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Primus Classic Trail Review

This stove prioritizes cooking ability and price over fuel efficiency, weight, and features
Primus Classic Trail
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Price:  $23 List
Pros:  Inexpensive, great for fancy cooking, good with big cookware
Cons:  Inefficient, not light, small valve control
Manufacturer:   Primus
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 29, 2020
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48
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 17
  • Fuel Efficiency - 25% 3
  • Weight - 25% 5
  • Simmering Ability - 20% 8
  • Ease Of Use - 20% 4
  • Boil Time - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The Primus Classic Trail finishes towards the middle of our fleet for a low price. While it isn't the lightest stove, it is lighter and more packable than several other stoves in our test and the large burner head means it works well with bigger pots and pans. If you're looking for a backcountry burner with the cooking performance of your stove at home, read on.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


Different flame sizes and shapes on small canister stoves. Which one do you think throws the most heat?
Different flame sizes and shapes on small canister stoves. Which one do you think throws the most heat?

Fuel Efficiency


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.

The flames easily wrapped around the edges of our 7 inch pot when the stove was at full blast. Heat and fuel are going to waste here.
The flames easily wrapped around the edges of our 7 inch pot when the stove was at full blast. Heat and fuel are going to waste here.

Weight


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.

The control valve assembly unscrewed from the burner.
The control valve assembly unscrewed from the burner.

Simmering Ability


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.

Though the generous pot supports can handle the biggest cookware  locating the control valve (the smallest in our review) under a big pan can be challenging.
Though the generous pot supports can handle the biggest cookware, locating the control valve (the smallest in our review) under a big pan can be challenging.

Boil Time


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.

Dinner time. This stove performs best in sheltered campsites.
Dinner time. This stove performs best in sheltered campsites.

We do not recommend an aftermarket windscreen. Readers should be aware that Primus explicitly warns against this in the instructions, and there is a risk that the canister could become dangerously hot and explode.

Value


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.

The Classic Trail packed in our 2.5 liter pot leaves room for an 8oz fuel can  a lighter  and maybe a bit of food or a spare pair of socks.
The Classic Trail packed in our 2.5 liter pot leaves room for an 8oz fuel can, a lighter, and maybe a bit of food or a spare pair of socks.

Conclusion


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.

While maybe not ideal for fast and light travel  the Classic Trail is one of our favorite small canister stoves to cook with. Its simmering capabilities are supreme.
While maybe not ideal for fast and light travel, the Classic Trail is one of our favorite small canister stoves to cook with. Its simmering capabilities are supreme.

Ian McEleney