Sunday, 20 November 2011

Primus Eta Express Review


Item...

I have been given a Primus Eta Express Camping Stove by the guys at Go Outdoors to test and review. The Eta Express stove is marketed by Primus as a small, lightweight and highly efficient camping stove. For your money you get the complete kit of stove, pot and windscreen in a small, lightweight and easy to carry package. Its unique selling point is its fuel efficiency. The built in compact windscreen, and pot with built in heat exchanger make sure that the Eta Express shortens boiling times and cuts fuel consumption by a third. Primus are a highly reputable camping stove manufacturer, often referred to as the inventors of the modern backpacking stove. The original Primus  paraffin stoves were used by the likes of Edmund Hillary, Roald Amundsen, and George Mallory during trips to both poles and the highest mountains in the world. They have continued to invent and manufacture top products for over a century.


Testing...

Testing the Primus Eta Express on Ben Lomond wild camp









I took the stove with me on a high altitude wild camp in Scotland last week. I first used it by the side of Loch Lomond on a picnic bench to make a brew. I then carried the stove in my backpack up the Ptarmigan Ridge by Ben Lomond to a height of 700m above sea level. I used it in the porch of the tent twice on a very windy night firstly to boil water for a brew and to hydrate a freeze-dried meal, then later to boil water again for another brew. After a scary and unplanned night time descent where I had to abandon camp, I used the stove again by Loch Lomond on a bench to boil water for porridge and another brew. I tend to use my back packing stoves primarily for boiling water.


Stove...

Primus Eta Express stove
Given Primus' reputation it was no surprise to find that the build quality of this stove is excellent. The piezo igniter is by far one of the best I have ever seen on a stove with built in piezo ignition. The trigger springs back neatly against the stem of the stove and the rest of the piezo is encased within the stem. The control knob for regulating the flame is a substantial knob instead of the fragile pieces of folded wire you usually get on lightweight stoves. The pot supports are flat and rough enough to hold a pot well. My only problem with the stove itself is that the pot supports do not click into place well enough; one of them is very loose. If you knock them at all they will move around. Overall though the stove really impresses me. It is solidly built, compact, lightweight and the built-in piezo igniter is by far the best I've seen on a stove. The stove also comes with a strong and protective fabric pouch.

+ Excellent piezo igniter.
+ Strong build quality.
+ Lightweight and compact.
+ Substantial control knob.
+ Useful pouch.
- Pot stands don't stay in place.


Pot...

Primus Eta Express pot with heat exchanger and frying pan lid
The pot is a 1 litre non stick aluminium pot with frying pan lid and built in heat exchanger underneath. Being one litre it may be a little overkill for solo backpackers, but makes it ideal for two people or winter trips. It is impressively light considering it has the built in heat exchanger. The pot is actually identical to the excellent Primus Litech Trek Kettle, though slightly deeper and obviously with the heat exchanger on the bottom. In fact I have just put them side by side and now I don't know which frying pan lid belongs to which as they are exactly the same piece. I am not a huge fan of frying pan lids as I have yet to find an actual practical use for them. If only they were made twice as deep they could be versatile and be used to replace a mug as well as a frying pan. However if you do decide to fry small amounts of meat or an egg it would be ideal. Both the pot and the frying pan lid are coated on the inside with a three layer titanium non stick surface which is great for those who want to use the pot for cooking food. I have to admit I tend to use my pots on trips mostly for boiling water. The pot also has a useful pouring spot. My only problem with pot is that for the price I would expect some measuring indicators inside. I find measuring indicators extremely useful when backpacking with freeze-dried and freezer bag cooking meals. I suppose the pot having the heat exchanger on the bottom means it won't have the versatility of working with some other stoves. The entire package including gas canister stows away within the pot. The pot also comes with a strong and protective fabric pouch that makes for a very compact and easy to stow complete cookset.

+ Built in heat exchanger for efficiency.
+ Lightweight despite heat exchanger.
+ Non stick surface.
+ Pouring spout.
- No measure marks.
- Pot not as versatile as others.


Windscreen...

Primus Eta Express Windscreen
The stove that I have been sent by Go Outdoors is the second generation of the Primus Eta Express stove, despite the fact that Go Outdoors still has the product image of the first generation. In fact most outdoor retailers still use the image of the original version. The only major difference between the first generation and the second is the wind shield. The wind shield on the first stove was a smaller purpose built shield that hung off the end of two of the three pot stands and covered around a third of the outside of the stove. The wind shield on the second generation Eta Express is no longer a purpose built wind shield but is instead the Primus Clip-On Windscreen. This is a big seller and does have its fans, though I don't think I am one of them. The below is official safety information from Primus...

To avoid overheating, only stoves that fulfil certain requirements can be used with the windscreen. To use the windscreen safely the stove needs to leave a 11 mm ( ½ in) gap between the pot and the windscreen and have a flame that is directed upwards to the pot and not to sideways to the windscreen. Primus ExpressStove fulfill the requirements but a number of present and older Primus products should not be used with the windscreen, eg. Micron,TiLite, ClassicTrail, Mimer and TechnoTrail stoves.

Surely leaving a gap of 11mm between the pot and the windscreen kind of negates the whole purpose of the windscreen in the first place. The windscreen doesn't work with a lot of lightweight canister stoves including some of their own earlier models due to the requirement of a directly upwards flame. By far the biggest problem with the windscreen however only becomes apparent when you assemble the Eta Express and clip the windscreen on to a gas canister with the stove screwed on. The windscreen actually blocks the piezo ignition. This is a huge oversight from such a reputable company... or is it? Have they simply decided not to go to the hassle of making the separately manufactured purpose built windscreen that worked well, in favour of just adding an existing product to the package, even though it doesn't actually work? I searched online and from what I can see everyone who has ever reviewed this product has found the same problem. I decided to email Primus directly to see what their answer was...

Hi Jamie

You can operate both the piezo and the valve at the same time, if you rotate the windscreen so you in the open side see the piezo on one side and the valve on the other. I usually turn the windscreen back again after the stove is lit, so it’s easier to regulate the flame.

Best regards


"I usually turn the windscreen back again after the stove is lit." Hmm I think I will give that a miss. Not only because it is dangerous but also because of the above problem with the pot supports moving around. I tried the suggested technique when I tested the stove on the wild camp, and as predicted it didn't quite work as it moved the loose pot stands around. It may seem like I am obsessing slightly with this windscreen problem but I find it fascinating that Primus clearly don't think this is a problem yet pretty much every person that has ever reviewed this second generation Eta Express has said exactly the same thing. It is either a big oversight or an unacceptable cost cutting exercise.

+ Stows away over a gas canister.
- Can't use piezo safely when it is in place.
- Requires 11mm gap above itself before the pot.
- Won't work with some other stoves.


Conclusion...

Primus Eta Express stowed in stuff sack
Luckily for Primus the excellent stove and pot make up for the inadequacies of the windscreen. Overall I would say the Primus Eta Express is a very good camping and backpacking stove solution. It is highly efficient saving you time and money, and very easy to use, especially the piezo ignition which is excellent. The whole package is lightweight and compact. The stove, windscreen and fuel all fit inside the pot which then fits in a neat stuff sack and stows away discreetly into any backpacking rucksack.

The Primus Eta Express Camping Stove is now available now from Go Outdoors. Don't forget that Go Outdoors will not only price match, they will also beat the price match by 10%. Also check out their full range of Camping Equipment.

6 comments:

  1. I found the same problem with the windshield. The stove is good enough to use without it and it also saves a few grams not taking it on a trip.

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  2. A nice piece of kit, but at 418g that's quite heavy for a 1 litre pot and stove.

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  3. LondonBackpacker, when I first assembled it together I thought I was doing something wrong when I saw the piezo was obstructed with the windscreen clipped on. I went online and saw your review and then started to see a few others, which mentioned the same problem, and then made me realise I wasn't going mad. There is too much competition for Primus to get such a simple thing wrong and just ignore it.

    Geoff, I have to agree, I would only really use this stove myself if I was backpacking with the missus as I don't need a 1ltr pot for myself and I find frying pan lids pointless. TBH with the stove, although it is 30g or so heavier than my first choice stove I would still carry the stove as it is really good. It is the first time I've used a pot with heat exchanger on the bottom, and I have to say I am not totally convinced by the concept. I refuse to pay such large amounts of money for pots with heat exchangers on when I only see around a 30 seconds difference in boil times. When sat in a beautiful place or in a tent on a long night who hasn't got 30 seconds? My pot of choice these days is the Optimus Solo as its lid is more of a mug than a frying pan, it is small, lightweight, has measure marks and pouring lip. And at £20 its an absolute bargain. Stove wise I still carry my almost decade old Coleman F1 which still performs as it did the day I bought it for £15. The problem with the Eta Express is that you are paying for a complete package and I don't think that entire package works. The stove and pot are good, but then would you pay that much for that, when in reality you are supposed to be paying for a complete concept?

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  4. Excellent review there. I like my Spider and like this stove, it is of high quality. The Power gas is great for low temperatures.

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  5. Regarding the windscreen issue: I would think that it should be simple enough to operate the piezo lever from above with the windscreen in place, e.g. with a twig.

    Am I missing something?

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  6. Ha Ha I wouldn't usually approve such comments but this one made me laugh too much not too! :-)

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