I was invited to test a stove from the Primus Multifuel range and decided to do some research into which model would best suit my needs. I searched around the net for inspiration and soon came across several You Tubes produced by Primus. The videos featured what I presume is a Primus employee stood in a workshop with the stove in question stood on a bench. His attire is check shirt and beard and he talks through the subject matter in subtitled Swedish with an earnest calm voice and clear expertise about all things Primus.
It sums up all I previously thought about Primus – everything about the video, from the environment it is filmed in to the calming voice, is confidence inspiring and exudes an air of reliability and attention to detail – typically Scandinavian really. I ended up watching a bunch of them and, despite the unfussy style and not overly action packed subject matter, I really enjoyed them.
The video also portrays the experience Primus draw on in their stove making. The company was formed in 1892 and, among being used on many other ground breaking adventures, Primus stoves accompanied Amundsen to the South Pole, were used on the 1953 Everest expedition and in 1996 the final successful testing of the first LPG/liquid fuel was completed on Everest in preparation for release the following year. They have always been trusted by some of the world’s gnarliest adventurers and they have always been innovative.
My personal experience with Primus began in my scouting days. The stoves we used then were chunky brass units (which I always imagine looked a bit like the 1953 Everest ones!) which took practice to use efficiently and required constant love and attention, but they never let us down on many happy camping adventures and I learnt to love liquid fuel stoves during those formative years.
After being lulled by my calming Primus friend for a while it seemed my needs would be well suited by a Primus Omnilite Ti. This is the lightest Multifuel stove in the Primus range and is designed with the features needed for off the beaten track wilderness adventures. The Omnilite Ti is a true multifuel and can operate on canister gas, white fuel, paraffin or unleaded petrol.
The Omnilite Ti stove and pump came well boxed along with a storage bag, multi function maintenance tool, windshield and baseplate, silicone grease and a 1/3 litre fuel bottle. There is also a selection of jets which need to be changed depending on which type of fuel you are using. The first time you pull the stove from the box you realise this is a top quality product. The finish is impeccable and the attention to detail is very impressive. Having said that, this is a £190 investment so you would expect something special.
The Ti in the name comes from parts of the stove being of titanium construction and it is remarkable that Primus have got the weight of the main burner unit and fuel line down to 224 grams. Having said that, you’ll need to factor in the pump weight of 113 grams and fuel bottle (weight varies according to size but examples are 144 grams for the 0.6 litre sIze and 92 grams for the 0.35 litre size). If you then factor in the windshield and tool you are looking at about another 100 grams. Finally, the storage bag, which is constructed from very durable Cordura, adds another couple of hundred grams. So, if you take everything along with you then it is a fairly weighty package but, of course, if you just take the stove and a canister of gas you can get that weight down very easily to reasonable backpacking weights and in its liquid fuel form I really see the Omnilite Ti as a stove primarily for off the beaten track wilderness and expedition use where you will accept the weight anyway.
I have been using the stove for several months but I’m certainly not claiming this yet to be a long term test. Having said that, it has been used primarily over the winter months so I feel I have a good understanding of it’s cold weather capabilities and how it performs in more challenging conditions – and if it can perform well in cold windy weather it will manage less challenging conditions.
Setting the stove up is extremely simple – open up the 3 pan support legs and connect your chosen fuel supply. The legs are solidly built and slot into place so you can always be sure they are fully extended. They are also broad and the stove feels well balanced and stable. There are other nice touches like broad feet on the support bases and serrated teeth on the upper edge of the feet to help stop pans sliding off.
Once the legs are assembled the fuel line lies flat on the floor ready to attach the fuel bottle. Having used similar stoves where the fuel line was quite short and stiff (with the tendency that the line struggled to lie flat and wanted to tip the stove over), I was really pleased that Primus have made the lead long enough to lie flat and it is also quite supple. Great design.
More of that attention to detail is evident at the connection point too. The fuel bottle screws into the lead via a threaded socket that spins. This is brilliant as it allows you to hold the bottle still and screw it very easily without the stove having to move.
The valve at the connection allows an on/off action which lets you close the fuel off easily. You just spin the fuel bottle from one side to the other to be on or off. This also means that, once the fuel supply is cut, the fuel line will bleed as the remaining fuel in the line is used up. You will never have fuel laying in the fuel line and can instantly switch between gas and liquid fuel. It also ensures that no fuel drips on you when you disconnect the fuel bottle. The only potential downside to this is that the stove continues to burn for a minute or two after the fuel supply is cut but as you become more experienced with the stove you learn to predict when you need to cut the fuel to coincide with your food being ready.
If you are using gas it is then simply a case of turning on the fuel valves and lighting the stove. There is no inbuilt igniter on the Omnilite Ti so a lighter or match will get you started.
For liquid fuels you need to pressurise the fuel bottle and prime the stove before lighting. To pressurise you simply crank the inbuilt pump 20 or so times and then open the control valves for a few seconds to allow a small amount of fuel to flow onto the wick material that lies below the main burner. You then light the fuel and leave it to burn until it is nearly going out and slowly open the control valve and the stove will burst into life with a reassuring small jet engine type hum.
Once you have finished cooking (or ideally slightly before the cooking is finished as explained earlier), you simply flip the fuel bottle over to the other (closed) side and the stove will use up the remaining fuel before going out. The Omnlite Ti is clean and simple to use.
The control valve makes it possible to easily go from full rocket output to simmer very easily. This is a revelation as my previous experience with liquid stoves was models that made this switch to simmering very difficult. I primarily use expedition stoves for boiling water so simmering isn’t so crucial for me, but I have deliberately used it to cook foods requiring simmering for test purposes and it works superbly.
In terms of performance, the Omnilite Ti is a pocket furnace that, when burning liquid fuel, seems pretty unaffected by temperature. When using gas it has the same characteristics as other gas stoves and performance will drop over time as the gas canister empties. The best option in cold weather is to use innovative Primus Winter Gas (the genius of this is explained in our Christmas Gift Guide here and it will soon feature in a Peak Mountaineering burn time fuel test).
The accessories that come with the stove are designed and constructed with similar attention to detail. The storage bag is a beefy unit that will comfortably house the stove (and a fuel bottle if you wish) and there is a secure closure system and side pocket to fit the accompanying gadgets and windshield.
The tool which allows you to change the jets also houses a pricker to clear blocked jets and a selection of spanner fittings to deal with the various nuts you will come across. One of the tools primary jobs is to allow changing of the jet nipples. These need to be changed according to the fuel type and although they are a little fiddly to handle, the changing over has been made very simple because the complete burner unit simply unscrews to allow access to the nipple. Just be careful not to drop one into long grass!
The windshield and base shield are constructed from malleable aluminium sheet and they perform well enough. My only observation is that these types of shields gradually get less easy to use as constant folding and unfolding creases them. They are relatively light though.
The Omnifuel Ti comes with a 0.35 litre capacity fuel bottle and Primus also kindly sent me a larger 0.6 litre bottle as well. The smaller one has happily lasted through a weekend of camping and that is with 2 people using the stove for lots of meals and hot drinks. We took a small canister of gas just in case but never needed it and there was still a bit of fuel left in the fuel bottle when we got home.
I have tried various multi and liquid fuel stoves over the years and the Primus Omnilite Ti is easily the best I’ve used. I haven’t used a broad range of multifuel models from other manufacturers but would suggest this is the state of the art in terms of multi fuel stoves. Having the ability to use both gas and liquid fuels is a game changer.
Everything about the stove is extremely well thought out and it has worked brilliantly so far when using white gas and canister gas. I will add more detail on other fuel types as soon as I’ve had chance to try them. It has all the features you need for efficient use in any conditions and environment and is easy to repair in the field if needed.
The Omnilite Ti is expensive but once you start using one you can see why it is at the pricier end of the market. It is a great product from a long established and progressive manufacturer – just like my Primus friend on the You Tube video (see below) convinced me!
Posted by Paul