Primus Classic Trail Review
Cons: Inefficient, not light, small valve control
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When our testers first took this stove out of the box, we were unimpressed. It has the look and feel of a canister stove from 30 years ago. We were surprised then, to get it out in the field and find that not only does it really throw some heat, but it also simmers well. Unlike the other small canister stoves in our test, it has a broad burner head which, while presenting some problems, nicely distributes heat around the bottom of a pot or pan, limiting hot spots.
When we first fired this stove up, we were very impressed by the flame and heat output. Because of that, we were not surprised to find that it was one of the least fuel-efficient stoves in this review. It wasn't too bad in the no-wind test, but like some small canister stoves, it performed poorly in front of a fan. It burned a lot of fuel without achieving a rolling boil during the 2 - 4 mph wind test.
We suspect one of the reasons that our tested fuel efficiency was low is that the burner head is quite large on the Classic Trail, almost three times as big as others in our review. Our tester backpacking pot is 7 inches in diameter, and so part of the flame inevitably licks up the side, and heat is lost. While using this stove, a bigger pan is better. For users concerned with fuel efficiency, making sure that the flame does not go beyond the bottom of the pot is essential.
Weight is another metric where the Classic Trail lives up to its old school appearance. At 6.7 ounces, it is the heaviest small canister stove in our test. It is, however, much lighter than any of the liquid fuel stoves.
Though this could hardly be called a "small" canister stove, it is still reasonably packable. When we unboxed the Classic, the control valve assembly was separate from the burner head. When connected, it makes the stove awkward to pack, but if removed after use, the unit can easily fit in a 2.5-liter pot along with an 8-ounce fuel canister.
Low heat cooking is where the Classic Trail shines. The spectrum of flame control on this stove is possibly unparalleled in our years of testing, reminding us more of our stove at home than something we'd carry into the backcountry. It is easier to simmer with this stove than with any of the liquid fuel stoves designed for simmering. The wide burner head distributes heat around the bottom of pots and pans much better than the laser focus of many of the other stoves in our review.
Ease Of Use
The Classic Trail has some features that make it quite easy to use. Because they don't fold up to get smaller, the large pot supports come to the middle of the burner head, so big and small pots are reassuringly stable. At 8 cm, it's got a reasonably low center of gravity. While large pots are more stable on this stove than most, users should beware of mounting this burner to a 16-ounce fuel canister. Doing so with a pot full of two or more liters will disrupt the stove's center of gravity and overcome the inherent stability of the pot supports.
All that said, the Classic lacks in other areas. The small old-fashioned valve control knob is hard to find under a pot, especially under the larger pots and pans that suit this stove. We wish it had the modern wire control that most stoves in our test have. We also miss the piezo igniter found on many other stoves.
The Classic Trail put in a solid no-wind boil time of 4 minutes and 22 seconds for 1 liter of water. However, like most small canister stoves, it did not do well in the wind. In 30 minutes, it failed to boil 1 liter of water but made active bubbles on the bottom of the pot and brought the water temperature into the 170's F.
It's hard to find any quality piece of backpacking gear for this price, never mind something as important as a stove. The low price and reasonable (if sometimes dated) performance of the Classic Trail make it an excellent value. It's so inexpensive it could be a good choice for a home emergency kit or a backup stove for car camping.
While this stove isn't perfect, it cooks well, and the price is outstandingly cheap. If weight and fuel efficiency aren't big concerns for you, but cooking ability is, you may have just found your perfect stove.
— Ian McEleney