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 a number of other stoves in our test. For pure cooking performance (simmering and boil time), it came in third in our test. The large burner head means it works really 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. If you need something lighter and even less expensive, check out the Etekcity Ultralight, which was our Best Stove on a Tight Budget.
Primus Classic Trail Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, great for fancy cooking, good with big cookware
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 the test, it has a wide 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. We were not surprised to find that it was one of the least fuel-efficient stoves in the review. It wasn't too bad in the no-wind test, but like all small canister stoves, it performed poorly in front of the fan. It burned a lot of fuel without achieving a rolling boil during the 8 - 10mph wind test, though it did come closer to boiling in 30 minutes than the MSR PocketRocket 2 or the Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0.
We suspect one of the reasons that our tested fuel efficiency was low is that the burner head is quite big on the Classic Trail, almost 3 times a big as the PocketRocket 2 and the largest in the test. Our tester backpacking pot is 7 inches in diameter and so part of the flame inevitably licks up the side and heat is lost. With this stove, the bigger the pan the better. For users concerned with fuel efficiency, making sure that the flame does not go beyond the bottom of the pot is important with this stove.
Weight is another metric where the Classic Trail lives up to its old school appearance. It is the heaviest small canister stove in our test, twice as heavy as the PocketRocket 2 or GigaPower 2.0. 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 this stove, the control valve assembly was unscrewed from the burned head. When left on this makes the stove awkward to pack, but if removed after use the stove can easily fit in our 2.5-liter pot with an 8oz fuel canister.
This is where the Classic Trail shines. The spectrum of flame control on this stove was possibly unparalleled in our test and reminded us more of our stove at home than something we'd carry into the backcountry. It was easier to simmer with this stove than with the MSR Dragonfly, a liquid fuel stove that is engineered 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 the test, like the Primus Omnilite Ti or the PocketRocket 2.
The Classic Trail put in a solid no-wind boil time, bringing 1 liter of water to boil in 4 minutes and 56 seconds, losing to the PocketRocket 2 by only 15 seconds.
Like all small canister stoves, it did not do well in the wind. In 30 minutes, it failed to boil 1 liter of water. It did, however, get closer than any other small canister stove. None of those stoves had more than small bubbles on the bottom of the pot, while the Classic Trail had large bubbles and some steam.
An aftermarket windscreen is NOT RECOMMENDED. 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.
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 all the way to the middle of the burner head, so big and small pots are reassuringly stable. At 8 cm it's only slightly taller than the GigaPower's 7 cm, giving it 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 oz fuel canister. Doing so with a pot full of two or more liters would disrupt the stove's center of gravity and overcome the inherent stability of the pot supports.
It lacks in other areas. The small old-fashioned valve control knob is harder to find under the pot, especially under the larger pots and pans that this stove is suited for. We wish it had the modern wire control that 8 of the other 10 stoves in our test have. We also miss the piezo igniter found on the GigaPower and the Jetboil stoves. These are the two features this stove lacks the most, and we think they would really make the user experience just like the stove at home.
We think this stove is best suited to backpacking trips with groups of five or more. Large pots and pans are really nice with big groups, and this stove shines under those. This stove could also be a great choice for backpackers who want to get fancy with their cooking and don't care about lower fuel efficiency or extra weight. Backpackers looking for a lighter and higher performing stove who are willing to spend a bit more money should check out our Editors' Choice award-winning MSR PocketRocket 2. Those looking for something more versatile and durable for expeditions should look at the MSR Whisperlite.
It's hard to find any quality piece of backpacking gear for $20, 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 wasn't perfect, it cooked well and the price is pretty great. If weight and fuel efficiency aren't big concerns for you, but the cooking ability is, you may have just found your stove.
— Ian McEleney