+13 13 votes

Jetboil and the New Kid

Seven or eight years ago when we first saw the Jetboil Stove with its heat exchanger and attached pot cozy, we thought it gimmicky. That impression evaporated rapidly when we fired up the stove--it boiled water so efficiently we joined the Jetboil jihad.

Over the years the company has continued to improve the product and its accessories. The burner of the high end stoves, for example, has been improved to give better cold-weather performance. Of course cold weather performance of all cannister stoves can be improved by setting the cannister in about an inch of tepid water as you cook -- even tepid water is a whole lot warmer than wintertime air temperatures.

But we wander here. The point is that rather than there being just one Jetboil to consider (as there once was) there's a confusing array of choices. fThe most expensive, lightest Jetboil (the Sol TI, $150) now uses a Titanium pot and weighs 8.5 ounces without fuel or other accessories; the least expensive Jetboil (the Zip, $70) uses an aluminum pot has a little less sophisticated burner and weighs 12 ounces without fuel or accessories. In between these extremes are stoves at different prices and different weights that have different burner and pot sizes. And then there are all the accessories -- stove stabilizers that keep the stove from spilling as easily, pot adapters that let you use a standard pot on the stove, stove hanging kits, different sized pots, utensils....

It used to be so simple. Now it's hard to decide. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't figure it out because the Jetboil is still an awesome product that will benefit many different outdoor users.

For the past few years we've tested the Flash Cooking System ($100, 14 ounces) which comes with a slightly larger pot  than the two options noted above (1 liter vs 0.8 liters). By the time we add in a fuel canister and the accessories we want (a stove stabilizer, an extra cup, a spoon, a self-made hanging kit, and a self made windscreen) our entire kit weighs 21 ounces. This is considerably less than a liter of water and, in winter, having the stove along rather than a second liter of water not only gives snowshoers, ski tourers, and climbers the ability to have far more water than they would normally carry, it also gives them more capability to deal with emergencies or getting benighted.

The Jetboil Flash continues to impress us. One of the main problems we had with the earliest Jetboils was that the piezo-electric starter could break and/or fail easily. This starter has been redesigned and is now much improved in its durability and its long-term reliability. The stove continues to be fast, easy, reliable, and convenient. It simmers OK and uses fuel extremely efficiently. The main thing we dislike -- and this applies to all canister stoves -- is that the spent fuel bottles cannot be re-used. If you puncture and flatten then, however, they are recyclable (something many people don't know). 

Our main complaint with the Flash we've tested-- and we don't know if this is specific just to our individual stove or not -- is that the twisting connection between the stove and the pot is not as positive (i.e.,  bomber) as the very first stove we tested. A few times as we've poured water out of the pot with the stove still burning, the stove has dropped off like the stage of a rocket disengaging.

Obviously a burning stove falling and rolling around -- especially if you are cooking in a tent--could spell disaster. Now we're far more careful about tightening the connection before we pour --something that prudence would say you should always do but, frankly, something you don't expect to have to do once you've clicked the the burner and the stove together.

These days there are some Jetboil knock-offs on the market that use the same sort of connection between stove and pot and that use similar heat exchangers on the pot. Some call such competition a rip off, others consider it progress.

To a large extent we believe in rewarding the innovators of a new category of product-- you know, 'to the innovators go the spoils...' But we're also full of  hypocrisy and when the new kid makes a product better by incorporating more features, reducing weight, or reducing cost, we see the merits of competition and giving the competition a look. We haven't tested the product below but this review of the Primus Eta Solo is from First Tracks, an on-line ski magazine, and is worth reading. This link will take you directly to their magazine and shows pictures of the stove as well.

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Published on October 15, 2010
By First Tracks!! Online Media

Drawing comparisons to the popular Jetboil PCS when reviewing Primus’ new Eta Solo backpacking stove is a natural, for in many ways they’re nearly identical. But in one very important way the new offering from Primus is even better.

Just like the Jetboil PCS, the Eta Solo is built for cooking for one. The stove itself attaches atop an isobutane canister and directly to the bottom of the cooking pot, which has a built-in heat exchanger to boil water quickly. Like the Jetboil, the Eta Solo’s pot comes wrapped to insulate hot liquids and to facilitate drinking hot beverages directly from the cooking container. Just like the Jetboil it’s tough to get an even simmer with the Eta Solo — these stoves are designed to do one thing exceedingly well, and that’s boil water quickly. There’s even an available optional French press for brewing coffee, just like the Jetboil. And in case anyone’s wondering, the Jetboil’s French press fits the Eta Solo like a glove.

What sets the Eta Solo apart from its counterpart, though, is the ability to cook with other pots using the same stove. Sure, carrying an extra cooking container adds pack weight and isn’t necessary if all you’re doing is boiling water. But what if you want oatmeal in the morning with that fresh brewed coffee? That requires drinking the coffee from a separate cup anyway, plus washing the pot before boiling more water for the oatmeal. The Eta Solo comes with three small metal legs and a heat reflector that, when installed, will allow you to toss a second pot onto the stove and boil away. And with today’s tiny, lightweight titanium cookware, carrying a second cooking pot isn’t that big an inconvenience. Jetboil has also made such a conversion possible with an optional accessory, but they charge $19.95 for their pot support; Primus includes theirs with the stove.

The Eta Solo is two ounces lighter than its counterpart, thanks to a slightly smaller pot (0.9 liters vs. 1.0 liter). Boiling time is only six seconds longer for a half liter with the Eta Solo. The Eta Solo also comes with a hanging device for cooking off the ground and plastic stabilizer legs included in the package. Everything but the stabilizer legs nests within the cooking pot for traveling, even fuel.

Unlike some other stoves, such as Primus’ own EtaPackLite, the canister can’t be inverted for more efficient fuel use in very cold weather. But anyone considering the Jetboil PCS should take a long hard look at the Eta Solo, especially it carries the same $99.99 MSRP as its competition even with the extra cooking capability. The Eta Solo is readily available online for sub-$70, while it’s tough to find such steep discounts on the Jetboil.