Hands-on Gear Review

Primus Onja Review

Primus Onja
Price:  $150 List | $104.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Attractive, comes with a cutting board and shoulder strap
Cons:  Requires two fuel canisters to use both burners, no windscreen, hard to clean, small cooking area
Bottom line:  The Onja is a very unique stove with a lot of potential that, unfortunately, has some design flaws that make it prettier to look at than it is practical to use.
Editors' Rating:   
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Weight (pounds):  7 lbs
Total BTU (from manufacturer):  20,000
Top material:  Painted steel, oak cutting board
Manufacturer:   Primus

Our Verdict

The Primus Onja was the most unusually designed stove we tested. It's super cute, and we were excited to get cooking and see how it would measure up to the more traditional models in our review. Unfortunately, it fell short in almost every category. What we initially thought was a fun and innovative system for carrying and packing up the stove turned out to be annoying and poorly designed. We struggled extensively with the burner knobs, and on the first use, the flames scorched the pretty white paint job. The wind was a serious issue for this stove as well. All-in-all, the Onja has a lot of problems that need to get hammered out before it's ready for serious use.

For a well-constructed stove that has survived the test of time and abuse across all our metrics, we recommend checking out the Camp Chef Everest, our Editors' Choice. Not only will it cost you $25 less than the Onja, but it's also straightforward, durable, and high-performing.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Penney Garrett

Last Updated:
Monday
December 26, 2016

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The Onja is a gorgeous little stove to look upon, but when put to practical use it doesn't measure up. With little-to-no wind resistance, low BTUs, an awkward setup, and a tiny cooking area, this stove might be nice for a date night in the park but not for earnest camping situations.

Performance Comparison


This is a gorgeous and unique stove that we were really excited about testing. Unfortunately it ended up having a lot of problems throughout the process.
This is a gorgeous and unique stove that we were really excited about testing. Unfortunately it ended up having a lot of problems throughout the process.

Time to Boil


With 10,000 BTUs per burner, this stove was able to boil water decently fast. We timed it at 4:30 for a quart of 60-degree water and 5:15 for 50-degree water. As soon as there was a tiny breeze, however, this time went up to 6 minutes, and with direct wind, it was much worse (see Wind Resistance section below). We found that the essential pairing needed to achieve a fast boiling time was having both high BTUs and excellent wind resistance, and the Onja fell short in both of these areas.

The Onja struggled with the wind more than any other stove we tested.
The Onja struggled with the wind more than any other stove we tested.

Wind Resistance


This model was the weakest performer in our test group for wind resistance. We tested each stove with direct and constant wind by setting up a box fan 24 inches to the side and boiling water. Our top performer was the Camp Chef Everest, which boiled a quart of water in 3 minutes. The Onja? With waning fuel and a half-hot tea kettle, we gave up after 27 minutes.

Simmering Ability


Without wind, the Onja simmered pretty well. But if even the slightest breeze came along the flame would be threatened and easily extinguished. We also found that trying to adjust down to a low setting was tricky — the burner would commonly turn off by accident instead. With no auto-ignition, this meant moving pans aside to relight the flame. Overall it was a bit frustrating.

Due to the narrowness of the cooking area (and it's height), we initially thought we wouldn't be able to use full-size pots and pans, but this didn't end up being the case. The top grate accommodated both small and large cookware, though the larger and heavier the pan (such as a 10" cast iron skillet) the more attention was required to ensure nothing toppled over. The burners sit almost a foot off the ground, and the grate that covers them has a slippery coating. When we wanted to stir something in our pan or skillet, we had to be sure to hold the handle to keep everything stable. If you use larger cookware regularly, you would be better off with a bigger and sturdier cooking surface.

We were able to use both small and large cookware on the Onja despite the tall and narrow design.
We were able to use both small and large cookware on the Onja despite the tall and narrow design.

Ease of Set Up


Setting up this stove is a bit of an involved process. First, you must unhook the strap that wraps around the stove body to release the oak cutting board that fits across the burners. From there, the stove must be turned completely upside down to screw in a fuel canister. Each burner requires its own canister, so you will need to know up front if you want to use both burners. If you only attach one fuel canister and then later decide you need the other one, you will have to turn a hot stove upside down to remedy this.

Next, the base of the stove needs to be pulled apart to provide a foundation. If you're not paying attention while you do this, it's easy for one of the burner levers to get tucked underneath the fold and become inaccessible. It was a troublesome process that caused our testers a lot of frustration.

Fuel canisters screw into the bottom of the stove  one for each burner.
Fuel canisters screw into the bottom of the stove, one for each burner.

Ease of Care


The Onja suffered in this category too. The paint got irreparably burned on our first use, leaving unsightly black scorches across the front. The burner grate is not removable, so there is no way to get down to the drip tray and properly clean it. And, while the shoulder strap is removable, the holes that fit onto the ends of the cutting board topper get stretched out quickly, which then allows the stove to flip completely upside down while being carried — something it's prone to do because it's top-heavy.

The strap that wraps around the center of the stove body isn't removable and therefore sits in the dirt if you use the stove on the ground. And the base is covered in black fabric that is likely to get burned or damaged over time. It is attached with Velcro on the underside and so can be removed, but that, too, is an involved process. All in all, it's not an easy stove to care for or keep nice.

This cute stove had some serious problems with things like wear and tear  burner levers  and straps getting in the way. Here you can see the right burner lever is tucked away and inaccessible because we didn't unfold it before pulling the sides out to widen the base. Now if we decide we need that burner we will have to push the stove sides back together in order to get to the lever and then re-widen the base.
This cute stove had some serious problems with things like wear and tear, burner levers, and straps getting in the way. Here you can see the right burner lever is tucked away and inaccessible because we didn't unfold it before pulling the sides out to widen the base. Now if we decide we need that burner we will have to push the stove sides back together in order to get to the lever and then re-widen the base.

Portability


This is the only category the Onja scored well in because it's small, light, and has a shoulder strap for transport. It packs down to a nice size, measuring 17 x 6 x 11.5 inches and weighs only 7 pounds (not including fuel). But getting your stove to your car and camp spot is only a part of the overall cooking experience. A shoulder strap doesn't make up for a stove that suffers in the wind, lacks power, and is a pain to set up. On top of that, though the strap is a nice idea, the top-heaviness of the included cutting board meant that the stove tended to flip upside down while being carried.

And though tempting for convenience, it is important not to leave the fuel canisters screwed into the underside of the stove when transporting. The burner levers tended to pop up and open very easily. This happened once, and we realized it because we heard the fuel gurgling. So, as is recommended for all stoves anyway, you will need to be sure to disengage the fuel before transporting.

The Primus Onja is super cute and easy to carry  but just one use badly burnt the lovely white paint job.
The Primus Onja is super cute and easy to carry, but just one use badly burnt the lovely white paint job.

Best Applications


Considering the cute-factor of this stove, we think its best use is for a date night in the park where all you need to do is heat up something simple and look cool. The fact that it comes with a cutting board is nice, but it's not a very practical shape for anything very big. Serious campers and eaters will need a more serious stove.

Value


This stove retails for $150. That is not cheap for a camp stove, and you can buy much better-performing stoves for less money. The Camp Chef Everest is $25 cheaper and performed at a higher level across the board. Even the large freestanding Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner, a serious set-up with a ton of BTUs, is $10 cheaper. Point being, the Onja is kitschy and fun and maybe a super-cute gift for someone who is brand new to outdoorsy activities, but for any regular and serious camper the performance and price do not add up.

Conclusion


Our overall assessment of this stove left us disappointed on multiple fronts. The Onja could not handle the wind or any tough usage. Even just the light use of a single cooking session our first time out left the stove body burned and us frustrated. While we can tell that a lot of creativity was put into the design of this stove, many of its elements just need more time at the drawing board.

Penney Garrett

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 26, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (1.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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Rating Distribution
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5 star: 0%  (0)
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3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 100%  (1)


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