Optimus Svea Stove | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Optimus Svea Stove | Review

Our ode to this traditional backpacking stove that’s still adored by many an outdoor enthusiast

The Svea stove is arguably the most popular backpacking stove of all time. It’s a real classic. 

The design goes back all the way to the mid 20th century and it’s changed very little since then. Originally, in an age where cooking outdoors normally required an open fire, it was considered to be a cutting edge ultralight tool. Today, there are far lighter and more efficient ways of cooking out in the backcountry, but still the Svea endures. Why? Well, use this backpacking stove and you’ll realise there’s something pretty special about it. 

The Basics

It runs off white gas. This is cheaper than standard butane/propane gas and it tends to be easier to find too. Also, while it’s not recommended, you could use standard gas station petrol with this too. That’s why the Svea is the friend of really gnarly adventurers who venture way off the beaten track. Even in places like the Mongolian Steppe or the depths of Africa, the chance to refuel in at least a gas station will never be that far away. That said, Optimus warn against using petrol with this as there are potential carcinogenic effects. 

OM editor Will using the stove in Ryvoan Bothy. Photos: Dave Macfarlane

Pros: Runs off fuel that’s widely available across the globe, very solid and hard to break
Cons: Heavy compared to modern gas burners, loud, can be messy

Built from solid brass and with pretty much just one moving part, the Svea’s also just about bombproof with very little that can go wrong with it. It involves a burner with a fuel tank and then a wind shield that also serves as a pot support. The pot, which is a lightweight aluminium, doubles as a lid for the stove set when it’s packed up and it comes with a little handle.

How it Works

Lighting this thing isn’t for the faint-hearted! First of all, you need to pour your fuel carefully into the burner, ideally with any little funnel you have (Optimus sell their own branded one). Then the burner needs priming. To do this, you need to fill the recess at the base of the burner’s neck with just a little bit of fuel and this then needs to be lit. After this has almost burnt off, a small twist of the ignition valve should get things up and running. If not, then a quick spark from a match or lighter will have her lit. You can then use that valve to control the strength of the flame. 

Why People Love It

It’s hard not to be drawn to the nostalgia and retro charm associated with the Svea stove’s design, which harks back to a bygone era of outdoor exploration. Just like making coffee using one of those old fashioned Bialetti kettles, listening to a vinyl record or driving a classic car, using this stove might not always be the most convenient or efficient way to cook or boil water, but it’s all about the experience and satisfaction. 

The process of lighting it, while a little complicated, has a touch of skill to it and it’s hugely satisfying once the technique is honed. Then there’s the sound once this thing gets up and running. Some people like its roaring decibel levels. Others might not!

Unlike some stoves, the Svea also serves as a good option for high altitude or cold weather use. It’s important, however, to ensure that the base of it is kept off the cold ground otherwise it’ll take a while to get going and you’ll lose fuel efficiency.

The Optimus Svea represents a lovely bit of old-fashioned design that has stood the test of time and is the embodiment of durable functionality. OK, today’s outdoor enthusiasts tend to expect superlight gear, but the reality is that a low weight isn’t always necessary and can also often coincide with flimsiness.

Yes, it’s a great stove if you’re doing something like cycling across Siberia, but it’s also a great stove for anyone who likes going back to basics or who likes the old ways.

Tester’s Verdict

Dave Macfarlane, professional outdoor and adventure photographer and filmer

After hiking over several Munros and a long day on my feet I sluggishly put down my external frame rucksack, get out my cotton canvas A-frame tent, take off my leather boots paired with wool knee socks and begin to boil some water, the solid brass of my stove catches the last of the day’s light before I bed down with a warm meal in me. I’m transported back 70 years to the creation of this icon, and it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of camping equipment you’ll ever set your eyes on – the heritage behind this thing is off the charts. Are there lighter stoves on the market? Yes. Are there more convenient stoves? Yes. Is there anything more beautiful? No, it’s gorgeous.

Optimus Svea

Selected for the Outdoor 100 Winter 23/24
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