Comparison cooking tech

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Feb 10, 2016
Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
As a poster pointed out, I have not done any reviews of equipment.
Bad boy, bad!!

So I have been thinking, what equipment that I have been using over the decades, is worth comparing and reviewing?
Which type equipment has different technologies to achieve the same goal? Imo - the heat generating stuff. Cooker/burner/stove. We all have very similar requirements from them.

During my life, I have been using three different portable heat sourced. With my dad, during the 1960's, we first used a pre WW2 Primus fuelled with kerosene, a stove that has been in his family since pre WW2, when it was, together with a brother Primus, the only cooking equipment his parents had in the kitchen. Then around 1970 we started using the Alcohol fuelled Trangia.
I used a Trangia ( dad's old one until 1979 and then one I got issued in the army 1979 ) until last year, when I wanted to enter the Space Age! I bought an Optimus Polaris Optimism i fuel stove.
(Cool name, 'Optimus Polaris Opti Fuel, eh? Marketing Dept at Optimus have been working!)

But how are they compared to each other, from a nature walking / trekking point of view?
I will give my personal view on Quality and Ease of Use


Built like a tank. Made from a thick, well soldered brass body, solid pan supports, fold out brass feet, cast brass preheater and burner.
Few moving parts.
A dent or three will not influence the function. Only a very few partd can wear out. The only part that wears out which is more ‘special’ is a Leather seal in the pressure pump piston.
Easily repaired even in the field, a piece of shoe tongue or of a leather strap can easily be cut and used.
The other few seals can be replaced using Birch bark.

Cost: it should be possible to find a beautiful, mint example with all accesories for around £100. Pots and pans not included.

Well, you can not make it simpler. Brass metal burner. Double sided, space filled with a wicking fibrous material. 4 parts on my model called Jägarkök, body, rubber O-ring, screw lid, ‘slow speed’ restrictor.
Rubber O-ring sealing between the burner and screw lid burns really easily. Not easy / impossible to replace in the field unless you carry a spare one.
Very sturdy if used with the base/ windshield system.

Cost: under £100 including pots and a pan.

Complex construction. Fit and finish top. Several parts seem to be very fragile, including the adjustment valve and handle. Support legs/pot stand not large enough, gives stove less than ideal stability.
Design of lower support - needs something under it in snow, sand and mud.
Design of upper part of pan support - large pans slide easily.
Fuel line very short, kinks fairly easily.
Fuel bottle made from plastic.
( this is unacceptable imo. Will melt if exposed to a bit of fire and will become fragile in severe cold. Also vulnerable if thrown on ground/stones if backpack is taken off carelessly).
Windshield: when I unpacked it I almost threw it away, it is just a piece of soft metal badly folded up. Shocking bad construction.

Cost: £150 or so, for burner including fuel bottle. Pots and pans extrs


fuel stored is about 1/2 liter ( varies by model) of Kerosene. Other fuels like lamp oil or light fuel oils can be used, but is not recommended. I was warned from early age not to use anything else than standard lamp kerosene.
It can be lit two different ways: The ‘real’ way where the pre heat bowl is filled with ethanol, which heats up the fuel prehester tubes, pressurize the kerosene so it vaporises and burns.
The other way, used when you run out of alcohol (as you do) is to place a bit of cloth or veg fibers in the preheat bowl, pressurize the kerosene until it seeps out through the nozzle and wets the fibers, de pressurize, light the the kerosene soaked fibers, then as previously.
It takes a bit of practice to be alcohol efficient, how much you need depends on wind.
When to pressurize, how much.
Easy to regulate the flame and heat output to perfection.
The Primus has a very efficient wind shield, and the metal transport box can also be used as an windshield, or a stand, if used in snow.
The only malfunction that is fairly common is that the nozzle opening can get clogged, but it is easily fixed with a for this task supplied tool.
The main negative with the Primus is the weight and to some extent the bulk. One fill should last about a week summertime. Easy to extinguish flame so no fuel is wasted.
Can produce quite a lot of oily soot. Flame nicely visible when cooking.

Definitely not easy to get kerosene these days.
When packing up, all sealing units must be tightened properly. Overtighten and you can strip the soft brass threads or deform the seal. Leak. Undertighten and the oily kerosene will leak out.
Comes in a metal packing case.

Truly simple to use. Fill with required amount of alcohol, wait a few seconds, lit with a match.
The flame can be adjusted. Supplied with a restrictor ring which covers the holes in the rum, so only the center opening is lit. This is used when cooking with a small bottomed pan or cup, or you want a lighter simmer with a larger pot. This setting is perfect when melting snow.
Standard ‘setting’ to heat up and cook normally.
By placing a few matches inside the burner, so they stick up above the rim, produces a ‘Turbo setting’ which makes it easy to heat up large amounts of water, in a large bottomed container.
Difficult to extinguish the flame safely. Done with either the bottom of a pan, or the outside of the screw lid, with O-ring removed.

The stand / windshield is stable. Good on sand and mud, but needs a few sticks as extra support on snow. Ideally air should be able to come around the lower edge for best burn with less soot. Can be used in very windy conditions, even in full storm.
Ptoduces lots of soot unless air supply is plentyful. Flame invidible when cooking using stand, visible on its own.

The Trangia cooking system comes complete, with burner, accessories, stand and windshield, pots and pan. Packs light and small, inside pots.
You need extra container for the liquid fuel, which is easily available. Methanol, Ethanol.

Unspent fuel can be stored in burner, but the O-ring has to be absolutely perfect, and the metal surface where the O-ring seals, undamaged and clean.

Uses various liquid fuels plus gas in disposable containers.
I have only tried petrol, kerosene and gas. All work flawlessly.
Quite difficult to light. Small hole on the side of the burner where match goes.
Needs really three or even four hands to start up. One hand to hold the burner still. Other hand to regulate the valve. Two hands to lit the match.
They should have equipped it with an inbuilt piezo lighter, imo.

Using liquid fuels in the supplied plastic bottle, you need to be really careful. You need to pump up the pressure from time to time, and again, this is not a one man operation.
As the fuel line is really short and stiff, somebody needs to stabilize the burner with pot or pan, while another person holds the fuel bottle and pumps.

Clean burning. Flame difficult to see.

According to the internet, seals and such need replacing on these systems from time to time. Spares should be bought and carried, they are very specific and imposdible to make yourself in the field, the internet says.

The Optimus has an elaborate way to clear the fuel nozzle. Done with a magnet that moves an internal cleaning needle.
Ingenious? Yes.
BUT, if you lose the magnet, you can not unclog it.

The century old system Primus uses is far safer and user friendly. Easy to fabricate a thin needle to unblock the nozzle.

Fuels are very easy to find for the Optimus. One important point is to know which connecting system the gas tank should have.

Packs light, but fairly bulky. No container to pack burner in is included, just a fabric bag.


So, which system do I personally like most?

If I went out alone, for a weeks trek, winter or summer, I would take the Trangia. Light, safe. Enough energy from burner to cook easily for one person

If I went out with a friend, I would take the Optimus. Light, but needs really two people for maximum safety, and produces enough energy to use larger pots and pans than the Trangia.

For a weeks trek with more than two people, like a family with fairly large children that can carry weight, I would choose the Primus. Stable, powerful heat. Simple. Safe.
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Full Member
Jan 15, 2018
North yorkshire
I love my optimus stove because you can polish them up, tinker about with the seals and what a great start up procedure, that's a good tip a about starting them when you have run out of ethanol ! For the space and weight the trangia wins I think, nothing really to go wrong. I use mine at work to make a quick brew at lunch and heat up some beans. Never like the look of those multifuel optimus polaris stoves, they look like the body would burn out over time like the silent burner caps for the hiker stoves.


Full Member
Dec 1, 2014
Luleå, Sweden
Nice write up, Janne.
Regarding the cleaning of the Optimus - Just shake it, prior to lighting it and it's all good normally (got a Nova+ having the same solution).

For Solo/Hiking use I tend to use an Optimus Svea 123R running on Aspen 4-stroke petrol or a Firemaple Butane burner. Used the Svea last week in Sarek.
For Family/Car camping use, I normally use an Optimus 111 kerosene burner.
....I have a weakness (addiction?) for Brass....


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