Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Svea 123

A few months ago I was given a corner of the basement behind the furnace to create a storage area that would allow me to reorganize my gear and keep it all essentially in one place. My wife is a sweetheart who indulges me a few gear fetishes (well, more than a few). One of them is camp stoves.

Over thirty years ago I was a Boy Scout, which started my journey down the dark path toward the gear junkie I am now. I cut grass, edged lawns, pulled weeds and babysat to save money for a Jansport D2 backpack and everything to fill it, including a Svea 123.

I wanted a Svea since I was a brand new Scout. We were hiking in the Los Padres National Forest and had stopped for the night. A stone's throw away from our campsite I saw a crusty old backpacker leaning against a tree, his camp laid out beautifully, the centerpiece a small cylinder of brass, purring a soft, blue flame that heated his cup of soup. He was clearly a veteran of many nights under the stars. I wanted to be like him. No, I wanted to be him, right down to the killer beard. It might have been Edward Abbey.

It wasn't a year later when I procured a used Svea 123 for $15.00. It was the best $15.00 I ever spent. It purred and sputtered with the same prbprbprbprbprb I remembered. It created a blossom of blue flame that was so hot it made everything around it cherry red, over 900 degrees.

Since then I've procured a dozen or more camp stoves...titanium ultralight stoves from Snowpeak, a handful of different MSR Whisperlites and XGKs, a Markill or two, a Jetboil and a few others I can't even remember. Most of them were more convenient, more stable, easier to light and easier to use than the finicky Svea. The Svea needed priming, an inconvenient and semi-dangerous proposition, preheating the stove to start the cycle of vaporizing the white gas which ignites and heats the generator, which vaporizes more gas.

And yet...despite my high-tech stove supply and the fun I have with really cool stoves like the MSR Reactor, I find myself using my Svea 123 more and more often. It's sort of like using my Mamiya C330F. There's a tactile function that's missing from the modern technology. Not better, not worse, just different.

Again, I find myself being drawn toward simplicity...fixed-gear road bikes, traditional canoe paddles...moccasins over shoes... Y'know, maybe it's not a fetish. Maybe it's my brain telling me that it really is a gift to be simple.

Respectfully submitted,



JohnB said...

Let me know if you have any need for spare parts -- I used to repair campstoves (back in the day when I was in the OR business). Lots of spare parts in my basement that my wife would like me to get rid of.

chris jackson said...

I need a spindle and or a rebuild kit.