am was quite fully satisfied with the Svea 123. I even use it in hotel rooms, though I am very careful not to spill fuel and always put a folded windscreen underneath the stove as not to burn the hotel down.
Not much can go wrong with so few parts. It burns hard (and loud), yet is able to simmer very well too.
It’s a simple stove, without a demanding maintenance job. This however might have led to the minuses below…
January 2017: besides the rubber packing that keeps breaking, another inner part has dissolved, the graphite packing, which is a very delicate material. The needle doesn’t come up anymore. There’s no booklet which explains how I must replace parts. The spare part set is not cheap with 25 euro but has very few parts.
The rubber ring of the opening of the fuel tank has fully dried out and broken within 4 months of heavy use.
When the stove is burning a long time the flame tend to spring from the fuel tank opening too. I need to extinguish the extra flame and let the stove cool down in order to ignite it again. This is due to the broken ring.
It took me much effort to find new O-rings, available in specialized shops for car-parts.
Somehow I got confused with the valve, as the picture below clearly shows! Turning left is closing the flame, as well is turning to the right. To start the stove, the key must be switched all the way to the right. Turning the key to the left has the needle unclog the jet.
I found the key attached in a non logic manner, so I changed its position. I secured it in order not to lose it.
I have made a little filter from a cut off bottle and a baby sock. This makes pouring the fuel into the tank easier.
Hard wind seems to blow out the flame, even with a windscreen. When trying to get the stream of the jet catch fire again, its force blows out the match/lighter. These might be my mistakes with the left/right handling of the valve though. I’ll let you know…
For preheating the stove I pour fuel in the spirit cup with a small Nalgene bottle, not with a syringe anymore.
An updated review here.
Below is the full write-up of this stove.
A new stove
My former stove, a Primus Omni Fuel, broke down a year and a half ago. I then used tins filled with alcohol or plain wood. The first needs quite a lot, preferable 70%, alcohol, while the latter needs dry wood and open nature where stealth camping is not a problem.
What if I go to places where there is little wood or no possibility to make fires?
I needed a new stove. These things cost money and not just a bit. And I had demands. It had to burn on gasoline, car petrol in case I can’t find white gas (the Coleman stuff) without unscrewing the hose connected to the fuel bottle. I wanted it to be simple, sturdy with as few parts as possible.
Only one stove came out of this request: the Optimus Svea 123
Maybe 123 stands for the number of handling to get it burning? And burning it does, like a jet stream! It took me some time to find out how it works, as I didn’t know how to build up pressure as there is no pump involved. You see, it is as simple as 123.
The Swedish-made Svea 123 is a small liquid-fuel pressurized-burner camping stove that traces its origins to designs first pioneered in the late 19th century.
Made of solid brass, the Svea 123 weighs about 500 grams (19 ounces), measures 100 mm x 130 mm (3.9” x 5.1”) and will burn for over an hour on full tank (about 4 ounces/0.11 liter) of fuel.
The Svea is made with a built-in cleaning needle to keep the burner jet burner jet from clogging by pushing soot or other impurities outward (unlike Primus; which comes with a small wire pricker that is used to clean the burner jet manually by pushing the soot inwards).
A brass windscreen attached directly to the stove, and has built-in pot supports that fold inward for storage. The lid of the stove when packed is a small aluminum pot that comes with a detachable handle and transforms to a small cook-pot. I find this pot too small to prepare a decent chai or coffee, so I use it as a cap only.
How it Works
To light the stove, the fuel tank must first be pre-heated and pressurized by lighting a small amount of fuel poured into the primer pan or spirit cup (a small well) on top of the tank at the base of the vaporizer (the vertical stem connecting the fuel tank to the burner). Alternatively, the primer pan can be filled directly from the fuel tank by opening the control valve and warming the fuel tank by holding it in your hands. This will increase the pressure in the fuel tank and force a small amount of fuel to trickle out of the burner jet and into the primer pan. The control valve must then be closed before lighting the priming fuel so as to allow pressure to build up in the tank when the exterior fuel begins to heat the tank and the fuel within.
Fuel from the tank is fed by a cotton wick inside the tank to the base of the vaporizer. The heat and pressure created by the priming flame vaporizes the fuel inside the vaporizer. When the priming flame is nearly burnt out, the control valve is opened by turning the adjusting key. This allows the vaporized fuel to flow under pressure through the burner jet (a small opening at the base of the burner), where it mixes with oxygen and burns with a blue flame. Adjusting the flow of the vaporized fuel that is forced through the burner jet controls the flame size and heat output. The control valve (a spindle) is threaded in the vaporizer’s housing, and as it is opened (by turning the adjusting key) it opens like a faucet (counter-clockwise to open and clockwise to close) and the vaporized fuel flows through the burner jet. Closing the spindle closes the fuel supply. A small plate on the top of the burner (a flame spreader) spreads the flame outwards. The heat generated in the burner and vaporizer maintains the internal pressure in the fuel tank.
After the stove is burning, you need to screw on the windshield. This is quickly done without any difficulty (when the stove is burning you can hold in your hand).
Because the Svea 123 is made of brass and has only one moving part –the control valve– the Svea has a well-established record of reliability and can withstand years of heavy use with only minimal maintenance.
130 euro in Europe/$100 in the USA
When I bought the Svea I didn’t know how to get it burning? I learned this by watching YouTube tutorials (the leaflet which comes with the Svea is minimal). I guess I need practice in this but it is a bit of experimental messing around.
I don’t know how the burner will behave in very high temperatures. Will the pressure in the tank reach a point where it will be too high?
Will the cotton wick have to be replaced at any given time?
The design is so simple that maintenance seems nihil, yet there are spare parts for sale? Has anyone experience with the minimal maintenance? What involves that?
It is a stable enough construction, and as with any camping stove you need to be cautious not to kick it off its feet. The Svea has no feet however. It can tip over, so place it stable without covering it with too much branches or stones as this can build up the heat in the tank.
It is simple. So simple that this specific quality is its strength. I like the thought that it is an old-fashioned, trustworthy stove which has proven itself long ago.
I wanted a fuel tank connected to the burner without unscrewing any parts. I don’t mind dripping fuel so much but I dislike the number of handling before starting to prepare cooking itself. I liked the easy use of a burner connected to a pressurized gas cartridge, but did not want to take the risk of failing to find gas cartridges.
It can burn on normal car fuel (which is not good for health though) so in the event of failing to find Coleman white gas, I can switch to gasoline. I tried it and it works.
Svea is light and small.
I used to prepare chai in the room of lodges, with the Primus Omni Fuel this was a reasonable safe option but with the Svea much less so; fuel is spilled so easily that the danger of setting the whole establishment on fire is a very high possibility!
For those cooking very near their tent; be aware that the Svea does have a high yellow flame to start with, before it spits a low blue flame.
The pricy is not low, so I can only hope I get many years out of this stove! The Primus Omni Fuel was more expensive and lasted only 2 years for me; thus it has never recovered its own purchase value.
11 replies on “Review Optimus Svea 123”
I have been using an older foldable optimus for a long time, it worxs simple and is easy to clean because of the needle cleaning system, the two problems I had after some time was that the ring from the fuel tankdop has to be tight because you want to keep pressure in the tank, I had to change the rubber ring two times, it made my pots and pans black , it burns loud and it gives big yellow flames at the start.When it was cold it took some time to burn bleu. Also it was a bit hard to maintain a regular low burning flame when slow cooking was needed.
Hi Cor, I was planning on buying spare parts for the Optimus Svea, as things wears out… I agree that it is not a quiet burner. I think the only quiet burners are the alcohol Altoid tins, and gaz burners perhaps? I think I have to agree that slow cooking on a low flame takes very little turns, or it is switched off by too much turning. Overall, until now, I am happy with it. You too?
An excellent review. Thanks for the writeup
Most welcome 😊
And thank you for the compliment
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I have had a Svea123 for 45 years since my days backpacking in the Boy Scouts. I still use it and it works as good as the day I bought it. They are indestructible. I have used unleaded gas in mine since my bicycle trip from Canada to Mexico in 1976. It was easy to buy a small amount of gas at the pump rather than throw away most of a Colman gallon when cycling. I love mine!
That’s great Doug, mine is probably operating again once I soak it for a day in some sort of solution and get new inner parts but it had all sorts of troubles and the inside was really stuck too. The fuel I used must have been particular dirty I reckon?
And the flame did sprout from the tank once it was very hot. Might have been the new rubber ring?
For me it was not reliable anymore. I never cleaned it either, did you? I thought that was not necessary (stupid yes).
The Svea 123 is a great stove. Make sure to depressurize the stove before lighting again and always start with a 3/4 full tank (full to fill area) This enables easy pressurizing. If your in high altitudes or extremely cold weather then a double prime session often cures the cold starts. There is a pump for the stove that helps with the aforementioned issue but they are hard to find and costly.
There is also a silent burner cap (https://www.shapeways.com/product/LGL3BV6EN/berniedawg-minicap-with-legs) to replace your roarer burner. I believe that it also helps in the simmering issue and reduces the noise greatly. The negative side is that when outdoors the silent cap is less wind resistant. There are many youtube videos on the subject.
As a safety note do not use very wide pots (8″ or larger) on the stove or use a separate windscreen up close to the stove. Both will cause thermal feedback and raise the tanks pressure. Always place a separate windscreen at least a foot away from the stove. Do not cook with the SRV facing you in case of accidental discharge during operation. It’s rare but you never know.
Lastly, remember that the stove font (tank) increases temperature with decreased power. The high roaring flames draw a large amount of cooler air over the tank as the air rises to burn. Simmering reduces this air flow and allows the tank to heat up. Add an extra wide pot, no wind, and an old SRV and you have problems waiting to happen.
Join the Classic Camp Stoves forum to learn more than you eve wanted to know about your stove.
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I am impressed by your knowledge! Good you told me all this and even added a link, so others may benefit from your valuable information. As for me, I am simply not a person who is in for technical improvements and details and techniques to find out, to improve and to learn. I just want a fire that’s running all the time, when I want it.
And so…. I opted for plain wood. In case I am worried about setting the surroundings on fire, I will use the Bushcraft Essential Bushbox
However, my Svea 123 was replaced by another of Optimus stoves and that one worked better to my likings. But I must say, I choose the Svea 123 for it looks and compact built in fuel capacity. I did not wanted to have a separate fuel bottle. But other than that, I knew nothing about its techniques. While it lasted, I was happy with it though.