QuietStove.com

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stove of the Week: Optimus Nova

The Optimus Nova is a crummy piece of junk -- or is it?  The answer:  It depends.  Buy the right version, and you might get a really good deal on a high quality expedition class stove.  Buy the wrong one, and you might just go hungry.

New post 18 Oct 2011:  Running an Optimus Nova on Canister Gas
What am I blathering about?  Optimus was bought out by Katadyn in 2007.  Katadyn has sought to reduce production costs.  Katadyn started cutting corners on the Nova.  Component quality and quality control suffered.  Indeed, the problems are so bad that Katadyn has been forced to issue a recall of the Nova.  Word of the recall and of the quality problems has gotten around.  Now, there is very little demand for the Nova.  It looks like Katadyn, in trying to milk the Nova cash cow has strangled her instead.  It's a shame.  Optimus had a very fine stove in the Nova, and now Katadyn has dealt the Nova what may very well be a death blow.  Shame on you, Katadyn!

But herein lies opportunity.  The Nova now has a bad reputation.  A stove with a bad reputation can't command much of a price.  But if you know what to look for, you can pick up a pre-Katadyn Nova, which is a very fine stove indeed, possibly for a very good price.  How will you know the difference?  I will get to that, but for now I will review a "real" Optimus Nova, a Nova from before the redesign.

First, the nova comes packaged in this padded pouch.
Frankly, when everything is in the pouch, it's a bit of a tight fit.
With care, everything can be fitted in.  However, if one carries the pump in the fuel bottle rather than in the pouch (which is the best approach anyway), then the pouch is more than adequate.

The pump on a Nova is made of very nice solid aluminum.
One of the ways we can tell a good Nova from a bad Nova is by means of the pump.  A good Nova has a connector made by AB CEJN of Sweden.  The red cover for the  connector should say CEJN on it.
If it doesn't say CEJN on it, that's a bad sign.  Likewise the male connector on the fuel hose should say CEJN.

If if doesn't say CEJN, it's not a Nova you want.  Similarly, the female connector on the pump should say CEJN.
It is not critical that the red, plastic protector on the pump be made by CEJN, but it is definitely critical that the connector on the pump and the connector on the fuel hose be made by CEJN.  If it doesn't say CEJN, don't buy it.

While we're on the subject of pumps, it's important to note that the pump rotates around the connector.  When you want to run the stove, rotate the fuel bottle (and therefore the pump as well) around the connector until you see the word "ON".


When you want to shut the stove down, flip the bottle over such that the word "OFF" is visible.

When the pump is rotated to the "OFF" position, the pump will draw air instead of fuel.  The air will proceed down the fuel hose just as fuel would.  Running air down the hose, clears the hose and helps prevent dried fuel deposits from building up.  Running air down the hose also helps to depressurize the fuel bottle so that fuel doesn't spray everywhere when you open the bottle.

Now, let's take a look at the stove itself.  Here it is removed from the pouch but still all folded up in transport mode.

Unfolded, the stove looks like this.
Now let's take a closer look at the valve control handle.
The valve control handle should say "made in Sweden."  It shouldn't say something else, including just the word "Sweden" alone.

Very good then, let's attach the stove to the fuel bottle and pump.  Note (if you have good eyesight) that the word "ON" can be seen on the collar of the fuel pump.  The fuel bottle is in the operating position.
Now, take a look at that bottle.  Notice that it is an MSR bottle but that this is an Optimus stove.  This is worth noting:  Sigg, MSR, Optimus, Primus, Snow Peak, and Brunton fuel bottles all have the same thread and generally are interchangeable.  I say "generally" because I have not been able to get an MSR pump to fit onto a Primus bottle.  The threads are the same, but the place where the threads start on a Primus bottle doesn't seem to work with an MSR pump.  So, good news:  if you can find one of the above brands of fuel bottles for cheap, go for it, and you can use it with stoves from that brand or any of the other brands.  But, lest there be bad news, always double check that your pump fits in a particular bottle before you head out into the field.

What's that you say?  MSR says "use MSR bottles only?"  Well, they do, don't they?  Hmm.  Isn't interesting that when MSR first started producing stoves that they didn't even make their own bottles.  What did they use?  Sigg fuel bottles (note:  fuel bottles, not drink bottles).  Has Sigg somehow declined in quality since then?  Hardly.  Now in all fairness to MSR, there were some problems in the past with people using cheap imported bottles.  However, saying "use MSR bottle only" is going a bit too far.  Any quality fuel bottle from an established manufacturer should be fine so long as the bottle has compatible threads.

Now, let's get to the meat of the matter:  actual use. The Nova is a winner.  It's got a very nice, powerful flame.
But at the same time it simmers well.
Now, that's a very nice low flame.  The Nova (pre-Katadyn) also has an excellent reputation for being able to handle cold weather and indeed is said to be better than the Primus Omnifuel in this regard.

Of course, just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of  a stove is in the cooking.  I assure you, the Optimus Nova really cooks.

That's it for this week's stove, the Optimus Nova.  I hope you're able to tell a good one from a bad one and that perhaps you'll find yourself a really good deal on a really good stove.

Thanks for joining me on another Adventure in Stoving.

HJ

The Pre-Katadyn Optimus Nova
What's good about it?
Powerful
Reliable
Stable
Efficient
Highly adjustable flame
Pump can be rotated to purge the stove
Excellent extreme cold weather reputation
High quality CEJN connector

What's bad about it?
Expensive
A bit loud
The pouch is a bit small (minor issue)
Katadyn has now ruined the stove

Pre-Katadyn Optimus Nova:  Overall, highly recommended.
Katadyn Optimus Nova:  Unreliable, not recommended.

40 comments:

  1. Cool, my Nova has all the right tells.

    I'm not sure why I chose it, probably over-spent for a small-car car-camping stove, but it's been great for me. Used it off and on for maybe 5 years. Had to replace the big pump-piece to fuel bottle gasket, but that's all.

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  2. Hi, John,

    That's a pretty normal thing to replace. Sounds like you've got yourself a good stove.

    HJ

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  3. I bought my nova back when they first out (2001 I think) and I love it. The very first generation stoves did have one issue though. The spindle valve tube would move just enough to turn the burner inside the housing. This would cause the retaining nut at the bottom of the stove to come loose. Not a big deal to retighten the nut, but after awhile you can end up breaking an already heat fatigued bolt. Happened to me after only 6 months, but luckily Brunton was an amazing company to deal with. I sent them just the broken stove and in less than a week, they sent me back a brand new stove (including the kit bag, pump and tank). I must not have been the only person with this problem because the new stove had a slightly different burner housing. A small groove that prevented any movement of the splindle valve tube. The stove that you have pictured, doesn't have this groove so I'm assuming it's a first generation. Other than that it's been bullet proof for the last 10 years. Changed the spindle o-rings and fuel filter after a prolong storage but that's normal maintenance. If you can find one of these gems, grab it.

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  4. JJ, thanks for your comments. Yes, the Nova that I have is a fairly early version. I have been warned by multiple sources about the bolt shearing off issue, and I'm very careful with mine to only very gently tighten it. I don't want to break it for fear that it couldn't be repaired or that Brunton would want to replace it with a current generation, inferior stove.

    HJ

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  5. Hi Hikin Jim, Great thread! I read about the recalls and was very worried, but someone linked me this thread and I now realize that I have the original Nova. :)

    I have lost my manual to the stove and was wondering if you knew a link to the original manual, I have down loaded the "New" Nova's manual, but I am not sure that everything is the same.
    Thanks again for the great info. By the way, I have had the stove for 4 or 5 years and it runs like a champ.
    Also on the fuel bottle issue, Yea I could not get the pump to fit one of the Red fuel bottles so I just use it a back up fuel and transfer if I need to.

    Wolfman

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  6. Dang! Forgot about the Wind Shield!
    Did you make it or buy it? And what's it made out of? I have noticed that in strong winds that it takes a lot longer to heat stuff up. I normally try to find something to block the wind but that is not always possible. Thanks again.

    Wolfman

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  7. Wolfman:

    I don't know of a downloadable copy of the old manual, but I'll keep my eyes open.

    As for the windscreen, that's a standard MSR windshield. The MSR windscreens work pretty well with most remote fueled stoves (like the Nova). Brunton, Primus, and Optimus all sell windscreens if I recall correctly. You can also make one yourself. I definitely recommend using the windscreen.

    HJ

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  8. Thanks for the help, I am going to go through the Nova I have with the new manual and see how different it is. Hopefully it won't be to different.

    As for wind screens I found some stuff on U tube and am going to try it out tomorrow. I think a 20" box fan should be good for the wind! :) We'll see how it works on Low to start.

    Again thanks for all the great Info, both here and on Trailspace.com

    Wolfman

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  9. I have the manual for the older (pre-Katadyn) Novas. If you have a specific question, ask away. I have to get things out of my storage unit, so I won't be able to answer right away, but I can eventually answer.

    HJ

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  10. Thanks, I will let you know how it goes after the weekend.

    Wolfman

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  11. Hello Jim,

    I bought a Nova+ stove a while ago. It has a CEJN connector but I'm not sure if it's "Made in Sweden". Is there a chance to know if it's pre-Katadyn stove or not?

    Regards, KK

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  12. If it has the CEJN connector, then I'd say it's one of the good ones. The Katadyn ones have a completely different (cheap) connector.

    HJ

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  13. Thanks Jim for the information! Take care.

    Regards, KK

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  14. I am looking for one of the gaskets from the fuel pump to fuel bottle, like in the previous post. Can you tell me where to get that? Also, I have another optimus nova stove but it does not have a fuel pump. Do you know where I can just buy the fuel pump?....

    john personna said...
    Cool, my Nova has all the right tells.

    I'm not sure why I chose it, probably over-spent for a small-car car-camping stove, but it's been great for me. Used it off and on for maybe 5 years. Had to replace the big pump-piece to fuel bottle gasket, but that's all.

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  15. You can get the gasket at CampSaver.com. Either the Nova Service Lite kit or the regular Nova Service Kit will have the gasket.
    http://www.campsaver.com/nova-service-lite-kit
    http://www.campsaver.com/nova-hiker-spare-parts-kit

    I don't know of anyone who sells the pump alone. You might want to contact Optimus. You need to know which version of the stove you have. There are different versions of the pump and stove, all of which are NOT interchangeable.

    HJ

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  17. Your experience with the pre Catadyn stove is close to mine, but even before Catadyn they moved production to Taiwan, still almoast the same quality. When Catadyn came, the production was moved to China..Recalls..now they are back in Taiwan.

    Regarding bottles, MSR had a few problems with Sigg bottles because of the ring with threads was not good enough. MSR bottles has the threads in the bottle (all one piece) just as Laken ande a few others.

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  18. I have heard of that problem with Sigg bottles, but I have never met anyone who has actually encountered the problem. I've used Sigg bottles dozens of times with a variety of pressure stoves from different companies. That's not to say a problem cannot exist, but I personally have not ever had a problem with a Sigg bottle.

    HJ

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  19. Hello,

    The "new" Nova now comes with a green valve controler and a green fuel bottle.
    http://www.optimusstoves.com/en/optimus-products/products/katadynshopconnect/optimus-outdoor-kocher/optimus-nova/

    But it is still a "Katadyn" one. Do you have any experience with this new one?

    Regards,

    Wim

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  20. Wim, these are not the same stove, not really close if you want my opinion. The new Nova is make in china and the quality of the parts in just not there. They just had a major recall on the pumps for leaking fuel. I would suggest that if you want a Nova try to find a used one on eBay or crags list. Or go with a different stove.

    I don't know how much Jim is watching this blog anymore, he had a change in work and is now very busy and just does not have time that he did before. If you look through the rest of his great blog he has lots of other stove recommendations and I would look into them.

    Wolfman

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    Replies
    1. Yes and no!
      The quality has been considerably better since they stopped making it in China!
      Now its made in Taiwan. Its still not back to the old quality. I will absolutely recommend to buy a used made in Sweden model.

      What to substitute this model? Depending on what you want. Primus stoves are still great, but lacks the built in cleaning needle. MSR has had pump problems, the new pump seems good. MSR and simmering is no good compaired to Nova, or Coleman Apex ii who is another old favourite of mine.

      dsk

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    2. Thx Wolfman and Turkoker, I am/was doubting between an Primus Omnifuel and an Optimus Nova. Unless I can find a pre-katadyn, I think it will be the Primus which is i.m.h.o. also a very good one, and if I am not wrong made in Sweden still?

      Cheers,

      Wim

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    3. The Primus Omnifuel is an excellent choice for an expedition class stove. The new Primus Omnilite Ti is also an excellent stove and weighs quite a bit less than the Omnifuel.

      Primus is having their stoves made in Estonia the last time I checked.

      HJ

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  21. I have some good news, the last series of the stoves are nearly back to the best quality. The new connector was introduced due to some bad feed back about leakage on the Cejn valve, when you not did move the ring far enough when disconnecting. The new valves in 2. generation works well. The stove performs well at kero an white gas.

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    Replies
    1. That is excellent news that the quality is improving on this very good line of stoves.

      When you say "CEJN" connector you don't literally mean a connector made by the CEJN group do you? You mean a CEJN type connector, yes? A connector that is of the same general type as a CEJN connector but not actually made by CEJN, true?

      HJ

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  22. Do you know if the new Optimus maintenance kits fit the older, stil-made-in-Sweden stoves marketed in US by Brunton?

    Also. Any tips on how to prepare for a possible bolt failure?

    I have two of the older models and have never had any problems. But I'd hat to be caught unprepared -- are spare (brass, I'd think) bolts available?

    Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Many of the parts will fit, but some will not. In particular, some of the pump parts will not fit.

      With respect to the bolt, my strategy it to not over-tighten it. It's going to come loose, just accept it. It's the constant tightening and re-tightening that causes the bolt to shear off.

      If it does sheer off, you can take it to a metal shop that does brazing.

      HJ

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  23. Are the new Novas any good, have they resolved all the issues, my 10 year old nova has just broke bottom nuy sheared off and cant get a new burner for it, guteed as it has been a great stove no problems till this, have been advised to get a primus but not so keen, what shoukd I do ?

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    Replies
    1. If there is a shop near you that does brazing, then you may be able to get it repaired (which is what I would do).

      If you have to replace it, the new Novas have improved... somewhat, but from talking to people are not back to the quality level that was available before Katadyn bought out Optimus.

      The Primus Omnifuel and Primus Omnilite Ti are both excellent stoves, but do not have as good of an extreme cold weather reputation (below -15F/-25C). I also like the MSR Whisperlite Universal.

      HJ

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  24. Several other users has claimed it to be back to old quality. Get it brazed will probably solve it, but you may end up with shaking instead of using magnet for cleaning.
    dsk

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  25. If the Katadyn Novas are as good as an authentic Optimus Nova, that's great news. I'm a little skeptical, but I'd love to test one some time.

    HJ

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  26. Hi HJ,
    Thanks for another great post! I'm a relatively new stove enthusiast and will be joining CCS (as soon as I can get the authentication email to actually come to my inbox... been trying for a week).

    I just scored a pre-Katadyn Nova on Craigslist and was able to be confident that it was a good stove because I read this article beforehand. I do have a few quick questions for you though:

    The fuel feed tube was missing. Is there a good place to get replacements online? (I pulled the tube off my varifuel for now, and it fits well, but I do want to have one for both) I was thinking of going to the hardware store, finding some tubing that fit and sticking it in a jar of fuel for a week to see if it holds up, but the real deal with a filter is preferrable.

    Also, is there a problem getting one of the new Katadyn made service kits? I can't seem to find an original with all the o-rings (they would be old by now anyway).

    Thanks a bunch,
    Jake (soon to be AmbassadorAho on CCS)

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    Replies
    1. Jake,

      If there is a hydralics supply store in your area, they will often have hoses that are suitable for use with fuel.

      I haven't seen one of the Katadyn parts kits, so I don't know what parts will be compatible with older, pre-Katadyn stoves. Sounds like good questions to post on CCS. :)

      HJ

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    2. Great idea Jim! I see that the Primus Ergo Pump service kit does have a plastic fuel tube with a filter on the end, which may work since I was able to snugly fit my Varifuel fuel tube in the nova (not surprisingly). I have an Ergo Pump in hopes to convert my VF over to a MF (I know I need is a MF hose, but I just need to figure out a good source.. the CCS post on that is members only, even more motivation to join!). The Ergo tube is metal and appears to be glued in place, so I'll measure the O.D. with some calipers to verify. No need to respond... I'll start a thread on CCS whenever the authentication miscommunication is cleared up and post some pictures too. I just got an old Firefly through CL that needs a bunch of new gaskets (and at some point a hose retrofit). Good stuff! Catch you on the other side B-)
      AmbassadorAho

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  27. Hi,
    This came as a bit of surprise to me...
    I have one of the older stoves, actually it is the version called Trangia Multifuel because it is designed to fit in the Trangia stove system, replacing a simple alcohol burner.

    Anyway, it came with the old pump just as shown above, and it had a CEJN connector, I remember that. As a Swede, I was a bit proud that it was all made in Sweden ;) I loved my stove, even though it meant that I always had to do the cooking - my girlfriend found it too complicated to handle, prewarming etc. But...on several occasions I had problem with fuel leakage, sometimes pressurized kerosene spraying all over the camp site! I took it to my local store where I bought it, and they sent for a new pump free of charge, saying there had been other incidents like mine. The new one looks quite fancy in green and black, and I like the coupling - though it seems it's eating O-rings. Last time I used the stove it didn't serve the burner enough fuel, though there was enough fuel in the bottle and good pressure. Could this be blamed on the new pump? Still love my stove...

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    Replies
    1. Optimus was bought by Katadyn a few years ago, and production was moved to Asia. The Nova was redesigned, and the CEJN connector was eliminated. :( In a way, I'm surprised that a modern pump works at all with you're old connector.

      It's hard to say if the new pump is causing the problems that you're describing without being able to see it. However, it could very well be the problem given that the connectors have been changed.

      HJ

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  28. I purchased my Nova back when it was made by Brunton, can't remember exactly what year. I purchased a repair kit and replaced all the worn out bushings and pretty much everything that was provided in the kit. I think I screwed up something in the pump though... When I pump fuel into it, fuel leaks out of the spout of the pump... Not sure what I did wrong. The spout is closed (pushed all the way to the rear) but still leaking fuel. Any ideas?

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