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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Stoves > Primus AB ETA Solo Stove > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Primus EtaSolo stove
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: July 21, 2010
Field Report: October 13, 2010
Long Term Report: December 12, 2010
Primus EtaSolo Stove assembled and lit
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
The Primus Eta Solo is a complete cooking system designed to be compact, light weight and very fuel efficient. It features Piezoelectric ignition for easy lighting. According to the website, the burner uses any standard LP gas cartridge but the instructions say to use only Primus Butane/Propane/Isobutane mix cartridges 2206. Being able to use different brand cartridges is a big plus in my opinion because shipping LP fuel cartridges has become just about impossible. And a lot of stores do not carry Primus brand cartridges. In fact I went to three stores to find one and I was driving a car... Imagine hiking into a small town and needing fuel only to discover they only carry another brand cartridge. I really wish all the major backpacking stove companies would see fit to make their stoves all compatible but I realize they may not feel obligated because they have no control over the other brands fuel mix ratios etc. Having said all this, and since it says it is OK on the website, I plan to test this stove with different brands of fuel and see if I have any problems.
The EtaSolo is not the lightest Primus stove but there is a possible weight saving benefit by using less fuel thanks to the Eta technology. Without getting too technical, the stove comes with a pot that attaches directly to the burner instead of sitting on the stove like most pots will have to do. The bottom of the pot has a ring around the outside with holes all around which traps some heat similar to how a wind screen would, only safely for this type stove because most regular wind screens are not suitable for LP gas stoves. Up inside this outer ring is a circular pattern of what I would describe as fins, but they basically trap the heat from the flame more efficiently than just a plain flat bottom would. Here is a photo of the bottom of the cook pot.
Bottom of the cook pot showing the Eta technology
I assume the cook pot is made of aluminum but found no reference saying exactly what in the instructions or online. I did see that EtaPower pots are made of hard anodized aluminum and look similar to the pot that comes with the EtaSolo but I'll leave it at that. The cook pot also features an insulated cover that doubles as the pot gripper. I'm also convinced the insulated cover also helps with maximizing the fuel efficiency of the stove.
The pot itself has a small ring like place on the side that allows the whole system to be hung. The insulated cover needs to be positioned so that this ring is not covered but it is shaped so that it is easy to tell how it fits. The stove also comes with a folding (for compact storage) 3 legged base that unfolds to make the cooking system more stable. And for the record, the hanger and base are both individually too big to fit inside the cook pot when the burner and a cartridge are inside it.
Hanger for the stove
The lid for the stove is made of a soft rubber like material and has a special hole so that hot drinks can be sipped right from the cook pot. This could be significant for the backpacker who is cutting weight everywhere possible because a cup can be eliminated from the cook kit. Of course this would mean the cooking pot could not be in use for cooking while enjoying a hot brew.
Cook Pot Lid with drinking opening
And finally, the stove comes with three metal cook pot arms and a heat reflector so that it can be used with other cooking pots. This is significant in that the stove can be used for more than just solo outings as suggested in the name. It might also be handy for even a solo hiker who likes to cook full course meals or is using the 0.9 L cook pot for hot drinks. The arms and ring are all small enough that they can be stored inside the cook pot along with the burner and a 100 g (4 oz) gas cartridge.
Stove arms for using other cook pots *also note the reflector ring around the burner
The manufacture gives the following information.
Compact, lightweight and low fuel
Eta Solo is based on the award winning Eta technology of our Primus burner and heat exchanger. Its high efficiency rate assures fast boiling times and lower fuel consumption. The EtaSolo is stable in windy conditions, lightweight, and extremely compact. Quick and easy to set up thanks to its robust quickclick locking mechanism. The 0.9 L pot comes with a removable wrap-around heat resistant cover with sure-grip handle. The pot’s lid has a special opening for drinking hot brews. The burner and a 100 g gas cartridge can all be securely stowed away in the pot.
The first order of business is connecting the stove burner to a fuel cartridge. Since a 100 g (4 oz) cartridge nests inside the cook pot I will be using that size when backpacking. First of all, stove assembly and operation should take place outside in a well ventilated area. The stove control knob should be in the off position and the stove should be kept in an upright position during assembly. To connect the cartridge to the burner, hold the burner over it and spin in a clockwise direction until it is firmly seated. The instructions say to not over tighten the stove and to be careful not to cross thread it. Anyways, assembling the stove is really not as hard as it might sound but don't be surprised by the short lived hiss the stove will make when unscrewing the burner from the gas cartridge.
Fitting the cook pot to the stove is accomplished by just placing it on top of the burner and mashing the two red tabs (one on each side of the burner) in and pressing the cook pot straight down until the tabs lock. Primus calls it the quickclick locking mechanism. To remove, just mash the red tabs again and lift the cook pot straight up. It is very easy to do and there is no lining up groves or any other "tricks" to get it to fit. Of course the stove needs to be cool before doing any of this.
The instructions say the stove needs to be level to operate properly so once the stove and cook pot are firmly connected, the gas cartridge can either be sat right on the ground or placed in the provided legs. They have slots that match various size cartridges. The 100 gm (4 oz) size I am using fits in the inner most position on the legs.
The Primus website offers some information on using the stove to be environmentally friendly so I will keep these points in mind as I begin testing the stove. They list these three key points.
1. It is best to use an aluminium cooking pot with a heat exchanger. Used together they shorten boiling times and fuel consumption by around a third.
2. Reduce the output. Use a maximum of around ¾ of the stove’s output as this will make best use of the energy.
3. Protect the stove from
the wind. Shelter it from the wind and use a windscreen.
The EtaSolo pretty much covers the 1st and 3rd
point so it
will be up to me to reduce the stove flame adjusted to around 3/4 of
Checking out the Stove
Right after getting the stove, I took a few minutes to assemble is and see if it would light. Assembly was dead simple and the stove lit on the first spark. However, when I was first looking at the stove, I mashed the ignition button and shocked myself. Dummy me had a finger on the little spark rod. In the process I dropped the stove on my living room floor (hardwood). No damage was done but I will be sure and not do that again.
A few days later I took the stove down to the creek below my house and heated 2 cups (16 oz or 0.5 L) of water in it. I did not have a watch with me but I only left the stove lit about a minute to take a few pictures. I was very surprised at how hot the water had become and I only had the flame at about 1/2 maximum. The stove was very easy to operate but I did find out I could not get the hanger on the stove with the lid on because the hanger needs to be held right next to the pot when first inserting the curled end into the ring on the side of the cook pot. Once the hanger was in place the lid was easy to put back on. I'm looking forward to using the stove for some real cooking soon! This concludes my Initial Report.
I have used the Primus EtaSolo on five overnighters so far. The first two times were on short 4 mile (6 km) hikes on some local trails near my home here in northeast Alabama. Elevation was around 800 ft (244 m) when using the stove. I then used the stove for three days while car camping at the Grand Gulf Military Park near Port Gibson Mississippi. The elevation at the campsite where I was preparing my meals was around 100 ft (30 m). Temperatures on all trips have been mild, with a high of around 85 F (29 C) when using the stove at supper time, to a low of around 55 F (13 C) when preparing breakfast. I experienced no rain.
Field Test Results
I won't go into every detail of each use but I did learn that the EtaSolo is a very simple stove to use. Assembling it for each meal only took a minute or so and the same for putting it away after cleaning it and letting it sit to dry. On the two overnight backpacking trips I only prepared my supper at night and skipped making breakfast. Meals consisted of opening a pack of Hormel Beef Stew one time and a similar pack of Peppered Steaks the next time. These are not the canned variety but are suitable for backpacking since they don't require refrigeration. They are actually made to go in a microwave, but I just opened the packet and spooned it into the Eta Solo cook pot and heated it until it was bubbling slightly. I also learned that I had better results lighting the stove if I just barely turned on the gas and then to keep it on medium while heating. I had no trouble with my food sticking this way but I did leave the lid off and stirred almost constantly. I've had too many experiences of burning my food over the years by using too much heat. The base support legs kept the stove and pot nice and steady while stirring but I was careful not to stir too hard. I ate my food straight out of the cook pot but the insulated cover with built in handle made this very safe and I did not burn my fingers. After each meal I added some creek water to the cook pot and rinsed it well, then added a few ounces of water again and quickly boiled this for a good cleaning. I did not use any soap but the cook pot and my spoon came clean enough to suit me.
On the trip to Grand Gulf Military Park I cooked supper three times and breakfast twice. I used the same Hormel meal packs since I had already determined they made good cheap meals for camping. I did add Beef Pot Roast in addition to the two already mentioned. For Breakfast I heated water in the EtaSolo cook pot for making hot cocoa. I drank this straight out of the cook pot using the lid designed for sipping. I did have to wait several minutes to let it cool enough but this gave me time to heat more water for my instant oatmeal. I could have poured my hot water into a cup for my hot cocoa and continued to use the Eta Solo cook pot for my oats but I wanted to see how the stove performed with other pots. I used my MSR Ti-Kettle pictured below.
Heating water for my oatmeal with a different cook pot
Of course this meant I needed to take the EtaSolo cook pot off the burner while everything was still hot. However, by being careful, I manged to do it without burning my fingers. I then inserted the reflector ring that goes down around the burner and then added the three pot support legs that make it possible to use the stove with regular cook pots. Since I was cooking on a picnic table I had no trouble with stability. In fact, I did not even use the base legs and just put the canister right on the table. Anyways, by the time my water was boiling for my oats, my cocoa had cooled enough for sipping so I was able to enjoy my oats and cocoa at the same time. I used the same method for clean up as before, but I did wash my pots with dish soap after returning home before putting them away for storage.
I did time the boil of .5 L of water with the EtaSolo cook pot and I must say, it is fast. I have never even turned the stove on full blast either as I prefer to keep it on what I call medium. I saw steam coming out of the pot after 3 minutes and it was boiling shortly after that. By the time I got the lid off to check and be sure it was boiling my stop-watch on my phone was at 3:31 but it was really several seconds faster than that.
I have no idea how much fuel I have used so far but I estimate the stove has been on for about 40 minutes so far, including the time spent heating water for cleanup. Keep in mind that I have not operated the stove on high at all and not as low as it will go either. However, I probably need to see about getting another canister before depending on the stove for much more cooking.
Summary Thus Far
Using the Primus EtaSolo is about as simple as it gets in a backpacking stove. Everything needed is stored neatly inside the Eta Solo cook pot with the exception of the plastic folding base which is not even needed if I can find a good level surface to sit the stove on. The stove appears to be very efficient so savings in fuel cost will add up. A big plus is how the cook pot attaches to the stove so that there is no danger of knocking it off the burner while cooking. This is especially true of things that need stirred. If aggressive stirring is needed then holding onto the handle on the insulated cover prevents the whole thing from moving.
The only negative as far as I'm concerned is that the cook pot could stand to be a shade taller so that when putting the canister and burner inside the stove for transport or storage nothing would be sticking up past the top of the cook pot. As it is, the lid will not fit snugly, because no mater how I put things in the pot, something is sticking up slightly. This concludes my Field Report.
Test Locations and Conditions.
I have now used the Primus EtaSolo on six overnights but I only managed one overnight trip during this last testing phase, a 9 mile (14 km) hike in local woods here in northeast Alabama. It was fairly cool with low of 38 F (3 C). It did not rain during the night but did rain and sleet some while I was hiking the following day. The elevation at my campsite was approximately 1000 ft. (300 m). I also did a brief snow melting test on my deck when we got an earlier than usual snow. The temperature during the test was 24 F (-4 C) with a mild breeze and overcast skies.
Long Term Test Result
I really don't have a lot to add other than to say that the stove has proven to be a winner in my book. On my last overnight hike I did not cook supper since my daughter brought home pizza for supper. I could not resist packing along several slices for my supper and late night snacks. The following morning I did cook breakfast with the stove. I did not carry an extra pot so I had to first boil 2 cups (0.5 L) of water and then pour off enough to make my oatmeal in the now empty Tupperware container I had brought my pizza in. My cocoa was too hot to drink right off but the insulated sleeve/handle on the pot made it easy to hold it as I poured off enough water for my oatmeal. By the time I finished my oatmeal the cocoa was a perfect sipping temperature. Cleanup was easy since all I did was make cocoa. I added more water (less than a cup) and heated it until it was steaming (not boiling) and rinsed it out.
I am still using the 100 g (4 oz) Primus gas cartridge I purchased at a store in Cullman Al. but I am pretty sure it is almost empty. Regardless, I wanted to find a cheaper way to cook with this stove because the small 100 g (4 oz) cartridges are much more expensive (and over an hours drive away) than the 250 g (8.8 oz) cartridges I found at a local store. Now granted, I will be happy to pay the extra for high mileage trips when I can use a single small cartridge, but the extra weight of the big cartridge will not matter that much on my short overnight hikes. Anyways, I just recently bought a 250 g (8.8 oz) cartridge and needed a good excuse to try it out. And lucky for me (since snow this early in the year is rare around here), I got to use it to melt snow, something I have never tried before. Not that I haven't camped in snow before, it's just that I've always managed to find flowing water even when camping with snow on the ground.
First of all, I now have a great deal of respect (or maybe sympathy would be a better word) for anyone who camps out in conditions that require melting snow. I had the advantage of being warmly dressed and just being outside long enough to do the test (around 20 minutes total) and I still got cold. Well, I stayed pretty warm but I finally gave up on my gloves and by the time I took a few pictures my hands felt like ice. I first took the stove and the 250 g (8.8 oz) cartridge out of my unheated and very cold garage and placed it on my deck (in the snow) for about an hour to simulate conditions I might encounter if I were out in the field. And as I mentioned earlier, it was 24 F (-4 C) and fairly breezy during the test.
Everything went surprisingly smooth except that it took a lot more snow than I anticipated. There was about an inch (3 cm) of snow on my deck but it was very powdery. I think a wet snow would have made it a lot easier to collect the snow. Anyways, I packed the cook pot as full as I could get it and lit the burner, which by the way was easy to do with gloves on. I then added more snow every little bit. I had heard it is easy to scorch snow so I kept the burner set on medium during the entire test. I was surprised that it took 11 minutes and 49 seconds to melt 2 cups (0.5 L) and get it to a rolling boil. After I finished and the water had settled a bit it did not look all that drinkable. I'm sure any germs were dead but the snow looked perfectly clean as I added it to the pot so I was surprised at how much sediment there was in it. Here is a series of pictures I took as I melted the snow.
about 1 minute into the test
about 7 minutes into the test, keep in mind I'm using the stove on medium
success at 11 minutes 49 seconds (trust me...)
This is a crop from the above image. I had to brighten it to get it to show. My track record of
getting good photos while using my cell phone as a stop watch is not good... And don't forget that
I was able to boil 2 cups in 3 minutes and 30 seconds so this snow melting must just be a slow process.
I wont rehash ever detail and am repeating a few things I said earlier, but overall, the Primus EtaSolo is a pretty slick cooking outfit. As stoves go, it doesn't get much easier to use than this one. This can be a big advantage after a long day of hiking. In fact, I'd call it a lazy man's stove but I don't consider myself lazy and I really appreciate the simplicity of this stove. I did not ever need to use the hanging feature but it is there for those who might need it. The stove can serve more than solo duty due to the pot support that came with the stove. Another big plus is the way the 100 g (4 oz) cartridge and burner store inside the cook pot. In my opinion, the biggest advantage to this stove is the quick boil time and fuel savings that can be achieved with the Eta technology used with the provided cooking pot. The only negatives I have are the cost of the small cartridges and the fact that the feet for the stove will not fit inside the cook pot like everything else does. In other words, it is a great little backpacking stove.
This concludes my testing of the Primus EtaSolo. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and Primus for letting me test this stove.
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