What can I say about this legendary hiking stove that hasn’t already been said? Honestly, there is so much written about this stove that I won’t bother trying to be original and just accept the fact that sometimes all that is needed is a new twist on an old subject. In any case I have owned my little Svea 123 for well over 6 years now and it was my first stove I really bought since making my conversion over to lightweight packing.

DSCF6560The Svea 123 with my prefered pot the Snowpeak 900. 

While the optimus Svea 123 is no longer my go to stove, it is still my funnest. How can it not be? Every time I light the gas on the primer pan a small little fireball explodes and singes the hair on my hands… I always get that little adrenaline kick when I’m not sure if the stove is going to light or explode and kill me. It’s almost like playing russian roulette with a camping stove. It’s that small thrill that keeps me coming back I guess. Then the comfort of the stove when it’s lit and going full blast sounding like a small rocket taking off.

What is the Svea 123:

The svea 123 is a backpacking stove introduced in 1955 by the Sieverts company here in Sweden, later this was acquired by Optimus brand in 1969. The stove is a relatively light, white gas powered backpacking stove, no moving parts, the best looking camping stove ever made and probably one of the best gas stoves ever made. This stove is still produced and sold today, though unlike the earlier models, unfortunately the newer versions are produced in China. I would and did buy my original Svea 123 (made in Sweden) on eBay for about $80.

DSCF6565The lighter shows the size. The Svea 123 is not a large stove


The Svea 123 demands a little from the user, as I stated in the introduction this thing has that “kill or light” feeling about it. You have to first twist and remove the “windshield”, take a small amount of gas and pour it around the base of the stove, in the primer pan, than light the gas in the primer pan until it burns out and eventually gets the brass stove hot enough to build pressure within the canister to keep the fuel primed.

  1. Make sure there is fuel in the tank
  2. Take a small cut of straw and place gas at the base of the burner
  3. Screw tight the tank lid, windshield and regulator
  4. light the primer on the base of burner
  5. wait until the tank gets hot and fuel starts to squirt out of burner by the pressure built up.
  6. Turn on the regulator and fire away

It’s hard to explain but easier to show, so I will include a video here:

Without pump:

With pump:


The stove is made out of solid brass, even the newer Chinese versions (I assume), fairly compact as it fits within a Snowpeak 900ml casserole. The Svea 123 has no moving parts which is probably why they last forever, there are numerous reviews online of backpackers having them for well over 30, 40 and 50 years. Pretty impressive.

What I really love about this stove is how it is a self contained unit, with most gas stoves there are several parts and pieces to bring along. Pump, gas bottle, burner, windshield and so on. The Svea 123 is all you need to remember to bring, and all that you have to piece together inorder for it to work.

DSCF6569The complete kit with the box and aluminum cup


The total kit with the heavy and useless aluminum cup weighs around 535grams. Without the completely useless cup than the weight comes down to around 448grams. While not ultralight it is still fairly lightweight and definitely compact.

Burn effeciency:

I hate the boil time calculation. Who cares how long it take for water to boil? What difference does it make if water takes 3.5 or 5 minutes to boil? completely pointless and most of the time calculated on a kitchen counter. Anyway, I prefer the burn effeciency metric. How much fuel does it take to boil water, or come close to boil. (I rarely boil my water as I can save an exceptional amount of fuel by not doing so.)

How much fuel for boil without pump:

500ml water used

376grams before boil

364grams after boil

12 ML of fuel to boil

Total boil time including priming = 11 minutes


How much fuel for boil with pump:

365 grams before boil

353 grams after boil

12 ML fuel to boil

Total boil time including priming: 6 minutes

(keep in mind these boils are done in controlled conditions – I.e the kitchen counter)

As you can see the effeciency is quite impressive on this little kit. You read correctly here that the amount consumed is the same though boil time cut in half. That’s because with the pump the flame burns much hotter and faster than without.

The built in fuel canister can hold about 150ml (180ml but you don’t want to fill it completely). This means that in calm weather you should be able to get 150ml/12ml per boil = 12,5 boils

I find that in real life conditions I can usually get about 8-10 boils on 150ml. With my average of 3 boils per day (or actually less than boil) my time out with just the canister would be 10boils/3boils per day = 3.3 days.

Boiling Snow:

This is where I think the Svea 123 really is terrible. Like the Trangia alcohol stove, the Svea 123 can boil snow. The question is, should you? My answer is no, atleast not on longer trips. There is no doubt that you can boil snow, but it will eat up that tank of gas in no time. When boiling snow I can eat the entire tank in just three boils. This can of course be said with just about any stove, but as the Svea is already fairly heavy, it gets much heavier when you have to bring a liter of white gas to survive a weekend.

Tips and tricks:

  • I find that I prefer to leave the aluminum cup that is included with the Svea 123 at home. It is too heavy, too small and gets way to hot for what it’s purpose is. I can’t really do anything with it except make coffee in it and I can’t boil water in the cup as it burns my hands. So I pack the Svea 123 inside my Snowpeak 900 titanium casserole. I use this same casserole for my Bushbudy and Ti-tri fusion. This pushes the weight of the stove to 553grams excluding fuel.
  • With the purchase of my Svea 123 I also purchased a mini pump to prime my stove. I bought this as I found that pressurizing the fuel tank before getting the stove to burn efficiently took quite some time and a bit of fuel usage. With the mini pump and just a few pumps I get an efficient burn within seconds. (compared to several minutes without)
  • When your boil is done, try to release the pressure from the canister as soon as possible by gently unscrewing the canister lid. This will make sure than no access fuel is wasted. (my Svea leaks when the pressure built up is too high)

DSCF6572You can buy a pump separately for the Svea 123


Whats bad:

While the Svea 123 is an excellent backpacking stove, it has it’s faults. For example on anything but an extremely calm day the effeciency or the burn is non-existent. Meaning, it will take forever to boil and instead of getting 12ml per boil, your looking at 40ml per boil with a slight breeze. That’s because it has zero wind protection. You can try blocking the wind with your body and backpack, but even this seems to have little effect. I have read elsewhere that using a windshield is not the best idea as the canister could get too hot. Nothing I have tried myself.

On top of that at 455grams (excluding fuel and the cup), the Svea 123 is a tad heavy for the ultralight kit. Jetboil TI is 248grams, bushbuddy 148grams and the Ti-Tri fusion is 114grams.

As stated earlier: boiling snow. The amount of fuel required makes the Svea 123 a second choice for this.


As I stated in the introduction, the Svea 123 is such an enjoyable piece of gear to use and it has never failed for me. Today I use it mainly for overnight trips or shorter adventures. I don’t use it nearly as much as I used to, the Trail-designs ti-tri fusion has taken top honours there. The Svea 123 is also an excellent choice for winter camping as white gas is not affected by cold in the same way butane and alcohol is. This is simply just a fun stove to have – and even though it’s not my main camping stove anymore, it is a stove I will keep for as long as I backpack.

It’s a stove filled with character and class, looks amazing, never fails and is as effecient a stove that can be bought today. While I wouldn’t waste my money on the chinese version of this stove, the classic Swedish ones are still readily available on eBay. I say buy one and have fun, you won’t regret the experience.






Posted by Kenneth Shaw

Blogger, photographer and backpacker. If you like my writing or my site don't be afraid to follow me, like or share my posts here on the site. Thanks and enjoy!


  1. I have two Svea stoves that I bought for use when I was a scoutmaster and found with both of them that I had difficulty keeping them running in sub-freezing temperatures unless I put a small piece of closed cell foam underneath to insulate them from the ground. Even with the primer pump and doing the normal priming with fuel in the top well, I could not keep either of them running if they were sitting directly on frozen ground. It seemed to suck the heat right out of them, preventing enough pressure to be maintained for burning, Have you ever had this issue?


    1. Hi Gerry, I have not had the exact same problem but I do find the overall heat output during winter sub-zero conditions to be pretty awful at times. I too place the Svea on top of cell plast, or wook or anything I can find. This however is something I have to do with just about any stove in freezing conditions.


  2. Did you mention that it makes a noise like a Hawker Harrier warming up?


    1. John Robert Smith February 20, 2021 at 5:34 am

      That seems rather obvious to me. For some people the ‘hiss’ of a Coleman or Petromax is a comforting way to go to sleep. You do not have to subject yourself to it. Simply meander on down the lane.


  3. I bought my first Svea in 1979. I went on a Canada trip. We were gone two weeks, from Banff to Jasper. It worked as expected and made the trip a joy.
    I have the ultralight jet burners on the gas cans, but they are not the fun of using this 123.
    On a winter survival course, I was the ONLY one to bring a stove and coffee. Imagine that! So, in the morning, I was up cooking coffee with the jet engine and soon everyone was holding their Sierra Cups with hot coffee, courtesy of my Svea 123.
    Anytime I go with a group, I always bring the 123. It is always the most respected and talked about stove. It has earned that right.


  4. “I wouldn’t waste my money on the Chinese version of this stove”. Really? Why?

    If you have personal experience of the current (authorized, Taiwanese-made) SVEA 123R, please supplement your review with appropriate details. Thanks!


    1. Your right. I actually bought the Taiwan produced version. Works great, don’t even notice any difference


  5. Jackson Robert March 2, 2021 at 1:47 am

    Getting a light-weight, aluminum, circular wind screen solves the Svea’s sensitivity to windy conditions.


  6. How many times do you have to pump it? I look everywhere on using the pump, but couldn’t find any instruction. I’m just afraid of over pumping it and causing the tank to blow up once it heats up.


  7. I have the Svea 123 I purchased in 1973. I’ve used it for nearly 50 years, a lot less now, but I still break it out in cold weather, and I’ve made one modification that really helps firing it up in zero degrees C and below:
    1) I wrapped a small piece of plumbers felt around the base of the pressure tube where it screws into the fuel tank. Tied it on with a piece of copper wire. This will absorb the priming fuel and burn for much longer allowing the stove to warm to operating temperature more quickly and evenly.
    2) Lighting the stove. So many people make the same mistake. They’ll put just enough fuel (or alcohol) to fill the priming cup and that’s it. They let it burn out, then open the valve and ignite the stove with a lighter. Doesn’t work well. Perfect recipe for the ‘svea 123 fireball’ The pressure tube needs to be thoroughly heated to working temperature for the fuel inside to be vaporized. that’s what gives the blue flame. A yellow flame – fuel is not vaporized enough.
    Here’s how I was taught 50 years ago:
    Open the fuel cap and make sure the tank is filled to just below the bottom of the filler orifice. You need to have room for the fuel to expand. This also equalizes pressure in the tank.
    I use alcohol to prime the stove. It doesn’t leave it all sooty, but in real cold, I use the fuel from the tank.
    Dribble priming fuel into the burner cup, and let it run down the pressure tube into the priming well on top of the tank. Do that until the well is nearly filled.
    Close and tighten the filler cap.
    Ignite the priming fuel. Because you dribbled it down from the burner cup, this warms the fuel tube much more quickly and evenly. You will get a bigger priming flame than just filling the well, but that is the object. If you wrapped the bottom of the pressure tube with plumbers felt, the priming flame will last for quite a while.
    WAIT until the flames are just about to die out around the burner cup ,then just crack the valve open a tiny bit. If you time it right you’ll get a blue flame. If you get a spurt of orange flame shut the valve off, wait a couple seconds and try again. Doing it this way I very rarely get a ‘fireball’. I’ve never needed or used a pump, even in cold weather. Proper priming is the key. The fuel in the pressure tube needs to be vaporized before the stove works, and that tube needs to be heated to the correct temperature so you get a blue flame. the whole system is designed to work at the proper temperature. Even the tank gets good and warm.That’s why you need to have a piece of insulation under the tank in winter. A cooling tank, sitting on frozen ground, and the whole system will grind to a halt. Weak yellow flame and no hot tea for you!
    Some other tips:
    The metal MSR canister stove stand will fit the Svea 123 giving it three legs for much more stability. It also raises it off the ground.
    In winter, you must insulate the tank from cold ground. For years I uses a bit of blue foam wrapped with aluminum foil for the stove to sit on. I’ve seen others use a piece of plywood with a couple screws here and there so the stove doesn’t slide off. I like the MSR canister stand better.

    Sveas do not do well in the wind. I always have an MSR aluminum stove screen on the windward side of the stove. NEVER wrapped completely around.
    My Svea does not have the built in jet cleaning needle. So I shut the flame off, then open the valve fully for a few seconds while the stove is still under pressure. The fuel fumes cleans the jet. No smoking while doing this!!
    Lastly – regularly replace the filler cap. It’s also a pressure relief valve, and you don’t want that going off. It’s quite spectacular. Don’t ask how I know.
    And it goes without saying – never use this thing inside a tent.

    The Svea 123 is a great little stove. I like hearing it. I know when it’s fully pressurized and running well. And to my ears, that chugging roar means one thing: hot food!


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