User Review: Optimus Svea
Source: received it as a personal gift
The seva 123 is widely known as one of the most reliable stoves ever made and for good reason, they don’t break and most of them are still around in some form or another (parts, tarnished or new in box). The svea has been around for over half a century now and is still available new which can really attest for its quality and customer loyalty. Mine is an older Optimus model, and is missing the aluminum cup so I cannot speak as to the cup's performance. I still enjoy taking this stove on day hikes to cook some ramen noodles or Meso soup, plus it will get you some props from the older trail mates.
- Always works
- Tuff as nails
- Fuel efficent
- Lightweight 15oz full
- Sometimes difficult to prime
- Brass tarnishes easily
- Dosen't carry much fuel
- Poor flame control
- Rather unstable
I found this stove completely by accident when I was cleaning out the basement; I found a milk crate full of old hiking gear. So I drug it out into the sunlight and inspected the contents and was amazed. Inside there were 20 unused Gaz canisters with matching stove, a Whisperlite, fold up candle lantern and the svea 123. Evidently it had been sitting in that crate for 20 years with all the other gear so first thing I did was fill it up with Coleman fuel fill the priming cup and torch it off. After 25 seconds or so I opened up the main valve and the stove lit up with its telltale powerful pulsating flame and freight train sound. The stove worked perfectly despite being stored in a damp dingy basement with fuel in it for over 20 years with just minor tarnishing.
It takes a few uses before you really get setup down mainly because of the key on the chain having to be threaded through the pot support/ windscreen. You want to do this after lighting the priming cup and getting the stove all primed up but before lighting the burner. Make sure you thread the key and chain through the correct hole or the chain will is too short to operate.
Once that is setup open the valve fully if there is audible hissing it is still primes and ready to go. Light the burner with a flint, match or lighter do not worry the flames won’t rise too high when lighting so burning yourself is unlikely. Always practice extreme caution while priming and lighting.
Even with all the Svea’s strengths it does have a couple weaknesses: Flame control with this stove has only 3 modes; off, barely on, and Space Shuttle on take off. All of that in a ¾ turn of the valve.
The boil time of any stove is severely affected by the conditions one is cooking in. Under ideal conditions the svea will boil 1 quart/ liter of water in just under 6 minutes of continuous burn.
The svea is well known for being pretty much wind proof. Once up to temp you can try you’re hardest to blow the stove out but you won’t have any luck, though your heat output will be affected. And the built on wind screen does leave something to be desired.
The svea is incredibly fuel efficient and will often burn one (.35 pint) tank of fuel per hour of use though this all depends on conditions.
This stove is quite packable sized in at 5" tall by 4" in diameter. It will fit in most packs with relative ease and will often times fit into other large cups or pots.
Ease of use
Once acquainted with the stove anyone will find it quite easy to operate and its lack of features tend to make it easier to use. At first priming will be difficult but once one develops their own method the whole process becomes a breeze.
Along with flame control stability is one of the areas where the svea falls short. With its round base and high center of gravity on can find their noodles on the ground if they are not too careful and do not pick a flat cook site. I have heard of some people using the stove supports available for jet boil and other canister stoves with the svea since the bases are similar, but I have yet to try this myself.
The Svea 123 does not really have many features since it is such an old model. But its lack of features I would say is one of its greatest features.
The stove does include:
- Built on wind screen
- Key/tool that will disassemble most of the stove
- Built in pot supporting arms
- Accompanying aluminum cup
Construction & Durability
Don’t let the shiny brass exterior fool you the svea is one tuff as nails stove. Often times the worst thing that could happen is the windscreen could get slightly bent or the brass can get scratched, but fair warning, do not run the stove dry of fuel. This will damage the cotton wick reducing its performance.
I took the stove out the next weekend on a brief day hike to Wallace Lake with my Snow Peak 600 mug, top ramen, coffee, and hot chocolate. So no surprise the thing performed no problem cooking all of it and using hardly any fuel. I have since used this stove on several more day trips in ranging from snowshoe hikes at 5500' to hot sea level summer trips. In all cases the svea has not failed once.
Since the svea can burn multiple fuels, pack well, uses little fuel and requires almost no maintenance I would highly recommend it for a survival kit or bug out bag.
All of this is why I would recommend it to anyone. Sure it may be antiquated but it always works when you need it and has a certain charm that those old stoves do.