For the past couple of trips I had been using a set of MSR cookware — a four-piece Duralight collection. Realistically I can’t complain about it. It is light enough that I’ve never had any issues.

But I also like change.

The heat exchanger on the bottom

A week or so ago we were at Appalachian Outfitters and saw a set of Optimus cookware. The Terra HE Cook Set. The key difference is the corrugated heat exchanger on the bottom of the big pot. In theory it should get things heated up a lot quicker because it simply has a lot more surface area to capture the heat the stove puts out.

So of course a test is in order!

The stove in question is an Optimus Nova+ being fueled with white gas (naphtha, Coleman fuel, whatever you want to call it) and I had the settings consistent between tests. I just turned it on, let it warm up then didn’t mess with it between tests. I tried to keep the pressure in the tank as consistent as I could. As soon as the first test was complete I immediately started the second one.

The test was bringing 1 liter of water to a rolling boil. I chose that test because is many camping situations that’s exactly what you need to do. I left the pot uncovered in both cases — that’s so I can monitor the the action. The exposed surface area was similar so I don’t think that it introduces too much of an error.

The first test was with the MSR. It took 9:04 to get the water up to a boil. This is very much what I was experiencing in the field before. I could have used a wind guard but I didn’t because it’s one more thing I would need to carry.

Up next was the Optimus. It got the same job done in 4:53. It was almost twice as fast! I guess it works as advertised.

Onto the weight front. In both cases this is the fully packed weight.

  • MSR: 774 g
  • Optimus: 786 g

Not too bad. (Really, I moved one of the small packtowels that came with the MSR to the Optimus, so the pictures reflect the 10 g difference from the above figures)

The MSR comes with a lid in addition to the three pieces of cookware. The Optimus lacks a purpose-built lid. I’m OK with that though. The Optimus also comes with a neoprene cozy for the pot. They claim it can keep things warm longer though I didn’t test that specifically.

Another interesting difference is the supplied pot holders with each set. The MSR and Optimus have very similar designs, but the Optimus has little rubber bumpers where the holder contacts the pot. In using the MSR I noticed that over time it was scratching off the non-stick coating near the lip. Similarly it has measurements stamped into the side of the pots. Neither of these is a big deal, but they are nice little touches.

The biggest pot in the Optimus set (with the heat exchanger) isn’t non-stick while all of the MSR are non-stick. I don’t think it makes a huge difference because it’s mostly a water boiling pot. I wouldn’t want to try to cook anything slowly on there because I’m sure it would get some wicked hot spots.

All in all: I think I have a winner! I’ll report back further as I use it for real on our trip.

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