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Review: ultralight cooking with the Optimus Crux stove

Alia Parker's picture
The Optimus Crux, lightweight camp stove. Cycle Traveller

There's a lot to carry on a self-supported bicycle tour, even more so when riding solo. So it's worth investing in ultralight camping gear, both from a weight and space perspective.

When it comes to cooking, many ultralight cyclists make a strategic decision to forgo a stove and cookware altogether. This can save you a bit of space and weight in your pack and is fine if you're staying in towns or if you're happy to live on uncooked meals while camping. But with a plethora of lightweight stove and cookware available at outdoor stores, carrying a kitchen is not as heavy and bulky as it once was.

There are numerous stoves on the market, each with their own pros and cons. For the past four years I have been using the Crux by Swedish company Optimus, which is well respected in the outdoor market. My Crux has received a pretty heavy workout and the good news is it's still going strong and is showing no signs of fading. I have well and truly got my money's worth out of this little gadget and I would happily buy another if it ever needs replacing.

Optimus Crux packed for lightweight cycle touring. Cycle TravellerOptimus Crux specs

Weight: 83g (2.92oz), not including fuel
Fuel type: Butane/propane gas
Average burn time: Up to 90min at maximum with a 230g canister
Average boil time: 1L of water takes 3min in moderate weather, altitude
Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 3.1cm (3.3 x 2.2 x 1.2 in)
Output: 3,000 W (10,200 BTU)

What I like

This stove is tiny, very light and easy to use. When folded, it is smaller than the palm of my hand. It has performed consistently without problems for the past four years. My favourite feature of this stove is how it folds down and is stored in a small cover that is placed in the curved base of a gas canister, meaning it takes up next to no room at all.

The stove-top arms are short, but the base of our two-person pot is small and our cookware is quite stable on top – we have never had a spill. The stove brings water to the boil quickly and is easily adjustable to moderate temperatures. Gas burning time is good and combined with our rather conservative cooking methods, we have never run out of gas prematurely.

Tip: When using butane, you can get a good visual indicator of how much gas is left in your canister by looking for where the condensation mark ends on the canister. Look for the condensation a few minutes after you have turned the cooker off.

What I don't like

There isn't much I don't like about this little stove, but it is worth noting that it will oxidise after its first use, meaning it will lose its shiny silver look. This also makes the stove-top arms stiffer to fold down. I find opening and closing the arms a few times after use keeps the joints moving.

My current Crux is my second unit. I returned the first to the store after a few uses and swapped it for another because I found that when the arms oxidised, one of them failed to fold down completely. The stove was replaced and the second unit has never had that problem over countless uses.

Rating ★★★★☆

I rate the Optimus Crux 4.5 out of 5. It gets points for its clever folding and storage design, being small and lightweight, easy to use, good temperature moderation, flame and burn time. It loses half a point for stiffening slightly in the arm joints due to oxidisation.

While I have rated this butane-fuelled stove 4.5, it's important to note that it is specifically suited to certain conditions and might not be ideal for everybody. It is best suited to moderate elevations and weather, so it is well suited to the Australian terrain and climate. But it is not suited to very high elevations (although this is not an issue here) and on winter mornings, the gas will perform better if you cradle the butane canister inside your jacket for a few minutes to warm it up before use.

Note: Don't confuse the Optimus Crux with the Optimus Crux Lite. The Crux Lite is very similar and is a great little product that uses the same burning mechanism. The difference is that it does not fold flat. The removal of the folding joints allows the Crux Lite to weigh in 10 grams lighter at 72 grams.

Tip: Butane gas stoves are great because they are lightweight, but it may not be possible to get butane in some remote areas. If you are travelling in very remote regions for extended periods of time, you may want to consider an alternative.

Optimus Nova multi fuel stove for cycle touring. Cycle TravellerAlternative fuel

A fuel stove like the Optimus Nova is great for travelling in remote areas that may not stock butane because it runs on a number of different fuels, including kerosene or diesel from a petrol station. It is also better at altitude and in very cold conditions. The downside is that it is bulkier and heavier than its butane cousin. The Nova weighs 460g, not including fuel. It also requires a little more maintenance than a butane gas stove. Despite that, it remains a top quality, flexible and reliable option.

Images from top: 1. The Optimus Crux attached to butane gas canister and folded view. 2. Crux packed in its cover and stored in base of canister. 3. The Optimus Nova Multi Fuel Stove.

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