Traveler's Gear Box: Primus Firehole 300 Cookstove
Right out of the box, the Firehole 300 cookstove from Primus looks pretty impressive: It has a handy handle, the powder-coated aluminum is shiny silver on top, bright red on the bottom, and the case conceals a flexible fuel line in its base.
But sometimes looks can be deceiving.
For years I've been using a somewhat smaller propane-fired stove from White Stag (a Coleman line). This unit is all metal and doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Firehole 300....but I'm not sure that, when you get right down to it, it's inferior to the Primus.
* On my White Stag stove, the side panels that serve as windscreens hook into place. On the Firehole 300, tiny magnets are supposed to hold the windscreens in place. Not a bad idea, but out of the box the Firehole's lid was torqued just enough so that only one of the magnets lined up properly with the windscreens. The windscreens can also double as sidetrays when wind isn't an issue. Not big sidetrays, but big enough to hold a utensil or salt and pepper needed while cooking.
* The clips that hold the cover closed on the Firehole seem a bit fragile -- thin pieces of rubber attached to plastic clips -- leading me to wonder how many camping trips they'd survive? On the White Stag, metal rods that double as legs for the stove swivel to clamp the stove's lid to its base.
* The LED timer integrated into the lid of the Firehole is a great idea...but is difficult to see from a standing position. The timer is bookended by two lights, though, which is a nice touch.
* I do like the attached and concealed fuel line of the Firehole. The one I use with the White Stag simply gets stowed beneath the burner racks.
The Firehole (MSRP $295) is fueled by readily available 1-pound propane canisters. However, while the fuel-control knobs turn more than 360 degrees, the flame changes only through about the first 30-40 degrees; after that, it's on high and gets no higher.
There also is an electric ignition that is battery powered. But that, the timer, and the lights require you to tote extra batteries if you want to rely on those features. The White Stag has nothing electric; you light the burners with a match.
The Firehole weighs nearly 15 pounds, and can generate 24,000 BTUs from its two burners. It offers fairly good cooking space -- 8.5 inches by 20 inches.
Bottomline: While the Firehole has some nice features, it also has some question marks. If you're in the market for a campstove for car camping or paddling, take some time investigating all options out there.