My mid 1980’s Optimus 199 is still going strong, and I bought it brand new for less than $100, so in the used car business, this would be known as a one owner item. That’s probably a good thing, as these are more than a little collectible, with prices of upwards of $500 not uncommon, if you can find anyone willing to part with their’s. This is the stove that started me on the downward slope of collecting, hoarding, and gear heading.
There is something innately satisfying in carrying everything that’s needed to cook in one small container. On an overnight trip, it may not even be necessary to carry any extra fuel. I always do anyway, as I pack light and really like to cook.
The wind screen doubles as a pot support, and makes for an incredibly stable set up. Those Swedes, they are so clever. I did move the fuel bottles, as I once set the MSR one on fire.
Will it boil water?
Now, how multi fuel is it? White gas (benzene, petrol) is easily the best fuel. Kerosene requires some practice, as the stove has to be properly pressurized, and that little pump is what you might call small. Alcohol is anybody’s guess. A few years back, I talked with the Optimus experts at A&H Enterprises in California, and they knew of no one who used this as an alcohol stove. Why would you, when a bag of Optimus parts costs more than a Trangia alcohol stove?
The famous Optimus Cobra silent burner is everything it should be, the armored vehicle of the stove world. My stove lives in this little Cascade Designs stuff sack. It’s much better than a strap, to keep all those parts from wandering around.
How many modern little weight weenie stoves will still be working, 35 years from now?
In my endless quest to be the greatest gear head in history, I created my own mini Trangia set. I bought the mini Trangia setup, and hated the little fiddly base that came with it. I bought a triangle base and a kettle, and hiddy hiddy ho, I have a fantastic three piece cook set, with stove. The new triangle base is even better than this old one.
And then it all packs up in this little package. Minimalists, read it and weep. If I get any more simple than this, expect to see me on an episode of Naked and Afraid. That would be your worst nightmare.
If you want a metal bottle, buy a Swiss made Sigg. I was a bottle tester for Sigg once, and I beat the ever loving hell out of the test bottle. All I could do was dent it a little.
The story: When I was in the outdoor recreation industry, our rep for the North Face picked up Sigg as a new product line. I was already on the pro staff for US made Ross Reels (a fly reel company), so he wanted me to try them out. I didn’t tell him I had had a Sigg bike bottle for years.
Rep: “Would you like a free Sigg bottle to test?”
Me: “Sure, but you should know that I can tear up an anvil.”
Rep: “You will love these. They are as close to bombproof as they come.”
Was he ever right. I still have the test bottle in the picture, and have worn some paint off it, but it will probably last longer than I will. At least it will keep me from being thirsty for many years to come.
In my never ending quest for sustainable whatever, this one just about takes the prize. The Trangia “spirit” burner, which is the little brass thingy in the middle, will burn anything from denatured alcohol to Everclear. In short the fuel is completely renewable, especially as long as the world is populated by drinkers of bourbon.
And then it just disappears! Yes, all that stuff is in that little package. It may not be the hottest stove out there, but they are inexpensive enough to buy a couple or three, and they are still made in Sweden. Confession time–I own five Swedish made outdoor stoves.
I actually met the chief designer for the Optimus stove company, back when it was still Swedish owned, in Salt Lake City, of all places, at an outdoor trade show (I was in the industry). The young man asked me what stoves I used, and I told him I had three Optimus, and two Trangia. He was most impressed by the two Trangia, and took off on a typically European rant about Americans all being gear heads.
Stove Designer: “Every boy and girl scout in Sweden uses Trangia stoves. Here you give kids gas stoves that can explode. It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Technically, he was probably correct. If you can light a match, this stove is perfectly safe. Just don’t drink too much of the fuel.
No one needs a 30,000 BTU kerosene burner all the time, so my go to outdoor stove is the venerable SVEA 123, based on a design which is well over a hundred years old. It’s so complex my version, the 123R, has TWO moving parts. In two decades, it has never needed a single repair.
Then there’s the drama. It burns white gas, aka petrol, coleman fuel, benzine, etc, so it needs to be primed in order to light. Pour a little fuel over the burner, light a match, throw it in the direction of the stove, and RUN AWAY. This stove is not recommended for use on oak tables.
Will it cook?
After the starter flame burns out, the stove is easily lit, and then comes the famous sound–a jet engine, or a rocket taking off. Mine sounds like a locomotive trying to get up a mountain-chug chug, chug chug. This is my favorite outdoor stove.
Buy one of the old solid brass Swedish made ones from eBay, and if you’re incredibly lucky, you can get one with the Sigg Tourist cook set. I admitted to my wife that I have a fetish for camping stoves–I have six–but I could live with just this one.