LTR (Again) - Optimus Nova Plus - Ben Mansfield (ATTN Shane)
Please see my Optimus Nova+ LTR text below, and full report in the test folder:
Thanks for picking this up...
Long Term Report
March 11, 2008
Long Term Observations
I put a few more trips worth of meals on the Nova+ since the Field Report. One trip in
particular was a three day, two nighter to Zaleski State Forest in southern Ohio in early
February. Conditions were cold at night, with temperatures hovering around 18 F (-8 C) at
night with some scattered snow and plenty of wind, warming up during the days to around
40 F (4 C), with some sum peeking through and the wind subsiding in the afternoon.
Because of the short days, it was generally dark when cooking dinner. I tried to take some
artsy pictures of the stove glowing blue against the night sky, but pictures without a flash
came out either dark (with a short exposure) or blurry (with a long exposure and no
tripod). Pictures with the flash came out fine, except that the flash washed out the flame
almost entirely. I'm sure it was the camera's fault, not the photographer's.
A few poorly shot photos of the Optimus Nova+ in action
As far as durability is concerned, the Nova+ has shown no signs of wear other than the
normal coating of soot and field grime. I have not experienced any seizing of the control
valve as indicated in the instruction addendum I discussed in the initial report, although I
have been careful to allow the stove to cool before closing it entirely. Because of the
method of flipping the fuel bottle over to extinguish the flame and depressurize the
bottle, this has not caused any issue. The heavy gauge metal used to form the pot
supports does take a little longer to cool than other stoves I've used in the past, but this
has not been an issue for me.
In the field report I noted that I have replaced the included storage bag with an off-the-
shelf nylon stuff sack. I have continued this practice, and the nylon stuff sack has not
shown any major signs of wear. This is likely due in part to the way that the Nova+ folds
up so that the number and size of sharp points protruding from the stove are minimized.
I hoped to be able to provide a detailed lab report showing average, min, and max boil
times for a number of different fuels, with water temperature trended over time. Indeed,
this seems like it would be a really good idea. The fact of the matter is that when I
performed the tests, the differences were so small that the results are really not
interesting. In the end, I tested the stove with white gas (NAPTHA), kerosine, and diesel
fuel. My fuel of choice when it mattered (in the field) was the white gas. In general, all the
fuels boiled a liter of room temperature water in my stainless steel pot (seen above in the
pictures) in about three minutes. Perhaps this is because the heat content for all of these
fuels is pretty similar - within a 10% span. The white gas did seem to burn the cleanest;
both kerosine and diesel produced a lot of soot and made the stove a little grimy. Also,
the three minute time may be a little subjective, since I did not leave the fuel valve open
full blast, but rather modulated it so that the flames just licked up over the bottom of the
pot. Different pots and/or insulating the system in some way would definitely change the
boil times, though I question the magnitude of the improvement.
I think the thing to point out regarding lab tests is that in the field, on very cold and windy
nights, the stove performed well with the white gas fuel I was using. Of a group of four
stoves being used by myself and my companions, the Nova+ was the fastest stove to boil
noodles at night or water for coffee and oatmeal in the morning. I guess when it counts,
how a stove performs in a lab is really secondary to how it works when you're hungry and
tired, or when you need your caffeine fix in the morning.
In general, I'm really pleased with the Optimus Nova+ stove. I'm a water boiler probably 7
times out of 10, so what I look for in a stove is a fast boiling, no nonsense heat maker.
The Nova+ provides that, and adds some neat features like the self-depressurizing fuel
bottle and magnetic cleaning needle. If I were Optimus of Sweden, I might redesign the
storage bag that is included with the stove. It's a good concept, but a little undersized and
a little overweight for the function that it performs. There is also some room for
improvement in the fuel control. With no weight on the stove (i.e. when lighting), the
stove body itself tends to turn when you turn the control valve (which in turn rotates the
hose). This is not a major issue for me, and I accept it as the price I have to pay to get the
unique shutoff and depressurization system that it provides. The only other improvement
I'd suggest would be to change the "On" and "Off" text on the fuel pump which shows me
what position the fuel nozzle is in - it's nearly impossible to read in the dark. Maybe just a
dot of paint on one side or the other would do the trick. I'll likely raid my wife's nail polish
to add a little red dot to the "Off" side.
These issues are really just nitpicks, however. The stove is an excellent piece of gear which
performs its designed function admirably and without a lot of nonsense. The capability to
depressurize the fuel bottle and extinguish the flame by flipping the fuel bottle is really
innovative and saves me from either packing a bomb in my backpack or getting my hands
and other gear covered with liquid fuel. The moving parts of the stove are solidly built and
easy to maintain. In the end, I will continue to use this stove as my primary backpacking
stove, which is all that really needs said about the quality and functionality of the Optimus
In total, I used the stove in the field for 8 days worth or meals, plus a number of meals
cooked at home (my wife was not impressed by my jerky stroganoff) and a bunch of lab
testing which took place in my garage and my basement.
Fuel bottle automatic depressurization is a really cool (and safe) feature
Fuel pump and stove mechanism robust and easy to maintain
Excellent performance in cold weather
Included storage bag is a little undersized and overweight, even for a non-weight weenie
Fuel bottle On/Off label is hard to read in the dark
Wife didn't like the cooking - must be the stove's fault
I would like to thank Optimus of Sweden and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to
test this fine stove.