Optimus Polaris Optifuel w/0.4L Fuel Bottle Review

OptimusPolarisOptifuelOptimusPolarisOptifuel2

Base stats
– BTU:  LPG: 11K+
– BTU:  White gas:  14K+
– BTU:  Kerosene, Diesel, Jet Fuel, unleaded, unknown
– Weight:  17 oz including pump (Not including bottle or carry bag)
Stove comparison chart

Optimus essentially added different features from their other modern stoves to the Nova+ and released it as the Polaris Optifuel.

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I have a lot of different kinds of Optimus stoves, from the classic SVEA 123R and Hiker+ to the Vega, the Crux, and the Nova+, and many of the new features are direct from some of these others.

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Interestingly, it appears as though Optimus kept most of the core high-tech features of the Nova+, including the single nozzle (no need to change jet bolts), the curved wrap-around stand/pot holder, the magnetic jet cleaning needle, and the sturdy and reliable base and heat-shield.

For a more detailed review of the Optimus Nova+:  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/optimus-of-sweden-nova-stove/

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They then took the thinner fuel line and fuel line connector from the Optimus Vega, the throttle from the Crux, and changed the fuel line connector on the pump to a lindal valve to match LPG gas canisters.

I’m not really sure those changes would make this qualify as a next generation stove, as to me it’s more like an evolutionary hybrid of other stoves, but they are welcome changes.

The Polaris Optifuel throttle and heat concentration rod is very long, considerably longer than the Nova+.  This makes the Polaris Optifuel less than ideal for packing into a kitchen cook set for more compact setups.  Not a huge problem, and many other liquid fuels stoves suffer for one reason or another for being ill suited to fitting in camp sets, but since the pot stand legs are so beautifully designed to wrap around the heat shield, you’d think Optimus would have thought through the heat concentrator throttle rod a little better.  For instance, the MSR Dragonfly has resolved this by allowing the stove portion to rotate 90 degrees vertically so the rod is aligned with the wrap-around pot stand wires, allowing the entire setup to fit in narrow yet tall cook sets like the Snow Peak Trek.  This is not a deal breaker, but it is the kind of engineering that adds a little gravy to the overall attractiveness of a stove for backpacking use.

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The Nova+ fuel line is very thick. Not quite as thick as the MSR stove fuel lines, but much more rugged than necessary (have never had an issue with a thinner fuel line, so, glad the Polaris Optifuel line is thinner). Also, the Nova+ fuel line itself acts as the secondary throttle.  You twist the fuel line itself to open and adjust the fuel. The inferred goal for this is to eliminate the lengthy fixed copper fuel rod and throttle combination, but the Nova+ fuel line is unwieldy and ends up rather cumbersome to use. I invariably splash and spill a little fuel in my effort to throttle by twisting the fuel line. The new thin fuel line makes twisting it as a throttler impossible, and the  advent of the Crux throttling handle is a very welcome change.

The thinner fuel line, being from the Optimus Vega, also has the side extension “legs” that are used to stabilize an LPG gas canister while it is upside down. This allows LPG stoves to be used in the winter, and also ensures you get all the fuel out, given that there’s always a few minutes worth of fuel left in an LPG gas canister in cooler weather conditions. They also found another use for these extension legs when incorporated into the Polaris Optifuel. Extending the legs allows the bottle to stay in the optimum position for “on” and “off”.

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Which brings us to the fuel pump. I’m least impressed with this pump and frankly, have never seen a fuel pump that matches the genius of the Primus ErgoPump. The new Optimus fuel pump is essentially the same as the Nova+ fuel pump, except that the connector is now a lindal valve connector, identical to LPG gas canisters. That’s a bummer. To begin with, the pump portion still uses an “L” shaped end, which is an unnecessary structurally weak point, and also slightly cumbersome to remove attach and detach from the bottle.

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But the bigger problem is that the fuel intake, the pipe inside the bottle where fuel enters to travel along the fuel line to the stove is still the crappy soft plastic tube from the previous generation.

It’s crappy because the softness of the tube means that it does not go where it’s supposed to….They don’t have a choice in this because that silly “L” shaped air intake forces the pump to be angled when inserting or removing the pump to or from the bottle, so the fuel intake has to be flexible in order to bend it during insertion or removal….

You see, that soft plastic fuel line is supposed to be angled so that the tip is touching the inside wall edge of the fuel bottle. Why is this important? Because the stove is supposed to be designed to run either air or fuel through that fuel line depending on which way the bottle is laid down. Lay the bottle down one way, and that fuel line should be touching the bottom of the inside wall, hence, only fuel goes through. flip the bottle, and the fuel line should now be touching the top inside edge of the bottle, hence, only air goes through.

But it doesn’t freaking work right….why? Cuz the soft plastic does not go to the inside edge of the bottle. Really a terrible design flaw.  To be fair, Optimus did try to improve that soft plastic intake by making it shorter. (Shorter = more rigid). It still doesn’t work as well as a meyal rod intake, and they could take a lesson from the Soto Muka fuel pump in the plastic’s rigidity, but it is a slight improvement over the Nova+ pump.

[SIDE NOTE: I thought about using the Primus Ergo Pump with the Optimus Polaris Optifuel stove, but this has a problem too. With Primus, the primary throttle is on the fuel line where the lindal valve is. With Optimus, the primary throttle is on the pump….so if I use a Primus ErgoPump with the Optimus stove, it means I only have the secondary throttle at the stove end. Frankly, I don’t know if that secondary throttle is enough or not, and it also limits finely tuned simmer control a little. So….no switching…booo].

Apart from that one issue, I really like the Polaris Optifuel. It has all the wonderful features of the Nova+. including the wraparound pot stand and legs which is much more compact while giving a lot of area and stability for pots, the magnetic jet cleaning needle, the wide roarer plate to help reduce decibels a little (at least compared to the jet engine sound of the Primus stoves), and the simplicity of not changing the jet for different types of fuel. Great little stove.

On a side note, a nice thing about the stove is the grid mark pattern which makes the portions of the stove that require twisting a little more grip.

Incidentally, on the topic of not changing the jet bolts, I should say that it’s kind of a gimmick.  It works, mostly.

You see, other stoves require changing the jets because different jet hole sizes are optimized for different types of fuel. The rule of thumb is the cleaner the fuel, the wider the gauge. So kerosene, which is a fairly dirty fuel uses the smallest gauge jet, while LPG is so clean that it is optimized with a very wide gauge jet. This is an oversimplification of course, as it’s really also the volatility of the fuel that comes into play. Kerosene requires a fairly high temp to become volatile, so the hotter the stove is, the easier it is to vaporize.  The smaller gauge aides in vaporizing the fuel. White gas is volatile at a lower temperature, and LPG gas canister, using propane and butane mixes, are volatile at very low temperatures, so there isn’t a need to vaporize as much.

In any case, the point is, on other stoves, you don’t have to change the jet bolt either. You can run kerosene through a thicker gauge jet bolt, and run LPG through a smaller gauge jet bolt. It will affect the efficacy of the flame, but it’s not a problem at all.

When using the Nova+ and the Polaris Optifuel, it’s clear that they chose a middling gauge jet bolt, and just state that you don’t have to change it. When you run kerosene through those two stoves, it performs about the same as if I used another stove that requires changing the jet bolts and leaving the middle gauge in there while using kerosene. Really, an Optifuel or Nova+ running kerosene doesn’t function nearly as well as using another stove using kerosene with an optimized jet.

I was wrong here.  It wasn’t until I did more exhaustive testing that I realized something was up here.  The bolt did lose efficiency when switching to dirtier fuels, but did not lose as much efficiency as other liquid fuel stoves where I didn’t change the bolt.  So Optimus is clearly doing something here to improve the efficiency of the jet bolt across different fuels.  I can’t gauge whether that efficiency fully optimizes each fuel, but it does optimize it somewhat.

So….the advertising around “one jet for all fuels” is quite the gimmick. They’re not lying, but they’re also leaving out some important info.  It’s not a gimmick.

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Interestingly, Optimus chose to use a cheaper bag for the Polaris Optifuel and that’s a bit of a surprise. The Nova+ bag was absolutely awesome, and a great design in and of itself. Not really sure why Optimus chose a cheaper bag for the Optifuel. Bit of a downer.

All in all though, if you plan on using mostly white gas and LPG canisters, the Polaris Optifuel will serve you just fine. And it still works with kerosene and diesel (not as well, but certainly serviceable in a pinch and you still get the blue flame when the stove is hot enough).

With that said, I have to admit that this stove is fun to use, and I expect to get several years of use out of it.  This is a reliable, sturdy stove, built to high standards.

I’ve now used it fairly extensively, and I can attest to the long term usability of the stove.  Even in daily use for nearly a month, there are no noticeable issues with the stove.  The unit does take a fairly long time to cool down, comparable to the Primus Omnifuel, much slower than the Omnilite.  Paired with the Optimus HE Weekend, it boils water very quickly, just a couple of minutes with the floor heat reflection and the windshield heat reflector, as long as you’re using the pot that has the heat exchanger.

As mentioned above and proven over extended use, that “off” position for the bottle doesn’t work very well until the bottle is almost half empty.  The “off” position works just fine below the halfway point, but you waste a fair amount of fuel early on.  So, to deal with that, I don’t both de-pressurizing the bottle until I’ve used a 700ml bottle (550ml of actual fuel) for at least a total of 45 minutes.  Of course, there is a risk there.  When packing it, one of the throttles of this stove system is on the pump itself, which has proven a tiny bit of a design flaw, as it can twist open while on the hike, leaking fuel.  But it only happened once and even then because I had not tightened it very much and left it in the mesh pocket, so just be a little careful, and there’ll be no problem.

If you’re in the market for a multi-fuel stove, you could do a lot worse than this bad boy.

Other reviews

Youtube reviews

Optimus has a long history of great stoves, and other great cooking related gear.  Below are a few reviewed here:
– STOVE:  Optimus Nova+  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/optimus-of-sweden-nova-stove/
– STOVE:  Optimus Hiker+  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/optimus-of-hiker-stove/
– STOVE:  Optimus SVEA 123R  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/optimus-svea-123r-stove/
– STOVE:  Optimus Vega  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/optimus-vega/

– POT/PAN Optimus HE Weekend  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/optimus-terra-weekend-he-95l-pot/
– POT/PAN  Optimus Terra HE 3-piece  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/optimus-terra-he-3-piece-cookset/

– Cozy Optimus food cozy  https://somecampingstoves.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/optimus-heat-insulation-pouch/

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11 thoughts on “Optimus Polaris Optifuel w/0.4L Fuel Bottle Review

  1. Pingback: Optimus of Sweden Nova+ Stove Review | Camping Stoves and Other Gear Reviews

  2. Old post but I’m curious: have your tried to light this stove with a ferro-cerium rod while in LPG mode? I’ve had no luck with a ferro rod… have to resort to match or lighter. (waiting on a piezo lighter to arrive)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi CJ, Thanks for the post and sorry for the late reply. I use a magnesium laced ferro rod, and it does work in LPG mode. The magnesium lace allows for more spark and lasts a tad longer.

      It will also work on white gas, when letting some of the liquid soak into the pad. For some reason, it doesn’t work when the whether is cooler (not cold, just cooler). White gas is volatile to well below zero, so I should have consistent results for 40F degrees that I do at 70F, but there you go.

      Kerosene doesn’t light well with ferro-rods unless it is a very hot day. The dark shield of the Optimus Polaris Optifuel soaks up heat from the sun if left out, which in turn gets the kero nice and volatile.

      The best solution is to have a tiny bottle of de-natured alcohol, which you can light easily. This will allow the LPG fuel to light every time.

      Best of luck.

      Like

  3. Any more thoughts or did you try using the Primus Ergopump with this. I don’t really understand why not having a throttle at the bottle would make a difference for simmering or flame control. That is the whole point of having the second throttle near the burner. On my omnifuel the control at the pump end does nothing for flame control. I don’t see why the Ergopump wouldn’t work on this. Is not having a valve at the bottle a safety problem since you can’t shut the fuel flow off near the bottle?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment.

      To your point, doing this is definitely possible. Bruntion Nova, before Optimus purchased the stove division, is actually setup this way. So there’s only a throttle at the stove end.

      From a simmering perspective, you’re right, it’s proven to not be a major issue.

      I do have one concern with this. And I’ve experienced this with the Brunton Nova already.

      The stove end throttle mechanism is pretty ingenious. The long throttle needle is threaded at the very tip. And the throttle works because there is a single groove, running parallel to the needle that crosses through the threading.

      That groove is the channel where the fuel goes through. It’s a very narrow channel.

      Because that groove is at the tip of the needle, right by the heating ring, or bell, this is also where the vaporizing of the fuel takes before just before hitting the stove head.

      With white gas that is completely clean, it’s not a problem. But with dirtier fuels, the vaporization also results in carbon deposits.

      The carbon deposits eventually build up to the point where the narrow channel completely clogs up.

      With dirty kerosene, diesel, or dirty gas (like Bencia, common in the south), it clogs up after a half dozen uses or so.

      So you end up having to field strip the stove to scrape out the carbon deposits fairly often.

      Of course, that’s the same whether you have a dual ended pair of throttles or a single throttle, but I am finding that I rely more heavily on the bottle end throttle, and generally leave the stove end throttle completely open, which makes everything work for a few extra sessions.

      Having said all that, as long as you have continuous access to clean fuel, you should be good to go.

      The Optimus Polaris Optifuel continues to be among my favorite stoves, and I use it a fair bit.

      If you continue to use, long term, the Primus Ergopump with the Optifuel, and you have zero problems, please let me know. Would love to hear more about it.

      Like

  4. Dear TEKKSTER,

    Hello from South Africa, I am in the market for my first multi-fuel stove. I’ll be heading up into northern Mozambique (seriously remote bush area) in a couple of months for a month-long backpacking trip. Taking the area into regard I need a stove that can burn as many fuels as possible. I prefer LPG canisters (compact & clean) but in the area that I’ll be finding myself we will have mostly Diesel, Petrol, and Paraffin (kerosene). White gas will be very hard to come by and LPG canisters even more so. But when a canister is available that will be my No. 1 choice.

    I have been saving money for a multi-fuel stove so the price is not an issue. MSR is locally available but the rest: Primus, Optimus etc. I can’t seem to find locally and I’ll have to buy of Amazon or Ebay which is also not an issue.

    I don’t want the stove to stop working or give me issues on this trip (as far as possible) as I wont have access to spares etc.

    What would you buy if you were me?

    Kindest Regards
    Wes

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Wes,

      Though I’ve never been to South Africa, I did live in Kenya for a little bit with some time in Tanzania and Somalia.

      I really love all the stoves reviewed here, but for different reasons. As I recall, the fuel in many countries in the African continent can be very clean, but just as often, the fuel can be dirty as well. For this reason, I would naturally avoid bringing stoves that have a fuel throttle at the stove end. Such stoves use a spindle throttle with a narrow conduit along the screw threads. Because that conduit is very narrow, clean versions of white gas, kerosene (Klean Heat, K-1), and clean versions of gasoline work very well long term, but dirty fuels cause carbon deposits to clog that conduit very quickly.

      Therefore, the choices I would consider are: MSR Whisperlite Universal, MSR XGK, Edelrid Hexon.

      Of the three,

      – The MSR XGK EX is the most reliable, but has the least simmering capability. In fact, simmering is not really an option, but the extra-wide generator coil means carbon buildup is not a problem, day in, day out.

      – The Edelrid Hexon is very compact and light, which also allows it to be used with other systems, including the Trangia storm cook sets, the FireBox 5″ G2, and the appalachian titanium stand. But, it is also a slightly flawed design that needs modifications to work correctly. While not great at simmering compared to dual throttle stoves, it gets pretty close with a little practice.

      – The MSR Whisperlite Universal is a tad bulky compared to the Edelrid Hexon, but it is a little more reliable, and maintenance is much easier. It has better simmer capability than the XGK. It is also naturally much quieter than roarer stoves (most liquid fuel stoves are roarer stoves). It may not be quite as perfectly reliable as the XGK, but the difference is very tiny, and the greater simmer is worth it. The MSR WhisperLite is also capable of using LPG gas canisters.

      NOTE: One issue with the MSR WhisperLite and MSR XGK EX. The stoves are exceptionally reliable, but the pumps are not that reliable. So, I would make sure to pick up an extra pump, and a maintenance kit. This is probably a good enough set of parts to last a very long time.

      So, I took a little long to answer your question, but if you are expecting to be using very dirty fuels (like Bencina white gas, or un-processed diesel), I believe the MSR Whisperlite Universal is the best of all features.

      Like

      • Yes, the fuels can most certainly be very dirty. In parts where towns are very far apart or inland, away from the main road along the coast, you buy diesel & pertol in 2L and 5L plastic containers such as old could-drink bottles along side the road.

        Thanks a lot for the advice.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Great question.

      I think the Nova+ and Polaris OptiFuel are both rather under-appreciated.

      But, in answer to your question, longer term, the pump on the Polaris OptiFuel has proven much more consistently effective. The pump on the Nova+ is rather annoying because the intake doesn’t work as consistently.

      Both stoves are very impressive when it comes to simmering. I think they simmer even better than the Primus OmniFuel, and almost as well as the Optimus Hiker+.

      But the low-quality fuel question is a tough one for both of these stoves. That’s because they both use the spindle needle at the stove end.

      The Nova+ adjusts the spindle needle via the hose itself. That hose is thicker, so more durable, but rather unwieldy to use.

      The Polaris OptiFuel uses a more traditional “T” connector and the common threaded spindle.

      The problem with stove side throttles is not the method of throttling, though. Rather, the problem is the “tip” of the spindle, since it has grooves in the threads at the tip to channel the fuel.

      Therefore, both stoves have equal problems with dirty fuel.

      So, if you need to use dirty fuel, just note that both stoves will require regular maintenance on the spindle. It’s not hard to do, but it has one drawback, and that’s the fact that the spindle is not really intended for frequent cleanings. It can be taken apart, but only so many times.

      If you’re planning on using dirty fuels like Bencina in Mexico, I’d honestly recommend stoves that use the older generator coil.

      The generator coil type uses a much wider channel for the fuel, so it takes much much longer for carbon deposits to build up.

      For this reason, the MSR WhisperLite Universal is my all time favorite dirty fuel stove.

      While it is technically not as resistant to dirty fuels as the MSR XGK-EX (which has an ultra-large generator coil), it has a crucial advantage since it can run LPG cans and liquid fuel. It is also better at simmering (Not as good as Nova+ or Polaris) and is quieter.

      Still, I’ve run diesel through the Nova+ and it worked fine for 3-4 hours total use (two full weekends of camping) before needing maintenance, and I run about 2 Liters of Kerosene through the Polaris OptiFuel and have not needed to clean it yet.

      I used it today, in fact, with Klean-Heat kerosene, to make Italian sausage and eggs to test a new fry pan I got, and it’s still running very strong.

      So, they are both definitely usable with dirty fuels. Not a bad choice, but I confess, neither would make my top 5 list for dirty fuel use.

      Like

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