The Svea was designed in 1920 and the technology is simple. A design that is not the best option to choose for a stove on an extended cycle trip. The Svea is currently used in Sweden and Japan for stationary use or as a working antique stove with a nice look. An Optimus Nova would have been a better choice, since that is a modern liquid fuel stove for mobile use.
Usually I cook on wood and had bought the Svea as a back-up. The Svea worked very well, indoors and outside, until inner parts start to break down. I found new spare parts but eventually more inner parts broke down and the needle stopped functioning.
I bought this stove as a back up for when I am not in the possibility to make a fire. The reason I am choosing this one is because it is more simple, less expensive and easier to use. What I disliked about the Primus Omni Fuel is the unscrewing of the hose each time I used it. What I like about this Optimus is that the gas tank is part of the whole design, so no screwing on and off. I think the Optimus is more compact too. However, I need to take a gas bottle filled with fuel as a back-up.
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. 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.
- Svea is light and small.
- I even used 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…
- The Svea 123 does need maintenance! Yet, there is no booklet included how to, only one leaf of paper with minimal information.
- It is best not to burn car fuel, as ths clogs the needle obviously. So much even it got real stuck.
- 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.
- Besides the rubber packing that keeps breaking down, 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 and 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.
- In the end, I would definitely NOT recommend this stove. It is not the proper choice for a long term cycle tour.
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.
Why exactly did I choose the Svea 123?
My former stove, a Primus Omni Fuel, broke down, and 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
My thoughts long before the Svea 123 broke down
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?
I now know all the answers, and one thing is clear: do not buy a Svea 123 as Optimus has way better options!
11 replies on “Review Optimus Svea 123”
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I have had my SVEA 123 R for about 35 years now. I originally bought it as a backpacking stove as I needed something reliable in higher altitudes. It has morphed into my go to camping stove when I just need one burner for quick hot water (it will boil my 1.5 quart coffee pot in under right minutes above 8,000 feet. I use this stove a lot and have only had to buy one repair kit ( last year) due to it not building or holding pressure.
My only complaint on this little stove is the noise it makes. I have always been an early riser and coffee drinker and have gotten a lot of negative comments in campgrounds from campers that were disturbed by my stove… I usually car camp in wilderness areas and National Forests now so as not to disturb all the late night partiers and pot smokers who keep me awake until the early hours when I want to be up drinking my coffee. Some campers are rude
thank you for reacting to this post.
That is impressive!! A stove for 35 years!! I am amazed and it tells me something about my own inability to care for such a simple thing as a stove. Maybe I lack the desire or practical want to care better for them?
Like you need your coffee, I need chai. So a stove is ESSENTIAL. Can you believe I took no stove with me on the trip I am now?! I don’t know what I was thinking?!
I can not believe that people on a campsite are annoyed by the sound of a stove?! Are they SO sensitive? I am sensitive to sounds too, hear the tiniest of sounds, but a stove is usually not annoying. Car alarms, coughing, sneezing, laughing… could be annoying. But a stove : )) In any case, I think a camping or campground is not the weay to go anyway, wilderness is! And there you should go with your working Svea 123.
I am glad your works so well. My would probably too, if I knew better how to handle it. Enjoy the nature and an early coffee. Happy trails Rodney!
Greetings Cindy and Geo
Hi Cindy, I had a similar stove based on the same principles – it is called Juwel and it was invented in the 1920 by a German engineer named Gustav Barthel. I also fired it up with ordinary fuel from the car station and ruined the thing. A friend of mine explained, that there are so many additives in car fuel which are a really bad thing for that fine jet. Another friend presented me another jet – then it worked for a short time but then I had to change the jet again. Both of my friends warned me : “You must never run a gasoline stove on car fuel, if you wanna have fun with it.”
So I threw that thing away and bought it again – actually I bought a brand-new SVEA 123 which has a smaller fuel tank and has not so much power compared to my former German Juwel stove.
And I bought a “spare parts kit for Svea / Hunter” from Optimus – which is so easily to be found on the internet. Inside this kit you can find the complete instruction how to repair the burner and all the small parts (metal and others).
All the best for you
P.S.: I have been very impressed from the idea of firing this stove in hotel room 🙂
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Hi Julie, nice to read that my post reached you. I think these old fashioned stoves, used in conditions other than ‘not pleasant oudoor camping’, are sturdier. I choose Svea 123 because of the tank attached to it, and apparantly, car fuel should work. I must say that I usually do not invest much time in reading about the product I want to buy, online research and such, so I bought it quickly. It had a tank and would run on car fuel and did not need cleaning.
Well, I red it a bit wrong. It does not cleaning! And it has to run on Coleman white fuel now and then, to clean the needle and system.
I learned that those more expensive newer stoves, like the Optimus I got after the Svea, are better for trips like I did.
I would advice Optimus Nova or a Primus multi fuel stove. Stoves like such run really good on car fuel! And, go easier in hotel rooms ; )
Julie, do you stick to the old fashioned burners?
I would like mine to run again, but need to work on it… I will check out the repair/spare set you mentioned, thank you for that tip!
[…] of stoves, from Primus and Optimus Multi Fuel when I started a 5 year worldwide bicycle trip to an Optimus Svea 123. I tried a gas stove, a self-made hobo stove, an alcohol stove and plain wood […]
Out of curiosity, did you buy a new Taiwanese made Svea 123, or and older Swedish made one?
I’m sure many people have said this before, but the MSR Whisperlite International is nice, as it is very easy to clean, maintain, etc.
Great blog! I wish I had found it sooner.
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Hi Kenov, I don’t know what I bought exactly but I had the impression that it was Swedish made. It’s still in my possession although a few countries in between so I can’t check the stamped or imprinted letters.
Optimus replaced the Svea with the same sort as Whisperlite probably is. It’s running on gasoline too and that’s really a good one. I think the Svea is excellent too but it’s my incompetence in care… I thought it didn’t need cleaning at all. So, that was a mistake.
Thank you for the compliment on my blog. I enjoy keeping it up (though it reached its limit 😬)
Thanks for the response, Cindy. I’m glad you found the right stove for you needs. While the MSR-style liquid fuel stoves are not very pretty, their simplicity makes them reliable.
I can relate to the challenge of updating one’s blog after a few years, but I’m glad you contiue to maintain it.
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Hi Kenov, I like all stoves that work ; ) even a gas stove has it’s good sides, as it is so quick and without dirt, smoke nor soot. Though, cooking with the Svea was more characteristic than with a multi fuel stove, yet the bushbox is perhaps the best if I could choose only one. It depends so much on the surrounding and the weather too.
I like updating the blog, the probem is not to continue after a few years but the space.
You are a fisherman, right?