I have never really been one to follow fashion; it takes a lot to convince me to break away from familiar methods that I like. Whilst I did eventually open my ears to my fellow hikers as they absolutely raved about their new-fangled cooking systems, I can be a bit dense, so it took a while for me to come round to the fact that I might actually want to get one myself.
However, these days when I go hiking on my own and fancy a brew, I sit and stare at my Jetboil Zip for the few minutes it takes to boil half a litre of water, and I don’t mind saying I often let out a giggle… I still live in awe of its efficiency. For starters, the fact that you can fit the entire system, including gas bottle, inside the insulated mug is great. It reminds me of pushing squares through hoops as a child… simple and seamless.
Forgive me, ladies, but I’m a bloke and one who is easily amused! In my defence, though, this is much more than just a boys’ toy. To me at least, it’s a revolutionary lightweight cooking system.
I had actually been very happy with the old spider-style cooker head I’ve been using for years. And indeed, it still does the job so long as I’m out of the wind. It really isn’t the most stable of cookers – we’ve ended up with a few ‘grass-coated’ fry-ups over time – but for old-fashioned folk like me it was also a revelation in its time. The way the stove folds down neatly into its own plastic made-to-measure box, for example. Of course, the stove detaches from the gas canister after use, so the two items can end up clattering against each other in a rucksack. Also, gas usage was quite high, again especially when attempting to cook/brew up in even the lightest of winds.
So, what’s on offer with Jetboil? Well, I remain a cheapskate and opted for the most economical system I could find that would provide sufficient capacity. To be fair, anything more might have bankrupted me – it’s far from the cheapest item in my hiking arsenal.
When on the brink of spending anything more than twenty quid on new kit I tend to seek out an opinion from anyone who has one (i.e. an opinion, said kit, or ideally both!) before taking the plunge. Let’s face it: if my friends at Adventure Quest and Adventures with Heroes – who are all more than capable of spit-roasting a hog over a flint-lit fire pit in the pouring rain – have been converted, then it’s probably a pretty sound investment and time for me to jump on this new technology bandwagon!
It was actually on my recent ML Night Exercise in Snowdonia that Johnny took me through the product spec, gave me a demo and inspired me to make that leap of faith. Johnny had the more expensive, slightly more gadgety version, the Jetboil FLASH. Now, I’ve been hiking with this crew on and off for 12 months, and all this time I’d assumed that the ‘bits’ comprising their Jetboil systems were just stuffed in various rucksack pockets (only because that’s the way I’ve always done it: stove, gas and lighter all kicking around separately). So it was something of a defining moment when he showed me how it all neatly packed away in on itself. That neatness and compactness PLUS the heating speed suddenly took the appeal of the Jetboil to a whole new level…
So, I headed off with Jen to Gaynor’s in Ambleside to see what they had on offer. Lo and behold there it was… a whole section of Jetboil gizmos! I looked at the options. I was a tad disappointed that only a 500ml mug comes as standard with the Zip model. The one-litre mug, which is a much more practical option for two of us camping, had to be purchased separately. I thought this was worth doing, though, partly for the extra cooking capacity but also because the extra height of the 1l mug means there’s space inside to carry one more accessory: an additional cooking ring. This is a very handy platform on which you can sit a non-Jetboil pan, e.g. a frying pan, raising it above the flame on a slightly wider base. This separate cooking ring is fairly basic, but functional. I certainly wouldn’t want it floating around loose in my rucksack, with its jagged edges just waiting to rip through a pocket, so I love the fact that it fits snugly inside the one-litre mug with everything else.
We took the leap and purchased the Jetboil Zip, the one-litre mug, a small gas canister and the bonus cooking ring. Then we headed off home, and I couldn’t wait to try it out!
Now, at this point I should mention one or two things I have heard about the product which aren’t so good. The main one being that the automatic igniter (found on the Flash model, not the Zip) is allegedly prone to breaking. I can’t say I miss having an igniter, even though my old burner did have one. A long-handled lighter (the kind that produces sparks) is perfectly adequate to do the job.
The second thing this Luddite should mention is that on the first light-up (hopefully not subsequent ones – we live and learn!) one should ensure that only hair one doesn’t mind being removed from one’s head should be exposed. I can testify that leaning over said burner the first time I lit it was quite an experience; never before have I seen such a high flame from a camping stove! I’m thankful to report that it hasn’t happened since. So maybe the gas bottle wasn’t securely attached, or maybe I was simply too enthusiastic about turning the gas on high… but the Jetboil’s reaction might well have launched a rocket into orbit! Just saying. Do take care.
I have since used the Jetboil ZiP on many occasions (a dozen-ish water boils for coffee) whilst camping at various points on the South West Coastal Path, and I have yet to finish a bottle of gas. I find this remarkable given how tiny they are. Jetboil suggest that the 100g canister will last for a full 60 minutes of cooking and boil half a litre of water in 2.5 minutes. That seems plausible from what I’ve seen, and I might add it will do so in pretty much any weather condition I have encountered.
The system comes with an effective canister stabiliser, meaning you don’t have to anchor the Jetboil down while it’s busy heating, and the base of the mug attaches securely to the burner. The packaging comes with plentiful warnings about how hot the burner gets, but possibly one of the best features – for user-friendliness, safety and minimal sit-down time – is how quickly the entire system cools down again after the gas is turned off. Thanks to this, once you’ve finished eating or slurping your drink, everything will have cooled right down, ready for you to pack the system neatly away and be on your way in no time at all.
I doubt I’ll ever be at the front of the queue of trend-conscious people clamouring to buy the latest products, and I do know these have been around for a while. So this probably comes as old news to most, but I’m a recent convert: I think the Jetboil ZiP is brilliant, and for me it’s definitely a keeper!
Below is a selection of links to different Jetboil models and accessories. I hope this helps anybody looking for a new, efficient and lightweight hiking stove 🙂
Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…