Optimus 111B

2 reviews
5-star:   1
4-star:   1
3-star:   0
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

Reviews

6

It is rare in today’s outdoor market for a product…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $120 US

Summary

It is rare in today’s outdoor market for a product to continue with few changes for more than a score of years or even a decade. Stoves are a bit different, requiring more R & D, as well as being based on a couple of basic designs. The Optimus 111B is a design that dates in nearly unchanged form to the 1920s and still performs well to this day.

Pros

  • Requires minimal assembly
  • Boils water quickly
  • Stable
  • Able to use large pots
  • Precise flame control
  • Extremely reliable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Only available used
  • Roarer burner is noisy

Background:

Early pressurized stoves date back to the late 19th century. No one can say for certain who developed the first one, but by the end of the century Optimus was one of the leading names. Those early stoves used kerosene (parafin), but by the early 20th century white gas (Coleman Fuel, naphtha) was becoming more common.

In 1927, Optimus of Sweden patented their No. 11, a box stove that would burn either white gas or kerosene. It was encased in a tin box with a brass fuel tank and a simple roarer type burner. An integral pump supplied pressure and the hinged lid of the box provided an effective windscreen. By 1953, the No. 11 had been superseded by the 111, again a dual fuel stove but with an integrated cleaning needle.

A short time later, Optimus changed their 111 to a 111B model which only burns white gas. It has been surmised that the 111 and 111B models were nearly identical except that the B model was said to be only for white gas. The earlier 111 would burn both kerosene and white gas using the same jet, which may have been an issue with both. Production of the 111B was discontinued in 1999 and a new variant, the 111C was introduced.

My own background with stoves began with Bluet canister stoves in the early 1960’s. Climbing friends used everything from SVEA 123’s to Optimus 8R’s(small variants of the 111) and MSR XGK’s, when those latter stoves first emerged. I eventually settled on a SVEA 123R as my climbing and hiking stove. My own personal experience with the 111 began when I started going on extended canoeing expeditions in Canada’s North.

At that time, I needed a stove that was simple, would simmer well, was efficient and would serve as the primary stove for a group of six. Weight was less of an issue than if I were carrying everything on my back. The stove also had to be very reliable. The 111 in it’s various forms, has been supplied to the Swedish Army, NATO forces, and developing nations. It has also been on a number of major Himalayan and Antarctic expeditions as a primary stove.

Initial Impression:


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This is not a lightweight stove. At 58 oz./1640 grams, it is made from heavy metals, including a brass tank and steel case. The integral tank includes a pump with a brass handle and a steel shaft, a pressure relief valve, the body of which is also brass. A steel shield protects the tank from the heat of the burner assembly and from reflection of large cooking pots.A regulator knob is fitted to the burner assembly through a hole in the right hand side of the case when in use.A chrome steel chain prevents it from being lost. A small wrench is clipped to the inside of the case lid. The stove can be fully field stripped using only this wrench.

The burner assembly is a roarer type with a metal plate being rigidly supported by two cast arms above the jet. A small pan below the burner assembly acts as the support for the burner, as well as a cup to hold priming fuel. Two chromed steel pot supports fit into recesses in the bottom of the case. The case lid acts as a windscreen. As well, a small windscreen is fitted below the burner plate. A small carrying handle is located above the hinges at the rear of the case.

In the Bush:


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To operate, the case with the stove inside is placed on a level surface, with the hinges toward any wind. The lid of the case is opened by means of a small retaining latch at the front and the lid is hinged up until vertical. The regulating knob is lifted out and placed to the right side of the case. The front of the case base is hinged and when lowered, the tank and burner assembly slide forward with the burner positioned under the pot supports.

The regulator knob shaft is inserted through the hole in the case on the right side and fits over the square profile of the regulator valve on the burner assembly. The knob is turned clockwise to insure that the regulator valve is in closed position. The tank filler cap with integral pressure relief valve should be unscrewed to check that the amount of fuel in the tank is adequate for task of cooking.

The capacity is 12oz./.035L which gives a burn time at maximum output of up to two hours. Replace the filler cap snugly. The pump, located on the right hand end of the tank is pumped slowly 12-15 times. Next, the regulator valve is opened slightly and liquid fuel is allowed to nearly fill the priming cup at the base of the burner assembly. Close the valve. Using a match, lighter or fire starter, light the liquid fuel. There will be some flare up as this is white gas, so don’t be too close. When the flame in the priming cup is nearly gone, open the regulator valve and the burner should respond with a roar. It may sputter slightly before coming to a constant roar. If the flame in the priming cup is extinguished completely before opening the regulator valve, it will be necessary to light the stove at the burner plate.

Occasionally, especially in extreme cold, the stove will still not be adequately primed and the priming cup must be filled again. The priming step is necessary to heat the burner assembly so that fuel leaving the burner jet is vapor, rather than liquid.


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Once the stove is operating, noted by the constant roar, the regulator knob is used to control the flame. The 111B will boil a liter of water in under 3 minutes, and unlike many other stoves, will also simmer well. As the fuel level in the tank drops, more pressure can be added by a few strokes on the pump. Should the burner jet become clogged, turning the regulator knob all the way counter clockwise will bring the integral cleaning needle through the orifice, clearing the obstruction.

Weekly, the pump leather should be lubricated with a small amount of oil.

I have used my Optimus 111B on a number of trips. Although heavier than many other stoves, it performs well for cooking, as it is stable, can go from a boil to a simmer, has the ability to hold large pots. For trips such as my canoe expeditions in Northern Canada or my winter ski trips where I pull a pulk, the 111B is a wonderful stove. It needs little assembly. Its only limiting factor is its size and weight. If you have the ability to carry a stove of this weight, it is a pleasure to cook on.

Optimus 111B

Fuel:White gas/Naphtha

Weight:58oz./1640 g

Measurements:4.1 x 7.1 x 7.1”/105 x 180 x 180mm

Rating:Approximately 3,000 watts/10,000 BTU

Running Time:Up to two hours at maximum output

Boiling Time 1 L Water:Down to under 3 minutes(varies with climate, altitude, etc.)

My Experience:

Since the early 1960s I have hiked, climbed, skied and paddled over much of the Northwestern part of North America. In the early 1990s I retire from more extreme mountaineering and now spend a large portion of each year canoeing Canada’s Far North.

G00SE MODERATOR

I love retro gear. Thanks for the review, Erich!


5 months ago
Erich

Jeff, sometimes gear that is considered old fashioned or retro, is just gear that has stood the test of time and continues to find adherents who have rediscovered it.


5 months ago
G00SE MODERATOR

Completely agree! I've run out and stock piled gear that was about to be discontinued.


5 months ago
Waldy

Like you, I started with the Bluet. The non-removable cartridge made it inconvenient to pack, and the butane forced it to be an unwelcome guest in my sleeping bag on cold nights. Thus I was easily converted to using liquid fuel stoves, an attitude I still have. At that time, there were only three choices: the Svea 123, the Optimus 8R, and the Optimus 111/B (the MSR stoves were still in the future). A friend of mine used the 123, which he succeeded in turning into a Roman candle at each priming, so it was easy to choose the 8R instead. I used this stove for all trips, and never had a problem with it -- I still use it today. At a 2-week mountaineering seminar in 1978, we had two Coleman Peak 1 stoves as primary stoves, and a 111B strictly as a backup. Well, both Coleman stoves failed the first night, were sent to Coleman for emergency repair, and upon return about a week later, both promptly failed again. So our back up stove had to do double duty, and performed flawlessly. Upon return from this trip I got my own 111B. While I have other liquid fuel stoves now, if I'm going on a trip where I MUST depend on my stove, I still grab my 8R or 111B. To this day I have not seen a stove as reliable as these relics (I've even gotten my hands on an ancient 123, which I'm keeping more for sentimental reasons than real field use) -- every Coleman stove I've been involved with has failed in the field, and I've gotten quite adept at repairing MSR stoves.


5 months ago
Lah

My dad has one of these models, so this review brings back childhood memories of us using it on camping trips. Such 'relics' truly are examples of dependable, well-engineered, indestructible gear that stand the test of time. They also create fond memories that span generations.


5 months ago
0

Classic design, engineering, and reliability. I cannot…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $125

Summary

Classic design, engineering, and reliability.

Pros

  • Quality built
  • Reliable
  • Powerful

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Hard to find in USA

I cannot add much to the previous review which is very thorough.

The 111T burns alcohol, kerosene, or Coleman fuel with a change of the jet and air baffle. The T has a silent burner in place of the roarer burner on the B. The 111B is a Coleman fuel stove. As Erich points out, the CF burner has only one set of vaporizer tubes and the kerosene burner has two sets of vaporizer tubes.

I own both of these stoves and they are prized possesions for any camper (or stove collector). If you buy a used one, plan on replacing some rubber parts and the pump cup (all are still available at very modest cost).

Visit www.spiritburner.com for instructions on how to "fettle" this stove. Given just a little TLC it will run for many more years.

G00SE MODERATOR

I noted you collect old stoves, Blacksmith. Cool! Thanks for adding to Erich's review. (Side note, my 13yo son just took a blacksmithing class and loved it.)


5 months ago
Erich

One thing to remember is the type of vaporizer the stove has. Kerosene requires more tubes to vaporize the fuel, which is another reason the 111 was replaced by the 111B.


5 months ago

Optimus 111B

reviewers paid:
$120.00 - $125.00

The Optimus 111B is not available from the stores we monitor.

If you're looking for a new liquid fuel stove, check out the best reviewed current models.