Optimus Vega Review

OptimusVegaIMG_0817

Base stats:
– BTU:  12,500 in liquid LPG mode, 4,750 in standard LPG mode
– Weight:  6.28 oz
Stove comparison chart

I’ve purchased quite a few gas canister stoves in the search for that perfect one, and also have gotten into  alcohol stoves, liquid fuel stoves, and wood stoves.  Sort of a strange hobby, but comparing these stoves in actual usage is the only real way to understand them.

The Optimus Vega, among LPG stoves, is my first choice when heading out and planning on doing a fair bit of group cooking, while still keeping weight and pack space at a minimum.  Rafting weekends are ideal.

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Between testing friends’ stoves on hiking trips throughout the year and now owning a few gas canister stoves, I’m now, finally, at the point where I understand some of the pros and cons of the various gas canister stoves out there.

While there’s simply no question that for simple summer camping where you’re primarily boiling water for drinks, de-hydrated food packs, or instant soups, a JetBoil, with its lock-on, integrated stove system, is hard to beat, it’s far from perfect.

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The Optimus Vegas stove is now my second favorite gas canister stove.  A fair number of friends who’ve tried it agree and a few of them went out and purchased one.  If you want a lot more cooking flexibility with an LPG gas can stove, the Optimus Vega is a pretty high contender.

It really has four advantages over stoves that are fixed to the gas canister (like a JetBoil, MSR Reactor, Snow Peak GigaPower, Soto Windmaster, etc.).

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First, because the burner and stand is separated from the fuel canister, the burner is closer to the ground and therefore much more stable.

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Second, the legs and pot stand are very wide, which further adds to the stability of the burner unit, but also gives a lot of confidence for putting larger pots on the pot stand.

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Third, the stove portion itself is very wide, creating a broad heat around for the pot, This is particularly useful for cooking with larger pots. You can’t get rid of hot spots, but this mitigates hot spots much better than some competitors out there that make cooking with larger pots very difficult.

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Fourth, the canister can be flipped, easily, even while in use. The fold out legs are very flimsy, but more than enough to hold the 100g and 220g and stable enough even for the larger 450g canister stoves.

Here’s one more small advantage: If you’re like me, you’re not a huge fan of most of the thick aluminum foil wind screens out there. I’m a big fan of the folding slate windscreens. These slate style windscreens come in two heights for the most part: 9.5″ and 5.25″. The taller windscreen is good for a lot of the fixed gas canister stoves like the JetBoil and MSR Reactor. But it’s length, even when folded, takes up space in a pack, and frankly, more prone to getting bent and damaged in the field. The smaller 5.25″ is less prone to bending in a pack, and luckily, has more than enough height to protect the Optimus Vega Stove from the worst of the wind. So when packing this up, I can pack the smaller windscreen and save space.

One small disadvantage is the lack of a piezo lighter. I picked up an MSR pocket piezo igniter, but frankly, the Optimus Vega could easily have had one integrated. Even my GigaPower and tiny Soto Compact Folding and Soto Windmaster have a piezo igniter. Strange to exclude it.
Another, probably obvious disadvantage, is that despite being very small, it’s much too cumbersome compared to a lock-on stove, to have BOTH the stove and a gas canister inside most cups. You’d either need a fairly tall cup or perhaps a small pot that is wide enough to fit both units inside. This small disadvantage is not as bad as carrying a multi-fuel stove, which requires too much space for ultralight backpacking, but it does take up more space than a jetboil, where the gas canister and all the stove pieces fit inside the JetBoil cup itself. Then again, the Optimus Vega is small enough that you could store it in a cup and have the gas canisters fill other nooks and crannies in your backpack, or you could put two gas canisters and leave the Vega in another pocket. Either way, it’s not that big a deal. Just noteworthy.

While it’s true that the Optimus Vega, when combined with the rest of your cook system, takes more space than a JetBoil or Reactor, it’s really great in dealing with two camping challenges:
– The need to use larger pots or stability from wind
– Very cold weather, below 20 degrees F.
– It takes a lot less space than the de facto winter stove systems: multi-fuel stoves.

So if you plan on winter camping and have enough gas canisters to do what you have to do, or if you’re cooking for 3 or 4 and plan on using 1.5 or 2 liter pots for cooking, the Optimus Vega is a good way to go.

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.

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One thought on “Optimus Vega Review

  1. Pingback: Optimus Polaris Optifuel w/0.4L Fuel Bottle Review | Camping Stoves and Other Gear Reviews

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