Camped squarely in the middle between a lightweight backpacker’s stove and a two-burner car camping stove, the new 1.3 liter Primus Primetech ($120; they also make a 2.3L model for $130) is an awesomely powerful and efficient cookset for basecamps, small groups in the backcountry, or light-traveling car campers.
Who fits that bill? Perhaps the designated chef for a party of three on a backcountry overnighter. A parent in a small family, maybe. Or say, a few fly fisherman out in the boonies who want to come back to the same site every night, but who don’t all want to carry in their own backpacker’s stoves. Or a solo car camper who doesn’t need or want the fuss of a two-burner, suitcase-style propane stove.
The Primetech set consists of: stove with integrated windshield; two aluminum pots, one of which has a built-in heat exchanger, lid with colander, fuel line for an external iso-butane fuel canister, pot holder, piezo lighter, heat shield for the ground, and an insulated storage sack that can keep cooked food warm if stored in the pot. Everything nests nicely in the larger pot—unfussy, clean, easy to assemble and to pack up. Primus has been in the biz since 1892, and the quality of this set shows that they’re not messing around.
The whole set weighs about 26 ounces, a lot for a single backpacker or ultralight enthusiast groups. But if you divide weights up—one camper takes the food, one takes the Primetech, the weight is doable, though it’s overkill for two people. Three though could easily make this their only stove.
According to Primus, the Primetech makes use of something called “ETA” technology to increase efficiency. Can’t quite figure out what the letters ETA are referring to—hey, they’re a Swedish company—but the system is nothing fancy or proprietary: a windshield, a heat exchanger, and a direct flame. But the system works great. Primus claims that the combination of the windshield/heat exchanger is so efficient that the Primetech uses half the fuel of a traditional iso-butane backpacker stove.
In my sea-level tests, the stove boiled 16 ounces of water in right around two minutes—even with a bit of wind. That’s pretty damn quick. The first day I used it, after a morning of fishing (lots of bass, couple bluegill on dry flies) I cooked lunch on the tailgate of my truck (red bean chili) with 20 mph gusts swirling and the little stove soldiered right on. The flame can be controlled with a fuel regulator attached to the end of the fuel line, and you get a surprising amount of variation in heat, though the wand that turns the regulator offers no feedback at all. It actually took me a few minutes to figure out if the regulator was letting gas enter the line at all, until I realized that there’s a lot of play in the wand. Once I figured it out, I felt dumb, but more importantly, I had precise heat control.
I’m so used to cooking with a standard backpacker stove, with the base being the isobutane fuel canister, having the stability of the Primetech, where the bottom of the stove has the same diameter as the pot you cook in is a luxury I hadn’t realized I’d been missing. The stove grips the included pots very well, and includes little pot-holding-extender things so you can confidently cook with a larger frying pan.
I’ve enjoyed using the Primetech on solo trips, but would absolutely bring it in the backcountry with a couple friends to be the only stove. It can boil plenty of water for everybody’s backpacker meals and coffee, and it’s so efficient, you can carry less fuel.
An impressive stove set that absolutely deserves to be wedged in your arsenal somewhere between feather light pocket rocket-type burner and big, heavy two-burner rig.
$120 • BUY
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I’ve been using the Optimus Terra Weekend cookset for the past few years and it’s an incredible bang for your (not much) buck at $30. A nearly one-liter pot with a heat exchanger and a little mini frying pan that works as a lid. It’s anodized aluminum and weighs only 10 ounces.
My regular backcountry stove is the little Snowpeak GigaPower and it’s bulletproof, reliable, and tiny. $40 for the best backpacker stove I’ve ever used.
When it’s time to bust out the two-burner campstove, I always go with the Stansport. Two 25,000 BTU burners, piezo ignition switch, heavy-duty cooking grates. Thing is BURLY. $96