Lightweight, compact and fuel efficiency are the standard in the current generation of one-to-two person backpacking and mountaineering stoves. When the new Primus EtaPackLite stove became available, it had all the earmarks of the high-quality gear Primus has built its reputation on. So we obtained one, and took it backpacking, camping, and on day hikes.
First observation was the simplicity of the burner unit. Not only very compact, with folding-cleats to support the pot over the burner, but an electric piezo flame-ignition system, and no-fuss assembly to the fuel canister. A trip to REI for the Primus fuel canister offered the 450-gram canister as the only option, so we ran with it. Yet, this EtaPackLite stove system is designed so a 100-gram fuel canister can be nested into the 1.5-liter pot that comes with the stove.
At sea level it’s rare to have any issues with the time it takes to boil water or heat up the olive oil for tasty stir fry. And most any generation of personal stove will do good job, even a campfire will work fine. But as the altitude increases, so does the boil and cooking time. Among other reasons, altitude offers less oxygen and therefore less heat generated by the heat source.
Add to that wind, wet weather, and cold to get a grip on just some of the environmental conditions you might want to heat up water for coffee, hot chocolate, tea or simply cook a meal.
As tested, the EtaPackLite stove churned the water to a boil extremely quick at elevations from a low of 7000 feet to more than 11,000 feet above sea level. Since boiling water is a primary method for preparing food on a backpacking trip, and when available, the next day’s drinking water, it is a good substance to evaluate the stove. Well, the water in the 1.2-liter pot was roiling before I was ready to have that first cup of hot chocolate and a sleeve of Starbucks coffee at the end of the day.
The ability of this Primus stove to motivate the water into a boil caught me off-guard several times. Even in preparing soup or an AlpineAire dehydrated meal, the stove got things going faster than my goofing around setting up camp allowed. That’s certainly not any downside of this stove; when you use it make sure you’re ready to cook and tend the meal as this stove delivers a very fast boiling time.
A look at the radiator construction of the pot bottom pretty much tips you off to how the EtaPackLite generates it super-fast heating performance. The core-like engineering of the radiator design causes heat from the stove flame to focus energy into heating the water, wine, or cooking oil. And this design and efficiency of the combination of stove, windscreen, and radiator-effect on the pot all contribute to less cooking time and greater gas/fuel economy. The efficiency rating for this stove is 75%, and when you need less time to cook whatever, it means your canister will last longer and therefore boil more water or cook more food before you have to change out the canister.
In four backpack trips, I’m still on that first big canister of fuel. I take a backup, but am curious how far the first fuel canister plans of living. It’s low, but continues to deliver the flame until it’s turned off. I didn’t experience any low-fuel failures with the Primus gas canisters either. If you can shake the canister and determine there’s still fuel in it, the stove will light and burn it.
The electronic fuel ignition worked every time with single activation of the lighter button. It can be a little cumbersome to use the fuel ignition device with the windscreen in place.
The work-around is merely to start the burner and then slip the windscreen on the cleats. Attaching the fuel canister to the fuel hose leading to the burner is also a no-drama process. You just screw on the canister to the braided stainless steel stove hose, turn on the gas, and pinch the igniter button betwixt your thumb and forefinger. Thwap! The stove is on.
Other favorable qualities I enjoyed about the Primus stove in addition to the electric flame starter built onto the base of the stove, is the ability to adjust the flame for simmering food and a lightweight windscreen that offers enough room for several sizes of cooking containers.
If you want to cook pancakes, and you brought the pan, this stove works great with or without the use of the windscreen. Although we used the windscreen most of the time, the stove works just fine using rocks or natural wind barriers that might be available around your campsite.
We also liked the stability of the EtaPackLite burner unit and the collapsible cleat-wings for supporting a pot or pan. And yes, one needs a little frying pan to work with a stove in order to allow complete freedom in outdoor gourmet cuisine if you’re really going to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Consider the scenario as you prepare dinner by glazing up some wild onions, a radish or two, and a medium-sized German Brown trout you coaxed into cinching down on your homemade buck tail-rooster-head artificial fly on the alpine lake you’ve holed up at for the evening. You’re not limited to prepare every meal by simply boiling water. And the ability to include a frying pan opens up lots of doors for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Now, we haven’t had this stove in severely cold weather…yet. However, on chilly nights and frosty mornings where overnight temperatures did get down to freezing, the stove fired up at 5:00 am without hesitation. So as winter kicks in for 2009/2010, our plans include using the Primus EtaPackLite stove in much colder conditions.
It should also be noted that the pot handle is versatile, light, and works well with this stove system. The main pot has a non-stick coating that’s protected, in transit, by a polypropylene insert bowl that doubles as a serving container. The plastic lid is BPA-free (no bisphenol-A material), a material that has caused much controversy regarding its notoriety as a possible carcinogen.
The entire cooking system, including stove, pot, 100g fuel canister, and windscreen fit into a stuff-sack that keeps everything together and compartmentalizes the kit in your backpack or camp box.
Once you’ve taken the kit apart and re-assembled it a few times the procedure becomes a time saver when setting up camp or packing up for the next day.
In general, the Primus EtaPackLite stove and system worked as advertised and it will get many more trips on it due to the fact it is light, compact, and efficient.
By Rick Shandley
Weight: 580grams (20.5oz)
Heat Units: 2000W (7150 BTU/h)
Boil Time: 2.5 minutes (Before you’re ready)
Size: 165 x 130mm (6.5” x 5.1”)
Service: 1-2 people
Primus 100g (3.5 fl. oz) – [Max. 1.2 hours or 12 boiling sessions]
Primus 230g (7.9 fl. oz) – [Max. 3 hours or 28 boiling sessions]
Primus 450g (15.9 fl. oz) – [Max. 6 hours or 56 boiling sessions]
Made in: Estonia
Design: Primus AB Sweden