Optimus Terra HE Cookset Review
Cons: Lid is insecure, pot grabber instead of attached handle
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Optimus Terra HE Cookset is cast from hard anodized aluminum and comes complete with a 1.75-liter pot with a unique heat exchanger bottom, a 1.7-liter non-stick pot, a skillet, a pot gripper and a neoprene bag that can also be used to insulate both food and your fingers after cooking. It weighs under two pounds and costs $65.
The average score in our test was 63 out of 100. The Optimus Terra HE scored a 62 and no one who used the Optimus is surprised at this average score. Some things are excellent, while others are inferior, but the bulk of the Terra's attributes are remarkably average.
The largest pot in this set has a "heat exchanger" (HE) component to help reduce boiling time, and it boiled water faster than any other model we tested. During our boil test, we boiled two cups of water in both pots in this set, because we were curious if the HE element made much of a difference. The 1.75-liter HE pot boiled water in just under three minutes, which is pretty amazing, while the 1.7-liter pot took almost two minutes longer. The heat exchanger pot boiled water the fastest out of all the pots we tested. Even the similarly configured (with a heat exchanger) Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3 didn't perform as well in the boil test as the Optimus, as the Primus took 15% longer to boil two cups of water than the Optimus did.
During our scrambled egg test, the non-stick coating and thick aluminum of the Optimus frying pan performed with the best of the best. The top four in this assessment seemed to perform almost equally. Along with the Optimus frying pan, the Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2 Pot Set, Editors' Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper and other Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 3.2 products all fried an egg efficiently and cleanly, with decent heat distribution and effective non-stick coating. Needless to say, this test is a good indicator of overall material's quality. Of the top performers, the Optimus is the only one that did not get an award.
This a compact set held together with a neoprene bag. Our reviewers felt this set was better suited for car camping over backpacking because it's a little heavy and slightly big to stick in a backpack. The heat exchanger fins artificially inflate the packed size, for a given pot volume. Due to the non-stick coating on the smaller pot, you need to be conscientious with other items you're packing inside the system to avoid scratching it. A nice packability attribute is the dedicated carry bag pocket for the pot gripper. This keeps said gripper from rattling in your pack.
This set is made of hard anodized aluminum with a non-stick coating on the smaller of the two pots. Although we did not experience any issues while testing, a non-stick coating will eventually scratch if you are not very careful, which reduces a set's lifespan. Also, the external heat exchanger fins are vulnerable to damage. Pack and carry carefully.
Comparing cook set weights is tough. Almost zero products include the same features. The overall weight of a set is misleading when compared to others, as each usually includes different things. For instance, the Optimus Terra HE is just 100 grams lighter than the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker set. However, for those extra 100 grams, you get two insulated mugs but only get one pot. A better weight comparison, we found, is to weigh the main pot, lid, and pot gripper of each set. We then normalized these weights for the volume of the pot. Of course, a larger pot is going to weigh more.
Once we did these calculations, the actual weight comparisons came easier. By this metric, the rough "weight per volume" calculation, the Optimus is the heaviest in our test. The 1.75 liter, heat-exchanger-equipped main pot, with lid and gripper, weighs almost 500 grams. In this same size class, the main pot (and lid and gripper) of the Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set is less than half the weight, at 244 grams. Now, if you're careful, you'll get some of that weight back in fuel savings on an extended trip, because the Optimus pot boils water in 3/4 the time of the MSR. However, there is no way around the fact that the components of the Optimus Terra HE cook set are heavier than other excellent options out there.
Ease of Use
Our reviewers enjoyed cooking with this set, especially the skillet. For two people, all of the pieces are a useful size. We did not like the pot grabber, which is similar to the one in the MRS Alpine Pot Set, because you have to maintain an active grip while moving, or straining, any of the pieces.
Each of the pieces is weighted well enough that you can easily stir and move food around without grabbing the part you are cooking with.
This cook set provides just the main hardware that makes up a camp kitchen. You will need to add your plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery. No cook set we tested is truly comprehensive. Some like to make fewer purchases and therefore lean toward a set with more features, while others like to choose their own accessories. The Optimus is a product for the latter folks.
The most feature-rich set we tested is the Editors' Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper while the Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact is the simplest. The Optimus falls in between. All sets we tested have at least two pieces of cookware with some lid and handle arrangement. The Optimus adds to this by making the rudimentary lid into an excellent frying pan.
The Terra HE is a great basic set of cookware. If you're looking for a set that cooks well without a lot of thrills, then this is a good model to consider. While the set is heavy for backpacking, the heat exchanger greatly reduces the amount of fuel you'll need for boiling water, which might make the trade-off worth it. If you're hoping to gain a few more pieces for the same weight, such as a couple of plates and mugs, then the MSR Quick 2 System and Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2 are good options as well.
When comparing price versus performance, as well as the price per ounce, this set is pretty "middle of the road" when it comes to value. While it's not as expensive as our Editors' Choice winners, our Best Buy winner, the Winterial 11-Piece Camping Cookware and Pot Set scored higher in our tests and will save you quite a few dollars over this set.
This cookware is a relatively average performer. Our reviewers enjoyed cooking with this set, especially when making pasta dishes and when melting snow, due to the quick boil time. It's a great set to consider adding to your camp kitchen if you're cooking for two. However, we also suggest you look into the MSR Quick 2 System or the Pinnacle Camper if you're looking for a set with a few more bells and whistles.
— Jediah Porter