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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Stoves > Primus Eta Lite Stove > Test Report by Ray Estrella
I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.
Manufacturer: Primus AB, part of Fenix Outdoor Group
Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty
The Primus Eta Lite is the best fuel sipper of all my Primus stoves, past and present. It is not a speed demon though and doesn't like cold temps or wind very much. Please read on for the details.
The Primus Eta Lite all-in-one stove (hereafter referred to as the Eta Lite or stove) is the company's smallest and lightest weight stove in the Eta series (or range as they call it). They claim to have re-engineered the burner and the pot to be 30% more efficient than previous systems and claim an 80% efficiency rating with their fuel canisters. (More in my Observations on this.)
The stove, with its heavy triangular pot base, is made to work with the included hard anodized aluminum pot. This 5.15 oz (146 g) pot has a triangular opening in its combination heat exchanger/wind shield bottom that locks on to the stove by plugging it on and then turning roughly a quarter-turn clockwise. Surrounding the outside edge of the pot's bottom are 36 loops of aluminum which make 72 fins. They are encased by an aluminum wind shield that has large triangular holes on one half of the radius and smaller slanted holes on the other half. The smaller holes are turned to the side that the wind is coming from. Together this makes up the heat exchanger. Heat that would otherwise be lost to spilling past the side of a traditional pot/stove combination is kept in contact with pot longer by the enclosure, plus the fins soak up some of the escaping heat and transfer it back up to the cooking surface.
The pot has five protruding measurement marks inside at 0.1 L (3.38 fl oz) increments. The pot is said to have just a 0.5 L (16.9 fl oz) capacity as that is what Primus considers the safe amount to boil without having spill-overs. But in reality the pot holds 25 fl oz (0.74 L) when filled to the rim.
A 1.9 oz (54 g) black heat-resistant sleeve attaches to the pot with a large section of hook-and-loop. The sleeve has a two-way nylon handle that has an open-ended slide buckle. The buckle slides onto loops at the side or top. When on the side it is used as a standard cup handle, when on the top it is used like a tea pot's handle. The side of the sleeve is emblazoned with the Primus name below a large Greek letter Eta (lowercase n) the thing that this series is named after.
One thing that jumped out at me immediately was the three round pegs screwed into a plate on the handle. It turns out that these 0.07 oz (2 g) pegs screw into the threaded holes on the stove to allow the Eta Lite to be used with a standard pot. In the picture above I have a Mini Solo sitting on the Eta. As I have no plan to use any pots but the Eta pot with it I put the pegs back in the box. No need to be carrying all that extra weight around. ;-)
The Eta has a clear lid made of Eastman Tritan copolyester. This BPA-free plastic is made for food contact. The lid weighs 1.7 oz (48 g) and holds exactly 8 fl oz (0.24 L) when filled to the brim. The round rim has been indented a bit at one side to make room for three holes that may be used as a splatter-protected pour spout, or a pasta drainer. A red silicone band runs around the top of the lid to allow a cooler spot for fingers to grab.
The Eta Lite comes with a very nice fuel canister stand. The stand makes for a less tippy structure although it does raise the over-all height of the unit. This triple folding-leg stand will snap on to three different sizes of canister. I think that is very cool of the company to do, knowing that we don't always have the option of just using their canisters. Thanks Primus. (And you other guys take note…)
Lastly the Eta Lite comes with a nylon hang-cord. When the handle is in the over-the-top position the cord may be used to suspend the stove and pot in those spots that a stable and large enough horizontal surface is not available. (Like when big-wall climbing.) Primus warns in the 21-language (yes twenty-one!) Owner's Manual not to use it inside an enclosed space like a tent, and that it needs at least 500 mm (19.7 in) of space above it to any consumable materials. I bring this up because many mountaineers and other winter backpackers like myself use hanging stoves when trapped by bad conditions. For the sake of knowledge I may attempt a boil inside with one of my taller tents that has a high-point hang loop.
As you may be able to tell I got the Eta the evening before leaving on a backpacking trip in North Dakota. (That's why the mix of pictures.) I'll save the results for the Observations which will be posted here in a couple of months. But I will say that the piezo electric igniter did not work at all. I lit the stove with a lighter and after dinner took it apart to see what was up. It looked like it may have been too close to the burner surface to generate a long enough arc to ignite the fuel. But when I touched it with the tip of my knife it just broke off.
OK, that's it for now. Come back in two months and see how the rest of the cook system did.
I have used the Eta Lite on six backpacking trips, five on the North Country Trail (NCT). Two were in the State of North Dakota (ND) where the NCT follows the Sheyenne River and Lake Ashtabula. The picture above is from my first trip along the western shore of Ashtabula, with a storm moving in.
The other three NCT trips were in north central Minnesota (MN) in Paul Bunyan State Forest for two and in White Earth Indian Reservation for the other. All were on or near the NCT. Every trip saw rain at some point in the night, and the White Earth trip had it off and on all day too. It was a cooler than normal summer and temps at night were between 65 and 46 F (18 and 8 C).
A final fall trip for the Field Report was on the Red River near Halstad, MN. This trip got down to 33 F (1 C) and had a cold wind blowing. The picture below was taken while making dinner in my tent's vestibule.
To test the efficiency and speed of the Eta I did a series of five boils. All were using 2 cups (473 ml) of 60 F (15.6 C) water. I cooled the pot to the same 60 F between each boil. I'd run water in the pot to bring to temp, then dump it, shake off any excess water and refill for the next boil.
OK, enough with the numbers. Let's talk about the field. The Eta Lite has worked well as both my cooking gear and even as a big mug as seen above. I found that while it was fine for cold liquids it is not so great for hot. It burned my lips pretty good, better to use the lid as a cup for coffee and such. I wish the pot was a little bigger. While I say that most of my meals call for 2 cups (473 ml), lately I have been bring some that need more. It fits but I have to get the stove shut down as soon as it comes to a boil or it splashes out.
Talking about splashing out. I used it in hang mode in Paul Bunyan State Forest on a cold rainy day that I didn't have a good spot to cook at. I hung it from a tree and fired it up. Well once it started boiling I went to turn the flame off and take it down to pour the water into my meal bag. But the water was splashing out right where I needed to turn the valve! Note to self, "look where the opening is in the lid before you fire it up".
One thing that bugs me is the piezo not working. Normally I don't even use them as in all my California hiking at high elevations I found they don't work. But the Eta Lite doesn't really have a good spot to light it with a lighter when the pot is attached. And I don't like messing with attaching a full pot after lighting the burner by itself. I started carrying a torch-style lighter that I could shoot in the side.
I always put my large PackTowl inside the Eta's pot to keep the stove from banging around while I hike. I don't have any of the narrow canisters made to fit in the pot but instead use the wide short versions as seen in the pictures, so there is plenty of room.
All that I have done with the Eta so far is to boil water. It has done a fine job doing that. I haven't done anything that needed a simmer yet, but who knows? Maybe I'll get a wild hair and try to actually cook something. If so I will be sure to share the results but for now it's time to finish up this report. Please come back in a couple months to see how the Eta Lite did in the Long Term Report phase that will see cooler weather. I leave with a shot of my dinner gear ready to go at the funky bench-thingy at the official NCT Waboose Lake camp site.
For the last phase of testing I used the Eta Lite on four more trips. Three were overnighters in Minnesota, two of them on the North Country Trail mid-state and one was on private land north of Halstad.
The Eta got quite a workout for the last phase of testing. While most of the use was the complete system using the Eta pot there were a couple times I had to use a larger pot due to what was on the dinner menu. For my night at Pine Island Lake I had to bring a larger pot for a solo dinner that needed 3 cups (710 ml) of water. To save weight and room in my pack I left the Eta pot at home but did mount the screw-on pot supports. The Eta worked fine with my bigger pot and I had no issues with the pot being unstable or sliding around on the peg supports as seen below.
I did need to use my tent as a wind block though. While the Eta Lite is better in wind than my Eta Express it still has a noticeable drop in efficiency in strong winds. (More on this later.)
Another time using the Eta without its attached pot came in Oregon. I was meeting a friend for the last two days of hiking and she wanted to make a fresh (healthy) dinner. Pasta with salmon, broccoli, tomatoes, and cheese. I told her that was fine but that I was bringing a small stove (the Eta) with just its little pot and that I would be happy to carry her stove, huge pot, and the ingredients, plus that I would have the fuel canister already. We met and started packing our packs and I discovered that she did not bring her stove. I did not have the pot supports along with me! I had to do some creative stone work for us to be able to make dinner than night as seen below.
It was a pretty cool day and I didn't have to worry about the canister getting too hot with the extended cooking time (I checked periodically) as the Eta had to keep going solid for 30+ minutes. It all worked out though and as the rain started falling again we had a fresh, hot, tasty (and yes Carey, better for me than freeze-dried) meal. The next morning I was able to use the Eta pot again to heat water for coffee and oatmeal.
One thing I noticed was that the Eta does not like the cold too much either. At Pine Island Lake the temps took a sudden spike downward. It was 24 F (-4 C) when I got up in the morning. I fired up the Eta (with a match as the piezo igniter broke, remember?) to heat up just 10 oz (296 ml) or so of water and it took about five minutes to get it boiling.
This was further borne out on the last trip I took the Eta on, a freezing trip that saw me cooking at around 20 F (-7 C). I had brought another stove too so only boiled 12 oz (355 ml) in the Eta Lite. The wind was swirling, it would go from dead to 5-10 mph (8-16 km/h) off and on. The Eta took just over seven minutes to bring the water to the boil seen below.
I think that the Eta Lite is really best used as a 3-season stove, or one-and-a-half in my state (May to September).
In finishing up, while the Eta Lite uses less fuel than its bigger sibling the Eta Express it's not enough of a savings for me to give up the speed of my Express. It is a nice little system though and I had a good time hauling it all over the place last year. (It's January 2015 now as I write this.) But that's it as this test is over. My thanks to Primus and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me play with fire in the woods. This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
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