I’ve been happily cooking food on a camp stove since I was allowed to light a match. I have a vivid memory of cooking Chicken supreme with rice and peas on a single gas ring at a camp at around aged ten, juggling two different pans, boiling water, ending up with everything in a mess, but having a great tasting (and hot!) meal for me and my friend. Success! While these days I might prefer to pay the local pub to cook my dinner when camping, I still love the idea of being self sufficient and taking everything I need when heading off on an adventure.
On the West Highland Way this was going to be even more important. Hiking in October would be great timing for a number of reasons, but we needed to make sure we had the means to cook a hot meal in the evenings. There would be at least two days when we would not be camping close to a pub, the evenings and mornings would be dark and therefore chilly, and so hot food and water would be very important for recovery and morale. My simple bistro stove is great when we camp by car, but it would be no good for this trip or the next time we camp by motorbike. I needed small and lightweight stove that I could carry in my pack.
Hot tea at Drymen thanks to my Jetboil Flash.
Naturally, I turned to social media and blogs to help me decide which stove to buy. and I instantly got a huge number of recommendations for the Jetboil Flash cooking system; it’s the big adventure brand system that the cool kids use, with it’s flux ring and super impressive boil times. But it costs nearly £100 (well, just under £90), and so is a big investment when you consider I paid less than that for my tent! But here it is, on display on my blog, because it did actually make it into my kit bag for the West Highland Way. I admit quite happily and readily that I didn’t buy it. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. If I hadn’t been sent one by my good friends at Simply Hike, I would have had a very simple pocket rocket style stove with a gas canister costing around £20, which I know would have done the job I needed it to do, but it wouldn’t been a Jetboil would it?!
A morning brew at Loch Lomond.
The Jetboil, the Flash in my case, is a fast, compact and efficient camp stove system. It’s a “system” because what you get is a whole self-contained unit that clips onto the gas canister designed to make the most of the fuel and your time by boiling water really fast. And really fast it is – half a litre in two and a half minutes. I have been known to put a pan of water on my other camp stove before I put my tent up so I can have tea when I’m done. Not with this! Two minutes is no time at all; I barely managed to find my teabags and food pouch in my pack before the water was ready to use.
It is important to note that while this does indeed boil water very fast, that is all it does. You can’t “cook” with this Jetboil (they do have other versions which are said to be better for cooking); you can’t balance a pan on the system without an additional attachment, and while you can turn the heat intensity down a little bit using the adjustable burner, it is not going to allow you to simmer. There will be no heating of tinned food or cooking a rice based meal without burning it to the bottom of your fancy cup. But that’s okay; as long as you know what it’s for and that is what you want it to do. In my case I carried dehydrated meals, porridge, and teabags – that’s all I needed and how I chose to tackle this hike. It’s also the only thing we’ll use it for when motorbike touring; porridge and a cup of tea in the mornings and maybe a hot chocolate before bed.
Cooking on my Jetboil by torchlight.
Using the Jetboil is very simple (which is a good job when it gets dark so early!). The whole system, including gas canister, fits inside the cup, making it easy to pack and no bother to find when it’s time for tea. The cooking cup clips onto the burner, the burner screws into the gas canister, and there is a little orange stand to keep the system from toppling over when you’re using it on a pebble beach or uneven field. The igniter works a treat and you get a very satisfying roar when the Jetboil is on and doing its job.
There are a couple of little extra features I really found handy. The cup is surrounded by an insulating neoprene cover which means you can pick it up once the water is boiled without having to precariously use your buff or towel to protect your hands, and the lid has a little hole in it that acts as a pouring spout so you can accurately and easily pour into your mug or food pouch. The cosy has a colour changing heat indicator on it that goes orange when the water is at around 70 degrees, but to be honest you can hear and see when the water is boiling so it’s not the thing that would make me buy this system.
The negatives? Not many! I was surprised at the size when it arrived, it is actually quite big. It is light, just less than 400g without the gas, but it is a decent size and so bear that in mind when packing. Having said that, you are basically getting a one litre pan with everything inside it, which means it is convenient because you don’t have to have to pack any additional bits and bobs to make the stove usable. Do make sure you take a bit of tissue or two for the inside though, not just to dry out the inside of the cup before you pack it all away, but also to dampen the otherwise very annoying metal on metal rattle each time you take a step! Also, while the pan does indeed have a one litre capacity you can’t actually boil one litre of water in it – you need space for the boiling thing to happen and so you’re limited to 500-750ml or so – plenty for a dehydrated meal and cuppa on one boil.
Sitting under a tree waiting for my dinner to “cook”.
I am very happy with my Jetboil, it is a great bit of kit and I can’t wait to get out on another adventure where I can make use of it again. It is simple to use, boils water really fast, and includes everything I need. I would absolutely add my voice to the recommendations I received when searching a few months back; I’m so pleased with it – it does exactly what it says on the tin and I know I will get a huge amount of use out of it over the years. Does owning one make me one of the cool kids now?!
But it’s not the only option on the market and so it is worth looking around to get something that fits your needs. If you’re looking for a similar alternative, there is the Alpkit Brukit which has that all in one flux ring style design and gets some great reviews at its cheaper purchase price (about half currently). Or there’s always the Vango compact stove type system from (or pretty much all the other camping brands), that would have been my default and will take up a tiny amount of space in your pack.