For a long time, I thought to myself “no need to spend all that money on a gas-canister cooker, a cheap little solid fuel option like the issue cooker will be just fine”.
That line of thought was idiocy based on pure ignorance through not having tried the better option (pretty universal problem we all have from time to time). Now I can’t speak for other systems out there, but the old hexi blocks I used in training were hard to light, stank of fish to an indescribable extent, were slow to boil water, awkward to handle, and as we now know, bad for your health in many ways. The cooking stand was at least light and compact, but it would also get caked in tacky carbon muck whenever you used it, as did the issue mess tins. All in all, the whole process of getting your cooker setup, heating and eating then fully stowing your cook system to your pack/webbing was extremely time-consuming and unnecessarily arduous for such a simple thing.
Now, you do need a good bit of flat and level surface to setup a Jetboil and the centre of gravity is so high you do worry sometimes about how easily it’ll tip over; although the included fold-out stand does do a reasonable job to help in this area. It is also a little awkward to re-pack everything after usage in the sense that the actual boiling pot and some components of the gas stove stay very hot for a little while after cooking. I’m yet to time them, but it does seem to take a little longer than you’ll spend eating your ‘meal’ for the heated parts of the system to cool back down to such a level that you can put everything back together for storage. If I was being picky, I’d also like the neoprene cover to be a bit thicker because you can’t quite hold on to the thing until it’s a fair way off cooking temperature. However it does completely stop you from getting horribly burned if you absent-mindedly try and pick the pot up at the wrong time and the ‘flame’ indicator on the side gradually turning orange as you get closer to boiling point is a nice addition; not necessary of course because you can just look at the water, but it’s nice to have another visual indicator that your food is on its’ way.
The key feature of the Jetboil is of course, in the name. The corrugated aluminium fin underneath the main pot increases surface area for heat to be absorbed enormously and the gas burner has some serious growl behind it, especially for such a compact item. It’s a huge bonus in any situation to be able to get your food or drinks heated up in such a short space of time, doubly so when you’re shivering and really looking forward to that sustenance.
The heater ignites just like a gas hob, open the regulator valve to start the flow then hold the piezo button for maybe a second or two at most – and you’re burning. You’ve got a wide range of control on your heat level on said regulator, but if you just want your dubious sausages as fast as possible you can whack it fully wide open without concern. When you’re trudging along with the cooker in your pack, absolutely everything needed stashes away inside the main pot which is a massive help when you’re trying to make the inside of your ruck as neat, segregated and easily-navigable as possible (i.e. the opposite of the inside of the average handbag). If you wanted to be super efficient on your adventures, I see no reason you couldn’t pour any unused water back in to your bottle/reservoir after cooking if you’ve not used it already for hot drinks.
The plastic base clips right on to the bottom of your commonly-available can of gas fuel, the burner then screws right on to your gas can in a couple of seconds, next the pot has something reminiscent of a bayonet fitting to go on to the burner, with a thick silicone type lid to top everything off. It all goes together and comes apart extremely easily and I’ve generally been quite impressed with the quality feel of all the components. Presuming it carries on working for a good length of time without any little parts failing, I’d thoroughly recommend the investment in any of the cooking system options from Jetboil. I opted for the ‘Flash’ which I’d call their flagship offering and it’s really close to perfect for cooking ration pack meals, but you can save a fair bit of money by going with the ‘Zip’ which will basically do the same job for you overall.
Just, for fuck sake, if you were considering it, don’t buy any of the camouflage versions.