Stoves and Cooking Gear

Review: Jetboil Stove

jetboil_flash

Jetboil’s Personal Cooking System, now called the Flash Cooking System, includes a compact stove, windscreen, bowl and pot. When combined with a 100-gram fuel canister, the components create a small cooking system for one person. Jetboil designed the stove and fuel canister to perfectly nest into the pot. This creates a system that when packed is about the size of a Nalgene bottle. The compact nature of the stove drew me to it, and about a year ago, I received one from Jetboil to use on an expedition. Over the course of a year, I’ve used the stove for over 50 days, and feel confident in reviewing it.

Using a Jetboil Stove

Using the Jetboil couldn’t be easier. Once assembled, you open the plastic stove lid, pull the stove out, remove the plastic bowl from the bottom of the pot, attach the stove with a simple twist, fill the pot with two cups of water, turn on the fuel feed, and click the ignition. About two minutes later, you get boiling water. The pot is covered in a neoprene sleeve that protects your hands from the hot surface. It also has a built-in fabric handle that makes it easy to hold.

The small pot size works best for cooking soup, coffee, or freeze-dried meals while on solo trips. I found eating a meal directly out of the pot difficult. Towards the bottom of the pot, my knuckles and fingers tended to hit the side making it, depending on the meal, a somewhat messy affair. The provided bowl alleviates messy hands, but use it makes an other item to clean. If you normally eat freeze-dried, dehydrated, or Freezer Bag Cooking meals, the size of the pot and my issue with messy easing won’t be a problem–just cook your water and pour into your food’s bag.

Because of the ease of use, the stove excels at quickly serving up a hot cup of brew during a break. I found myself cooking a warm cup of soup for lunch on cold days. Normally, I wouldn’t bother pulling out the stove, pot, assembling the mess to get something warm at mid-day, because, I typically find cooking a chore to be avoided at mid-day and would prefer to only have to eat food bars. Jetboil’s ease of use has redefined what I carry for lunch and now soup often makes it into the pack.

On that same note, one of my favorite parts of using a Jetboil stove is not having to deal with the fuel canister until fuel runs out. Once the fuel canister is attached to the stove, it remains attached until you run out of fuel. Although, the saved labor from screwing on and unscrewing a canister, doesn’t save a lot of time when compared to stoves that you have to affix the canister for each use, the convenience of having the canister always attached to the stove makes using the stove a more pleasant experience. This feature alone endures the stove to me. The only disadvantage to leaving the canister attached is any water that remains inside the pot after you finish cooking will cause the canister to rust. Normally, I wouldn’t think this an issue, but because the stove is so efficient fuel canisters last a long time and they rust. A permanent rust coating rings the bottom of my pot.

Fuel Usage

Incredible. I didn’t perform any specific test to see how much fuel it takes to boil two cups of water, but I’ve seen numbers on the Internet ranging from 4.38 grams to Jetboil’s claim of 4.17 grams. This means about 24 two-cup meals. I found this consistent with the fuel usage that I experienced.

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Weight

The Jetboil system weighs in at 14 ounces. A full 100g canister weighs 6.7 ounces. So, at the start of the trip, the system weighs 1 pound and 4.7 ounces. At the end of the trip,  if all the fuel is used, the system weighs 1 pound and 1.17 ounces.

Compared to my lightweight Red Bull photon stove system the Jetboil is heavy. My Red Bull stove system, including the pot, custom wind screen, and stove, weighs about 6 ounces. I figure for about 24 meals, I’d need about 16 ounces of fuel. So, the starting weight of the Red Bull system runs 1 pound 6 ounces. And the end weight,  is 6 ounces.

You can calculate the daily weight average over 24 days, and you’ll find that the Jetboil weighs about 19.53 ounces and the Red Bull system weighs about 14 ounces. For longer trips or trips with two meals a day, the Jetboil gets better, but on shorter trips, the Jetboil gains in weight. For a more detailed comparison visit, PMags.com and read his comparison between the weights of different stove systems.

Many paddlers don’t care that much about weight, but I do, because every ounce you add to your boat, increases drag, which slows you down. Even if you’re not looking for speed, extra ounces make it harder to paddle your kayak at whatever speed you’re traveling at. So lighter gear, means less work for the same distance traveled. Read more about this.

(Note: I understand the momentum argument, but there’s a point at which the momentum that carries speed between paddle strokes and the increased resistance meet. At this point, the increase in weight drowns out the gain from more momentum. Based on rough calculations, which need tank testing to confirm, for a lean and efficient paddler with no extra fat, the dead weight (including boat, gear, paddles, etc.) should weigh around 20% of the person’s body weight–anything more just slows the paddler down.)

Accessories

Jetboil offers many accessories for use with their stoves. The most interesting to me are the 1.5 liter pot attachment for the stove, the coffee press, and the hanging kit. The 1.5 liter pot makes the system usable for two people. The coffee press fits right into the standard pot and works as a French press. This is great of coffee lovers who are looking for an easy and light solution to the morning habit. I’m not sure what I’d ever use the hanging kit for, but if I was still into climbing, it’s such a geeky item that I’d have to figure out how to use it.

Conclusion

There are very few products that I keep using when a lighter and perfectly functional alternative is available. For solo trips or even tandem trips when we’re cooking freeze-dried or dehydrated meals, the Jetboil is one product that I now default to. The convenience, efficiency, and ease-of-use outweigh all of its deficiencies. This product is a winner.

That said, I’d like to see just a few changes in the product. The main one is weight. If Jetboil could get the system without fuel down under 10 ounces, I feel like it’d be a better product. The second is the lid, it’s hard to remove and when taken off after boiling and it’s easy to scald your hand from the escaping steam. It’s a winner now, but there’s always room for improvement.

If you’re looking for a simple cooking system for solo travel, this is one of the best. Highly recommended!

5 comments

  • Bryan,

    How does this stove work in cold weather? Does it work well below freezing?

  • I didn’t test it in any real cold weather. I did have several nights that fell below freezing, and it functioned fine the next morning. For winter, I plan on melting snow, so I use a Whisperlite International.

  • In cold weather it has issues (colder than about 25 F) Plus I’m with Bryan, it weighs a little too much. I still take mine for short trips though…combined with my Starbuck’s sleeves I can’t get a faster or more convenient cup of great Joe! Otherwise, I take my alcohol cat stove…about 4.5 oz.

  • Bryan, thank you for an honest review on the Jetboil.
    While there are plenty of reviews on the net very few don’t reek of commission :-)
    Your findings seem consistent with my perception of the stove.
    So cooking a conventional meal (non freeze dry) is not so easy on the Jetboil?

  • Thanks.

    Simple pasta dishes, rice dishes and soups work fine in the Jetboil as long as the pasta is broken into smaller pieces and the recipe requires two or less cups of water.

    For other more complicated conventional meals using their 1.5 liter pot makes cooking much easier. At that point, there are much lighter cook systems.

Comments are closed.