You may call that I have something of a love/hate relationship with the Primus stove; when it works, it's great, when it doesn't, it can be exceedingly frustrating.
So when an an alternative was suggested in the form of the Beatrice boiling stove, I was keen to give it a try. Following a slight ebay mix up, we actually now have two, a single and a double burner. I brought the double burner one up to Chertsey this time to try it out and see how it compares to the primus. The primus, of course, is the newer and more advanced technology, but as we all know, advanced technology means more to go wrong. The Beatrice is crude but simple, having two great big wicks whereas the primus works on a combination of pre-heating and pressurisation to vapourise the paraffin.
Clearly, this would seem to make the primus more efficient; the fuel burns hotter and more cleanly. This makes it ideal for boiling a kettle, which it does as quickly as a gas stove. It isn't so good though for anything that requires a lower heat, such as simmering or gently warming. It is in theory adjustable by increasing or releasing the pressure, but this is limited and requires quite a lot of skill. It seems that the Beatrice scores here, as it is very adjustable and will happily provide a low heat. In fact, it's when you want a hotter flame that it's not so good, as turning the wick up results in a lot of greasy soot over the bottom of the pan which doesn't endear it to the washer upper. This might partly be cured by a good clean as I'm sure it could burn better, and bluer.
Which brings us on to the next point; my instincts tell me that the Beatrice needs a lot of ventilation, both to burn properly and because of the fumes I'm sure it produces. The primus likewise needs its oxygen, but I suspect burns cleaner and more completely.
The Beatrice has a real flame which you can watch through a little window, just like a big stove, and it throws out a lot of heat. Good if you need to warm up a space quickly, and lovely and comforting to look at, but not a very efficient use of fuel unless you want a heater.
Apart from its lack of adjustability, the primus has two main drawbacks which the Beatrice doesn't. The first is fairly minor - the primus is noisy, whereas the Beatrice is silent. But the biggest thing is, the Beatrice is easy to light, put a match to the wick and you're away. On a good day, the primus has to be preheated with meths then pumped violently, upon which it will roar into life. On a bad day, it will be preheated and pumped and fail to roar into life, hence the frustration. This may be accompanied (if you leave the pumping too late and the meths has gone out before the vapour arrives) by a fine mist of unlit paraffin, which I'm sure isn't too good for the lungs, or (if you start pumping too soon, before it's hot enough) a big yellow flame, which is scary. This also happens if there's the slighest draft, which diverts the meths flame and stops it preheating properly.
Having said that, since the Beatrice has been on board, the primus has been on its best behaviour and I have had no cause for complaint. I'm going to make a cup of tea in a minute and will probably use the primus, as it's quicker and cleaner. But if it messes me about, I do now have an alternative.
So in short, the primus is quick, clean and efficient, but noisy, hard to light, and lacking in adjustment. The Beatrice is easy to light, adjustable and cosy, but dirty and less efficient. I'm glad that I've got both.
By the way, I forgot the boring bits.
Thursday, we left Alvecote at four twenty and got as far as Hopwas, where we met Ange and Dave from CWF, and Lone Wolf too, for the first time.
Friday, Hopwas to Burton, and once we've spruced up a bit we shall be off to sample some of the town's most famous product.
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