This came in for review a long time ago. Initially I thought “Mmm, it’s a bit bulky, I’ll save it for winter”. Which is daft looking back, it’s probably the same volume as a Jetboil, it just looked more difficult to pack because of the shape. So it sat in its box for a while before finally going out to play last winter. Ach, if only I’d known sooner.
I like simple and I like quick when it comes to making cuppas, I’m always running late when I finally get my tent pitched and I don’t like fannying about, so a clip-together onesie stove system works for me.
What the Primus Eta Express has is a 98g canister top Express stove which has a nicely wide spread to its three pot supports and a piezo ignition, which is brilliant, as much as I love my ever more weathered firesteel, a single click to get a flame is a joy.
The pot is 226g, alloy, non stick (quite effectively too), has a one liter capacity at the brim and has a heat exchanger around the base to catch those extra BTU’s and transfer them into the pot rather than the air of your tent porch. The long plastic coated handles are sensible and welcome.
There’s a lid (64g) with a strainer/vent and a rubber gripper for lifting it which is very nice but it could do with a spout for pouring as well. I was going to cut one but never got around to it. So maybe it’s not as important as I’d like to think. Or maybe I’m just lazy.
There’s a 48g plastic bowl in there too and it’s one of the reasons I really took to the system. After years of boiling water and then eating out of a bag, I’ve started to want better food and the bowl is the key. Easy to clean, a good size and also a nice non-metallic surface for a gas canister and the stove to get packed into.
Last up is the 56g alloy windshield which clips onto the stove is a basic but secure fashion and covers about half of the flame allowing good air flow for combustion but deflecting the wind pretty well.
The flame might appear to be a little tight for the large pot, but Primus must have done their sums, it marries up very well and once I got used to it, simmering the pot contents was no problem. The pot base seems to have a good even heat and that heat exchanger seems to be doing its job as water boil times are always very good. No idea what gas usage is, it’s not greedy I know that, but I can’t compare it scientifically to other stoves. Weighing canisters and pressing a stopwatch aren’t on my agenda. Ever.
There’s one wee thing that niggles me about the general operation. It’s actually very stable despite the top-heavy looks, especially on a 250g gas canister, I’m never worried using it in the tent porch.
But the gas control lines up with the locating notch on the windshield, meaning that facing the windshield towards the wind puts the control facing into the wind. Not a problem sitting outside where you’re more likely to be sheltering the stove with your body. but cooking in the tent porch where the wind is coming from the outside it can be a pain in the arse as I’m having to swivel the whole thing around to adjust the gas or accidentally leaning the whole thing at an angle as I stretch my hand round to adjust the gas.
I’ve never spilled the pot or knocked it over yet but the gas control should be at 9 or 3 o’clock instead of 12, it’s would just make it that bit better and maybe safer for tent folk.
And yes, yes, I know we’re not supposed to cook in the tent according to every book supplied with every stove and Safety Man, but this is the real world where the weather dictates that we all do it.
Even with that niggle, the Eta Express has seen action, and lots of it. Truth is, it’s a cracking bit of kit. That big pot to cook in, the bowl, that it’s all so easy to keep clean, it’s just so user friendly.
It has seen a lot of use, from hill trips to coming to work to keeping me happy on treks around the deer fence on the Kilpatricks and it’s never missed a beat. That was until a couple of weeks ago during the Camban Bothy trip where after outgunning all the other stoves in boil time the piezo ignition chucked it.
I looked at it, the shielded wire was tight, there was nothing I could do, no slack to pull through and reset a spark gap. That was it done.
I left it in the gear pile at home for a few days then decided to take it apart and have a look. Easy enough, I’ve done the exact same operation on gas burners the size of a cement mixer and it was an quick fix if I could get the parts.
Found the ignition for £16 online, it was here in 48hrs, fitted in a minute and worked perfectly. Also, the replacement has nearly 10mm slack on it so it’ll be adjustable in the future as the tip wears down in use.
I know the most recent designs have further refined the all-in-one system, I have a couple on test just now, but the Eta Express still holds up very well. It’s been a joy to use and I didn’t think twice about buying a part to put test kit back into action. Stuff breaking isn’t an issue, it happens, what’s important is that there’s parts available and it’s cost effectively fixable.
So we’re good as new again, it’s got some fun times ahead of it yet.