Coleman Exponent Apex II
Price Paid: £54
I've used this stove a great deal over 13 years. I have also used a number of other petrol stoves to a lesser extent. My opinion is that this is the best petrol stove in the world for normal camping/backpacking.
The main reason this stove is better than its nearest competitor - the MSR Whisperlite - is that it simmers properly. and you can't break the pump handle. It also costs less. The only advantage of the Whisperlite is the field-maintainable generator, but that adds complexity and unreliability. Simply having a spare generator (they are cheap) for the Apex II works just as well and you get a better stove. I have had to chance generator once in 13 years - that's probably 150-200 hours actual running time.
The Apex is simple to operate. Pump it up, turn it on, light it, wait about 40 seconds for the generator to heat up properly so the flame goes small and blue rather than huge and yellow. There is one control for flame size which goes from 'full boil' to 'fairly gentle simmer'. There is also an on/off knob on the fuel bottle.
The stove shares a burner with some of the Peak designs, but is _much_ more stable due to the external fuel bottle. One leg is screw-adjustable for height, which makes it really easy to get it flat on almost any ground. The feet fold in for transport so it fits inside your pans. The bottle and burner are separable for transport. Both ends have a cap. I have a very early model (1994-ish) and this had plastic caps on both the bottle and the stove. The one on the stove end eventually melts of course. I understand that cap is aluminum on newer models, which makes sense.
The only thing that has broken on my model over the years is the connecting pipe between bottle and stove. Twice I have found after international flights that this pipe was leaking - damaged where it was bent past the crimped flange. Packing to avoid this problem is a good idea, but it is easily fixed with a small jubilee (hose) clip, and a penknife saw (to saw off the crimp), making the pipe about 1cm shorter. Since I did this to both ends I have had no further trouble.
Someone else also managed to break the nylon flange washer on the end of the pump by overenthusiastic pumping. God knows how - it never happened to me in over a decade and thousands of enthusiastic pumpings - he did it in 30 seconds. This is difficult to field-repair - so don't do that!
I have found that for fuel efficiency it is well worth buying an MSR aluminum windshield, or making a foldable one out of slightly thicker sheets (I have both). The simmer adjuster is long enough to use and reach even with such a shield fitted.
I have used the stove primarily for car-camping and expedition trips, rather than backpacking in the US, UK, France, New Zealand, Austria between 0 and 3000m mostly in reasonable summer conditions.
I will be buying another one when this finally dies.
Price Paid: $20-40 used
This is clearly a highly functional 2 piece backpacking stove. I currently own 5 and use them for teaching backpacking stove/cooking skills. I also own several different liquid fuel stoves ranging from the old Optimus 96, 8R, 123R, Coleman 400, 442, 445, 450, 533, 550, Fyrestorm TI as well as the MSR Whisperlite and dragonfly. I have used many other liquid fuel stoves over the years.
1) Priming: Coleman uses a fuel line snorkel (the L-bend in the plastic tube on the pump) to mix pressured air from the top of the tank with the liquid fuel when the burner is cold. This helps to reduce flooding, but drains the pressure in the tank quite quickly on lighting, requiring addition pumping during priming. This is why they tell you not to fill the tank past 2/3 full and to pump it up good. The stove needs a good volume of pressurized air in the tank to prime properly. (I usually shake the tank vigorously after I pump it up to mix as much fuel vapor with the air in the tank before I light the stove)
With the kero gen tube installed, you need to preheat the stove with priming paste or alcohol before you open the fuel valve, this makes the pumping issue goes away. I prefer the Optimus and MSR priming method better (prefill the priming bowl with fuel, light, wait for everything to get hot then turn the fuel on). More often than not I will bring a small squeeze bottle (1-2oz) of alcohol or white gas just to manually prime the stove so I don't have pump the stove as much. A small amount of prime 1/8-1/4oz is all it takes to preheat the stove.
2) Simmering: Like most all liquid fuel stoves with a second 'fine control' fuel valve this stove does simmer quite well. It will also 'hold prime' even at very low simmer settings, not all liquid fuel stoves will. The burner design shields the wind and reflect the heat back to the gen tube. This is a great feature if you are truly cooking your meals not just boiling water. If you stay with 2qt pots and smaller the control valve doesn't get too hot to use.
3) Tank to Stove Fuel line: I don't like the design where the disconnect (fuel line connection) is at the burner. The MSR stoves and the later Colemans (Apollo/ Gemini/ Denali/ Fyrestorm) all disconnect at the pump. I have never had issues with my fuel lines and I have used the stoves several dozens of times over many years. The fuel line design is likely why Coleman discontinued the 450/445 Apex I/II stoves.
4) Stability: I prefer the Apex to the Wisperlite as it is lower and more stable. Especially the versions with the flip out 'lunar lander' legs.
5) Pumps/Repair: I always bring a spare generator (vaporizor) tube and a second pump assembly. Never needed them, but it is not a bad idea to pack these spares. I would rather swap pumps vs perform field service (there are a lot of little bits and pieces (including springs) to get lost).
6) Closing: Nice functional stove, nothing is perfect but these are good stoves. Other than the pumping and priming (a workout which I avoid by manual priming) properly maintained (keep an eye out for leaks) and operated they serve their designed purpose well.
Price Paid: $64.95+tax
I have used this stove for about 9 years. It has never blown-out fuel. It needs no priming. It takes about 30 seconds for the feed tube to get hot. It heats foods as well as any other stove I've owned. I've used an XGR, an Optimus 8, a SVEA 123, and a Coleman butane/propane. None have been as easy to use and as clean. The Optimus (3 oz. heavier) was more stable. I've used it in the desert, in the UP of Michigan at -10F and at 13,000 feet. It performed flawlessly.
Price Paid: $60
This could be a 4.5 star stove except for the fuel hose. Coleman has given me four pump/hose assemblies for free and now I have decided to give up on this stove. Leaks develop where the stainless steel hose enters the brass crimped fitting, and have happened on both ends of the hose. Gas then drips out and forms a nice puddle when you least expect it.
The first time it happened I was sure it was a random manufacturing flaw, but now I see it is a design error. Too bad, because the stove works great, lights easily, makes good heat and simmers perfectly. And stranger yet, the hose cannot be replaced but the entire pump must be changed.
Update: May 21, 2008
I previously wrote how the fuel hose would unexpectedly develop leaks, and that Coleman gave me four pump-hose assemblies free. Today I got curious and using a razor knife and other tools I disassembled the hose and found this nicely designed unit has a brittle and stiff inner rubber hose that had two splits in the first sample. I carefully removed the two end pieces and used 11" of automotive gas hose to replace the original part.
After I put it back together it fired right up and I patted myself on the back. I made a big pot of curried chicken and noodles to test things and it seems perfect. This hose is available at any auto parts store and you could replace it in the field using your pocket tool and a little spit to aid in forcing the ends on.
Coleman tells me they are not making this stove anymore but if you find one for sale this is the way to fix it.
Price Paid: $64
I actually just ordered mine and can't wait to get it. So how can I write a review you say? Simple; I have coveted this stove for years and have used one quite a bit because one of my backpacking buddies owns one.
When I got into "serious" backpacking in college, I was an out-in-out gear snob. No way was I going to own a "Coleman" stove. After all, isn't that what the Griswald's used on their family vacations?
So I have gone through a number of MSR products. My first was a Whisperlite and my next was an XGK II. Both good stoves and both got me to some beautiful places. BUT, they were both either on or off with not much adjustment in between. And they were expensive (I think about $120 for the XGK). All the while, my buddy had his trusty Coleman and he never used as much fuel, never risked burning down his tent while starting his stove, and he could SIMMER! It does weigh more but I was always having to pack extra heavy fuel to cook as much as my buddy. In the end, over a long trip, I think he had the better deal.
So I have finally done it. I sold my tired XGK for $20 and ordered the Coleman from Campmor.....and I CAN'T WAIT!
Price Paid: $50
I've owned a Coleman Apex II for six years and use it on 3-4 backpacking trips each year. It has never let me down. I love this stove for its reliability and simplicity of use--just pump it up, turn it on, and light it. That's it.
I was prompted to write this review after reading one that said the Apex II is "junk" and recommended the MSR Whisperlite. I've been on several trips where a Whisperlight failed due to broken seals. And they are a hassle to light, what with the primer wick and timing the fuel needed to get it going. On a Whisperlight it is difficult to adjust the flame down to simmer, you must also carry a windscreen and burn plate, and you need a near-perfectly level spot. The Apex II adjusts easily from simmer to high, the wind screen and burn plate are built-in, and the adjustable legs make it level and stable on uneven ground.
On my last trip I used the Apex II to scramble six eggs, boil three cups of water on four mornings, and boil two cups of water on three evenings. And I had enough fuel left over for at least another day.
I've seen the Apex II measured as slightly heavier than the Whisperlight. But for its reliability and simplicity of use, I'm sticking with the Apex II.
Price Paid: don't remember
I gave this a 4 star because I haven't used any other stoves and I've never had a problem with this one.
Its sturdy pot holder and adjustable legs are perfect for uneven ground. When the adjustable flame control is set all the way down for a couple minutes it tends to flame up around the pot. I've found that if you just turn it up slightly, it fixes the problem. The built in wind screen is nice. I've cooked two meals for 4, boiled water in the mornings and even warmed up some smoked oysters in their tins and still had enough fuel left for at least another day. It easily fits in an MSR pot.
I've used it on a couple dozen trips in the last five years and I know when I bought it I had limited funds. So, it's definitly worth it.
Price Paid: $39
I used this stove when it first came out for several years of canoe trips. My first component stove. It's easy to light and doesn't need a windscreen. The flame adjustability is its best feature.
Its drawback is its fragile construction. It won't tolerate any knocking around. Sheet metal construction bends easily. I baby my stoves, but this one had to be carried in a rigid container. Also, it's held together by a central screw/wing nut. If this comes loose, the whole stove becomes askew. Tighten it too much and it crushes the aluminum spacer.
A good stove for the price, and does what it is supposed to do, but not bulletproof.
Price Paid: $35
This stove is okay for a beginner. It is really heavy and made poorly. The little legs are a nuisance. Just save your money and get an MSR WhisperLite. Don't bother with this stove. The only thing that I did like was the fuel bottle and pump assembly. Other than that it is junk.
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