High Gear: Olicamp Kinetic Ultra backpacking stove review
Olicamp Kinetic Ultra backpacking stove
In a nutshell: An ultra-lightweight backpacking stove from Olicamp, a backcountry manufacturer based in Utah
Weight: 1.7 ounces (stove), 8.1 ounces (fuel canister)
Size: 2.5 x 2.6 inches
Stove construction: Titanium burner, gas stem and supports; aluminum valve; polycarbonate case
Fuel: 75 percent isobutene, 25 percent propane
Average boiling time: 3 minutes and 30 seconds
Stove features: Manual ignition, foldable pot supports, universal fuel stem for non-Olicamp fuel, long gas valve for use with gloves, polycarbonate carry case
Kit features: One-liter XTS pot made with anodized aluminum for up to 40-percent faster boiling (with lid, foldable handles and measuring marks), mesh carry case
Cost: $49.95 (stove only), $69.96 (kit with pot), $4.95 (canister only)
To purchase or browse the full Olicamp line, see www.olicamp.com.
There’s a world of difference between four-season gear and the rest.
For starters, just labeling something “four-season” implies it can go anywhere and do anything under just about any conditions. It might not handle a drop from 300 feet up or survive several hours underwater, but snow? Yep. Wind? Yep. Extreme cold? Yep. All three of those elements combined? Yep, yep and yep.
This is especially true with backpacking gear — the type of equipment adventurers take on long, multi-day (and usually multi-climate) excursions far away from all creature comforts. That blend of variables means backcountry gear should be reliable, efficient and durable as hell, all while being as light as possible.
Unfortunately, all four-season gear is not created equal, even when you get into the world of incredibly expensive backcountry gear. Look at the basics: A sleeping bag rated for zero degrees Fahrenheit might work in the heart of January for some, but for others, a $800-plus bag needs to be supplemented with a bag liner, night layers and more, all of which add a few more ounces to your pack for more than a few dollars.
Then, there’s the Olicamp Kinetic Ultra stove. At just 1.7 ounces (as in the weight of 10 quarters), it’s a lightweight (check) backpacking stove built with ultra-strong titanium (check) that’s made to work with any isobutene-propane gas mix (check). It’s also remarkably cheap: The stove alone costs $49.95, compared to $59.95 for the Soto Windmaster (2.3 ounces) and $50 for the Kovea Spider Stove (5.9 ounces). The ever-popular MSR Pocket Rocket is cheaper these days at $39.95 — it was once the same price as the Olicamp and Kovea — but it also weighs in at a comparatively hefty 3 ounces. That 1.3-ounce difference might not seem like much, but hey, every ounce counts on a 15-day trek.
The Olicamp wins in the price and weight categories. But here’s the rub: It’s branded and marketed as a four-season stove, which means it’s made for the absolute worst Mother Nature can muster. Here’s how it performed.
I first took the Kinetic Ultra on a day trip to Baldy Mountain, when the sun was shining, the wind was nonexistent and the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees. So much for a true weather test, but I still wanted to see if the stove lived up to its advertised boiling time of three minutes, 30 seconds for 32 ounces of water at 5,000 feet.
At the Iowa Mill, found at the base of Baldy, the elevation is about 12,500 feet. That means water will boil faster (boiling point drops in line with air pressure) than at 5,000 feet, but it’s not quite comparing apples to oranges. This stove needs to handle four seasons, so I opted to test the boiling time with snow.
I wasn’t disappointed. The burner is much larger than similar models and burns incredibly hot, even at mid-strength. After about four minutes, my 32-ounce pot of water was beginning to boil. I let the burner go another 30 minutes and the flame large, blue and hot.
The next night, I took the Kinetic Ultra on the porch after dark to see if it could handle sub-zero temperatures (negative-7 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact). The boiling time for 32 ounces of snow nearly doubled to about seven minutes, but that’s hardly a concern. I was more curious about the gas canister and screw valve: would it freeze?
No, not even once. After letting the components sit outside for an hour, I let the stove run in the frigid air for another 30 minutes. In that time I didn’t notice any ice build-up on the canister or attachments. That said, the flame started to dim after about 10 minutes and was noticeably smaller after the full 30 minutes. This stove is rated for four seasons, but it’s not invincible.
My only warning: be prepared for other climates. In Breck, 30 minutes at negative-7 is brutal, but the stove never had to battle with humidity like you’d find in the Midwest or along the coasts. I’m not sure if ice would cause problems there, but it’s likely.
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