Top Gear #3 (Jetboil Sol)

6th Jan 2014

Just like all outdoor gear, we are seriously spoilt for choice with camping stoves.  From simple meths burning can stoves through to high tech multi-fuel pressure stoves - there is just about every option available for every use and for all budgets.  I've used loads of different types over the years and my hands down favourite for almost all uses is the Jetboil.  
Jetboils have been around for a number of years and they are a brilliant, efficient and effective design that I reckon is very hard to improve.  My favourite variant is the aluminium Sol (there is a more expensive Titanium Sol) which is the mid range model although it still incorporates the thermo-regulate pressure regulator which maintains burner output as the fuel in the canister diminishes (and improves performance in temperatures down to -6 C).
The Jetboil system has several stand out features.  First, it packs into a very light, portable and compact package with all the elements (including gas canister) fitting inside the heating pan.  The pan (which is really shaped more like a tall, wide mug) is perfect for single person use or fast and light alpinism for two and features a neoprene insulating sleeve around it so it can be picked up by hand even when hot.  The pan also incorporates a heat exchanger which is a defining feature of the design.  The exchanger makes the stove both extremely fuel efficient as well as being very quick to heat (a 100 gram gas canister will boil around 12 litres of water which is easily enough for a weekend and will boil 0.5 litres in 2.5 minutes).  Underneath this is the burner unit which attaches to the gas cannister and, in turn, clips to the heat exchanger.  
The Jetboil works best for simple water heating and I use it only for this purpose.  This is made possible because I only carry food that can be cooked with boiling water (the principles of this approach are described in an article I wrote about mountain food which you can find here).  Of course, it can also be used to heat other foods if you wish.
Finally, the Jetboil is very light.  The Sol, including a 100 gram fuel canister weighs about 400 grams.  The Jetboil Sol may not be a bargain (retailing at about £130) but in my opinion it's worth every penny.
The perfect wilderness cooking companion....if it suits your type of cooking and requirements.
Posted by Paul