User Review: 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.