Already during my journey down the river the question came up which equipment I would consider to be recommendable and which not. At this time I gave a short feedback based on my experiences with my gear so far. Due to a recent event I come back to a particular piece of equipment. My statement to the Optimus Nova stove at this time was:

Optimus Stove: disappointed, already two o-rings broke, no replacement parts available. Everybody here uses Whisperlite, nobody’s ever heard about Optimus (Just recognized that the original blog article was only available in german – sorry).

O-Ring (used)

At this time I was already several weeks on the river. But the problem with the stove was there right from the beginning. After a few days I had to replace one o-ring of the quick action coupling. At this time no big deal since I had the Nova spare parts kit with me. Some time later I had to replace the o-ring of the on/off valve. At this time the last replacement part was already spent.
When the o-ring of the quick action coupling started to show again mechanical wear I became really frustrated. This kind of trouble is – especially on such a long journey – not really encouraging. But I was lucky since I had met Branton a few days ago. He had loud, less effective Whisperlight with the well known week stand but solid working! Thus I could keep my stove in my bag, as more as the weather conditions allowed also cooking on wood fire (And there’s no lack of wood on the shores of the Yukon river :-). But occasionally the Nova was still used and as time went by the o-ring started to say goodbye again. Several trials to improve or fix the leaks with duck tape worked only temporarily.

At the Yukon Crossing Bridge this situation lead to the idea interrupt the paddling. As more as Branton had severe problems with the zipper of his sleeping bag. Completely stuck he could not open or close the zipper. Due to the fixed open position he feared that with most likely colder and unfavorable weather the nights will get quite chilly. So the idea was to jump on the bus to Fairbanks trying to get replacement parts or even a new stove to be on the safe side. But the trip to Fairbanks would have cost us at least two day, most probably three. And since we were able to fix the zipper problem on the spot – with the price of one broken Leatherman tool – the situation became less critical. As more as we met Raimonds and Dan with his two boys. Although Raimonds stove, respectively the cartridge seal, was also broken, this increased the stove poo. From four stoves only two were working. The two weeks to Galena we used mainly Branton’s and Dan’s stoves. On the way down to Galena Dan had a look to my stove and he had the idea to put the “good” O-Ring to the on/off valve and the almost broken on to the quick action coupling. A little tweaking there and the decision to not make use the coupling function anymore but to let the stove and pump always connected. The drawback was that I had always to remove the pump from the fuel bottle. Not perfect but necessity is the mother of invention.

The situation became interestingagain when Branton decided to move on in Galena and the rest of us took a day rest. Since Ray, Dan and the two boys would take their flight home from Kaltag a few days later, I had to rely on my stove again and no backup. But the stove worked as long as I was going by myself. And after a few days I met luckily a german gang of four guys, from whom I’ve heard since Whitehorse. We decided to paddle the remaining part together such the stove topic was not critical anymore.

Old school cooking

After my return home I received an email from globepaddler.ch, who helped me a lot in preparation for my trip and ordered the stove for me. The Katadyn AG (swiss) to which Optimus (swedish) belong, announced a recall of certain Optimus stoves. Due to quality problems in production O-rings could wear prematurely or even expand. This might lead to fuel leakage and potential fire hazard. Well, I really know what they are talking about …
Strike! Of course I will send my stove back for replacement, but this will hardly compensate the frustration and worries on the journey.
What’s the learning? Definitely to carefully check which manufacturers are the “de facto standard” in your travel region. Almost everybody, except me. had an MSR stove. And 99% were equipped with Whisperlight. Even in case of a problem you would have good changes to find somebody with replacement parts. When I was asking for spare parts people told me “no problem” and after I mentioned them my model and manufacturer the feedback was “What’s this?”.

Funny note at the end. I decided to by a new stove, a Optimus Nova, to replace my 20 year old Whisperlight, thinking that a new and up-to-date stove would minimize the risk. Obviously my risk analysis was not done very well ;-). In any case I hope the new Nova will work in future. And for any travels to Sweden I should not have a problem with replacement parts.
Beside this also others had (even more) bad luck with their equipment. I remember a very special tent, respectively tarp, but that’s another story…