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 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.
|Primus Eta Express stove|
+ Excellent piezo igniter.
+ Strong build quality.
+ Lightweight and compact.
+ Substantial control knob.
+ Useful pouch.
- Pot stands don't stay in place.
|Primus Eta Express pot with heat exchanger and frying pan lid|
+ Built in heat exchanger for efficiency.
+ Lightweight despite heat exchanger.
+ Non stick surface.
+ Pouring spout.
- No measure marks.
- Pot not as versatile as others.
|Primus Eta Express Windscreen|
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...
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.
"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.
|Primus Eta Express stowed in stuff sack|
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.