When I was a kid, my parents had a great big Coleman two-burner suitcase camping stove that was powered by white gas, and I just loved the little pump to pressurize the fuel tank. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
But as I’ve gotten older and wiser, my love affair with white gas has waned. Some would probably say “operator error,” but the inevitable sheet of flame that threatens to burn down the campsite which comes before the stoves warm up properly got old. It also seems like every third or fourth time I use a white gas stove something is clogged and I have to do a campsite overhaul before it works properly.
Yes, I like the refillable fuel tanks, and that is obviously more environmentally friendly than the disposable LPG canisters of competitors, but I recycle and it’s easy to poke a few holes in empty canisters and toss them in the recycle bin.
I’ve owned a few canister stoves over the years. They’re super easy to use, always light right up, have superior flame control, and it’s easier to conserve fuel because you’re not shy about stopping and starting them.
My one complaint about them is most designs put the burner on top of the canister, which just makes for a very unstable cooking setup.
After knocking over my umpteenth pot of water and nearly scalding myself – again – I went shopping for an alternative and found something I really like.
The Optimus Vega camp stove puts the canister off to the side at the end of a steel mesh-wrapped hose. Not only that, while it’s very compact and light when folded, it expands out into a super-wide and very stable cooking surface.
I’ve seen other camp stove reviews that go into great detail about boil times. I haven’t gotten anal enough about my gear yet that I hover over stoves with a stopwatch, but this one boils a pot of water just as fast as any other stove I own.
It comes out of the box with a windscreen (something that’s hard to do with a stove that sits on top of a canister).
Another big advantage of the design is it gives you the ability to flip the canister upside down in cold weather which makes it burn hotter. There are special little wire “wings” on the valve control that hold the canister horizontal that way.
The only negative I’ve found is the hose is so stiff that sometimes it can be a little fiddly to get the canister and the burner situated in such a way that the burner sits level, but that’s a relatively minor issue.
Overall, I really like this stove and it’s quickly become one of my favorite bits of gear.