by the Product Review Staff | 2004-04-11 03:00:00-06
The Jetboil Personal Cooking System ("Jetboil Stove") has the potential to revolutionize backcountry cooking. The MSR XG-K white gas stove and Alpine XPD Cook Set / Heat Exchanger brought a new level of lightweight fuel efficiency to backcountry cooking in the 1970s. Can the Jetboil Stove do the same for ultralight canister stove enthusiasts in the 21st century?
The innovative engineering of the Jetboil Stove provides the foundation for one of the most fuel efficient canister stove setups we’ve tested. The Jetboil Stove excels in cold and windy conditions where its integrated cooking cup/burner and increased fuel efficiency extends a canister’s useful burn life.
In addition to increases in fuel efficiency, the thoughtful design of the Jetboil Stove adds many functional improvements to the backcountry kitchen. At $79, the Jetboil Personal Cooking System is an attractive price for a complete cooking setup.
On the downside, the Jetboil Stove is still a quarter-to-half pound heavier than the lightest canister stove and titanium pot/cup cooking setups. For shorter trips (the length of which depends on your cooking style), the increased fuel efficiency of the Jetboil Stove will not save enough fuel to make up for the additional weight of its components. Although the system's cooking cup has a one liter capacity, the manufacturer recommends a maximum boiling capacity of only two cups. This makes it useful only as a solo cooking system. In comparison, a competing canister system with a 1.3 liter pot is several ounces lighter and can easily handle the cooking for two.
In this comprehensive Jetboil Stove review, we’ll cover the strengths and weaknesses of the Jetboil Stove as we put it head to head with more conventional stove and pot setups (based on systems using the Snow Peak Giga Power Stove and the Brunton Crux Stove). This review includes summary data from approximately 600 individual boil tests (both lab and field). In reading it, you’ll learn a lot about canister stove performance that is independent of the products offered by Jetboil, Brunton, and Snow Peak.
|Parameter||Manufacturer Specifications||As Tested by BackpackingLight.com|
|Weight||14 oz (397 g)||15.2 oz (432 g)|
|Boil Time||90 sec / 2 cups (473 ml)||126 sec / 2 cups (473 ml)|
|Fuel Efficiency||2x more efficient than other canister stoves||1.3x - 1.8x more efficient than a Snow Peak Giga Power or Brunton Crux|
|Liters Boiled/100g Fuel||12 L||10.5 L|
|Capacity||1 L volume capacity of cup / 0.5 max boil capacity||1 L volume capacity of cup / 0.8L max boil capacity|
Specifications as tested by BackpackingLight.com were performed under conditions that approximate the conditions for which the manufacturer developed their claims data, and were confirmed via direct communication with the manufacturer. Our recommended boil capacity indicates the practical maximum amount of water that can be boiled in the cup without spilling over at a rolling boil.
The Jetboil Stove offers several advantages over conventional canister stove cooking systems:
As expected, the Jetboil Stove is not perfect. We rigorously evaluated manufacturer claims, and when comparing the Jetboil Personal Cooking System to other canister stove "systems" available to the lightweight backpacker, we discovered a few important disadvantages of the Jetboil:
The primary factors that contribute to the performance of the Jetboil Stove are:
Heat transfer is proportional to the surface area through which the heat is applied (e.g., the bottom of the pot). Higher surface areas result in faster and more efficient heat transfer to the water in your pot. The cooking cup of the Jetboil Stove has an integrated flux ring with a very large heat exchange surface area. In fact, the flux ring triples the apparent surface area of the bottom of the cooking cup. In addition, the burner is placed close to the flux ring so the burner’s heat is transferred to the water in the cooking pot with little loss around the sides of the cup. With the Jetboil Stove operating at full throttle, the sides of the cooking cup hardly get warm - you can actually place your entire hand around the cup without burning yourself. Try that with the Brunton Crux stove and a 600 ml uninsulated titanium mug and you're likely going to recreate the medallion palm tatoo scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
FIGURE 1. The key to the Jetboil’s performance: (L) Increased heat transfer area from the fins on the flux ring. (R) the burner head is designed to fit very close to the base of the flux ring and thus, heat transfer to the bottom of the cup occurs very efficiently.
Jetboil Personal Cooking System
The primary functions offered by the Jetboil Personal Cooking System Include:
Total weight of this system, as measured on our scales: 15.2 oz (432 g).
Total Cost: $79.00
Brunton Crux Stove System for Two Persons (1L boil capacity)
Total weight: 9.0 oz
Total Cost: $119
Snow Peak Giga Power Stove System for Solo Use (0.5L boil capacity)
Total weight: 6.6 oz
Total Cost: $94
It should be noted that the above systems can all fit inside the cookpot for ease of packing. This issue will be discussed more later as we evaluate Jetboil's claim of having the most stowable cookset on the market.
Of course, there are many variations of canister stove cooking systems. In spite of the fact that no canister stove manufacturer recommends the use of a wind screen with a canister stove, a great number of lightweight hikers include a 0.5 - 1.0 oz (14 to 28 g) foil windscreen in their cooking setups (note: there is some risk to using a windscreen with a canister stove - the canister could overheat and explode - so use at your own risk!). In addition, the cooking style of many lightweight hikers negates the need for a cup, preferring instead to boil two smaller portions of water for their meal, and then their drink, which are consumed from a single container.
FIGURE 2. Don’t let the apparently small surface area of the bottom of the Jetboil cup (middle) fool you into thinking that it is inefficient. When you add the surface area of the fins on the flux ring, the Jetboil cooking cup has 30% more surface area for heat exchange than the 1.3 L Evernew pot (right).
FIGURE 3. The Jetboil pot bottom surface area is only 68 cm2 but the surface area of the flux ring fins is 154 cm2 (add the two together for a total surface area of 222 cm2). By comparison, the 1.3 L pot bottom surface area is 170 cm2 and the Snow Peak 600 mug (left) has a bottom surface area of only 63 cm2.
90 second boil time?
We asked Jetboil about the test conditions under which their infamous “90 second boil time” claim was achieved: heating water from 77 deg F (ambient temperature) to 203 deg F at an elevation of 5000 feet elevation (similar conditions to Snow Peak's test conditions for their claims) and an ambient temperature of 72 deg F. We replicated the test several times, and achieved an average boil time of 126 seconds.
The only stove to get near the 90 second mark under these conditions was the Brunton Crux at 93 seconds.
FIGURE 4. This figure summarizes boil time test results under standard conditions. Values represent the average of several replicate tests. Y Axis indicates boil time in seconds to boil 473 ml (2 c) of water. Results are averages of multiple tests.
Twice as efficient as other canister stoves - Boils 12 liters per 100 g of fuel?
Our tests indicate that the Jetboil Stove is more efficient than competitor’s canister stoves with a standard cook pot, in all conditions.
Still, the Jetboil falls a little short of its claimed efficiency of 12 liters of water boiled per 100 g of fuel. And in most conditions, it is not twice as efficient as a conventional canister stove and pot.
Replicating Jetboil’s test conditions for their claims, we found the stove had an efficiency of 10.6 liters boiled per 100 g of fuel at full flame, and 11.8 liters per 100 g of fuel when we throttled it down to a a “medium” flame, hoping to improve efficiency further.
FIGURE 5. Clearly, the Jetboil is a winner in the area of fuel efficiency. At both medium heat and fully throttled, the Jetboil outperformed other canister stove systems, even when their burners were turned down. Results are averages of multiple tests.
Under these conditions, the Jetboil Stove does not appear to be twice as efficient as a conventional canister stove and a 1.3 liter pot. At high flame, the Jetboil is about 1.55x more efficient than the Brunton Crux or Snow Peak Giga Power stove. At a “medium” flame for both stoves, the Jetboil is only about 1.25x more efficient than the Crux.
We also evaluated the fuel efficiency of the stove systems in cold conditions (note that fuel efficiencies as reported below are per 110g of fuel, the size of a standard small canister, rather than per 100g of fuel, as reported above).
The Snow Peak Giga Power Stove seems to suffer more in cold weather (in terms of both boil time and fuel efficiency) than the Jetboil Stove and Brunton Crux. The small burner head of the Snow Peak Giga Power, which results in a very focused heat transfer target, is probably the reason for this result. Since heat transfer in that case will be limited by the surface area where the flame hits the pot, it should be expected that a great deal of heat will be wasted and dissipated to the atmosphere because it cannot be transferred through the pot material fast enough.
FIGURE 6. Boil time tests show that the Brunton Crux and the 1.3L titanium pot provide the most effective (hottest) system for cold conditions, heating water from 37 deg F to 212 deg F the fastest of the systems tested. Results are averages of multiple tests.
FIGURE 7. Fuel efficiency tests show that the Jetboil Stove easily outperforms other systems in cold conditions, conserving fuel when heating water from 37 deg F to 212 deg F at an ambient temperature of 44 deg F. Results are averages of multiple tests.
We conducted dozens of comparison tests on the various stove systems with and without simple foil wind screens that were placed around the stove systems with about an inch of clearance around the pot perimeter, and a vertical gap in the windscreen on the leeward side to prevent heat accumulation and resulting canister overheating.
With a wind screen, the Jetboil Stove was 1.8x more fuel efficient than the Brunton Crux (7 mph wind, ambient air 44 deg F, and heating water from 37-212 F).
Without a windscreen, the Brunton Crux system was unable to bring water to a boil in a 7 mph wind. The system hit equilibrium at around 13 minutes and a water temperature in the pot of 163 deg F. At this point the losses from (1) the wind blowing the flame and heat away from the pot bottom and (2) convection of heat from the un-insulated pot equaled the heat output of the Crux burner. We could have run the test until the fuel canister ran out and the water would have never exceeded 163 F! This is not a limitation of the Crux stove necessarily, but a limitation of most open-burner canister stoves in windy conditions. Further, it emphasizes the need to select a wind-protected cooking area in order to maximize fuel efficiency and keep boil times short.
The wind took its toll on the unscreened Jetboil Stove, as well. It took the unscreened Jetboil Stove about 1.6x as long and 1.6x as much fuel to boil water as it did with a windscreen. In addition, we were unable to light either system in a 7 mph wind (Jetboil with its piezo ignition, Crux with a Bic lighter). In both cases we had to light the stoves in a sheltered area to start the wind tests without a windscreen.
Jetboil’s strong performance in cold temperatures and windy conditions is due in part to the wind shielding effectiveness of its integrated burner and cook pot, and in part to its insulated cooking cup. The Jetboil Stove regained full (windless) fuel efficiency behind this integrated wind screen - a testament to its design, since it doesn't really need a tight fitting wind screen for solid performance. In comparison, the Crux stove lost about 10% of its efficiency over windless conditions when using a foil wind screen. The efficiency of the Brunton Crux in wind could have been improved with a tighter fitting windscreen but we erred on the side of safety for these tests and used the same wind screen configuration as we did for the Jetboil.
Note: The reviewers used a windscreen in these tests at their own risk. Use of a wind screen can cause the fuel canister to overheat and explode resulting in serious injury and/or death.
Canister stoves do not operate well when exposed to even a slight wind. Yet, manufactures of canister stoves forbid the use of a windscreen. Therefore, there is almost no way to effectively use a canister stove in windy field conditions without violating the manufacturer’s guidelines. Nor have these manufacturer helped consumers out by designing a “safe” wind screen that is also effective (unlike some "gimmick" and largely ineffective wind screens sold by Snow Peak and others) to use with their stoves. Our tests suggest that Jetboil has offered the most effective integrated wind screen of any manufacturer thus far, improving its fuel efficiency and boil times.
We know that some backpackers, who use canister stoves in windy conditions, do use a wind screen. They fashion a semi-circular windscreen that is open on the leeward side and doesn’t come too close to the pot and canister. This type of windscreen doesn’t retain much heat and does not warm the canister to a significant degree. Others risk melting their ground pad by arranging it around the stove. The result is a compromise. The windscreen is not as effective as it could be at blocking wind and retaining heat but at least there is not much risk of over heating the canister.
In addition, we've previously published a relatively safe and effective canister stove wind screen that doesn't result in canister overheating.
From the Jetboil POP Box: “A total weight of 14 oz., combined with unparalleled fuel efficiency, makes Jetboil the lightest cooking solution ever.”
Well, not quite.
The Jetboil at 15.2 oz (BPL measured) is about 5.6 to 8.7 ounces heavier without fuel in comparison to some light conventional canister stove and titanium pot/cup cooking systems. For the minimalist interested in a sub-5-oz kitchen, read The Lightest Kitchen, previously published at BackpackingLight.com.
From Jetboil’s website, “When adding the weight savings from fuel efficient operation, Jetboil is without rival for fast and lightweight use.”
The validity of this claims depends on the situation: for trips where you are boiling 15+ liters of water in cold and windy conditions, they are probably valid. In most other situtations (boiling less water, or in calm conditions), then they probably are not valid. In warmer and less windy conditions (or when using a reasonably effective wind screen), you may have to boil more than 15 liters in order for the Jetboil Stove to be the most fuel-efficient system (in terms of system weight) of all the options.
Thus, we leave it to the reader to consider their own circumstances, design their own cook setup, and calculate at what point (liters boiled) the Jetboil Stove's increased efficiency compensates for its additional weight.
For example, using a 110g canister, we’ve successfully gone on 5-day trips in late fall, cooking at over 10,000 feet in windy and near freezing conditions, with a cook setup that was more than half a pound lighter than the Jetboil Stove (Brunton Crux, titanium mug, and a foil lid). Even if we had to bring a 230 g fuel canister with this system, it would still be 2 oz lighter than the Jetboil system and allow this hiker to cook meals for approximately nine days.
The six to nine ounces of weight savings you get by going to a lighter canister stove and pot system can buy you a considerable amount of fuel! Also, as you move up in canister sizes you get more fuel as a percentage of the weight increase. For a 110g canister only 56% of that weight is fuel (46% is canister weight). For a 230g fuel canister you gain 120g of fuel for only a 158g total weight increase, and 76% of the weight increase is fuel. With a 450g canister, 85% of the weight increase is fuel.
When evaluating the efficiency of your stove system, don't forget that you don’t get any bonus points for coming back with unburned fuel in the the canister!
Test Conditions: 7 mph wind, ambient air 44 deg F and heating water from 37-212 deg F.
|Liters Boiled (1)||System Weight (oz)|
|Canister Size||Jetboil||Crux||Jetboil||Crux (2)||Crux (3)|
|230 g + 110 g||25.6||14.9||34.8||29.3||28.0|
|(1) Assumes the use of a wind screen for both stoves.|
|(2) Crux system weight w/1.3 L titanium pot and cozy.|
|(3) Crux system weight w/1.3 L titanium pot without cozy.|
Even in cold and windy conditions, you have to want to boil a lot of water for the Jetboil Stove to become the more fuel efficient system based on total system weight (i.e., liters boiled per ounce of system weight).
For 10 liters boiled or less, the Brunton Crux system is lighter. For 10+ to 14+ liters boiled, the system weights are about equal. At these volumes, the Brunton Crux requires 230g and 110g canisters while the Jetboil requires only a 230g canister. At 15+ liters of water boiled the the Jetboil becomes the lighter system by 2 oz. The Jetboil can get by with a 230g canister but the Crux system needs a 450g canister.
These calculations are for conditions and equipment setups where the Jetboil has the greatest advantage in fuel efficiency (cold and windy conditions). In warmer and less windy conditions, weight savings because of fuel efficiency of the Jetboil Stove setup will not be realized for a much longer period of time (larger number of liters boiled).
“Creature comforts” aside, the performance advantages of the Jetboil Stove's insulated cooking cup over a non-insulated cooking pot are modest in calm winds, even in cooler temperatures. In non-windy conditions, in the range of 40 deg F, we saw only an 8 deg F difference between the contents of Jetboil’s insulated cooking cup and the non-insulated 1.3 liter pot after letting them sit for 20 minutes following boiling.
But add some wind and leave the wind screen at home, and the insulated cooking cup has significant performance advantages (heating and retaining heat) over a non-insulated cooking pot. In non-windy conditions, in the range of 40 F, we saw a 44 degree F difference between the contents of Jetboil’s insulated cooking cup and the non-insulated 1.3 liter pot after letting them sit for 20 minutes following boiling.
Much of the performance advantages of the Jetboil’s insulated cup can be approximated with the use of a wind screen and pot cozy for the titanium pot. The wind screen (which the Jetboil needs as well, for optimum performance in windy conditions) alleviates some of the excessive heat loss realized when boiling water in a non-insulated pot in windy conditions. Transferring the pot to a cozy after heating is an effective means of keeping pot contents warm after stove heat is turned off. An insulated pot handle (like the integrated handle of the Evernew pot) is certainly a lighter method of manipulating a hot pot than the neoprene sleeve of the Jetboil pot.
Cooking Cup Insulation Tests
We decided to see how much Jetboil’s insulated cooking cup kept it contents warm in comparison to our un-insulated 1.3 L titanium pot.
We brought both pots to a boil in cooler temperatures, left the pots on top of their burners and measured the temperature of their water after 20 minutes. We were surprised to see only an 8 deg F degree difference.
We surmised that the Jetboil’s flux ring might work well in reverse heat transfer and negate some of the insulation’s benefits. So, we re-ran the tests in the presence of a 7 mph wind, and we placed the Jetboil’s 8 oz plastic cup over the bottom of the cooking cup to keep the flux ring from transferring heat from the cup. This time we saw a 44 deg F difference in water temperature between the Jetboil and the Brunton Crux systems.
The results of the second test indicate that that some of the Jetboil’s heating performance in windy conditions without a windscreen is due to the insulating value of the cooking cup. And one of the reasons why the Brunton Crux could not bring the unshielded 1.3 L pot to a boil in cold and windy conditions was not just due to stove performance, but because the system loses a significant amount of heat from the pot itself.
FIGURE 8. Comparison of heat loss (measured as a drop in water temperature) following boiling of the various stove systems, to evaluate the role of the Jetboil Stove cooking cup insulation and heat exchanger. Bars marked as "1.3 L Pot" and "1.3 L Pot (wind)" use the Brunton Crux system. See text for explanation. Values represent averages from multiple tests.
“Its slim form fits in tight places like fanny packs, day packs, and pack pockets….” Jetboil marketing literature claims.
The Jetboil system, when packaged and stowed, has a diameter of 4.2 in (10.7 cm) and a height of 7.1 in (18.1 cm), yielding a stowed volume of 99 in3 (1,628 ci).
While almost the same volume as the stowed Jetboil Personal Cooking System, an Evernew 1.3 L titanium pot (which can store all of the cooking supplies) (6.3 in dia x 3.35 in height = 103 in3 volume / 15.9 cm dia x 8.5 cm height = 1,688 ci volume) is an awkward size to stuff into a pack pocket. If you’re throwing it into a large internal space in your pack you may not care so much. It should be noted that the Brunton Crux stove, 110g fuel canister, and Bic lighter easily fit into the 600 ml Snow Peak mug (3.7 in dia x 3.9 in height = 43 in3 volume / 9.5 cm dia x 10.0 cm height = 709 ci volume). The volume of the Brunton Crux/600ml mug system is less than half of the Jetboil. It is slimmer, shorter and will fit into even tighter spaces than the Jetboil system, while retaining the two cup boiling capacity of the Jetboil system..
FIGURE 9. Volume of stowed systems: L to R, Crux and 1.3 L pot, Jetboil Personal Cooking System, and Crux with 600 ml Snow Peak mug. All setups have a complete cooking setup stored in the main container, including fuel (no drinking cup in the Snow Peak mug). While almost the same volume as the 1.3 L pot, the Jetboil’s form is more conducive to stuff into a side pocket or in a "corner" of the pack.
The Jetboil Stove's piezo ignition works better than many we’ve tested. But like most piezos, it did not light the Jetboil at all times in cold conditions, especially in windy conditions. When the piezo didn’t work, it was difficult to light the burner with a match or lighter due to the shroud surrounding the bottom of the cooking cup and flux ring. The only way we could light the stove without the piezo was to take the cooking cup off the burner.
The Jetboil Personal Cooking System is designed with some superb engineering.
Our test results show clear performance advantages offered by the innovative burner and cooking cup, especially in terms of long-term fuel efficiency in cold and windy conditions.
The Jetboil Stove also offers significant “creature comforts” resulting from the thoughtful design of its integrated system, such as an insulated cup that is easy to handle and keeps its contents warm, quick setup, pot stability, and its compact form when stowed.
The Jetboil Stove also costs less than a high-end ultralight canister stove and a titanium pot.
To date, no other manufacturer offers as elegant a cooking system as the Jetboil. Its functional benefits add to quality of life on the trail and many people will certainly buy the Jetboil for this reason alone.
The Jetboil Stove's major disadvantage to the lightweight hiker is of course, its weight.
At a quarter to more than a half pound heavier than the lightest competing canister stove and titanium pot/cup setups, the Jetboil Stove's fuel efficiency in most situations cannot make up for the extra volume of water boiled one would get by carrying an equivalent weight with a lighter system and extra fuel. Until Jetboil closes this performance / design gap, it will remain a relatively heavy system for most weekend and weeklong hiking trips.
Of course, we are confused about the two cup boiling capacity for the cooking cup. We perceive its capacity to be more, but we'll have to defer to the Jetboil legal guys to make the final recommendations to its customers.
Finally (and no small thing when it's cold) the plastic cup is exceptionally difficult to remove from the bottom of the cooking cup when disassembling the unit and preparing to cook.
In conclusion, the question that we and most backpackers familiar with the Jetboil concept have to ask is, "Was the Jetboil good enough to deserve a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award?"
Well, we can't speak for the gang over at Backpacker, but Backpacking Light will reserve its kudos pending the availability of Version 2, simply because the bold claims of Jetboil could not be validated by realistic performance observations.
"Jetboil Stove (Jetboil Personal Cooking System) REVIEW," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/jetboil_stove_review.html, 2004-04-11 03:00:00-06.