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.

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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.

Optimus Crux Review

  • Optimus Crux Review
  • Optimus Crux Review

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.

  • Optimus Crux Review
  • Optimus Crux Review

Optimus Crux Review

  • Optimus Crux Review
  • Optimus Crux Review
  • Optimus Crux Review

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!

Optimus Crux Review

  • Optimus Crux Review
  • Optimus Crux Review

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)

WRAP UP

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.

  • Smithhammer

    Good review, and it’s on my short list right now (along with the MSR PR2). Over the last couple years, I’ve experimented with various alcohol stoves, twig stoves, etc. in the quest for an alternative to canisters.

    I think I’m finally over alcohol stoves. While they are appealing from a simplicity/lightweight perspective, there are drawbacks that are significant. One of the biggest being that they are VERY sensitive to wind (even when used with a windscreen), and it doesn’t take much of a breeze to notably change the amount of alcohol required to boil water. For this reason, I found I ended up needing to be conservative and carry more alcohol, just in case. And for a week-long trip, that means carrying A LOT of alcohol. The weight savings of the stove itself are

  • I agree. I only use alcohol stoves on overseas trips now. And, yes, the wind is my biggest gripe! It’s amazing how much more alcohol is required to boil water on a windy evening versus a calm evening… even with a windscreen.

  • Tim Fitzpatrick

    Smithamamer, I have the Jetboil Ti Sol (and older model) and went with the Ruta Locura mod, replacing the burner with the BRS-3000T and with the rest of the kit shaved a few more ounces off the total (8oz I think total), but still boils water in about 2 minutes flat using the Jetboil pot and has the wind protection from the pot. I can get two fuel cans in there too and it all fits in the Bedrock Bags Honaker on the bottom of my down tube. The speed and low fuel use I think is worth the weight. Add a spoon and I’m set.

  • Smithhammer

    Thanks, Tim – I’m going to investigate doing the same with my JB Sol!

  • Christophe Noel

    I’ve had and used two Optimus Crux stoves off and on. Although they’re a little wobbly, they work well for small solo-sized pots. However, both of them eventually developed burner issues. One would only ignite a portion of the burner. The other would not achieve a full throttle burn. I have the third warranty replacement stove sitting on a shelf. By contrast, the newest MSR Pocket Rocket 2 with Mini Stove Kit looks to be great for my coming season. I used it on a press trip this weekend in the Sierras and was quite impressed. Love the new pot setup.

  • Jon Dicus

    Let’s not forget wood-burning stoves, like the Sierra Zip stove. I used this in Baja with great results.
    http://www.zzstove.com/sierra.html

  • Thanks for sharing – no issues yet with mine, but I will update if any arise.

  • Jamie Lent

    In the winter with a bit of wind my alcohol stove was a joke. I went through nearly half a 12oz bottle of fuel just heating up a pack of boil in bag Indian food and boil in bag rice. I’m getting a canister stove before the snows hit next year.

  • Smithhammer

    I’ve seen those before, and I’m sure they work well, but I’m too spoiled by lighter weight options to choose a 1lb stove that requires a battery. At least for my bikepacking adventures.

  • Wilson

    How tall of a wind screen are you using? I have had zero issues with mine being 5-6″ tall. It even wraps around my seat post when not in use.
    WILSON

  • Make sure to toss your canister into your jacket 15 minutes before you start cooking, cold conditions don’t allow the pressurized canisters to function efficiently.

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