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Primus Essential Trail Review

This standard small canister stove is good for simmering but bulky and a bit heavy in your pack
Primus Essential Trail
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Price:  $30 List | Check Price at Amazon
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Pros:  Good at simmering, simple operation
Cons:  No piezoelectric igniter, slow to boil, bulky, somewhat heavy
Manufacturer:   Primus
By Mary Witlacil and Ian McEleney  ⋅  May 9, 2022
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 20
  • Fuel Efficiency - 25% 7.0
  • Weight - 25% 6.0
  • Simmering Ability - 20% 7.0
  • Ease Of Use - 20% 6.0
  • Boil Time - 10% 4.0

Our Verdict

The Primus Essential Trail is a simple small canister stove with standard performance. It has an average-sized burner head and surrounding reflector that enable it to simmer well, which is where it performed best in our testing. The reflector probably contributes to its decent fuel efficiency. It sits fairly low on top of a canister, which makes it less likely that you'll be picking mac and cheese out of the pine needles. It doesn't have a piezoelectric igniter, so keep your lighter or matches handy. It was sluggish to boil with and without wind. The awkward shape makes it harder to pack into smaller cookware, so it may not be a good choice for solo hikers traveling with a small pot.

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Pros Good at simmering, simple operationLightweight, works in the wind, great piezo igniter, fuel efficient, very stable for a small canister stoveUltralight, fuel efficient, affordable, quick to boil even in windTiny, light, cheapSimmers well, easy to set up, inexpensive
Cons No piezoelectric igniter, slow to boil, bulky, somewhat heavyPot supports pack up separately from stoveA bit loud, possibly less durable pot stabilizersSmall burner head, poor wind performance, not great fuel efficiencySlow, heavy, fuel inefficient
Bottom Line This standard small canister stove is good for simmering but bulky and a bit heavy in your packOur favorite small canister stove, providing the best performance for most backpackersThis affordable and fuel-efficient canister stove is also tiny and ultralight, perfect for your next backcountry adventureA shockingly small, ultra lightweight, and straightforward backpacking stove at an impressively low priceThis inexpensive, heavy, and bulky stove takes a while to boil, but simmers reasonably well
Rating Categories Primus Essential Trail Soto Windmaster Soto Amicus BRS-3000T Coleman Peak 1
Fuel Efficiency (25%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
2.0
3.0
Weight (25%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
10.0
5.0
Simmering Ability (20%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Ease Of Use (20%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
Boil Time (10%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
3.0
1
Specs Primus Essential Trail Soto Windmaster Soto Amicus BRS-3000T Coleman Peak 1
Category Small Canister Small Canister Small Canister Small Canister Small Canister
Essential Weight (stove or stove + integrated pot only) 4.5 oz 3.0 oz 2.79 oz 0.9 oz 6.5 oz
Trail Weight (stove, fuel, pot) 16.63 oz 15.63 oz 14.92 oz 12.63 oz 18.63 oz
Wind Boil Time (1 liter, 2-4mph) 10:10 min 5:46 min:sec 6:30 min:sec 14:45 min:sec >15 min
Boil Time (1 liter) 5:30 min:sec 4 min:sec 3:52 min: sec 5:13 min:sec 7:08 min:sec
Packed Weight (stove + all accessories) 4.5 oz 3.5 oz 3.5 oz 1 oz 6.5 oz
Dimensions 4.3" x 2.4" 4.7" x 3.9" x 3.6" 3.9" × 0.7" × 6.5" 2" x 1.2" x 1.3" 5.1" x 5.5" x 4.3"
Fuel Type Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane
Additional Included Items None Stuff sack, pot support Stuff sack Stuff sack None
Piezo Igniter? No Yes Yes No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Primus Essential Trail is a basic small canister stove. While simmering is what it does best, it's also very easy to set up; simply screw it on the can, open the flame control, and add fire.

Performance Comparison


On the trail with the Essential Trail.
On the trail with the Essential Trail.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Fuel Efficiency


The Essential Trail performs decently in terms of fuel efficiency despite slow boiling times. It used 0.44 ounces of fuel to boil one liter of water in our windless garage "lab" at 5,000 feet. For the wind test, we situated the stove next to a box fan on low, which produced constant 2-4 mph "wind." In the wind test, the stove used 0.74 ounces of fuel to boil one liter of water over 10 minutes and 10 seconds. To determine fuel efficiency, we determine the percentage of fuel used in each test, then base our score on the average between these two scores. On average, the Essential Trail used 13% of the fuel in a 4-ounce canister per boil test.

The burner head is surrounded by a flat piece of metal. We suspect that this may act as a bit of a heat reflector, which would enhance this stove's efficiency.

We think the additional metal around the burner head acts as a heat...
We think the additional metal around the burner head acts as a heat reflector.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Weight


The Essential Trail weighs 4.5 ounces (about 128 grams), which is heavier than other small canister stoves. The flat, triangular shape of the burner head maakes packing this stove into a tight space challenging. It fit fine into our 1-liter pot, along with a 4-ounce fuel can, pot grip, and lighter, but it might not play well with smaller cookware.

The shape of the Essential Trail was a bit awkward in our 1-liter pot.
The shape of the Essential Trail was a bit awkward in our 1-liter pot.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Simmering Ability


When it comes to simmering, the Essential Trail puts in an above-average performance. We could turn the burner down quite low, a boon for cooking things like oatmeal, pancakes, or rice. While the burner head is average in size for a small canister stove, we suspect that the surrounding heat reflector helps distribute heat more evenly to the bottom of the pot.

It's possible to simmer and not scorch, but don't stop stirring.
It's possible to simmer and not scorch, but don't stop stirring.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Ease Of Use


The Essential Trail has all the ease of use that a small canister stove design confers. While we like that the flame control valve has a wire handle, we wish it was longer. The fixed pot supports are solid and about average in size. They worked well with one and two-liter pots, but be careful if going bigger than that. The 1.7-quart tea kettle we used for testing, filled with 1 liter of water, pushed the limits of this stove's ability to deliver stability.

The assembly that connects the burner head to the canister is on the shorter side, which keeps the overall height of the stove relatively low. While this means you might have to lean over a bit more to get a look at the flame, we think it lends the Essential Trail some stability.

This model is more stable than some other small canister stoves, but...
This model is more stable than some other small canister stoves, but if you want to get a look at the flame sometimes you have to get low.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Boil Time


In our garage lab at 5,000 feet, this stove took 5 minutes and 30 seconds to bring 1 liter of water to a rolling boil with no wind. This is on the longer end of times for the small canister stoves.

In the presence of a 2-4 mph constant wind produced by a box fan, the Essential Trail boiled 1 liter of water in 10 minutes and 10 seconds. In previous wind tests at 8,000 feet, the stove did not boil water within the 30-minute mark, but after the stove was turned off, it was able to reach a rolling boil with an additional 30 seconds.

The Primus in front of the fan, which is off to the left. You can...
The Primus in front of the fan, which is off to the left. You can see flame being blown away from the pot.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Value


We think this stove is an okay value. It is inexpensive and delivers average performance in nearly all our metrics. Some lower-scoring stoves cost a lot more, at least one stove costs less and delivers comparable performance with less durability, so you could save money and get a more durable but bulkier and heavier stove.

Conclusion


The Primus Essential Trail is an average backpacking stove. Simmering is its strong suit. While it didn't disappoint when it came to fuel efficiency or ease of use, it didn't dazzle us with its performance either. It would have been nice to be able to fold the stove up for packing, and it was one of the slower small canister stoves when it came to boiling time, but overall we were pretty satisfied with its performance.

We like the flame control wire but wish it was longer.
We like the flame control wire but wish it was longer.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Mary Witlacil and Ian McEleney
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