Optimus Svea 123R Stove Review (White gas/Naptha only)

OptimusSVEA123R IMG_8516

Base stats:
– BTU:  4,780
– Weight:  32 oz (2 lbs)
Stove comparison chart

Update Review:

With my stove collection growing further and quite a few more backpacking trips and hiking trips under my belt since my last review, it’s clear now that the SVEA is an even more reliable device than originally anticipated.

There is one flaw: The constant worry when cooking of accidentally running the wick dry. And that means never running the unit for more than 45 minutes straight. For how I currently use it, this isn’t a huge problem. I’ve done stews, instant soups, instant noodles, re-hydrating some food in water, and of course, the most common, boiling water.

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For all these tasks, there isn’t a situation where exceeding 45 minutes would be required, so, by checking the tank every couple of uses and keeping the tank reasonably filled, this little work horse has proven to be an excellent value for up to a week of travel.

Comparing this to other stoves I have and use, this stove is less bulky than multi-fuel stoves, and has fewer parts to lose, and is also comparable in weight. From a long term reliability perspective compared to multi-fuel stove, the SVEA is a strong competitor. No moving parts means no mechanical motion based wear and tear, and the simple operation means great consistency.

Simmering is a key advantage with the SVEA, but here, it’s not quite as competitive with other multi-fuel stoves for two reasons: The SVEA has a singular throttle, other multi-fuels have two throttle controls. But also, you can’t use a tall windscreen with this stove. tall wind screens are also heat reflectors, and since the tank is integrated into the stove, there is high temperature damage risk. And really good fine-tuned simmering control really benefits from both the twin throttling and the windscreen.

Wind is the SVEA’s enemy, so I do tend to think more when planning where to cook meals. a small boulder or group of rocks to act as a wall and block the wind makes a huge difference. In absence of that, I do use a tall windscreen, but keep it several inches away, which might not help as much, but some is better than none.

On trips where meals are expected to be pretty basic (not much fancier than re-hydrating, stews, instant noodles/soups, basically anything short of cooking where I run the risk of losing track of time and risking burning the wick), I’m backpacking alone, and when ultralight isn’t the aim, the SVEA often wins against my other stoves.

For ultralight, long distance trips, where I try to cover 10+ miles per day, and for group trips, the SVEA stays home.

Unlike my statement in the original review, this SVEA has not ended up on a mantle, but turned into a real work horse.

While the SVEA will never be as fast as a JetBoil or MSR Reactor, and never be as light as an alcohol stove, and never have the flexibility and long cooking times of multi-fuel stoves, nor the true simplicity of wood stoves, the SVEA is a great, reliable, stove, with a timeless design, and built to last for decades upon decades.

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Original Review:

With so many reviews of the Optimus SVEA 123R and 123, i don’t want to re-hash too much, but some points are worth repeating.

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Let’s start with something I haven’t noticed anyone else saying: The Snow Peak Summit Hybrid is ideal in that it perfectly fits on top of this SVEA instead of the dinky aluminum cup that comes with the SVEA. The Summit Hybrid slides all the way down to the bottom rim of the SVEA, but stops there. And when I say, perfect fit, I mean it’s so perfect, there’s really no movement once it’s put together. Almost as if Snow Peak planned the Summit Hybrid around the SVEA. The silicone top/handle holder can be placed just on top and if you get the hot lips, that can go in the SVEA.

Also, a straw cut to about 2 inches fits inside the SVEA as a cheap solution to get some gas in the primer pan. Some use eye droppers, others use a plastic syringe, but a 2 inch straw works just fine.

A tiny disposable lighter fits inside the SVEA too.

If you like, you could take that whole setup, put it in the Summit Hybrid bag, and place that into an Optimus Weekend HE pot set, which goes in another bag.

If you pre-fill the 4oz SVEA fuel storage, you have a setup good for 50 minutes of heat. Since boiling 2 cups takes about 5 minutes or so (maybe less, I’m approximating), that gives you about 20 cups of water boiling, enough time to re-hydrate food for dinner and make a hot drink, and in the morning, even cook breakfast to go with a morning cup of joe. Bring just one extra small bottle of fuel (350ml or about 10’ish oz’s) and you’ve got 3 hours and change of fuel. That’s enough for a full weekend with three cooked meals and plenty of hot drinks for two or maybe three people. Bring a 650ml bottle instead of the 350ml and that adds another 2 hours and change. So you could have about 5.5 hours worth of fuel with a full SVEA tank and a 650ml bottle. That’s good for a week long trip for two, with some good meals to boot. Pretty darn good if you ask me. make it a full liter bottle and you’ve got a little over 7.5 hours, maybe close enough to 8 to call it that.

Given that each 100g gas canister is good for about an hour, you’d need 8 canisters to do the same with a JetBoil, Reactor, or similar.

One could argue that integrated gas canister systems boil water in half the time, and it’s true, but then, if you’re planning on doing any cooking, you end up wasting a lot of time and doing a lot of simmering, so ultimately that 2 minutes savings may not mean that much.

Is this the most efficient stove out there? Nope. Gas canisters don’t require priming and are ready to go instantly and boil water so fast that by the time you’ve setup the SVEA and finished priming, a JetBoil of MSR Reactor user already has boiling water.

But it’s actually pretty comparable to modern multi-fuel stoves, and there’s less chance that debris will get into the mechanics of a SVEA than, say, a DragonFly, Whisperlite, Omnifuel/lite, or a Nova/+, because there aren’t really any pieces to put together, which…by the way, also leads to faster setup time. From unpacking to hot tea, I think the SVEA would best or tie most modern day liquid fuel stoves.

Every review I’ve read about the Optimus SVEA says that it is uber reliable wherever you go, and is the one system that won’t ever let you down.

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After trying it out myself, I believe it. The primer pan is not so much a pan as it is an indent in the tank where the stove stem connects, and the throttling screw/multi-tool is chained to it so as not to get lost, and the wind break/pot stand is designed for small cups and larger pots….It was easy to light up, and took very little primer fuel, just a few drops, really. Incidentally, while any stove should be placed on a flat surface, the indented primer pan is so shallow, you have to be especially careful to keep it level, or else you won’t get enough fuel into the primer indent.

Another reviewer has said you can use any fuel to prime the stove, even tinder and wood chips, and that all it would take is a little cleaning when you got home. I haven’t tried it, but believe it. A bit of alcohol gel (e.g. Sterno fuel) would probably also help instead of liquid fuels. That same reviewer mentioned that because this is a pressure stove that relies on heat, to be careful not to place it on snow as it will melt through. I carry the MSR micro table with me anyway, so I’m hopeful using the table will deal with that particular problem.

As reliable as it is, it is important to remember that it’s made of brass, a soft and pliable metal. There are some ridges built into the wind screen to help strength structure rigidity, but brass is brass. From that perspective, placing the Snow Peak Summit Hybrid and placing that inside an Optimus Weekender HE has the additional benefit of helping to protect the SVEA while in a tightly packed backpack. That’s about the same level of protection I give any compact gas stove or liquid fuel stove. Pots and cups help protect the stove, no matter which stove I decide to take with me.

Everything in this stove screams intelligent engineering, reliability, and compactness.

In fact, to my mind, there’s really only one drawback, and that’s the small 4oz tank. Of course, there are limits to what you might want to do with a tank for a system like this, especially since a larger tank might require a pump, and a pump would simply add another point of failure. But, still, even a 6 oz. tank would have been nice. Getting a little over an hour would really be perfect for a three day weekend alone making just hot drinks and re-hydrating some Mountain House single serving meals.

Oh, one more thing, when lighting in cold weather, I did realize that you have to prime it properly, for a good minute. If not primed well, once you light it, the stove sputters, and never builds enough pressure to really get going. It works, but sputters the entire time, significantly slowing cooking times, and probably wastes fuel in the process. So make sure you prime it well in the cold.

I’ll definitely take it camping a few times, but…you know….just a few. This is a thing of beauty, and a thing of beauty seems more suited to a mantle than backpack.

Long live the SVEA 123R (^_^).

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3 thoughts on “Optimus Svea 123R Stove Review (White gas/Naptha only)

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

  2. The svea 123 is probably one of the most time tested stoves ever, they are rated as one of the best stoves ever made and for good reason. Great review. One thing of note the stove will get quieter just before it runs out of fuel and when you hear less of its famous roar then it’s time to shut it down and add more fuel. Also don’t use a big/wide pots on this stove because it can lead to over heating which will cause the safety release in the fuel cap to open. This will cause the fuel escaping through the cap to light up like a fire breathing dragon from Lord of the Rings, not something you want to experience. After the stove cools just tap the fuel cap a few times and it should re-seal the safety release.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for the tip using a straw to prime, I’ve used that successfully for a couple of years now, and upgraded to a 1/4″ x 3″ piece of copper pipe that seems to match the Svea in aesthetics. That allowed me to ditch a tube of Coglhans fire paste, and later, the accessory pump and cap from my cooking outfit.

    Another fantastic mod is to remove the chain from the main stem of the stove using a pair of pliers, and crimp it closed onto the brass windscreen instead. You will find that you won’t get singed fingers anymore as you struggle to fit the windscreen.

    While the instructions from SVEA state not to use petrol, many owners do run unleaded auto fuel in their stoves, taking care not to let the contents sit, separate and varnish the interior. I prefer to use White gas, but it’s nice to know that I can fall back to siphoning some fuel out of the gas tank if the need arises at the cost of sooty pots and giving the stove a good rinse at the end of the trip. I ride a motorcycle and I’m a risk taker. YMMV

    It’s a great review.

    Liked by 1 person

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