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Primus Essential Trail Review

This standard small canister stove is good for simmering but bulky in your pack
Primus Essential Trail
Photo: Primus
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Price:  $25 List | $24.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Good at simmering, simple operation
Cons:  No piezoelectric igniter, slow to boil
Manufacturer:   Primus
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 6, 2021
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 19
  • Fuel Efficiency - 25% 6
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Simmering Ability - 20% 7
  • Ease Of Use - 20% 6
  • Boil Time - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The Primus Essential Trail is a simple small canister stove with standard performance. Its average-sized burner head and surrounding reflector help it simmer well, which is where it performed best in our testing. The reflector probably contributes to its decent fuel efficiency. It sits fairly low on top of a canister, which makes it less likely that you'll be picking mac and cheese out of the pine needles. It doesn't have a piezoelectric igniter, so keep your lighter or matches handy, and we wish it boiled faster. The awkward shape makes it harder to pack into smaller cookware, so it may not be a good choice for solo hikers traveling with a small pot.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award    
Price $24.95 at BackcountryCheck Price at REI
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Pros Good at simmering, simple operationLightweight, works in the wind, great piezo lighter, very stable for small canister stoveWorks in the wind, great for simmering, best of the bestCompact, light, fast boil time, stable, insulated potLightweight, easy to use, good at simmering, piezo igniter
Cons No piezoelectric igniter, slow to boilNot the most fuel efficient, pot supports pack up separately from stoveUnreliable piezo igniterSmall pot size, not versatileA bit heavier and bit pricier than the competition
Bottom Line This standard small canister stove is good for simmering but bulky in your packOur favorite small canister stove, providing the best performance for most backpackersThis simmering champ can also perform in the windThis basic model still has all the frills, and is a great value if you want to boil water immediatelyThis stove does everything well
Rating Categories Primus Essential Trail Soto Windmaster MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Jetboil Flash Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0
Fuel Efficiency (25%)
6
6
7
9
6
Weight (25%)
6
8
8
6
8
Simmering Ability (20%)
7
8
8
3
6
Ease Of Use (20%)
6
9
7
8
7
Boil Time (10%)
3
6
7
8
3
Specs Primus Essential... Soto Windmaster MSR PocketRocket... Jetboil Flash Snow Peak...
Category Small Canister Small Canister Small Canister Integrated Canister Small Canister
Trail Weight 3.9 oz 3.0 oz 3.0 oz 12.3 oz 3.0 oz
Wind Boil Time (1 L, 2-4mph) 15 min 7:24 min:sec 7:20 min:sec 5:18 min:sec 15 min
Boil Time (1 liter) 6:00 min:sec 4:42 min:sec 3:39 min:sec 4:10 min:sec 5:53 min:sec
Packed Weight 3.9 oz 3.5 oz 3.5 oz 15.7 oz 3.9 oz
Dimensions (inches) 4.3 x 2.4 in 4.7 x 3.9 x 3.6 in 3.3 x 2.2 x 1.8 in 4.1 x 7.1 in 4.2 x 2.6 in
Fuel Type Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane
Additional items included None Stuff sack, pot support Stuff sack 1L pot, canister stand, plastic cup Plastic case
Piezo Igniter No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Primus Essential Trail is a basic small canister stove. While simmering is what it does best, it's also very simple to set up; screw it on the can, open the flame control, and add fire.

Performance Comparison


On the trail with the Essential Trail.
On the trail with the Essential Trail.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Fuel Efficiency


The Essential Trail scores slightly above average for fuel efficiency. It burned 0.4 ounces of fuel when bringing a liter of water to boil in calm conditions. Like most small canister stoves, it did not bring water to a rolling boil in our fan test (though it came close). In that test, it burned 0.8 ounces of fuel in 15 minutes.

The burner head is surrounded by a flat piece of metal. We suspect that this may act as a bit of a heat reflector, which would enhance this stove's efficiency.

We think the additional metal around the burner head acts as a heat...
We think the additional metal around the burner head acts as a heat reflector.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Weight


The Essential Trail weighs 3.9 ounces (about 110 grams). This is about in the middle of the pack for small canister stoves.

The flat, triangular shape of the burner head made packing this stove into a tight space challenging. It fit fine into our 1-liter pot, along with a 4-ounce fuel can, pot grip, and lighter, but it might not play well with smaller cookware.

The shape of the Essential Trail was a bit awkward in our 1-liter pot.
The shape of the Essential Trail was a bit awkward in our 1-liter pot.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Simmering Ability


When it comes to simmering, the Essential Trail puts in an above-average performance. We could turn the burner down quite low, a boon for cooking things like oatmeal, pancakes, or rice. Though the burner head is about average in size for a small canister stove, we suspect that the surrounding heat reflector helps distribute heat more evenly to the bottom of the pot.

It's possible to simmer and not scorch, but don't stop stirring.
It's possible to simmer and not scorch, but don't stop stirring.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Ease Of Use


The Essential Trail has all the ease of use that a small canister stove design confers. Though we liked that the flame control has a wire handle, we wish it was longer. The fixed pot supports are solid and about average in size. They worked well with one and two-liter pots, but be careful if going bigger than that.

The assembly that connects the burner head to the canister is on the shorter side, which keeps the overall height of the stove relatively low. Though this means you might have to lean over a bit more to get a look at the flame, we think it lends the Essential Trail some stability.

This model is more stable than some other small canister stoves, but...
This model is more stable than some other small canister stoves, but if you want to get a look at the flame sometimes you have to get low.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Boil Time


This stove took 6 minutes to bring 1 liter of water to a rolling boil with no wind. This is on the longer end of the small canister stoves.

Of all the stoves that weren't able to boil water in front of the fan in 15 minutes, this stove seemed the closest to doing so. Out of curiosity, when 15 minutes was up, we left the stove running and turned the fan off. We observed a rolling boil within 30 seconds.

The Primus in front of the fan, which is off to the left. You can...
The Primus in front of the fan, which is off to the left. You can see flame being blown away from the pot.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Value


We think this stove is an okay value. It's inexpensive and scores about in the middle of our lineup. Some lower-scoring stoves cost a lot more, and only one or two higher-scoring models cost more.

Conclusion


The Primus Essential Trail is a typical backpacking stove. Simmering is its strong suit. While it didn't disappoint when it came to fuel efficiency or ease of use, it didn't blow our hair back either. It would have been nice to be able to fold the stove up for packing, and it was one of the slower small canister stoves when it came to boil time, but overall we were pretty satisfied with its performance.

We like the flame control wire but wish it was longer.
We like the flame control wire but wish it was longer.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Ian McEleney