Primus OmniLite Ti Stove Review

Base stats:
– BTU:  8900
– Weight:  2.6 lbs (including pump and bottle and bag)
Stove comparison chart

(Long Term use update at bottom)

I own most of the currently sold liquid fuel stoves as well as quite a few older ones, and to my mind, the Primus Omnilite is the best choice of a fairly good sample of liquid fuel stoves for flexibility, compactness, fuel efficiency, and reliability, though, it has couple of small negatives.

 

The Primus OmniLite is a marvel of engineering, and it’s stunning to me that it isn’t standard issue for most services that require a good deal of time out in the wilderness.  That’s not to say it’s a perfect fit for all scenarios. In any given category, there might be another stove I would rather take, but only the Primus OmniLite has the combination of fuel sipping, lightness and compactness, precision simmering, fuel flexibility, easy maintenance, and reliability to be a single catch all for nearly any scenario.

 

For more details on the Primus Omnifuel:  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/primus-omnifuel-stove/

The material on the Omnilite TI is very thin.  A little wobbly and possibly fragile, certainly easy to bend.  But it holds up rather well.

IMG_1066 copy

Above is a comparison to the Omnifuel and the Optimus stove

IMG_1020

One thing very unique to the Omnilite is the ability to remove the soot collector, or firewall.

SPECIAL SIDENOTE: If, and only if, you plan to go to remote places where only very dirty fuels are available, like bencina, or cheap unleaded, or old re-processed oils disguised as kerosene, I should note that because the omnilite uses a secondary spindle throttle at the stove end (which greatly enhances simmering precision and consistency), it does require considerably more maintenance than those that have only a single throttle at the fuel bottle end, because of carbon buildup at the spindle throttle. All liquid fuel stoves that use a heat concentrator base and fuel rod to vaporize fuel (coupled with a secondary throttle at the stove end), instead of a generator coil and a single throttle, suffer this disadvantage. The MSR Dragonfly, Brunton Optimus Nova, Katadyn Optimus Nova/Nova+/Polaris Optifuel, Primus Omnifuel/Omnifuel 2/Omnilite, all have this problem to varying degrees. Stoves that use a generator coil and only have a single fuel throttle at the fuel bottle end do not suffer this problem nearly as much, but they also require some maintenance, and many suffer from very imprecise simmering to no simmering capability at all. The MSR XGK/XGK EX/Whisperlite, Edelrid Hexon, Soto Muka, most BRS/Bulin/Kovea liquid fuel stoves fit in this category. To clean stoves that have the secondary throttle at the stove end, you actually have to remove the spindle to clean it. First open the throttle all the way, then open the bolt all the way, and then pull out the spindle throttle. You will notice at the tip there is a needle point and threads right behind the point. Within the thread, there is a groove (sometimes two grooves) where the fuel runs through. This is a prime “corridor” where liquid gets vaporized and leaves sticky carbon deposits. A Swiss army knife’s plastic toothpick or similar can be used to scrape the sticky carbon out. Incidentally, in use, the hotter the flame is, the less carbon is deposited. Even with this issue among all of these dual throttle stoves, it’s a worthy price to pay for the incredibly precise simmer control, and particularly with the Omnilite, for the additional small size and light weight.

(Side side note: if you do use unleaded, use 87 octane. Fewer additives, so fewer desposits than 91. 91….bad…. 87…good…)

So what about the scenarios?

If I didn’t know what fuel I’d have, but was traveling in California backpacking country, the Optimus Polaris Optifuel (or the Optimus Nova+) might win. Though it is heavier, it is much simpler, more compact, and has innovative features simplifying maintenance.

The MSR Whisperlite is even less maintenance, so while it’s simmering ability is less precise, if I planned on simple meals, it would be a good choice for me.

If gas canisters in cold weather was the plan, the Optimus Vega would win.

If planning on doing a lot of cooking, and wanted to use a large number of random pots, the Snow Peak Geoshield (new for 2015), might win.

If i planned on going somewhere so remote that only dirty fuels like bencina or cheap kerosene was available, the MSR XGK wins hands down. No other liquid fuel stove can handle very dirty fuels as well as the XGK. Of course, simmering is no longer an option, so cooking really well is out, but I’d gladly give that up for a guaranteed ability to boil water consistently over long periods without continuous maintenance.

If planning on doing a lot of cooking, and I wanted to keep things simple, the Primus ETA stoves (ETA Power EF or ETA Spider) would likely win.

If Going really far from civilization, with little chance of repairs, I’d need something super simple and reliable, so if CLEAN white gas was available, the Optimus SVEA wins. Very low maintenance, and fairly bombproof, with fewer failure points than even the XGK or Omnifuel.  Limited with only one fuel option, but otherwise, a great stove for boiling water.  The Primus Omnifuel would also be a very strong contender.  And in addition, the Firebox.  The Firebox or Firebox G2 is a wood stove, and the G2 has innovative capabilities to use other fuels.

If going on a trip in the US, and wanting to go super light but also wanting to to some pan cooking, stews and/or soups, I’d dump my standard wind screen (that I take with everything else), and take just the Soto WindMaster. An incredible ultra compact stove that simmers and has an optional extra stable pot support.  The Soto WindMaster has the efficiency of a JetBoil and the versatility of the Snow Peak GeoShield, in an ultra small package.

If going on a weekend trip in the summer and wind might be an issue, and I was only concerned about water for hot drinks and re-hydrating food, the JetBoil wins.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a lighter, more efficient setup than the JetBoil Sol.

If going ultra light….and we’re talking 20lbs or less, than the JetBoil wins again.

If I was going somewhere where I knew kerosene, and only kerosene (But a lot of it) was available (it being one of the safest fuels around), and I was going for a fairly long time, the Liberty Rocket would probably be my goto.  The Liberty rocket has a 2L tank, which is good for several hours of cooking between refills and the frame is built using a powder coated cast iron structure.  Make sure it can work in a well-ventilated but wind protected area and you have a semi-permanent kitchen.

In all of the above examples, I’d also take the Emberlit mini. It’s titanium, super thin when folded up, and flexible with fuels.  As a backup stove, it’s hard to beat.

But, if I was going on a trip, and just didn’t know what to expect, than there is no question, the Primus Omnilite would be my top choice.  The Omnilite is considerably lighter, packs smaller, is easier to maintain, and is a true fuel sipper.

If I’m planning on a pretty rugged trip, with lots of gear abuse, the Omnifuel or Omnifuel 2 might win. Other stoves with this level of fuel flexibility are:

  1. The MSR Whisperlite Universal
    Awesome stove, but I have broken the plastic pump twice before, so makes me nervous,
  2. The Optimus Polaris OptiFuel
    Another amazing stove with some really high tech features, and rock solid, but the long rod copper rod makes it a hard fit in most backpacking pot sets
  3. The Edelrid Hexon
    What a marvel!  So compact!  So light!  And shhhh, don’t tell the others, but secretly, my favorite stove of all time….Sadly, there are two parts that are just too fragile to be trustable as my sole stove on a global trip: The generator connection to the flexible fuel line is open, so easily damaged. Also, the pot stand legs warp under even moderate use (e.g. melting ice, or frying steaks, or when using a small cast iron skillet)
  4. Various BRS/Bulin/Kovea liquid fuel stoves.

So, what are the downsides?

– Different jets. One advantage of the Primus Omnilite ti is also a disadvantage. Unlike some other multi-fuel stoves, the Primus requires that different jets be used for different fuels. That’s great because the size of the jet hole changing means optimization of fuel, and it’s noticeable. With the Omnilite Nova+, you can really tell that Kerosene struggles, no matter how hot you make the stove during priming. With the Omnilite TI, of course you get different results depending on the fuel, but the differences in flame output are negligible, thus ensuring consistent maximized fuel use. But, since each jet is the size of a small hex bolt, the potential for losing one is pretty high, and the number stamping is really light, making it difficult to see under low light conditions. As such, it’s wiser to know what fuel you’ll be using and pre-setting the correct jet, or, making sure you find a good spot to do the change.

IMG_0968

– Second, the Omnilite comes with a small multi-tool. It contains a traditional hair thin metal pin to clear debris from the pinhole jets. It’s…traditional. Other stoves have added innovations like building the cleaning pin into the burner valve, or creating mechanism in the stove that utilizes magnets to force the pin through to clear the jets. This is not a huge deal, but losing that multi-tool or breaking that hair-thin needle would be painful.

– Third, while the stand/pot support flattens together to help conserve space, there are more efficient designs out there.

– Fourth, maintenance is required on this stove, so bringing two sets of spare parts and two multi-tools on a long expedition would be smart.

– Fifth, great care must be taken to ensure debris doesn’t get into sensitive areas, something that’s all too easy to do in dusty environments.

– Sixth, titanium can crack when going back and forth between freezing temps and high heat.  So…if that was ever in my plans, the Omnifuel would probably win out.

– Finally, it’s loud.  I don’t really care about the volume generally, but it does wake up other campers in the morning.  and it’s hard to have a conversation.  Not a big deal though.

Having said that, I still think this is the quintessential stove for me to take on every adventure where there are unknown factors that are likely to come into play.

IMG_0969 IMG_0970 IMG_0973 IMG_0974

I’ve added two Kovea adaptors too, one for Coleman propane tanks and one for Asian style gas canisters. this further increases the flexibility of the stove (though the same could be said of any stove with a lindal connector). But, it also means that this and the MSR Whisperlite Universal are the only two stoves with that level of fuel flexibility, and that’s impressive.

IMG_1151 IMG_1164

I also picked up the QuietStove.  Makes the stove very quiet.

—-

Some things I do like:

– Among liquid fuel stoves, and i own many, this is one of the most fuel efficient. I call it the sip’per because it’s that big of a difference compared to other stoves and deserves recognition. A 600ml bottle easily lasts me well over two hours, and when simmering, considerably longer than that. Compared to this, the Omnifuel, Omnifuel 2, Nova+, Polaris Optifuel, Whisperlite, and even the Dragonfly are all fuel gulpers (with the XGK and Soto Muka being fuel guzzlers). The Coleman Exponent lasts longer on simmer, but the simmer control on the Omnilite is much more precise, and dumping fuel prior to hopping on an airplane is more of a pain with the Coleman Exponent. On a journey to wherever, the Omnilite is the fuel sipper king.

– Mostly metal parts. I really like this. It’s especially true on the pump mechanism, both the fuel line in the fuel bottle and the air pump mechanism is nearly all metal. The end of the air pump is plastic, and of course the gasket is not metal, but everything else is.

– I also love the fuel pump design itself. The air pump cylinder and the fuel line cylinder both angle towards the inner side wall of the fuel bottle, instead of straight down. This innovations allows the pump and fuel line to be straight, rather than having an L-shaped air-pump and using a plastic fuel line cylinder that doesn’t quite go where it’s supposed to. It’s hard to describe just how great this little innovation is. It makes putting in and removing the pump much much easier, and screams reliability.

– Another great innovation is that there is no generator wrapping around the stove. Generators on liquid fuel stoves mostly seem like they use soft metals and seem easily broken. This is rather worrisome and I’d be nervous about damaging the generator at all times. It’s not hard to mitigate those worries by encasing the stove correctly, but it would always worry me. The Primus Omnilite has the generator built into the fuel feeder on the stove end, and the continuous connection to the stove element means that it is both rock solid and draws heat really well, thus negating the need for a looped generator.

– removable copper heating element. It is easy to unscrew the copper heating element or wall (which looks similar to a napkin ring that is somewhat conically shaped). This simplifies changing the jets, but also simplifies cleaning and maintenance.

– soot trap. In other stoves, it’s easy to get soot all over the place. This gets on your hands and clothes and other gear and is hard to remove. The omnilite does a great job keeping the soot contained and it’s easy to clean.

– Titanium heat shield and stand/pot support. It’s not just that using titanium is cool….well…it is. Titanium doesn’t retain or transfer heat well, so it’s amazing how fast the heat shield and legs cool down. So fast that you have to be a little aware or else the cool titanium might mislead you to believe that the stove portion has cooled as well. The copper heating element takes much much longer to cool. But at least you can pick it up and move it almost immediately after turning it off. Just don’t touch the inner copper heating element.

– Another fuel bottle feature is the pressure release mechanism. It’s so innovative, I love it. And so far, has proven pretty bomb proof. Facing one way, the fuel that’s been pressurized flow through. Face the bottle the other way by “turning it over” and the fuel stops feeding on instead, pressurized air releases, making it safer to remove the pump with fuel spraying everywhere. Love this innovation. The Optimus Nova+ also uses this mechanism.

– Speaking again of the fuel bottle, I really like how it requires much fewer pumps than every other pump-action liquid fuel system I’ve tried. I don’t know what that is, but in either case, for the 600ml bottle, I can get fuel flowing with just 6-8 pumps, and once lit, I just give it a few extra pumps once in a while. The other stoves I’ve tried required at least triple that. Not a big deal, but a nice convenience.

Except for the fact that this system needs regular maintenance, I can’t imagine trusting an unknown trip to any other stove.

Rock on Primus Omnilite Ti. You really are my all time favorite for reliability in the field.

IMG_6905  IMG_6924    IMG_8513

—-

Not too long ago, I went winter camping with a Jetboil and noticed that the pressurized gas canister stopped working when there was still liquid in the canister.

After getting home, I looked it up and learned that pressurized gas canisters don’t work that well in cold weather and in fact their efficiency drops on a curve. Many of the same forum posts at various sites also noted that while it’s true liquid gas also loses efficiency in colder climates, it loses efficiency more linearly, and additionally, many stoves today are multi-fuel, making them useful in a pinch or when traveling internationally when certain types of fuel are unavailable.

I also learned that in very cold winter camping, you could still use a gas canister stove, but to get the bit of fuel out to burn, it’s best to have the gas canister and stove separate and connected via a fuel line so you can get the fuel canister upside down.

After doing quite a bit of research, it became clear that there were a lot of options available that could do both liquid fuels and a gas canister that can be set upside down. Though I settled on the Primus Omnilite Ti, all the choices available seemed really great. The MSR had just a few negatives, but seems among the most popular and still highly reliable. The Optimus one seems good too, as does the larger version of the Primus multi-fuel stove. What you get really depends on what’s important to you and your budget.

Unlike pressurized gas can stoves, liquid fuel stoves take a little effort to figure out how to use, with extra mechanisms, and small issues with fuel leakage until you get the hang of the sequence of steps (not complicated, and not a big deal if you leak a little fuel), and though I haven’t needed to yet, they also require regular maintenance, mostly because most liquid fuels are a bit messy and leave soot behind.

But after futzing around a bit, I’ve become fairly familiar with how to make it work with Coleman White Gas and am reasonably confident I can get it to work with other fuels. I have some Klean-Heat, a kerosene alternative that burns much cleaner and leaves much less soot behind, and is also odorless.

One interesting discovery was that the direction the bottle is laying either opens or closes the nozzle naturally. So when you’re done cooking, just flip the bottle and the flame eventually dies out, after which you can close everything up.

The fuel line is also really thin and flexible, but still looks reasonably durable.

The other advantage is that when using liquid fuels, you’re creating less trash than when using gas canisters. Gas canisters are hard to refill and most people throw them away. With a liquid fuel stove, you are using a re-fillable bottle. You’re still producing trash if you’re filling the bottle from a fuel can that you throw away, but much less.

Finally, because the fuel source is kept separate, the stove is actually lower to the ground, which makes for a much more stable surface.

There are some negatives:
– more moving parts means more points of failure
– there should be four legs/arm supports instead of three. three is highly unstable.
– when the other reviewers say this is loud, they ain’t kiddin’, this thing roars.
– filling the bottles with liquid fuels actually wastes some because of spillage. But better some waste at home than some waste while out camping.
– you need a separate ignition source to get the flame going.
– it takes a minute or two to get it primed and warmed and ready to go, and takes a couple of minutes to kill the flame so that it’s ready to put away.
– There’s lots of loose pieces to lose, including the multi-tool and the different sized jet bolts.
– it takes up a ton of space compared to gas canister stoves, because unlike modern gas canister stove systems, you can’t fit everything into the cup/pot you use.
– as already mentioned, takes more care and maintenance than a pressurized gas canister stove

All in all though, despite the cons, the fact that it can use a variety of liquid fuels, including automotive gasoline and diesel in a pinch, and the better fuel efficiency compared to gas canisters in colder weather makes this a great stove.

If you can afford a few different stoves, the ideal stoves for me would change depending on the type of trip I take:

– Winter camping: Multi-fuel like this one plus a backup fuel gel, alcohol or wood burning stove
– Long duration hike-in camping with ready access to bio-fuels: Good wood burning stove (I have 5 different ones of different weights. The heaviest is good for base camp style backpacking trips. e.g. firebox, 180 stove, emberlit, etc. Have a small backup fuel gel or alcohol stove for days when you have trouble getting bio-fuels to burn (e.g. after rainy days)
– Long duration base-camp camping with no access to bio-fuels: old school white gas stove with long term reliability. e.g. svea 123
– 1-2 week daily hiking trip w/ ready access to bio-fuels: Light weight wood stove (180 stove, or emberlit, or vargo) is great. And have a tiny gas canister stove as a backup (e.g. Soto compact folding stove, Snow Peak gigapower, MSR micro-rocket)
– As above but no bio-fuel access: A gas canister stove system (e.g. JetBoil or MSR Reactor or similar) with extra gas canisters, or a multi-fuel stove with an extra fuel bottle. The lightest option here is a rock solid alcohol stove, though it’s harder to find non-toxic alcohol fuels, and the completely non-toxic burning 190 ethanol is super expensive.
– Long weekend daily hike w. ready access to bio-fuels: Light weight wood stove with a gas canister stove system
– Long weekend daily hike with no bio-fuel access: Gas canister stove system, (large like a JetBoil, or small like a Soto or Snow Peak), or alcohol stove.
– Ultralight late spring to early fall trip w/ bio-fuel access: wood stove + tiny alcohol stove as backup. Or a gas canister system.

– Backpacking where you have to fly somewhere outside the states: multi-fuel stove or liquid fuel stove.

I don’t do much international travel, but the cold weather aspect means this will be my go-to in winter backpacking, and it also means that if I ever have an emergency at home, siphoning some gas from the car or a spare fuel tank would mean I always have a stove in a rough situation.

LONG TERM USE UPDATE (November 2015):

I’ve ooh’d and aah’d over the omnilite from day one: light weight, small size, reliability, unscrewable brass heat shield, easy maintenance, and the amazing ergopump.

But one thing that was never drooled over was fuel/heat efficiency.

This thing sips fuel, whereas some other stoves guzzle fuel….

I didn’t get it before, but I get it now.  And it might just be the most important bit of engineering in this stove.

When Primus says the Omnilite is more fuel efficient, they’re not kidding, and it translates to powerful real world benefits.  In every day use, my numbers for a 700ml bottle (roughly 480-500 ml of White Gas) gives:
– Soto Muka:  Average 64 minutes
– Primus Omnifuel:  Average 85 minutes
– Optimus Polaris Optifuel:  Average 95 minutes
– Primus Omnilite: Average 122 minutes.

That’s not continuous run time throughout.  That’s a mix of between 10-25 uses per bottle before there was too little left for it to work.

Now, given, the Omnilite also takes longer to boil water than some other stoves.  But I typically get actual burn times of over an hour off of the smaller 0.35 L bottle.  When paired with the Snow Peak mini cookset, 25 oz of water boils in 4 minutes 15 seconds.  That’s basically 3 cups of water plus change.  Even if you account for wasting a little fuel each time for priming, that’s 12+ water boils, or 300 oz.  Pretty darn good for such a small bottle.

If you then pair this stove with a heat exchanger pot, that efficiency goes up again.

The Omnilite is no joke.  It’s moved back up to my #1 pick for 4 season backpacking when light to medium cooking duties are expected (4 season, not including -20F backpacking).

RECOMMENDED:

IMG_1876– Doesn’t quite fit in the GSI Halulite.

IMG_1888– Doesn’t quite fit in the smaller pot of the Snow Peak Multi-Compact cook set, but it does sort of fit in the larger one if you leave the smaller one at home.  The precision simmering makes the Primus Omnilite a good match with titanium cook sets.

IMG_1436
– Pair it with the smaller 0.35L bottle and the Optimus HE Weekend cook-set for solo camping with light cooking duty.  It fits easily with room to spare for maintenance and the QuietStove Silent Muter cap.

IMG_1386
– Pair it with the Snow Peak Trek Combo when camping with two people for light cooking duty (but the extra pot and pan from the combo allows more variety and more involved cooking)

IMG_2837
– Pair it with the Toaks 1300/1600 pot set when camping with two to three people for light to medium cooking (water boiling, re-hydrating sauce-heavy meals, pan frying foods, bacon and eggs, cheesy stuff, etc.)  NOTE:  Photo shows Toaks 1600 with larger Omnifuel 2.

IMG_1880
– Pair it with the Sno Peak Summit Hybrid for really lightweight backpacking.  Not ideal, since you have very limited cooking flexibility with a single cup/pot, but it is an awfully light liquid stove setup.

IMG_2956
– You can also pair this with the Optimus HE Cook Set.

As the Omnilite has been out since about 2012 or so, there are plenty of great reviews out there.

Two of my favorite are:

Other great reviews:

There are a ton of Omnilite videos, here are a few I Like:

diassemling and boil times

Cold weather use

Excerpt from Gear Junkie (author: shaun):
http://snowboardmountaineer.com/gear-review-jetboil-and-other-canister-gas-explained/

Having some trial and error experience with Jetboil, I can point out a few things about the fuel, and a few things that have worked for me. First, NOT all canister fuel is created equal. Here are a few for comparison, each with the relative temp values of each fuel – canister fuels are generally a mixture, and they are different ratios.

– Brunton/Kovea: 0% n-butane, 70% isobutane, 30% propane
– Coleman: 60% n-butane, 0% isobutane, 40% propane
– Primus: 70% n-butane, 10% isobutane, 20% propane
– Peak1: 70% n-butane, 0% isobutane, 30% propane
– MSR IsoPro: 0% n-butane, 80% isobutane, 20% propane
– JetPower: 0% n-butane, 80% isobutane, 20% propane
– Snow Peak: 0% n-butane, 65% isobutane, 35% propane

This is important since all fuels vaporize at different temps. Without some fuel left in the canister that is vaporized – it will leave no pressure to feed fuel to the stove. n-Butane vaporizes at 31°F. Isobutane vaporizes at 11°F. Propane vaporizes at -43°F. Essentially what that means is that n-Butane will not vaporize below 31°F, while the other mixtures do and leave useless liquid n-butane in the canister. At 11°F the same phenomenon happens with Isobutane.

So.. A low (or no) n-Butane mixture, and higher propane mixture are more suitable for colder temps.

End Excerpt.

Advertisements

One thought on “Primus OmniLite Ti Stove Review

  1. Pingback: Primus OmniFuel Stove Review | Camping Stoves and Other Gear Reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s