Gear Test: The Primus Omnifuel Stove

by Richard Munn|Published 00-00-0000

Primus Omnifuel StoveLooking for a versatile, compact stove that burns everything from canister fuels to white gas to kerosene to diesel? Primus may have just the ticket.

The new Omnifuel (an upgraded version of their succesful Multifuel) looks like a real winner. Designed with a more efficient burner, the Omnifuelreally cranks out the heat, providing faster boil times than its older sibling - the Multifuel.

The Omnifuel ships with a pump that fits standard white gas fuel bottles, a disassembly / cleaning tool, brass orifices for various fuels and a two-part windscreen / reflector. Part of the reflector goes under the pot to reflect heat upwards, while the large reflector wraps around the entire stove and pot to block wind.

Using the Stove

The Omnifuel ships with three small brass screw-in orifices - one for canister fuels, one for white gas and one for kerosene. The orifice can be changed using the provided took in a matter of seconds.

Our Omnifuel came with the canister fuel orifice installed. Firing it up couldn't have been simpler. We screwed a fuel canister on the fitting at the end of the fuel line, turned on the gas and lit the stove. To operate on white gas, we changed the orifice, screwed the pump on the end of the fuel line, attached an aluminum Sigg fuel bottle, pressurized it and lit the stove.

Priming was fairly quick and simple, and we found that the stove "kicked in" within about 20 to 30 seconds. When using white gas, the fuel line is drained after use by turning the pump over to the off position to burn the remaining gas from the line. This step is obviously not required when using fuel canisters.

The Specs

Here are the specs on the new Omnifuel as provided by Primus.

  • Part Number: 328984 PRIMUS OmniFuel™
  • Output: 3000 W (10,500 BTU/h
  • Boiling time: 3 minutes (+40 min preheat)
  • Weight: 464 grams / 16.4 oz (including pump)
  • Weight: 362 grams / 12.8 oz (excluding pump)
  • Dimensions: 150 x 88 x 85 mm (5.9" x 3.5" x 3.4")
  • Piezo Ignition: no
  • Suitable for: 1-4 people

Winter Testing

I took the stove on a winter camping trip north of Sudbury in February 2005. Although we were "hot-tenting" in a large tent with wood stove, the testing was done at normal outdoor temperatures ranging from -15C to -20C. We tried out the stove with two different fuels - standard four-season propane/butane mix and white gas.

Primus Omnifuel StoveThe first day, we tested the stove several times using standard Primus fuel canisters. I rolled out of bed, screwed on a cylinder and fired up the stove to make coffee. The cylinder temperature was the same as the ambient temperature - about -20C. The stove ignited and ran just fine. We put about a litre and a half of water (slushy with ice) in the pot and set it on the stove and checked the boil time, which was about seven minutes. Several subsequent timed tests gave similar results.

On the second day, we changed the small brass orifice in the stove over to the one supplied for white gas. Again, we were testing the stove in an ambient temperature of about -20C. Priming and preheating the stove took about 30 seconds. Boil times were noticeably faster - between 4 and 4 1/2 minutes. Not surprising, since white gas is known to outperform pressurized fuel canisters in cold conditions.

Although we didn't test the stove or either fuel at normal summer temperatures, it's pretty clear that boil times for a litre of water wouldn't be far off the 3 1/2 minutes advertised by Primus for this stove.

Simmering

Having previously owned a Primus Varifuel with less than stellar simmering abilities, I was curious to see if the Omnifuel was a better performer. It was - particularly so when using the pressurized fuel cylinders, but also when using white gas.

Primus Omnifuel StoveUsing the stove with my Outback Oven was a real treat. I'm used to sitting hunched over the oven, ready to leap into action as the temperature gauge creeps into the "burn" area. With the Omnifuel, I was able to control the heat to the point that the temperature sat rock-solid in the "bake" area. I was confident enough in the simmering ability that I would leave the tent for a few minutes while baking dessert, something unthinkable with my old stove.

We treated ourselves to all kinds of baked desserts like muffins and brownies, all made easier because of the superior heat control of this stove

Conclusion

We think this stove is a winner. Not only is the ability to use nearly any type of fuel a major advantage, but we found it to be a quick heater and an efficent burner, with canisters lasting longer than in the older Multifuel.

At just over a pound, we found the weight quite reasonable for a stove of this type. Of course, the backpackers may still prefer to go with a smaller stove like the Primus Micron or Powercook that screw directly onto a fuel canister. For a free-standing multi-fuel capable stove, we felt the weight was an acceptable trade-off.

The stove had a solid, well-made feel to it. The legs swung out to form a sturdy base, and the stove felt stable in use. The toothed pot supports held on nicely to the bottom of our aluminum pots and prevented sliding. We'd have preferred to see a bit less plastic on the pump, but we experienced no problems with it. As canoeists, we think we've found the perfect stove and we're likely to start using the Omnifuel exclusively.