Many outdoor goers will have different stoves for different situations. Expedition use will require a different stove to the single mountaineer on an overnight in the mountains. It is a trade off between number of users, conditions, the types of food being cooked and fuel availability. But if a outdoor newbie came to me and said they want a one stove does it all option they I would suggest a canister top gas stove. Gas is widely available, they are compact and light and they are pretty much maintenance free. They will also work for one person but could stretch to a couple or family depending on how complicated the food you are cooking is.
The Primus Micron Trail is a recently released canister gas stove that seems to tick all these criteria. We tried one out….
The Micron Trail actually comes in three models. Primus have produced a simple base model, a model with Piezo ignition and a third model with both Piezo ignition and a regulator. The model we tried was the model with regulator and ignition.
The stove has 3 fold out legs to support a pot and a screw thread to connect up the gas canister. The Micron Trail works with the industry standard Coleman screw thread canisters produced by lots of manufacturers including Primus.
The stove has a 54mm burner unit and pumps out 2600 watts of heat. It weighs 86 grams or, with its included storage bag, 96 grams.
The Micron Trail has been used for a number of overnight adventures recently. It came along on a family trip to Northern Spain where it served a family of four for several mountain overnights and it has been used on a recent Mountain Leader course. It has also been used during a trip to Mount Elbrus where temperatures dropped to -20 degrees Celsius. All my mountain cooking usually revolves around heating water and so this is primarily the role it has had so far.
The first thing you’ll notice about the stove is that it is very compact but, when folded there are a few spiky bits caused by the stove legs and the Piezo Igniter. So, it is interesting that Primus market it as a stove you can store in your chest pocket. In terms of size this is certainly true but it would be a little uncomfortable! The stove does come with a simple nylon drawstring bag which will help, but it is still spiky. I know they are mainly using the pocket descriptor to describe its size though – and in that sense it certainly is pocket sized.
The stove also, considering it feels robust, is very light in the hand. A Micron and small gas canister will make a great combo for mountain adventures and will come in at a very pack friendly weight. Pair it with a simple pan (Primus recommend their Primetech pans which are very energy efficient, but in reality it can be used with any type) and you have a backcountry system that is cheap and light.
Using the Micron is very simple. Screw it onto a canister, fold out the leg supports, open the valve and spark it up. You can have it up and running in seconds. The pan supports clip into place with a reassuring clunk. I have had similar stoves in the past where they can easily get knocked out of place so this is an important safety feature. They are also strong and I felt very confident using a full 1 1/2 litre pot.
Once that’s all done, the valve handle gets turned to release the fuel. It is several turns before you’ll hear gas hissing through but, once it does, the Piezo igniter will fire the stove into life with a simple click of the switch. As mentioned, the igniter isn’t standard on all models, but in my opinion is well worth the additional expense.
The control valve handle on the Micron is excellent. It is a plastic coated handle that folds out and is very easy to use even with thick gloves on (this feature was well tested on Elbrus). It also sits a long way out from the stove and so is easy to use when a pan is on top. I have mentioned that a lot of turns are needed to get the initial gas flow, but once in operation this stove is incredibly adjustable and heat output control is fantastic. Infact, I would easily say it is the most adjustable stove of this type that I’ve used.
The Piezo igniter is also positioned on the side and does its job well. My only reservations about this are that the igniter switch does sit proud of the stove when the supports are folded in and also that there is no protection for where the igniter pokes through on the burner top. If the Micron were supplied with a solid storage container this wouldn’t be a problem, but users will need to be careful of this when packing the stove in a rucksack (or their pocket) if it is just in its little bag.
The stove I tested has a built in regulator and, although there is version without, regulators offer definite advantages. Having a regulator on the valve helps to control the flame but also helps to even out the gas flow so your canister won’t suffer a pronounced dip in performance when the gas is getting lower or in cold temperatures.
Piezo igniters and regulators will make the Micron slightly heavier, but they only add 14 grams in weight and will add ease of use and the regulator may help you save that much in increased fuel efficiency anyway. There is a cost to these features, but they are definitely worth it if your budget allows and if you are going to use your Micron in cold weather.
Like all stoves of this style, the flame can be prone to getting affected by cross winds. Primus have sought to ease this potential problem by creating a flame that is narrow in profile. This directs the heat upwards and it certainly helps, although doesn’t completely solve, the affects of wind. The key way to minimise this effect is to protect the flame by placing your stove behind a boulder or create a little wind break using something like your rucksack (not too close of course!).
The Micron Trail is a little powerhouse. Primus say it will boil a litre of water in under 3 minutes using a Primetech pan and we found that to be realistic. The boil time, of course, is affected by the amount of wind hitting the flame, ambient temperature and the starting temperature of the water. Suffice it to say this is a medium to fast boiler that stacks up very well against other canister top models.
All canister top stoves can end up being a little unstable as, once you’ve added the canister, the length of the stove and the pan on top of each other, there is quite a height there. One way to avoid this is to use a wider canister (250 gram ones definitely offer far more stability than 100 gram models) or to use a fold out pan stabiliser which, while adding a few grams, are well worth it in improved safety.
This is a great little stove – quick, simple, well made, able to support heavy pots and good value. I would love Primus to look at ways to protect the Piezo igniter (at the burner head) from damage and to look at improving the folded positions of the support legs to make it more streamlined, but other than that it is a great little performer that will give years of faithful service in lots of outdoor contexts. My advice would be to go for the model with regulator and igniter if possible, but in reality I would think the base model would perform extremely well too.
This stove is highly recommended and the base model costs £35, the igniter model £40 and the igniter and regulator model tested retails for £60. Check out the Primus website here for more details. Happy cooking!
Posted by Paul