Primus Express Spider – first impressions

Primus Express Spider Stove

I am starting to look towards equipment for the coming late autumn/winter period. Most of my backpack trips so far have been outside of this period and I have said that I will look to do more trips during this period.  It is clear to me that I will need to look at some new gear. One area is stoves, I currently have a MSR Pocket Rocket.  This is a good stove, light and powerful , but there  are 3 issues with it to my mind.

1 When  the gas is low or it is cold or both the performance is poor. (I know this is not the case with some bloggers).

2 Because of the above I end up making sure I take a full cartridge on most trips, so I end up with part empty cartridges.

3 I always have  a bit of a concern about the stability of a cartridge top stove inside a tent.

This has led me to look for an autumn/winter replacement and to use the Pocket Rocket in the milder months.

The Express Spider has been out since the spring, but I have only seen a couple of reviews.  The Man himself – Chris Townsend gave it 4/5 in TGO, but I have seen few user reviews.

Remote Cartridge Stove set up

The stove is a remote cartridge type (one of the lightest on the market)  with 3 folding legs which are also the pan  supports and comes with a preheat tube. The stove comes with a foldable metal heat reflector and a  small stuff sack comprising a nylon inner and a mesh outer.

Primus Express Spider in stuff sack

There is no windshield with the stove , but no matter, I will use my aluminum one.  The heat reflector once unfolded does not sit very level, which is a bit pointless,as one of the main points of the stove is the stability!   The aluminum has already started to tear along the crease lines. I will probably use a piece of foil instead.

Looking at the stove it looks well constructed and what you would expect from a company such as Primus.

Close up of burner and Pre-heat tube

The specifications being:

Weight by digital scales – stove on its own 193g

Nylon stuff sac – 12g

Manufacturer’s stated burn time 119 mins per 230g gas cartridge

Size 105mm x 85mm x 55mm

Minimum pot size diameter – I measured as 110mm

One of the main benefits of this type of stove arrangement over cartridge top models is the preheat and the ability to invert cartridges to turn it from  vapour feed to liquid feed.   With this design, power can be maintained while feeding the preheat tube. I am expecting significantly better performance in cold weather because of this.

One thing I will have to change is the pot I will take, in fact I don’t normally take a pot as I  just boil water for tea and freeze-dried meals.  I take a double walled constructed Ti Mug,but the diameter is too small to sit on the stove.  I could look at an expensive Ti pot but what I found rummaging around in my kit box is a small aluminum pan from a Camping Gaz Globetrotter stove which is some 27 years old.  The pan weighing 78g and holds 550 mls of water.

Express Spider and pan

The stove in the stuff sack, a lighter and pot grab all fit snug in the pan.  I will see how this works out before I consider shelling  out for a new one.

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23 Responses to Primus Express Spider – first impressions

  1. Mark Roberts says:

    I was interested in this when it was announced, but I’m disapointed they chose to put the flow valve vertically on top of the cartridge – it makes it much harder to use the canister inverted. A horizontal placement would have been more sensible, and Primus already have that design on other stoves (eg the Omni). Maybe version 2.0, which will no doubt also be titanium.

    • Mark – yes I think they could have thought about this. I don’t know if in practice this will be a problem, until I get out in the field with it. I going to post up my initial thoughts after using it – probably make a short video on it. See what you think. I still think that it is what I am looking for given that the Colman Fyre Storm is not available in the UK which has a stand for when you invert the cartridge.
      Mark

    • Maz says:

      I have access to BPL as I am a subscriber – they have solutions to the inverted canister issue if you want me to email you the page?

  2. R MacE says:

    Thats a nice looking stove Mark, very compact too by the looks of it. The Camping Gaz pot is super cool, loads of character, lightweight too. I love it, 🙂

    • MacE – it is very compact – fits in the palm of your hand. Yes the Camping Gaz pot is light and after nearly 30 years with a good level of use – still going strong. Saved me £40 on buying a Ti pot – Sorry Bob & Rose !!
      Mark

  3. Alan says:

    Hi Mark,
    As you are looking towards winter with your purchase i am surprised that you have opted for gas. Vaporising gas in 0 degrees and lower can be a big problem even with the low temperature gas and you can end up with more 1/2 used canisters. Have you not had any problems in the past with respect to this?… Alan

    • Alan – thanks for your comments. I brought this on the strength of Chris Townsend’s review in TGO. He said that the set up of an inverted cannister and pre-heat tube would be good in sub zero conditions.
      Mark

  4. -maria- says:

    Hi Mark,
    it is a nice looking stove! I know people have used gas in the Finnish winter successfully – when it’s really cold they switch to “winter gas” (which they say works even down to -35 degrees Celsius – I think that at least around -10 degrees it works pretty well). Holding the canister upside down and keeping it warm (e.g., keeping inside your sleeping bag during the night) should help.

    The problem with half empty cartridges has led me to use alcohol on solo trips (oh, alcohol stoves, I mean, not necessarily drinking any alcohol… 😉 )

  5. Maria – thanks for the information. Yes – don’t drink the alcohol out of your stove (I know it is expensive in Finland), but it will make you go blind !!
    Mark

  6. Mike R says:

    Mark,
    Further to Maria’s comments I am not sure if full specification winter gas (100% propane ?) is available in the UK in little canisters. The Health and Safety experts probably don’t trust us not to blow ourselves up using the same gas canisters in the Summer.
    You may wish to consider getting some of those ‘rechargeable’ (by boiling) gel chemical handwarmers to warm your gas canister when it’s cold by sliding one under the concave base of the canister. A canister cosy can be devised such as the fabric cover that comes with an Optimus Crux. I think if this is done sensibly the canister should probably not explode.

  7. Mike – I think you are right, I have not noticed 100% propane – although I can’t say that I have been looking for it in the past. I was thinking of making a simple canister cosy. I normally keep the canister at the bottom of the sleeping bag overnight. But with my Pocket Rocket – even this does not help lighting the stove in cooler weather and low gas conditions. I don’t know if you saw my most recent post on my little experiment of putting a gas canister with a small amount of gas in the freezer for 45 minutes but the ability to be able to invert the canister solved the problem of lighting compared to trying it with my Pocket Rocket.
    Mark

  8. Maz says:

    Mark, I have a Tibetan Titanium 1100 pot that I don’t use. Want it?

  9. Maz says:

    Oh. I hadn’t really thought about it. I was thinking of just sending it to you… Email me on 34winchester@googlemail.com with your address and I’ll post it to you.

  10. julie morrison says:

    I have used 100% propane in Alaska and below freezing (32F) the flame is greatly reduced. I would estimate to less than 50% of normal. Even though propane vaporizes at minus 42.5 C (oddly that is also about minus 44 F because the curves cross near there) it is producing less vapor pressure that it does at much warmer temps. In addition, as i am sure you know, the evaporation process additionally cools the gas. The solution, it seems to me, is to always use the can inverted so the iso-propane gas (which has the lowest boiling point) stays above the liquid and forces it out the bottom, rather than using up the iso-propane for fuel. According to my sources at MSR The different gasses do not vaporize as a homogeneous mixture. One other minor issue is that if there are impurities (i.e. water) in the fuel even a tiny amount can freeze and plug the orifice at the canister end. This happened to me at altitude in freezing conditions.

    • Hi Julie. I actually need to do a follow up on long term use of the spider. I have found that the Primus Power Gas will light and maintain a good flame down to -10C (14F) the lowest temperature I was camping last winter. I think that the standard MSR canister has a problem as you described above when the different gases do not vaporise as a homogenous mixture. I find this is a problem once the canister gets towards empty. I thought it was my Pocket Rocket, but it works fine with the Power Gas mixture (25% propane,25% isobutane, 50% butane).

      Thanks for sharing your experience on this.

  11. julie morrison says:

    Yeks! I apologize all over the place. I wish I could erase my previous post. Do that if you can. I was saying “iso-propane” when i meant to say Isobutane. No wonder I could not find it in my references. Isobutane, BTW, has a boiling point of about minus 12 degrees and Propane has a boiling point of minus 42.5. …So the propane is the more volatile. Some canisters are a mixture of propane and Butane only. We all know butane is worthless at low temps (the old Bleuet stoves are a good example of poor cold weather performance). So The proof is in the pudding. I’ll wait and see how the reviews of this stove come in.

  12. sdburtonlife says:

    Mark,
    I am trying to find a suitable stove for some overnight hikes I am planning. I love the size of the spider, but having spent a few months using an MSR dragonfly, I am used to having the bottle and pump system, I feel its a slightly less wasteful system, there is no chance of the half empty canister that will never get used…

    Would it be possible to use the Primus Ergo-fuel pump and a bottle with the spider?

    Primus haven’t been responding to my questions =[ just hoped someone would be able to help me out.

    Simon

    • Hi Simon thanks for your question. I not aware that you can do this. The connector on the end is a standard gas one that screws into a standard gas cannister. I generally use Primus 4 season gas cannisters. One advantage the Spider over the top mounted gas stoves, is the ability to get all the gas out in cold weather, because you can invert the cannister, so you should not have a problem with half filled ones.

      • sdburtonlife says:

        I know its been a while… been very busy!
        I don’t know if you have done a review or not, but any Idea on how the Primus gravity performs in comparison to the Spider?

      • Hi, I have only posted a out of the box review and a around the house sort of test and I tend not to do these any more. However from my experience the Spider seems to allow use of gas at lower temperatures than a gravity system and hence the ability to get far more gas out of the cannister. I do buy Primus 4 seasons gas and will warm the cannister in my sleeping bag prior to use. However I believe the performance is better than a gravity fed system when temperatures fall. During the summer months to save weight I generally strip the weight down much as I can, particularly on overnight’s and just take a MSR pocket rocket. Must get around to doing a longer term review.

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