I currently own a number of vintage Optimus and Primus…
I currently own a number of vintage Optimus and Primus stoves. I have been around them and used them since the early '70s, camping with my family. I bought my first 8R in 1977 when I started backpacking on my own. Still have that little stove and it still works great. In all that time I have done simple maintenance on it and it has never let me down.
The stove weighs about 28 oz. full of fuel. A 5 oz. tank will last a couple days worth of heating meals if you conserve. I like my hot food and drinks so I carry an extra 11 oz. small MSR fuel bottle on 2-3 day hikes and I always have more than enough fuel, even for things like making hot water to clean up with.
These stoves work well at all altitudes, temperatures and inclement weather conditions. The highest I have used the stove is at 13,000 ft on Mt Rainier in Wa. state. I have used the stove at 10 degree temps and also in wet nasty weather. It has never failed to light and deliver a hot meal.
The stove works on a self pressurizing principle. Unlike many other stove designs (Coleman) that require you to constantly pump up the fuel tank to create pressure, the Optimus 8R creates its own pressure to feed the burner. There is a priming ritual that must be performed where you preheat the burner with a flame. I carry a small 1 oz. squeeze bottle with alcohol to perform this task.
You put a little alcohol or other flammable fluid into a little pan built under the burner. Light the liquid and in around 40-50 seconds you can open the fuel valve and the warmed white gas will vaporize as it enters the hot burner. When you turn the valve regulator to the open position, gas vapor will flow and you can then light the burner. The whole process takes a couple minuets tops. A little extra work to start but then you can use the stove with no pumping which is nice.
So why do I continue to use the old Optimus stoves when there are newer designs that are easier to use, lighter, burn hotter etc.? When I find something that works I stick with it. These old Optimus stoves are reliable and perform good enough for my needs. I can't tell you how many times my stove saved the day after a hiking companion's latest fancy high tech stove crapped out in the middle of nowhere. Old Optimus stoves last and last. It will probably outlast you so there's no reason to run out and buy the latest, greatest stove.
As for performance the 8R works good enough. I don't care if it takes 5 minuets to heat my food as opposed to 4. I'm never in that great of rush. My stove bag with the 8R full of fuel, an extra fuel bottle and my priming alcohol bottle weighs 40 oz. Not the lightest but I have more fuel on hand and a more stable, usable stove to prepare my meal so to me it's a trade off. A lighter, simpler version of the 8R called the 99 is available if you're really concerned about saving a few more ounces.
I also tend to like vintage camping gear and want to have something unique. Most people I see on the trail have the newer butane or multi fuel liquid stoves but there's always interest in this old 8R. Many people have never seen the original "stove in a box" and get a kick out of the whole lighting process. But after they see it in operation they usually leave believers.
I pick up most of my Optimus and Primus stoves at garage, estate sales and camping gear swap-meets. eBay is also a great place to find them but I noticed that the prices for the old Optimus stoves has really gone up lately with collectors from all over the world bidding big dollars on them. But if you're patient you can pick one up for a song and you will have a fine stove that will provide years of reliable service and that you can pass on to your kids someday.
Optimus parts and service are available from A & H Packstoves in Tustin Ca. www.packstoves.com. You can still buy the big brother to the 8R, the 111C "Hiker", brand new. It's a little pricey but makes an excellent basecamp stove.
I give the 8R a 4 star. It's a little heavy, a little quirky to use at first, but it's an excellent all around stove that is reliable and that will last a lifetime.
Bullet proof and it will SIMMER! Easy to light. I…
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: varies, have 2 of them
Bullet proof and it will SIMMER! Easy to light.
- No pumping
- Very stable base
- Easy to light
- No empty butane canisters to deal with
- Not the lightest or most compact stove
- Not the highest heat output
- Fuel tank on the small side
I have 2 of these, both purchased on eBay. They both work great and are easy to light. I prefer priming with alcohol as it prevents the excitement if over primed! The down side to that is the flame is hard to see in the daylight.
They provide quite sufficient heat for all my cooking and most importantly for me, they will simmer which fits my type of trail food. The base is quite stable being 4" by 4" and a flat 16 sq. in. surface.
I haven't timed the boil times but then again, I'm in no rush when I'm out enjoying the great outdoors! I think they're rated at 4700 BTU's. It's much more important to me to be able to simmer than how quickly I can boil water!
The fuel tank is on the small side but I carry a small fuel bottle for extra fuel. I also use a small filtered funnel.
There are smaller and lighter stoves available but these are so reliable that when the chips are down and you're really counting on a hot meal/drink, these will NOT fail you. No need to carry empty butane cartridges around and no recycling issues either.
I do have the pump and special fuel cap for that, but only use it when the temp gets very cold. Insulate it from cold ground or snow.
Made to last. Almost no moving parts. Simple to use.
Source: received it as a personal gift
Made to last. Almost no moving parts. Simple to use.
- Packs beautifully in its case, nothing to assemble. This is a big deal when it's cold outside and you have gloves.
- Easy to prime and start when you know how.
- No pump or other unreliable moving parts
- A bit heavy by today's standards, but not really.
I didn't fully understand the stove in the old days and I wasn't the best at starting it, but it always worked. Now that I understand it it is easy—thank you, internet. I always use alcohol now in the priming cup. Just don't try to start it too early before the prime has heated it up or you will have a fireball burning liquid fuel. But my WhisperLite was the same and that died an unhappy death when the rebuild kit failed to rescue the crappy pump.
People complain the 8R is heavy by a few grams. What a joke, most of the people complaining probably are carrying 20 extra pounds of fat on their belly. I completely cleaned the stove from my earlier abuses and replaced some parts, seals, and wick.
The stove will now outlast me since I am old and will be lucky to last 20 more years. The stove will have a different owner, but it will still be making coffee and rice for someone.
Bought mine in the '70s, ancient times now, backpacked…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: ?
Bought mine in the '70s, ancient times now, backpacked all over the U.S. Fell down a steep ridge once, stove and extra fuel bottle took a few dents.
Just started it and ran it after 25 years of not using it. Started right up, even had old fuel. Great stove, just a little heavy compared to an MSR system.
- Very durable, compact, and impact resistant and tested in a fall
- Still works 25 years after it was used, so reliable
- Extra weight compared to light versions like MSR
No priming in colder weather, use some lighter paste or some petroleum jelly with a teaspoon of fuel in bottom of pan to get her rolling.
I say her because she has never let me down even in frozen conditions ice fishing.
Sorry, never tested efficiency or wind, but rain and cold no problem.
Wind usually out of the way with shelter, always used backpacking dried food, just add water, heat, and eat. Cooked a few fish, fried nice but temps were in the mid 50s.
Bought the stove because of durable container, much heavier than I wanted .
Glad I had it when I fell down a steep ridge, a few bangs and dents in case, good to go.
I bought one when I was an Airborne Infantry officer.
Price Paid: $10
I bought one when I was an Airborne Infantry officer. I carried it many miles--used it many times and it never failed.
It burned Army gas. One trick that I used was to carry a small spoon with half the handle cut off. I poured a little gas into the burner and lighted it to get the stove a little kick start--as you know, the stove has no pump.
One more thing. I have melted lead with it.
Indestructable -- great for winter camping -- fires…
Price Paid: $100 new
Indestructable -- great for winter camping -- fires every time -- these little stoves outlive their owners -- getting harder to find -- about 7 minutes to boil but worth the extra couple of minutes -- so easy and no bad for the enviroment cartridges to dispose of -- best climbing hiking travel stove ever -- except maybe the 123 -- very cool.
One badassed little stove, simmers well, cooks every…
Price Paid: $35
One badassed little stove, simmers well, cooks every time with no complaint. Easy to work and pretty light too. And it all fits into this cool little blue box.
The sturdiest and most dependable ever! I bought mine…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: ~$40 (1977)
The sturdiest and most dependable ever!
- Absolutely dependable, indestructible and versatile.
- Quite a chunk.
I bought mine new in 1977 with the pressure cap and pump. The pump makes a huge difference.
I have used it many hundreds of times and in every condition. Temps as low as -22°F and as high as 122°F and altitudes as high as 13,500 feet. It has never failed me!
The pressure cap allows two great improvements. By pumping the tank before firing it will self prime. Just open the valve for a couple of seconds will fill the priming cup. Turn the valve off and light. Reopen after it starts to hiss and before the flame goes out and it will take off. It will boil a liter in <4 minutes, and turn down down to a fine simmer. Needless to say the iron safe of a box will protect it against hammer blows.
The only drawbacks (especially as I get older) are the weight and the size. You have to carry a fuel bottle and between the two you're into about 3 pounds. It also eats up space in your pack.
I will leave this thing to the next couple of generations.
Been cooking since the '70s with no signs of stopping!
Source: received it as a personal gift
Been cooking since the '70s with no signs of stopping! Classic stove.
- Runs on lots of fuels
- Really heavy by today's standards
What an epic stove. My dad handed this down to me and I may end up handing it down again. it shows no sign of stopping. The Swedes knew what they were doing!
I made a windscreen by cutting up a big soda can and wedging it in. Only thing is it's a hefty little thing.
I have two of these stove and find them terrific for…
Price Paid: $40 used for each
I have two of these stove and find them terrific for simmering and boiling. The fuel capacity is a tad limited compared to the Svea 123 and it does not seem to burn as hot, though we are talking about maybe a 30 second delay in boil time.
It is very compact and dependable. I use the small pump prior to priming to assure easy lighting. I keep them in my cars in the event of an emergency away from home and day hikes.
Given a choice, I would say the Svea 123 is a tad better. If I am in need, the 8R is always there for us.