What a great piece of gear.
This set is heavier than a lot of titanium or anodized aluminum pot/pan setups out there today, but it’s also wider than many of them. I own quite a few pot-pan sets and for 3-4 people, this is my favorite setup.
– Reasonably compact considering it’s size and usefulness.
– The pan is very wide. Even at the base of the pan, it’s 7.67 inches wide. great for pan cooking
– The compact setup has three cookware items, and two of them are non-stick, simplifying cleaning.
– The non-coated large pot is the main cooking pot and has the heat exchanger. This is a huge deal. Other pots I have take about 5-6 minutes to boil 36 oz of water using the Omnifuel, Omnilite, Nova+, SVEA 123R, Hiker+, Soto Windmaster, etc. But using the Terra HE pot, 36 zo of water at 60 degrees F gets to an aggressive roiling boil in about 3.5 minutes. Over a three day weekend, of backpackers, that translates to a big savings on fuel, which also means bringing less fuel for the same number of meals. Well worth it for the heat exchanger alone. That non-coated pot is harder to clean, but I have no problem with working a little extra hard cleaning if it’s just one pot.
And the biggest pro of all:
– The Omnifuel (also the Omnifuel II) fits inside!
You don’t know how many pans I have where it doesn’t fit.
Even wrapped well to avoid scuffing the non-stick coating, it fits with ease! NOTE: Many pots fit the Omnilite, but I prefer the Omnifuel for it’s greater ruggedness.
Since I have many pot and pan sets, and many stoves, I’ve been able to experiment with a variety of combinations and determine which setups work best for which scenarios. For the 3-4 person setup, there are three types of trips:
- 3-5 people. Backpacking in pretty far (2-5 days), light as possible. Or bringing a lot of specialty gear for fun activities (e.g. rafting gear).
These types of trips have very little room for cooking gear and food. Either I’m carrying specialty gear that is already pretty heavy, or I want to get as much weight off my legs as possible for a gruelingly long hike.
This is mostly dehydrated food, oatmeal, etc. For this, the JetBoil wins hands down.
- 3-5 people. Weekend backpacking, far, no specialty gear
This type of trip has more flexibility, so a little extra weight for food makes sense. No complicated food, maybe a stew or spam and tortillas, simple fair. The Trangia 25-2 setup with either the Trangia alcohol stove or the X2 multifuel setup is a good option here. This setup is probably my favorite. The omnilite paired with a Snow Peak Trek or Mini-cookset works well here too. These setups offer a lot more cooking options, but I worry (perhaps unnecessarily) that the pots and pans for the Trangia or Snow Peak or Toaks might have failures. I’ve never experienced a failure in the field, and I’ve seen some experienced folks use their setups for years on end, doing some seriously hard core cooking with used and abused Trangias and Snow Peaks. But I’ve also seen what careless errors can do to this type of gear in forums, so these are light to medium duty setups in my mind.
- 3-5 people. Weekend backpacking and cooking
This is the most common type of trip for me. Hike in isn’t far, maybe 6 miles max, more typically 3-5 miles hike in. Get to a lake, setup camp, and chill, maybe do a day hike the following day. Cooking is a big thematic component on these trips. And for this, there’s no question in my mind: Primus Omnifuel + Optimus HE 3 piece cookset is the way to go. I also add the GSI Outoors Crossover Kitchen Kit (it has tongs, and all cooking utensils are non-metal to protect non-stick coatings) and also a 10″ tall folding panel windscreen.
Bacon, eggs, and hasbrowns or omellettes for breakfast, savory pancakes (Asian style), fried fish wraps for lunch, stew or pasta for dinner….Basically, non-stop cooking for big eaters.
There’s really no limit to what you can do with the Omnifuel paired with the Optimus HE cookset. This setup is also popular on car camping trips.
– It is a bit heavy for backpacking, so I wouldn’t recommend this for 2 people. A titanium pot set would do you better for that.
– The pot gripper is not the one in the photo. It is metal, which is great for durability, but there are only some silicon “nails” to protect the non-stick coated pan and pot. That’s not good and will definitely scratch that surface. I am currently searching for good silicone pot grippers to protect the non-stick pan and pot.
A good way to use this setup seems to be: Leave the coated pot in the neopreme bag, cook with the HE pot, transfer to the coated pot before starting the next thing, and close the neoprene cover to keep the food in the coated pot warm. For boiling water, the pan makes a nice cover. Covering the pot with the pan base-side-down is a little easier as you can use the pot gripper to grab the pan when needed. Anything splashing up from inside the pot may get the outer base of the pan dirty, but that’s not a big deal and I don’t worry about scrubbing that side.
Cleaning the Heat Exchanger pot is a pain. So I’ve changed the way I use this set:
First, as already mentioned, I only use stoves that can simmer with this set. A well controlled and consistent simmering stove allows me to cook with low heat, and that ensures the non-stick coating lasts longer, avoiding food burn-in as well as cracking from too much heat.
So, only the frying pan and non-stick sauce pan are used for food.
The Heat Exchanger pot is only used for boiling water. If I plan on cooking up a stew and need to start with boiling water, simply use the HE pot to boil the water, transfer water to non-stick sauce pan throttling down the stove.
This way, I always have a pot that’s clean and ready to boil more water (for tea/coffee/hot chocolate, for oatmeal or instant soup, for cleaning, etc.)
All in all, this is my favorite semi-compact cook-set.
Rock on Optimus.
COOKING TEST (Copied from Omnifuel II  Review addendum):
Just for fun (I don’t usually do this in reviews), I figured I’d show off the simmering prowess of this stove.
The Omnilite, Omnifuel, and Omnifuel II are all incredible simmering stoves, which makes them ideal for non-stick coated pots and pans.
To show this off, here’s a test noodle curry, with just four core components:
- Curry concentrate
My goal in this test was to minimize dirty dishes, keeping things as clean as possible.
Also, while this is no where near ultralight backpacking…and is more like super heavy backpacking, I still wanted to use just the gear that I’ve taken on backpacking trips before, so here’s what I used:
- GSI macro table (Yep, super heavy table for backpacking, but fits nicely in the Tatonka Lastenkraxe, and I take it on Emigrant Wilderness weekend trips fairly often….crazy, I know).
- Optimus HE Cook Set. While pretty large, it comes often on weekend trips as there are usually 3-4 people in my group.
- Liquid fuel stove (in this case, the Primus Omnifuel II, but could be any)
- Windscreen 9.5″. This goes on every backpacking trip, regardless of stove.
- GSI kitchen cook kit. This has most of the tools and condiments that I need, and works well with non-stick coated cook sets. Best of all, it has plastic tongs.
- Kuhl silicone pot gripper. The Optimus HE cook set comes with a pot gripper, and it does have some silicone dots to help mitigate scratching non-stick cookware, but if you’re clutsy like, those dots aren’t enough. The Kuhl silicone pot gripper is full sized silicone. While it’s ridiculously large for backpacking, this is a must have in my book if you use non-stick coated cookware.
- folding water bucket.
- tiny steel knife (could have been the leatherman)
So here goes:
Starting with cutting up the onion and bacon.
Prime the stove:
First up, cook the bacon in the frying pan. Keep the flame nice and low to keep anything from burning. As the oil builds, pour the excess into the non-stick sauce pan with the chopped onions.
Ok….time for a break. Boil up some water for a little instant coffee to keep warm.
Now that my instant coffee is up (in my little GSI Halulite), next up, fry up the onions with the oil from the bacon.
Then, get the noodles ready.
and then get the curry concentrate going in water.
After that, throw it all together.
And tadaaaaaa! noodle curry (^-^).
Probably would have been better with cut up carrots and potatoes, or maybe some celery, but still plenty good.
Okay, the Snoopy bowl and metal silverware isn’t backpacking gear, but, other than that, pretty good little experiment.