature range: 45 - 55 F (7 - 13 C).

Cliff Lake, Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, California, August 13 - 14. Elevation: 9,438 feet (2877 m). Temperature range: 40 - 50 F (4 - 10 C).

SAR overnight training, Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, California, August 20 - 21. Elevation: 9,000 feet (2743 m). Temperature range: 40 - 45 F (4 - 7 C).

Moose Lake, Sequoia NP, California, August 27 - 28. Elevation: 10,530 feet (3210 m). Temperature range: 35 - 45 F (2 - 7 C).

Montana de Oro State Park, September 24 - 25. Elevation: 30 feet (9.14 m). Temperature range: 50 - 55 F (10 - 13 C).

Field Report:

The stove has accompanied me on all overnight outings since I received it. I use it the same way each time. Fill the pot to capacity, prepare the windscreen, sweep away any plant matter to make a bare patch on the ground, place the stove, seat the pot stand on the stove, and use the syringe to fill the stove, screw in the thumbscrew, then add a few drops to the primer ring. I usually use a small lighter to light the stove. I use the pot lifter to put the pot on the stand, then drop the windscreen in place and set the lid loosely on the pot. Each use, I filled the stove with about .88 oz (26 ml) of fuel. The water reached a gentle (bubbling but not rolling) boil. I used the smaller Ziploc® container as a cup measure and as a drinking vessel; the larger one was my bowl for rehydrating and eating meals. I make my own just-add-water meals and keep them in plastic bags, which I dropped into the container when it was time to add water, and ate out of the bag to avoid unnecessary cleanup. After drinking coffee, tea, or other beverage out of the cup, I used whatever hot/warm water was left to rinse it.

The stove has been easy to use, and works consistently well when I am careful to prime it properly. Temperature and elevation had no noticeable effect on stove operation. On two occasions the stove failed to blossom. After adding more fuel to the priming ring the stove lit and burned until all fuel was consumed. One time I failed to seat the pot stand into the top of the stove evenly, resulting in my lighting the stove and placing the pot on only to discover the pot sat on an incline and flames shot up the side of the pot. Since the stove was lit, and the pot didn't slide off, I left it to complete the burn and successfully boil the water, but I watched it nervously for the longest few minutes I've spent on a backpacking meal.

I find the fuel economy with the stove to be good, in that the stove produces predictable results with the same amount of fuel from one use to the next. All alcohol stoves will be more or less fuel efficient than stoves of other designs; there are so many types of alcohol stove that generalizations of fuel efficiency are difficult to make in a useful way. However, I can say that the Keyhole Stove is performing with more efficiency than a number of the stove types that I personally have experience with, for the amount of water (about 2.6 cups, or .49 liter) I am bringing to a boil. It also boils the water in about the same amount of time each use, about four and a half minutes. Considering all the types of alcohol stoves I've used, this is an average boil time. Some stove types can take up to eight minutes to achieve a boil, depending on the amount of water in the pot. That the Keyhole Stove boils the same amount of water reliably regardless of ambient temperature or elevation helps me plan the amount of fuel I will need for my backpacking outing, which is helpful on longer trips.

On my fourth outing with the stove, I managed to do as I suspected I might - I lost the thumbscrew. Fortunately I didn't miss it, as I had used the stove to make breakfast before the screw was misplaced. Upon discovering the loss I took the stove to a hardware store and found a replacement that fit the threading on the fuel hole, and bought four - a spare for my emergency kit and two more in reserve.

The Past Primitive Deluxe Cook Kit at Cliff Lake

The foam pot holder is now slightly melted and/or singed on one edge due to my attempt to short cut and pick the pot off the stove with it, while the stove was still lit. The wisdom of a pot lifter was made quite clear to me. I have developed the habit of placing the pot lifter on the foam so that the breeze does not blow it away.

Another habit came about after I noticed rust stains on the inside of the pot, which is aluminum. The pot stand is a small strip of steel, and any moisture left in the pot when I pack it up in the morning can cause a small amount of rust. So a swipe of the bandana or pack towel around the inside of the pot and the lid to dry it became one of the steps taken to repack.

The Guyot Designs Microbites set that came with the kit has gone out with me each time, and I have used the spork more often than the spatula. Given that I am rehydrating meals and not cutting or turning anything, I suppose that makes sense. Some of the time I have used the spatula to stir hot chocolate or coffee, but beyond that I have not found a use for it. The spork has held up well and without a scratch or a broken tine.

Long Term Report

Field Locations/Conditions

Courtright Reservoir, Sierra National Forest, California, October 1 - 2. Elevation: 8170 feet (2490 m). Temperature range: 40 - 50 F (4 - 10 C).

Sunset State Beach, Watsonville, California, October 28 - 30. Elevation: 150 feet (46 m). Temperature range: 45 - 55 F (7 - 13 C).

Lower Twin Lake, Kaiser Wilderness, California, November 1. Elevation: 8,550 feet (2,606 m). Temperature range: 40 - 50 F (4 - 10 C).

Sykes Hot Springs, Ventana Wilderness, California, November 21 - 22. Elevation: 1,300 feet (396 m). Temperature range: 35 - 40 F (2 - 4 C).

Long Term Report:

Over the last two months I used the Deluxe Cook Kit while camping at Courtright Reservoir and at the coast, while dayhiking in Kaiser Wilderness, and while backpacking to Sykes Hot Springs.

The stove has continued to reliably boil water. While camping with friends I used the kit to boil additional water while the main gas stove was occupied with cooking dinner. I made tea on my day hike to Twin Lakes, and boiled water for meals on my overnight trip to the Sykes Hot Springs. While I still have occasional difficulty with the priming of the stove, it remains consistently easy to use and effective for my style of food preparation while backpacking. I have not lost the screw a second time (knock on wood) and find that the replacement has not affected the operation of the stove.

One thing I have noticed is that the flames tend to rise up the sides of the pot. Since the time change and the earlier sunset results in my having an after dark dinnertime, I have had more opportunity to use the stove when the flames are visible (alcohol stoves in operation during daylight hours do not have visible flames). I note that if the pot is not centered well on the stand, blue flames rise high on the sides of the pot. While this is not a concern to me, it is something to keep in mind when using the stove, particularly if doing so during daylight hours when I can't see the flames. Generally with any alcohol stove I leave the pot in place until the stove has run out of fuel. For most alcohol stoves, this is the normal practice. Some stoves flare up when the pot is removed. I have not found the Keyhole Classic to flare this way when I pick up the pot from the operating stove (I did so to determine what would happen if I removed the pot before completing the burn).

The Past Primitive Deluxe Cook Kit making breakfast in the wee hours of the morning, just outside the hammock at Sykes

The kit has been easy to use. The stove performs reliably, though I found it occasionally a little difficult to prime. The utensils and container show no wear and tear from my usage over the past six months; I have found them easy to clean with a little water and a pack towel or bandanna. I suspect that my learning curve with the stove might have been a little steeper had I not already been familiar with alcohol stoves in general. From my perspective, the priming process is workable - onlookers at various points commented on the stove going out as if it were a problem. However, I've had very little trouble using the Keyhole Classic, certainly no more than with any other kind of stove.

In summary, I have found the Deluxe Cook Kit is a light and comprehensive kitchen kit that meets my needs for preparing meals and beverages for myself while backpacking. This concludes my Long Term Report on the Deluxe Cook Kit. I look forward to continuing to use the kit on solo trips in the future. My thanks again to Past Primitive and to Backpack Gear Test for the opportunity to review the Past Primitive Deluxe Cook Kit.


Consistent and reliable boil time with predictable fuel usage
Kit container is multi-use
Simplicity of use


Not truly a dislike so much as a suggestion: perhaps a backup thumbscrew could be included for the emergency kit?

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