At this point, most of you folks know that I’ve flip flopped about bringing a stove. “I’m not bringing one. I’ll eat cold food. If I want warm food, I’ll stick it under my armpit for a while. I’m sure that’ll work.” OK, OK, I am bringing one. Silliness.
In January, I told you that I’d narrowed it down to two options, one of which was the JetBoil brand of personal cooking systems. With that post came a lot of feedback, for which I was grateful, with enough people advocating for the JetBoil.
If I admit it to myself, I was always leaning toward the JetBoil since it’s an all-in-one comprehensive cooking system that is user friendly for a perpetual microwave “cooker” like me. And according to both product specifications and user reviews, it is significantly more efficient than any other camping stove available on the market. I was just getting myself worried over an extra ounce of weight.
What really pushed me over the edge, though, was when I decided I would cook oatmeal every day for breakfast. A cup of oatmeal requires 2 cups of water to prepare, which means that I would have a hefty 3-cup volume of food. The other option I’d been considering would be too small to accommodate that volume, whereas the JetBoil accommodates at least 3.5 cups of food (depending on model).
So, it was decided: I’m bringing a JetBoil.
Jetboil was started about a decade ago by two cousins, who were sick of clunky, heavy cooking options while backpacking. The two invented their personal cooking system (PCS), which operates with proprietary FluxRing technology. The PCS ultra-efficient, lightweight design has an integrated .8 liter pot, wind protected burner and heat exchanger in a single, push-button start unit that cuts fuel use and cooking times in half compared to other canister stoves. (Yes, I pulled that straight from the company, and yes, several people have anecdotally confirmed that’s it’s accurate.)
Incidentally, when I was searching through the website, I read a press release saying that JetBoil was recently purchased by Johnson Outdoors. As far as customers are concerned, not much will change. JetBoil will still operate independently out of its New Hampshire headquarters, will still remain focused on its core customers, and will still devote a significant amount of money to R&D spending. If anything, the acquisition will benefit consumers in that there’s the potential to open up distribution channels (but that remains to be seen, of course).
I reached out to the company to see if it would be interested in supporting my trek with a donation, and I’m super duper excited to report that JetBoil responded affirmatively! When my new contact asked which model I preferred, I instead attacked him with a series of questions. He responded by suggesting that we talk over the phone. “Haha, yeah, probably a good idea. But I’m warning you: I can be chatty.”
I wanted to better understand the ins and outs of each model in order to make a more informed decision. Right off the bat, K (let’s call him “K,” k?) told me that the Zip Stove was the economy version and that I probably didn’t want to go in that direction considering my trek. When I asked why, he referred to the features (i.e. heavier by a couple ounces, no auto ignition, longer boil time).
K then asked me how important weight was. When I said that, given the range, it wasn’t that important, he suggested the Flash Stove since it has a one liter capacity pot (as opposed to .8 for other options) and has a visual indicator of water temperature/boiling. Once I noted that it weighed in at 15 ounces, I reversed course and said it had exceeded my weight limit and that I don’t need a one-liter capacity pot.
OK, by this point, we’d narrowed it down to two options: the Sol Stove and the Sol Ti, the main difference being less than an ounce of weight and that the Ti is made of titanium.
I was definitely leaning toward the Ti since it had the most bells and whistles at the lightest weight. However, the reviews on REI’s website were mixed. When I asked K about it, he told me what the issue was, and I’ll do my best to describe it.
JetBoil’s patented FluxRing technology works in the following way. The gas flame heats up the FluxRing (the coil at the bottom) and the bottom of the pot. The system then regulates cooking temperature by releasing heat at the bottom. Because titanium heats up more quickly than other materials (i.e. I believe the Sol is aluminum), it is more prone to burning the bottom of the vessel if the user isn’t diligent about stirring the food constantly and adjusting the flame. Once the bottom of the vessel burns, the system cannot regulate its temperature well, and the FluxRing is more likely to overheat and melt.
JetBoil obviously is aware of and understands the issue (much better than I…I hope I explained it decently and accurately!) such that the company now specifies on its packaging that the Sol Ti Stove is only meant for boiling water.
Once K and I talked through the Sol Ti’s limitations, we decided that the best option for my trek, considering that I’ll be cooking at least oatmeal and rice in the vessel, would be the classic Sol model. It’s not a guarantee that the Ti will burn, but I don’t want to chance it.
As an aside, K also pointed out that the JetBoil stoves will work with any fuel canister since there’s a standard screw-in mechanism. However, the JetBoil JetPower fuel canister contains a blend of fuel that was created to optimize efficiency specifically with JetBoil stoves. OK, I’ll bite. I’ll keep an eye out to buy JetBoil JetPower fuel canisters whenever I have the option along the trail.
Not only do I want to express my gratitude to have JetBoil’s support for my trek, but I’m so thankful to have had the chance to talk through all of the options with K. The information he shared is not something you can easily find online nor in an outdoor equipment store. If I’d made the decision on my own, I’d likely have gone with the Sol Ti, and then all sorts of unhappiness could have ensued.
The latest I heard, my brand spankin’ new JetBoil Sol Stove is in the mail, and K also threw in a Crunch-It Tool, which lets you puncture holes in used canisters so that they can be recycled (Score! So not a fan of adding to landfills unnecessarily).
I definitely plan to try my JetBoil before I hit the trail, but I’m guessing I’ll still be perfecting my technique in the first few weeks on the trail. With so much other culture shock thrown my way, what’s one more thing to figure out, right? The only way I’ll learn how to use my stove is to use my stove, so to speak. Wish me luck. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!