Optimus Crux Review: Packable with a Punch.
The Optimus Crux stove has been around for a few years, but remains a definite contender for an ultralight and ultra-packable bikepacking stove. As an added bonus the Crux shares similar specs to some stoves we’ve seen released this year… and it folds in half into an incredibly tiny package.
Similar in comparison to Logan’s recent review of MSR’s Pocket Rocket 2 and his break from spirit burner stoves, I have spent much of the past three years relying on canister stove systems with dedicated pot-to-burner systems (think Primus ETA Lite / MSR Windburner). I’ve found these all-in-one canister stoves to be super efficient, reasonably lightweight, and they almost always pack away neatly into their own pot. In an effort to lighten things up even further, I turned to the compact canister stove category to allow me to bring whatever pot I wanted and to shrink my entire stove package for a truly minimalist experience.
For those who don’t know, canister stoves can be loosely divided into two different categories: compact with no dedicated pot (Optimus Crux, MSR Pocket Rocket, GSI Pinnacle) and compact stove systems that rely on a dedicated pot (Primus ETA Lite, MSR Windburner, Jetboil). We often see more efficiency from the latter, but in a larger package due to the more advanced burner assembly, the locking mechanism, and some sort of heat exchanger built into the bottom portion of the aluminum pot. The Optimus Crux is a true compact canister stove that focuses on being powerful and extremely packable, and when paired with a pot like Vargo’s BOT 700, it might just be the lightest cooking system I’ve ever experienced.
The Crux lineup from Optimus consists of two different models: the Crux and Crux Lite. No huge differences here besides the fact that the folding mechanism of the Crux is eliminated with the Crux Lite, same performance but 11g lighter. The folding mechanism allows the already tiny stove to pack directly into the small cavity found in the bottom of a fuel canister, which I think is a clever use of unused space. The Crux maintains the smallest possible design by including folding pot supports and flame control lever, which lends itself to transforming into a peculiar little gizmo to hide away when not in use. Even with all of the folding mechanisms, I still found the Crux to be reasonably stable when paired with the BOT 700, which has a base diameter of 4.1 inches. This also happens to be close to the same diameter of the widest portion of the pot supports found on the stove.
The extra wide burner head of the Crux distributes heat more evenly, and when paired with the ability to have precise control over the flame, there is still potential to do more than just boil water at the end of the day. One thing to note is that the larger burner head creates a wider flame, so pots or mugs with a diameter less than 4 inches will likely find the flame rising over the sides of the pot. This means wasted fuel and stray flames, I’d recommend sticking to pots with bases wider than 4 inches to avoid this entirely. I haven’t quite mastered the simmer control on the Crux yet, and often find myself sticking with cranking it wide open to boil water as quickly as possible. The control lever does offer some super fine tune adjustments though, almost too fine, to the point that it’s a little tricky to get it exactly where you want it when trying to simmer. This sometimes means semi-constant adjustment is in order to maintain a certain flame size, but as I said, I’m most often just boiling a small pot of water so this wasn’t as big as an issue as it may be for some. On occasion, when trying to simmer, the flame would go out completely without warning if I wasn’t watching it – keep an eye on the Crux! If you are planning on doing more than just boiling water, it might be wise to use an aluminum pot to conduct the heat of the stove more evenly. Check out the Optimus Terra Solo 0.6L Cook Set – it might just do the trick!
Although boil times are very competitive, most tiny canister stoves often perform poorly in windy or colder conditions. Choosing a sheltered area, or packing a small tin windscreen is definitely a good idea if a quick boil time is desired. Fortunately, Optimus offers a cool clip-on aluminum windscreen that weighs in at only 87g and would likely alleviate some of the issues with simmering as well. You’ll also see in some of the photos that the green paint from the flame control lever is chipping away. A bit of a shame, but it’s not affecting the performance of the stove in any way. That lever is the only wear spot I have seen after a few solid months of use. I plan to continue to use the Crux over the summer and will update this post with any new findings.
- WEIGHT: 83 g (2.9 oz)
- DIMENSIONS (STOWED): 6.0 x 4.0 x 9.0cm
- BOIL TIME AS TESTED (600 ml): 03:30
- BTU: 10,200
- WIDTH OF POT SUPPORTS: 101mm diameter
- PRICE: CAD $58.00 ($49)
The Optimus Crux is a clever little stove that makes the most of unused space, which will be especially attractive for those interested in speed, or those aiming to keep things light and compact. The stove still offers generous heat output and has the ability to boil water faster than its competitors. But, its various folding mechanisms take away from the stoves overall sturdiness while using tall pots or mugs. If you are interested in piecing together a lightweight and minimalist cooking set up, the Optimus Crux may just be the missing piece.
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