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Optimus Nova Review

   

Backpacking Stoves

  • Currently 3.6/5
Overall avg rating 3.6 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: August 15, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $120 - $150 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Stable, durable, good control.
Cons:  Heavy, large, complicated.
Best Uses:  Backpacking, mountaineering, kayaking.
User Rating:     
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 (3.3 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  67% of reviewers (2/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Optimus
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ October 16, 2010  
Overview
The Optimus Nova backpacking stove is a full-featured and durable multi-fuel option. It boasts several unique and convenient features such as a long and flexible fuel line, a flip-stop switch on an all-aluminum fuel pump, and a quick priming burner. The downside to these attributes is a heavy and large stove that is impractical for most recreational backpacking trips. Instead, we believe the Nova is better suited to commercial, institutional, or group (3-plus persons) backpacking trips.

This stove is very similar to MSR Dragonfly ($120). While both of these stoves are expensive and very similar, we recommend the Dragonfly over the Nova because it's $30 cheaper, slightly lighter (1.3oz), slightly faster (15 seconds), easier to use, faster to set up, and it comes with a windscreen. These differences between these stoves are minute, so if you are very drawn to the flip-stop fuel pump, the longer flexible fuel line, or the Nova's slightly more durable build, then the stove is likely to serve you well for years to come.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
Combining function, durability, and stylish aesthetics, the Optimus Nova is the Mercedes Benz of camp stoves. Every component, from the legs to the fuel pump, has been designed to withstand whatever your travels dish out. This durability starts ground up with thick turbine shaped legs that fold in a tight bundle around the burner housing. The burner itself is encased in a wildly sturdy, yet compact roundish frame. Like the Dragonfly, this stove has a separate simmer valve that allows for precise flame control.

One of the drawbacks of liquid fuel stoves is their need for priming. This annoying process wastes both time and fuel. Fortunately, the Nova's burner design is more effective than most at capturing heat released by the priming flame. We found that the Nova primed roughly 25 percent (30 seconds) faster than most MSR stoves. While this time savings is negligible, the fuel conservation is likely to be significant over the life of the stove.

The Nova's all-aluminum fuel pump is another feature that separates it from the competition. We found this to be both easier and smoother to operate than all MSR pumps.

Depressurizing fuel bottles has traditionally involved slowly unscrewing the fuel pump while watching liquid fuel and vapor burst out and cover your hands. To remedy this wasteful and hazardous fault, the Nova employs an all-aluminum fuel pump with a flip-stop switch that eliminates fuel spillage when the stove is disconnected from the bottle. The flip-stop switch differs from traditional fuel pumps in that its intake line is attached to one side of the bottle. In order to operate the stove the bottle is turned on one side, immersing the fuel line in fuel. Flipping the bottle over removes the intake line from the fuel, forcing it to suck air, extinguishing the flame, depressurizing the bottle, and cleaning the fuel line and jet. While this process is not instantaneous, we believe this system is a significant improvement over MSR fuel pumps.

Tip: If you plan to keep the stove assembled for future cooking, just turn off the valve on the burner unit. This keeps the bottle pressurized so you can prime it easily for future use. Use the flip switch if you plan to pack up the stove for travel.

Another beneficial feature on the Nova is its flexible and long fuel line. This allows you to position the fuel bottle farther away from the burner and better adapt to rocky ground.

The Nova comes with a full-featured stove bag. This has a pull cord and a zipper, which allows you to fold the bag flat on its back. Inside are numerous pockets for tools, lubricant, spare parts, the fuel pump, and windscreens.

We also liked the how the Nova has stylish green accents on its three control valves.

Dislikes
Style and function also bring intricacy. The Nova is the most complicated stove we reviewed. It has a lot of parts, gizmos, and gadgets that increase the probability of something breaking and also make the stove harder to use. While the Nova proved nothing but durable, it took slightly longer to set up than most other stoves reviewed here.

Our least favorite aspect of the Nova is its ludicrously thunderous burner. This roar the loudest of all stoves tested here stops conversations and annoys anyone within 100 feet.

A large difference between the design of the Nova and all liquid fuel MSR stoves is the mechanism by which the fuel jet is cleaned. The Nova takes an innovative approach and uses a magnet to clean the jet. This magnet is attached to a multitool that can be used to repair the stove. To clean the jet, simply swipe the magic tool back and forth under the burner. This process differs from MSR stoves, which are cleaned by shaking the stove up and down in a vertical motion. We like how the magnet is easy to use, but are in favor of the simpler design that MSR employs. The magic tool is just another thing to keep track of.

The Nova may be durable, but it's not lightweight. The heavy-duty construction, all-metal fuel pump, and hefty magic tool bring the Nova to a grand total of 15.3 oz. This is the heaviest liquid fuel stove we reviewed.

The Nova is also slightly slower than most other liquid stoves. This difference, roughly 30 seconds, is notable, but not significant.

The Nova also does not come with a windscreen. We believe that a stove of this price should definitely come with a windscreen.

Despite these drawbacks, the Nova remains the most advanced liquid fuel stove we reviewed. We believe that it is an excellent choice for those who prioritize durability, stability, and versatility over weight and size.

Best Application
Heavy duty backpacking, mountaineering, base camps, kayaking.

Value
The Nova is the most expensive liquid fuel stove we reviewed. If you need a durable stove with lots of features, the Nova should last for you decades.

Other Versions
Optimus also makes the Optimus Crux, $50. It is our favorite small canister style backpacking stove for warm weather use. It's tiny, durable, fast, and has a very convenient case that stores the stove under a fuel canister. The Optimus Crux Lite, $40, is cheaper, lighter, and does not fold in.

If you're looking for cookware, check out the Optimus Terra Weekend Cook Set, $35.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 15, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.3)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 40%  (2)
4 star: 20%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 20%  (1)
1 star: 20%  (1)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Apr 10, 2012 - 12:10am
Grey Eagle · Camper · Maine
This stoves runs on white gas, car (unleaded) gas, Av gas, kerosene, diesel, just about any liquid fuel other than alcohol. The best part is NO changing of fuel jets for the different fuels! I like to prime with alcohol (denatured) which is readily available and it precludes the excitement if you manage to over prime! I also feel comfortable lighting this in a tent vestibule using the alcohol as it burns with a small flame. The downside of priming with alcohol is that the flame is hard to see in daylight and you will need to carry a few ounces of alcohol in addition to the regular fuel.

This stove puts out about 9000+ of BTU's which is quite sufficient to quickly heat water but the best part is that you can turn the heat down and SIMMER which suits my style of cooking. On a recent winter backpack trip, my stove was the only one that would simmer so everyone else had to use it!

It has a built in cleaning needle (magnetic) that works great. To start, pump about 20+ times, prime with alcohol, open the fuel shutoff at the bottle/pump, and after the alcohol has burned out, open the valve at the stove and light. To shutdown, turn the bottle over and let the air in the line burn out. Close the fuel valve at the bottle/pump to save the pressure if you're going to relight soon or if not, let the pressure bleed out through the fuel line. I like to leave the fuel valve at the stove open until the unit has cooled and then run the cleaning needle a few times and then close the stove valve.

Do NOT use a MSR fuel bottle with this stove pump as it has a tapered o-ring mating surface and the Optimus pump uses a flat o-ring. Use only Optimus or Primus fuel bottles with the pump to prevent leaks at the pump. Carry any extra fuel in any container (MSR, Nalgene, Sigg, etc.

This stove isn't the smallest or lightest but it works every time which to me is more important. It's also overkill for solo camping and for that I use a Optimus Svea 123R.
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Credit: Grey Eagle


Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 15, 2013 - 07:35am
Nutti · Backpacker · rotterdam
Bought this beautifully designed stove (Nova Plus) in august 2012 and took it on several long and short backpacking trips. It never burned steady, but pulsating. Simmering wasn't as easy as claimed, stove went out or didn't simmer. Tried everything from cleaning, pumping, replacing parts, white gas (I usually burn unleaded) nothing helps. As a proud owner of the optimus 8R Hunter and 111 Hiker I am seriously disappointed with this crappy piece of hardware. On my last trip in the north of Sweden it completely failed to function after 7 days. Despite of replacing nearly every part before I left and during the trip, I had to eat cold muesly, nuts, chocolate and tasteless emergency keks for three days.
I returned the stove to my retailer, he has trouble to get thes optimus people to respond. Waiting for two weeks now.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 10, 2013 - 03:26am
Rickard · Backpacker · Los Lunas, NM
I have a Nova that I purchased in 2003 and have used on many trips. It has performed flawlessly and is my go to stove, even though I own several.
One of the features that I really like is the ability to turn the bottle over to cut off the gas supply and purge the line to the stove when you are finished cooking at a camp. If you are done for a meal but are going to leave the stove set up there is no need to purge the line and the stove can be shut off with the valve.

This stove is extremely controllable, much more so than my MSR Simmerlite and almost as controllable as a canister stove. It is very stable and will sip fuel if you use a good windscreen. I have used it to 12,000 feet and 5 degrees F and the stove performed much better than I did.

It is easier to prime than most white gas stove due to the location of the fuel control valve, but I am still not comfortable lighting it in the Vestibule of my tent. Once it is running it does fine in the vestibule. Using alcohol to prime instead of white gas would make this a little easier.

The pot support will accommodate large and small cookware very well. You can put something as small as a coffee cup on the burner or a two liter pot. The flame will need to be turned pretty far down if you are heating up water in a small cup, but again, that is very easily done.

Maintenance kits are readily available, but in 10 years I have not had to do anything to mine except oil the leather in the pump. I carry a small repair kit with a couple of o-rings and a pump leather but have never needed them. The jet can be cleared with the magnetic tool included with the stove, and this can be done with the stove running, unlike the MSR shaker jets.

I have used this stove on a couple of trips with kerosene instead of white gas and while it worked fine, the kerosene took longer to start vaporizing, was sootier and it just as expensive as white gas. If kerosene is the only fuel available the stove will run on it fine, but I would recommend white gas if available.

I typically only give a five star review for a product that cannot be improved. This stove comes very close. About the only improvement that could be made it to make it lighter, but how much is enough? This stove does everything I want it to do very well. Other stoves may meet one requirement better, typically weight, but they will fall short in several others. If I could only have one stove, this would be my choice.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 31, 2012 - 09:44am
H2 · Mountain Biker · Norway
Just a note on the Nova Plus, mentioned under Other Versions in the review above:

Moving the simmer valve to base of the fuel line is slightly incorrect. The valve is actually still inside the burner. What's at the base of the fuel line is a plastic knob which is fixed on the fuel line itself. Twisting the knob rotates the fuel line, activating the valve inside the burner.

I like the thought, but unless the fuel line is perfectly straightened out this action makes the burner move. The fuel line is a bit stiff and tends to retain the shape it gets during packaging, so getting it perfectly straight is not always entirely easy.

Furthermore, the base diameter of the burner's feet is not that large, so I feel that this design is slightly unsafe. I am currently using my Nova Plus burner in a Trangia cookset using a 788205 burner cup (Trangia accessory). The base diameter of the Trangia cookset is larger, adding stability - besides, the cookset is well shielded from wind and works great.

I cannot comment on the regular Nova, but as the fuel line is not rotated I guess it is more stable than the Nova Plus.

But for the above mentioned potential safety issue I would not recommend the Nova Plus as a stand-alone burner. In the Trangia, however, it works fine.
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Optimus Nova
Credit: www.optimus.se
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