Cooking In A Flash With Jetboil
What’s cylindrical, 18cm tall, weighs less than 500 grams and can boil half a litre of water in just over two minutes?
No, you’re wrong; it’s not a stove. Well, that’s a white lie – it is, but it’s not just a stove.
“An apparatus in which electricity or a fuel is used to furnish heat, as for cooking or warmth.”
The key part of that definition is “apparatus”. Most single burner camping stoves are solely the apparatus required to attach to the fuel source, but Jetboil allows you to carry everything as one item. Stove, gas and cooking pot. Jetboil have captured the market by creating a system that’s an all-in-one. It’s small, it’s light and best of all, everything fits inside the cooking cup – gas included.
The Jetboil Flash we are reviewing is ‘Tomato’ red but can be purchased in green, camouflage or black – the latter being the most popular and therefore the one that’ll take longest to be delivered. The whole system, which includes a 1 litre cooking cup, 100g gas canister, a support system, drinking and pouring lid, heat regulating cozy, temperature gauge and the burner itself weighs in at 467 grams.
By comparison, my old stove weighed in at 326 grams including a 100g gas canister. This GoSystem classic needs to be carried in its lightweight plastic container which has no room for anything else – gas must be carried separately. Already two separate items. It also comes with no way to cook anything so you would need to carry a pot with you too. Adding the pot weight to the original 326 grams makes it heavier than the Jetboil.
So what? Who cares about an additional hundred grams? That’s only one downside to these older and supposedly lightweight systems. I’ve named three separate items already; one a cuboid, one a cylinder and the other a spacious metal pot – all bar one being a difficult item to pack nicely. No support legs are included, so you can’t possibly use it on anything but the flattest of surfaces. It takes 2m31s to boil 500ml of water, but unless you’re wearing a thick glove, you can’t take the metal pan off the stove for a few minutes until it has cooled down. Plus, the top of the burner glows literally red-hot, which means you can’t possibly pack it away quickly. Oh, I don’t want to even consider catching my hand on it!
How is the Jeboil different to this? Under the same conditions as the GoSystem stove, it boiled 500ml of water in 2m35s. Four seconds slower than a stove that costs a fifth of the price. However, I can instantly remove the cup and hold it, warming my hands on a cold day and I can immediately touch the edge of the burner without scalding myself. The bottom elements of the cup itself are warm but not un-comfortable to touch. I’ve also used less gas, because the Jetboil is very efficient. A single, 100 gram cartridge can boil 12 litres of water before being empty. The flame underneath the Jetboil cup is very precise and controlled; it’s directed where it needs to be. In comparison, the GoSystem stove simply let rip and threw flames all around the side of the pan which probably helps it boil water more quickly but certainly doesn’t help when you need to turn it down, off, or simply go near the pan. In-fact, I wouldn’t advise doing anything using bare hands within 15cm of the stove.
In essence, the Jetboil gives me an incredibly efficient way to cook in a system that packs away inside itself, prevents me from getting burned and allows me to use what I’ve cooked as soon as it’s ready. At this stage, you may be thinking it’s only good for making a cup of tea and again, you’d be wrong. Inside the cup, I can boil rice or noodles, I can cook soup; I can cook anything that needs boiling water. It’s a pretty handy container for eating from too. The cup has an ‘insulating cozy’ around it which serves three purposes. On one side, there’s a temperature gauge that fills itself yellow the hotter the water becomes, giving you a good indication of how hot the contents are. Secondly, it allows you to hold what would otherwise be a very hot metal cup as soon as you want to. And last, it serves to keep the liquid or food inside warmer, for longer.
The goodness doesn’t end there though because Jetboil have created a whole host of accessories for their well-famed cooking system. There’s a utensil kit, a hanging kit, a coffee press (which goes through the supplied drinking lid), a fry pan and even bowl sets.There’s also a ‘Helios’ range which uses between a 1.5 and 3 litre cooking pot. They’ve covered everything for a wide variety of uses which means it’s no longer just a one or two person system. Even a cavernous three litre cooking pot is just 550 grams and packs away minus sticky-out handles too.
With all that said, I imagine you’re all thinking it’s an expensive bit of kit – right? In this instance, you’d be correct for assuming. The Flash retails at around £80 – with a handful of online shops stupidly attempting to sell it at it’s original RRP of £95. Then, you’ll have to buy a gas canister which complies to the EN417 valve specification which isn’t the easiest of things to find, given the minute text written on the side of them. I recommend just using their own ‘JetPower’ fuel which is a four-season blend of Propane and Isobutane, giving maximum efficiency and minimum consumption. It’s not expensive either at around £4.50 for a 100g unit and so compares well in price terms with other brands while having greater performance. All money spent, the Flash will set you back £65 more in comparison to the very basic GoSystem classic, but you’d still need a cooking pot and a way to neatly carry everything (plus a thick glove!).
Jetboil use a FluxRing technology which allows water to boil faster than with traditional stoves and they claim a ‘one cup-per-minute boil time’ which I completely agree with. Not many people have a half litre cup of tea! There’s also a built in ‘windscreen’ which prevents any issues if you’re using it on a windy day – I have also found this to be true. Jetboil also claim an 80% efficiency rate from their FluxRing while standard stoves only get 30-40%, so you should use effectively half the number of cartridges.
One huge bonus to the JetBoil system is how they’ve incorporated the igniter. It’s a push button, with all the slightly fragile bits completely protected inside the plastic frame. To get it lit, you turn the wing valve and hit the button. Job done. No need for a fire-striker or a match here.
Now all the costs and performance stuff is out of the way, let’s have a quick look at the aesthetics, quality and ease of use. The cup, which has the FluxRing permanently attached to the bottom stands 18cm high and by itself, weighs 275 grams and is made from anodised aluminium. To protect the elements at the base, there is a plastic cup which I found you could also use as a drinking cup for another person – gotta love improvising! The lid is a very flexible but perfectly strong plastic that fits snugly over the top of the cup and has a hole to drink from. This saves your lip from burning on the exposed metal top of the cup while the cozy, emblazoned with the Jetboil logo, protects your hands. The cozy is a very durable, high quality neoprene and has a thick handle stitched into the side – there’s also an open-ended pouch opposite which allows you to slide in a fork or spoon instead of putting it down. The thermal indicator not only performs well, but looks pretty cool too as it fills up with yellow.
The cup has two notches cut at the very bottom of the FluxRing, which allow the cup to be put down and turned securely into place on top of the burner. I found these to be a little awkward to line up, but once in place, the cup was held very securely and taking it off was a cinch. A three legged plastic support system folds into a tiny triangle for storing inside the cup, but when open, allows you to attach the gas canisters with ease, using a groove on each leg. This tiny device is light, it’s bright orange but it’s simple and effective. The area the legs cover is more than double the width of the gas canister, so the system stands up on tilted or un-even ground. You still can’t stand it on a steep slope, but in comparison to using just the bottom of a gas canister, it’s immeasurably better.
Overall, I am very impressed with the whole system and indeed the range of products they have available which should cater for everyones needs. There are a number of different systems available from Jetboil, based on the same technology. One is Titanium, slightly lighter, more expensive and has a smaller cup. Jetboil have aimed each model at a slightly different audience and so they’re available at a variety of prices – starting at around £50 for the Zip model – but the Flash remains their most popular. I have always been a firm believer in the phrase; “you get what you pay for” and this product reflects that very well. Yes, you can spend a fifth of the price on a really cheap and quickly thrown together stove but for all the reasons I’ve mentioned in this article, you’ll wish you hadn’t.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten”