User Review: Optimus 8r
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 pickup 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.