Primus Eta Solo Stove Review

A heat exchanger stove in the now fairly standard upright format. Does the Primus Eta Solo outperform the competition?

Overall Rating: Average

There are a number of heat exchanger stoves on the market now, and while they are a bit more fuel-efficient than a simple upright, there is always a weight penalty. In addition, this one has a few hassles in use.

About This Rating

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by Roger Caffin |

Introduction

There are quite a few small upright heat-exchanger stoves on the market now. In general they consist of a stove unit which screws onto the top of a canister, and a special pot with a heat exchanger on the bottom. The first one was released by Jetboil, and we believe that it was made for Jetboil by Primus. It was distinguished by having a very bulky black plastic surround on the stove, which was meant to support the pot - except that the bottom parts of the support didn't connect with the canister.

The astute reader will note that the measured weights listed below add up to considerably more than the claimed weight of 365 grams. Frankly, we have no idea of how the claimed weight was reached. We are sure about the measured weights.

Primus Eta Solo Stove Review - 1
The Primus Eta Solo, courtesy Primus

Specifications and Features
Manufacturer Primus www.primuscamping.com
Model Eta Solo
Materials Brass, titanium, plastic, fabric, foam
Size approx 105 mm dia x 160 mm tall (4.1 in x 6.3 in)
Weight (claimed) 365 g (12.9 oz)
Weight (measured) Pot: 151 g (5.3 oz)
Stove: 164 g (5.8 oz)
Lid: 23 g (0.8 oz)
Cozy: 39 g (1.4 oz)
Supports: 37 g (1.3 oz)
Hanger: 24 g (0.8 oz)
Base: 24 g (0.8 oz)
Boil time (claimed) 2.1 min for 0.5 L
Power (claimed) 2.1 kW (7150 BTU/hr)
MSRP US$60

Overview

Well, this stove looks very similar to the Jetboil - but it also looks similar to the copies made by other brands.

Heat exchanger stoves are all a bit more fuel-efficient than the basic upright stove such as the Primus Express, but you usually pay for this small saving in fuel weight by a large increase in the weight of the stove system. Exactly why a heat exchanger stove needs such a bulky lump of stuff around the basic burner is not at all clear, although this one does have an extra feature not found on other similar models. It comes with a 'hanger system' which has two parts.

The first part is a folding bracket or clip and some attached wire: you attach the clip to the pot and then hang the stove by means of the length of wire going upwards from the clip. The design is such that the system does hang vertically. This could definitely be useful for climbers.

The second part makes sense when you think about what happens when you lift the pot up in the air. Normally, the stove would stay on the ground, but in this case the pot is actually secured to the stove by two metal clips. That makes for a quite neat integrated solution to cooking dinner on a small ledge 1000 m above the ground.

The rest of the stove and the 0.9 L pot is pretty standard. It has a built-in piezo lighter and comes with a three-legged plastic canister stand and a plastic lid with a pouring hole. In case you want to use a more conventional pot on the stove it also has three wire pot supports which can clip into the structure. The canister stand can be useful, as the stove and pot is a rather tall combination. Yes, the 0.9 L pot is very narrow and tall. There is also a cozy to wrap around the pot, and this can be used even when the stove is running.

Normally, a tall narrow pot is an inefficient design, and in this case the heat exchanger fins do a very good job of sucking the heat out of the flame and hot gases. You can put your hands around the pot while the stove is running without burning them. That's why the cozy survives, of course. With the cozy and the lid, hot water stays hot for quite some time.

The stove fits into the pot with the extra pot supports and the hanger. It makes for a fairly solid package.

Field Use and Assessment

Primus Eta Solo Stove Review - 2

Well, the stove certainly works well at heating water. We did not try actually cooking food in it, as the shape is just not good for stirring. But, you could always boil the water and then throw the stuff into the pot to 'dutch oven' or 'freezer bag' it. You might be advised to put the pot on the ground for this, to lower the centre of gravity.

Unfortunately, it must be recorded that we had several problems with this stove. We list them here, although they risk dominating the Spotlite. It should be noted up front that the stove heats water very well.

The first was a small problem with the pot supports: the first unit received was not made to specification. That was fixed by replacement. Perhaps the original unit was pre-production.

The second problem was that the pot always seemed to be a bit tilted on the stove, even when clipped down properly. The tilt was not large, but combined with the height it did suggest care was needed lest it be knocked over. It was not clear why this was so, but it seems that the threaded base to the stove was at an angle to the rest of the stove. Very odd, but definitely there.

The next problem was found when the water boiled, and I wanted to detach the pot from the stove. You can see a large red clip handle below the pot in the photo. There is a second clip on the other side of the stove, and these clips are what secures the stove to the pot. In principle you push both clips inwards and the pot is released. In practice that proved very hard to do. The clips have to be pushed in a fair way to let the pot go, and that is difficult to do with one hand, especially because the region where the palm of your hand would be was pretty hot. It was easy to do with two people: one person pushed a clip in with each hand, while the second person held the pot and removed it. Getting the pot off the stove single-handed without spilling the water was rather difficult - and the name and size of the pot suggest it is meant for a solo walker.

Once the water was boiling, the lid went a bit soft and bulged downwards. Getting it off was not too hard, but the lid did seem to acquire a bit of permanent distortion after the first couple of boils. In addition, it did smell a bit at first, possibly from the molding process. This eventually went away. Care was needed when the water came to the boil: the steam comes out that small hole in the lid rather strongly. Care was also needed to avoid putting too much water in the pot: boiling water could come splashing over the edges or out of the hole in the lid rather easily.

While I was trying to get the pot off the stove I found that the cozy could easily slip downwards, covering the air outlets at the bottom of the pot. If this happens while the stove is running two very nasty things could happen. The first is that the heat build-up under the stove would quickly melt the bottom edge of the cozy, and very possibly set it alight. Not good. The second, and even worse possibility, is that the blockage could suffocate the flame inside, causing it to go out. That would leave gas pouring out of the canister, but not being immediately burnt. The consequences could be less than desirable.

The enclosed underside of the stove had another unfortunate consequence, as I found when I first tried to use the piezo igniter. I fumbled the action twice, and that let a fair bit of fuel vapour build up inside the heat exchanger region under the pot. After the third click, the igniter worked - with a kaboom, and flames out the side. Fortunately, I did not get burnt. Unlike conventional stoves, the fuel does not dissipate when there is no flame. Mind you, other brands of heat exchanger stove with the same configuration present the same risk.

Summary

The stove certainly does work and could be useful for a single climber, but it has a number of little problems which would make it rather problematic for many users.

What’s Good:

  • Hanger system good for climbers

Whats Not Good:

  • See Field Use text for a list of problems
Disclosure: The vendor provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the vendor under the terms of this agreement.

Citation

"Primus Eta Solo Stove Review," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/primus_eta_solo_stove_review.html, 2011-05-17 00:10:00-06.

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Primus Eta Solo Stove Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Primus Eta Solo Stove Review on 05/17/2011 18:02:11 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Primus Eta Solo Stove Review

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Eta Solo TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE on 05/17/2011 21:30:13 MDT Print View

My rating would be "Eta Solo TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!" In your report you said: "While I was trying to get the pot off the stove I found that the cozy could easily slip downwards, covering the air outlets at the bottom of the pot. If this happens while the stove is running two very nasty things could happen. The first is that the heat build-up under the stove would quickly melt the bottom edge of the cozy, and very possibly set it alight. Not good. The second, and even worse possibility, is that the blockage could suffocate the flame inside, causing it to go out. That would leave gas pouring out of the canister, but not being immediately burnt. The consequences could be less than desirable."
THIS IS A STOVE THAT CAN KILL YOU!

Ken Griffiths
(HillWalker) - MLife

Locale: Snowies-Tas-NZ in turn
Primus Eta Solo Stove Review on 05/18/2011 04:19:39 MDT Print View

The Primus Eta Solo certainly looks very like the Jetboil PCS. I have used the Jetboil PCS for a couple of seasons and it suits me very well. I used to have a fast breakfast - add cold water to oats and powdered milk, and to coffee. Now I boil 600ml and pour boiling water onto the food. Three servings, three containers, one boil up. Similarly, in the evening, I heat to a boil then turn the stove off at once. Then detach the Jetboil 'cup' by a small screw motion and pour out onto freeze dry vegies or cous cous. So I never have anything but water in the upright Jetboil pot/cup thingie. I leave the top off during heating, for safety. The Jetboil cozy makes handling the hot water easier. Though I purchased a hanger and the plastic feet and the stove top adapter, admiring their design, I have never used them. If the ground is uneven under the Jetboil, you can actually hold it so it does not tip, because 3 or 4 minutes are only needed. So this type of stove certainly suits a person like me who does not want to simmer anything. I love the design of the Jetboil. It looks like the Primus Eta might need some tweaking or production quality control.

William Brown
(MatthewBrown) - F

Locale: Blue Ridge Mtns
Primus on 05/18/2011 06:33:41 MDT Print View

I have a number of Primus products that I would highly recommend. But as soon as I saw this model at an outdoor trade show, I was extremely put off. Sorry to see I was right in my visual assumption.

To knock off another's design and make it better is one thing. To do it poorly is quite another.

Edited by MatthewBrown on 05/18/2011 06:36:05 MDT.

Allen Childs
(childthor) - F
Primus Eta Solo Stove Review" on 05/18/2011 11:02:04 MDT Print View

Hard to understand why they let this one go into production given their good name and previous products. I bought my first stove from them in 1977 but wouldn't touch this one.
Allen Childs
Waynesville, NC

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Primus Eta Solo Stove Review on 05/18/2011 11:22:24 MDT Print View

Enjoyed reading. This is a good example as to why we need experts testing new gear.


To: Primus

Fix it.

carlos fernandez rivas
(pitagorin) - MLife

Locale: Galicia -Spain
really surprised on 05/18/2011 15:19:27 MDT Print View

"""To knock off another's design and make it better is one thing. To do it poorly is quite another.""

Im agree............ but I´m really surprised with the review .... because primus manufacture really good stoves ... and because primus was the manufacturer of some parts of the first original jetboil ...¿?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Eta Solo TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE on 05/18/2011 16:16:53 MDT Print View

Hi Robert

There are many ways a stove could kill you ... :-)

The probability of the cozy slipping is not high ***if it is wrapped tightly around the pot***.
The probability that you would not smell it cooking if it did slip is pretty low as well.

So while there is a possibility, I would not rate it as very highly probable.

Cheers

Ralph DITTON
(aushiker) - MLife

Locale: Manning
Primus Eta Solo Stove on 05/18/2011 16:45:04 MDT Print View

Roger, you had the same experience as me. In fact, the cosy did slip down over the heat exchanger whilst running. It snuffed out the flame. Fortunately I was watching it at the time. On another occasion I made the mistake of putting the heat resistant cover on upside down.After a short time the flame went out and I couldn't work out why straight away. The gas bottle was full and it was not freezing so the gas should burn.
Then it dawned on me. I could only see into the burner section through the inverted U shape. Hang on, that was supposed to be on the top just under the bracket for the suspension kit.

The heat resistant cover was below the bracket and this caused the bottom section of the cover to block off the air vents apart from where the U shape was.
I had starved the flame of air.

Once I realized this I removed it completely and lit up the stove again.
This time I got another flare out of flame through the air vents and the flame singed the hairs on the back of my right hand.

Re the tilting:The vessel takes on a slight lean.
The reason for this is because there is a bit of play between the control knob housing and the moulded bracket that holds it and the Piezo igniter. In addition, there is also play at the top just under the burner head where the stem passes through the bracket that has the two red buttons that release the burner unit from the vessel.Stove with cover on upside down

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Primus Eta Solo Stove on 05/20/2011 18:30:22 MDT Print View

Hi Ralph

Yeah, not sure why Primus did not fix the tilt before release. Me, I think it's a serious design fault that the manufacturer is initially responsible for, Primus should have demanded it be fixed.

Cheers