Primus Express Spider

Meltin’ snow.

My stove “quiver” needed expanding.  Last year I became enamored with the Bushbuddy, a fantastic, fully enclosed wood burning stove.  For quite a while I thought such things were just expensive alternatives to fires, but eventually caved because I wanted to be able to burn wood on backcountry trips during the winter.  You can build a fire on snow, but finding enough fuel and keeping it from melting into the ground can be tricky.  The Bushbuddy works great for this, needing a remarkably small amount of small twigs to do its job.  It’s also much faster than a fire, easier, a work of spot welded art, and handmade by a gnarly guy up in Canada.  I used it a bunch over the summer when I would have otherwise made a fire or brought a Pocketrocket, reveling in the good karma and tactile and aesthetic pleasure using the Bushbuddy provides.

There are some times in winter when finding fuel for the Bushbuddy isn’t the easiest thing, and more especially when more power is needed to melt snow.  I have a decade plus old MSR Dragonfly, but it’s so finicky and needs so much maintenance I gave up on it years ago.  Esbit or a cat food can alcohol stove are my usual summer solo rigs, but winter demanded something else.

Note preheat tube.

I wanted an inverted canister stove, both for the ease of using a canister and the cold-weather ability of being able to use said canister inverted in liquid feed mode.  Due to the chemistry of the gases used, most upright gas stoves (like my Pocketrocket) don’t work below 20 F.  A stove like the Spider has a preheat loop, to help the burner vaporize the fuel, and with the flexible hose the ability to turn the canister upside down, thus putting liquid fuel into the tube as far as the preheat loop.  Voila, canister stove ease to well below zero (if you do things right).

Other than that, there’s not much to say about a canister stove.  I choose the Express Spider because it’s lightish (7 oz on my scale) and cheap (50 bucks shipped).  It works just fine: warm the canister, fire it up in gas-feed mode, let the coil heat on low, invert the canister and crank it up.  Not as powerful as white gas, but you can also hear yourself think while it’s at work.  The hose is fairly flexible, but the stove is so light that absent a weight on it (pot of water) the stove wants to move when you invert the canister.

So hopefully this will continue to be a plain piece of gear that does the job, well.  Stoves don’t excite me much, until they stop working.

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6 thoughts on “Primus Express Spider

  1. Dave,
    I’ve been using upright canisters during moderate winter weather, using the usual tricks of keeping the canister warm and placing it in a bowl of water. But I’m not sure how low a temperature this will really work for. So far it’s worked for around 15F.
    On my last winter trip, with temps around 0F, a friend brought a basic MSR Whisperlite. It’s a lot heavier than my upright canister and stove.
    So, how heavy is your inverted canister set up (fuel and stove) vs something like the Whisperlite?
    Is there really a significant weight difference?
    Thanks,
    Marty Cooperman
    Cleveland, Ohio

    1. I’m not inclined to do the math, but my guess would be that for a longer trip, and with a light white gas stove and ti fuel bottle, the difference would be negligable. For me, the reduction in fiddle factor is more relevant, combined with the fact that I won’t be doing many trips over 3 days in deep cold.

  2. I used a Spider last winter for ski touring. The secret to using it in colder temperatures is, as you say, keeping the canister warm. I carried mine in my jacket all the time unless actually using it. I found in gas mode it could be used in the tent. When inverted, in liquid feed mode, it had a slight tendency to flare so it was outside only for that.

    I did go through the rigmarole of building a wee platform for it but I found just resting the stove on the Snowclaw and the inverted canister of my ski boots sufficient. I agree about the need to be mindful when the pot isn’t sitting on the burner. It can move.

  3. okay – but will it cook meatballs? i would still like to know your secret meatball recipe… (as i make meatball sandwich for dinner!)

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