Gear Review Classic stoves - the Svea 123()

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by DKR, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Still sold today, even if now made in China.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The Svea 123 is a self-pressurized, white gas (naptha) only stove. First sold in 1955, it quickly became a favorite of above-the-treeline mountaineers. The stove is rated at ~4700 BTUs, it will run at full throttle for nearly an hour.

    I have owned and used this little stove since the early 70's and my (then a singleton) mountain trek go-to stove. Now, for deep winter here in Alaska, it is impossible to beat the MSR/XGK - and I have had one of those since the early '80. Both are excellent stoves, but.... I'll focus on the 123.

    Lightweight (ish) at 18oz fully fueled, it isn't the lightest possible stove, but lighter that other current offering from Coleman, for example.

    Burns white gas - good BTU output, but nowhere near that of kerosene.

    Easy to light - if you know what you are doing. If you don't know what you are doing, this stove can become a flaming bomb in seconds. (I'll cover this in a bit) The current vendor sells a small 'pump' to 'pressurize' the font - Please don't. It is easy to over-pressurize the stove and cause the relief value to function - and the stove will become flaming bomb....

    Comes with built in windscreen. Sorta.

    Comes with a small cup/pot - yeah. Looks nice, and more on this in a bit.

    Cons -
    Burns white gas. Not gasoline, white gas and nothing else. Some see this as an issue, I don't - at least with how I have always used the stove, as a weekender. If you want a Doomsday stove, then go buy a MSR/XGK.

    This is a roarer burner - extended simmering isn't something that is really not possible, so cooking is somewhat limited. Since most 'mountaineers' don't cook gourmet meals, this generally isn't an issue. Some dishes, like rice or noodles, can become problematic.

    Come with a small (1 cup) cup cover. There are several after market cups that will fit nicely over the stove body - so may not an issue.
    *As a side note - I use the carrier from an M-1950 military stove to carry my Svea and by default, this gives a large and small pot for cooking/boiling water.
    There are several tin cans that are right-sized to be used as a cover/pot as well.

    The stove is sensitive to sitting on cold surfaces. Sitting on a cold surface will cause the stove to lose pressure. A small insulated pad is the cure.

    The windscreen /pot support is less than wonderful, this by design. I use a wind scereen with my stove - like this:
    This is the same windscreen I use with my Esbit. The MSR XGK has it's own specific windscreen. Care must be used with a windscreen - it is easy to reflect heat back to the stove, causing an over- pressure condition. See my earlier flaming bomb comments.

    Finally - the stove has no legs or other stability features, so care should be exercised for use site and the size of the pot holding your water/food.

    How to light the stove without setting your hair on fire.
    The Svea has, dare I say, earned something of a reputation of being hard to light and a device that often flares - hence the burning hair comment.

    This is because the lazy camper/hiker lets fuel spill out of the stove, lights it off and hopes the stoves works.

    Here is how I do it:

    Find a level spot that will support the stove and any pot you will use.
    If it is cold, put a pad under the stove font. I use a small cork disk for this, but anything will work that provides some ground insulation.

    Remove windscreen. (optional)

    Use alcohol to fill the font 'dimple'. (Primer pan in the first image)

    Set alcohol alight. A flammable paste is also used by some, I prefer alcohol.

    Replace windscreen. Hold off on placing the valve key on the strove, right now.

    Just as the alcohol is dying out, crack the valve slightly - the stove should light.

    Let the stove idle for a bit before opening the valve to full roar.

    Mine provides a pleasant fluttering roar telling me it is ready to go.
    I place the windscreen to block any breezes, but am careful not to fully enclose the stove.

    The Svae 123(R) is the new version and now has a cleaning needle as part of the valve. I believe this is an unseeded complication. The stove originally came with a small tool to clean the orifice after each use.

    Bottom line-
    This is a classic for a reason - and this still sells for the same reason. Nothing to break or lose (the valve key is tethered) - has enough fuel for an overnight trip and is stupid simple to use. Little - if any any maintenance is required. About the only parts that can be replaced is a carbon packing gasket on the valve assembly and the pressure relief vale on the font fill cover. Both can be had from the current vendor as can limited replacement parts.

    NOTE - if the over-pressure valve ever 'functions' - replace it.

    I use Coleman white gas, and so don't worry about leaving fuel in the stove while it is in storage.

    If I have sparked your interest, there are a number of YT vids about the care and feeding of this classic backpacker stove.

    The last Svea I purchased was $40. I cruised Craigslist at the end of the summer and snagged an older - made in Sweden - stove. I just had the seller demonstrate the valve worked and fuel dribbled out of the stem.

    My wife, understandably, was surprised that I would spend 40 smackers on such a grungy stove.
    After a few minutes with some Brasso polish and a soft cloth, I had a stove that looked brand new.

    Sig Tourist made both a Stainless steel and Al cook sets. The SS version has become the Holy Grail for stove collectors.
    if you find something like this at the thrift shop - buy it! These are easy to 'flip' on line.

    Have fun!

    EDIT to add stove lighting operation video
    a little too chatty - but covers the stove lighting well enough.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
  2. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    I’ve got one of the old military squad stoves similar to that. Comes in its own little can. Can use the cans for cooking in. Haven’t pulled it out in a few years. Might need to pull it out and fire it up
    sec_monkey likes this.
  3. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    one of these? M-1950 stove.

    Or one of these?
    a Coleman 5301?
    Hanzo, Motomom34 and sec_monkey like this.
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    You are wrong on the "White Gas Only".... I have had a Svea Stove for 5 Decades and have ONLY ever used 110LL Gasoline in it since it was new... It has been to 14,000 Ft many times, and now lives in the Storage Locker, ready to use if needed...
    Hanzo and sec_monkey like this.
  5. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Not everyone has access to or wish to purchase AVGAS.

    Automobile leaded or 'leadfree' gas will quickly ruin a 123. I agree that in a pinch, auto gas can be used in the 123.
    Hanzo, Brokor and sec_monkey like this.
  6. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    An accessory for the Svea and many other roarer burner.- a Silent Burner cap.

    Hanzo and Brokor like this.
  7. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    The 1950' ,,,
    sec_monkey likes this.
  8. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Gotcha. Sold mine some time back - Kept the carrier for holding my Svea. .

    I'd rather have a commercial Coleman whee I know parts can still be had, even for the old stoves.
    Still, I heated many a "C" rat can over the old Stove, Squad, Gasoline, M-1950....

    I still have my Ranger cook set as well.
    Today there are so many beter choices to be had, mul surp is all but gone from the outdoor scene these days.
    Motomom34 and sec_monkey like this.
  9. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    Yea. Probably not as practical as some of the newer stuff . But it's just been laying in a foot locker that hasn't been opened in years . I need to go thru the locker and just see what's in there .
    Motomom34 and sec_monkey like this.
  10. Hanzo

    Hanzo Monkey+++

    Sounds like a jet engine to me.
  11. Oddcaliber

    Oddcaliber Monkey+++

    It was good enough for Edmund Hillery on Everest! I've got a Coleman 530 made in 1947 that still works.
  12. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    AS do I, complete with the nickle finish. Cost? $5 at a GROJ sale.
    Oddcaliber likes this.
  13. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    the Snow Peak Summit Hybrid makes a replacement cup/pot and cover.
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