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GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

Pinnacle Camper Cookset


INITIAL REPORT - September 20, 2009
FIELD REPORT - December 19, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - February 14, 2010



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (92 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness of Canada. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT
September 20, 2009

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: GSI Outdoors
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.gsioutdoors.com
MSRP: $119.95 USD

Listed Weight: 1577 g (3 lbs, 8 oz)
Measured weight: 1580 g (3 lbs, 8 oz)

Listed Dimensions (diameter x height): 232 x 148 mm (9.1 x 5.8 in)
Measured Dimensions: 234 x 134 mm (9.2 x 5.3 in)


ITEM DESCRIPTION

Pinnacle exploded

The GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset is designed to be the "Ultimate, integrated cooking + eating solution" for gourmet campers. The Pinnacle line of cooksets comes in a variety of configurations, from sets clearly aimed for base camp (i.e., car campers) to those specifically designed for backpackers. This Pinnacle Camper configuration is designed to provide flexibility, with enough cookware to support anywhere from a 4-person car camping trip down to a 2-person backpacking trip. This variety is achieved by having a large number of pieces, some of which can be left at home if desired.

The components of the Pinnacle Camper can be divided into three main categories: cooking gear, eating gear, and the sink. These are all designed according to GSI's "nFORM Crossover System," which is a fancy way to say they are part of an integrated cooking and eating system.

Cooking Gear

Piece
Volume
Listed weight (g)
Listed weight (oz)
Measured weight (g)
Measured weight (oz)
Listed dimensions (mm)
Listed dimensions (in)
Measured dimensions (mm)
Measured dimensions (in)
Frypan
--
182
6.4
180
6.4
248 (D)
9.8
236 x 30
(DxH)
9.3 x 1.2
Large pot
3 L
(3.2 qt)
301
10.6
305
10.8
--
--
227 x 100
9 x 4
Small pot
2 L
(2.1 qt)
301
10.6
210
7.4
--
--
205 x 80
8.1 x 3.2
Large cover
--
139
4.9
85
3
--
--
236 x 40
9.3 x 1.6
Small cover
--
139
4.9
75
2.7
--
--
204 x 36
8 x 1.3
Pot gripper
--
66
2.3
60
2.1
--
--
24 x 22 x 141
0.9 x 0.9 x 5.6

The cookware is comprised of a 3L and a 2L pot, as well as a frying pan. There are two lids, the larger of which fits both the larger pot and the frying pan. The pots and pan are made of anodized aluminum outsides, and each of these items has a grooved bottom to aid in heat dispersal. The inner surfaces of the pots are coated with Teflon® with Radiance technology, which is a special coating that provides faster and more uniform heat distribution to the cooking surface. The inside also has a "specially formulated topcoat" which is designed to provide "an unprecedented level scratch and abrasion resistance." I have cooked with other Teflon coated pots, and I often worry about scratching and thereby ruining the surface, so this scratch resistance is an excellent concept.

The lids are also cleverly designed, with two specific features worth comment. First, the lids have an area with a 1.5 x 5 cm (0.75 x 2 in) rectangular field of small holes which were designed to allow the lid to be used as a strainer. Second, the top of the lid has a small plastic tab which can be flipped up and used as a handle. Both of these features seem quite well thought-out!

assembled Pinnacle pot

Also, there is a single pot handle which comes with the set. It is stored inside one of the mugs (see below) to prevent banging and scratching of the pots. The handle folds in half, but locks in the extended position. The unlocking mechanism is marked with an orange pin and is easy to operate. The handle also has a mechanism to lock into slots on each of the pots and pan. There is a small metal rod which extends beyond the end of the handle and matches a hole in a metal bracket on the side of each pot. When the rod is pulled back by means of a spring-loaded bright orange knob, the handle can slide in or out of the pot. When the knob is released, the rod is extended and prevents the handle from falling off the pot.

potholder unattached


Eating gear

Piece
Vol
Listed weight (g)
Listed weight (oz)
Measured weight (g)
Measured weight (oz)
Listed dimensions (mm)
Listed dimensions (oz)
Measured dimensions (mm)
Measured dimensions (oz)
Bowl
470 ml (16 oz)
40
1.3
40
1.4
--
--
103 x 83 x 93
(L x W x H)
4.1 x 3.3 x 3.7
Mug
--
46
1.6
45
1.6
--
--
103 x 83 x 97
4.1 x 3.3 x 3.8
Lid
--
12
0.4
10
0.35
--
--
103 x 83 x 11
4.1 x 3.3 x 0.4
Bowl/Mug/Lid
--
--
--
95
3.4
--
--
103 x 83 x 102

4.1 x 3.3 x 4.0
Plate
--
37
1.3
35
1.2
190
7.5
190
(D)
7.5


The Pinnacle set comes with Infinity eating ware, which is GSI's name for their lightweight polycarbonate plastic. The plastic is noted to be BPA-free and to be completely recyclable. Additionally, this plasticware is dishwasher safe and is supposed to resist absorbing food odors.

The plates that are part of this set are fairly standard issue, although it is a nice touch that there are four different colored plates.

The interesting parts of the set are the mug/bowl combinations. There are four of these as well, colored to match the plates. Each mug/bowl forms one quarter of a cylinder, so packing all four together fills the space inside the smaller pot.

Pinnacle cups in pots

The outer piece is the bowl, which has a single wall. The bowl could also be used as a measuring cup, as it is marked with lines showing 200 and 400 ml, as well as 1 and 2 cups. Fitting tightly inside the bowl is the mug, which has a rubberized insulation material around its outside, similar to the cardboard ring that goes around my coffee cup to insulate my hot coffee. There is a plastic lid which fits on top of the cup. Between the lid and the insulation, I expect that the mug would keep a hot drink warm for an extended period of time. The lid has two small vents at the corners for sipping out of the mug even when the top is on. I found that the lid cannot be used on the bowl, as the rim of the bowl is just big enough to let the lid fall in.

Pinnacle cups


The sink

Piece
Vol
Listed weight (g)
Listed weight (oz)
Measured weight (g)
Measured weight (oz)
Listed dimensions (mm)
Listed dimensions (in)
Measured dimensions (mm)
Measured dimensions (in)

3 L
(3.2 qt)
83
2.9
65
2.3
--
--
234 x 100 (DxH)
9.2 x 4.0

The sink actually doubles as a cover for the larger pot, protecting the outside of the cookset from scratches. The sink has handles and can be used for carrying and/or storing water. These have a hook-and-loop closure across the top which can be used to keep the entire cookset assembled. The sink is "welded" which I assume means it does not have seams which are likely to leak. The bottom center of the sink has a plasticized fabric, whereas the rest of the sink appears to be a tightly woven nylon fabric of some type.


INSTRUCTIONS AND WARRANTY

The Pinnacle Camper Cookset came with a booklet in English and French describing the set and providing some guidance for use.

At the top are a number of clearly marked warning and caution items, including cautions to wash the pot before use, not to put the pots in the dishwasher, and not to use items in the set for prolonged food storage. There are also specific cautions stating that the cookware is specifically designed for use over camping stoves. It is not meant for home cooking, including microwaves and ovens or for campfire cooking. There are also a few danger items mostly relating to ways to avoid burns during cooking.

There are specific instructions regarding cooking with the nFORM crossover set. These include avoiding extreme temperatures and not boiling the pots dry. There are also notes and tips regarding the use of cooking oils or butter. However, it appears to me that there may be a mistake in the instructions, as the paper reads ""GSI Outdoors non-stick coated cookware does require any shortening or cooking oil to prevent your food from sticking." I believe it should read "…does NOT require any shortening..."

There are also care instructions for the pots, including avoiding the use of abrasive cleaners avoiding soaking in soapy water. The instructions recommend soaking and cleaning in boiling water only in the field, and specialized cleaners for non-stick surfaces can be used in the comfort of the home.


EXPECTATIONS FOR THE PINNACLE CAMPER

When I applied for this test, I wasn't really sure what I would be getting. I was thinking it would be a set of backpacking pots with some newer features. After it arrived and I started going through the kit, I was amazed at how well the different pieces are integrated into the overall system. Aside from the fact that it all packs together so neatly, the feature details (such as the lid handles) seem well designed and will allow me to maximize the use I will get out of this cookset. Although I haven't had the opportunity to take the set out, I am really looking forward to seeing what I can do with it!


THE STORY SO FAR
    Impressive
  • Loads of cooking gear in a small package
  • Features seem really well designed
  • Spurs lots of cooking ideas
    Concerns
  • Is it too heavy to take on backcountry trips?
  • Can I drink easily out of a triangular cup?


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FIELD REPORT

December 19, 2009

FIELD CONDITIONS

I used the Pinnacle Cookset on a weekend trip in mid-November to Ray, Ohio. I had planned to use the pots again on an overnight trip in mid-December, but cooking duties on that outing were taken by someone else (actually, my wife).


FIELD EXPERIENCE

On the trip where I used the Pinnacle, I was cooking for three-myself and two friends. All the cooking that weekend was done on a Coleman burner-type stove (i.e., not a backpacking stove). I carried my cooking gear and food in a plastic milk crate, and was somewhat distressed to find when I arrived that the outside pot had a small dent.

This pot is dented!

Nonetheless, I proceeded with my cooking plans.

For breakfast, I made French toast. In order to cook this, I used the frying pan to cook and placed the cooked pieces of toast into the small pot with its cover to keep them warm. Although it was tight, I was able to cook 3 pieces of toast at a time, which allowed the process to go pretty quickly. I used the handle to manipulate the frying pan, which worked like a charm. To go with our toast, I used the large pot to boil some water, and we had tea and coffee in the cups. One of my friends decided to drink out of his bowl, which also worked fine. We also used the plates in the set. The fact that the eating utensils were all color coded made it a snap to remember whose dishes were whose.

For lunch, I made some grilled cheese sandwiches in the frying pan, and accompanied that with chowder which I made in the medium pot. Heating up both the frying pan and the soup went quickly, which was good since it was rather nippy outside where I was cooking. We ate the sandwiches on the plates and used the bowls for the soup. I had no troubles ladling the soup into the bowls, and it was no problem to spoon the hot soup out into my mouth.

For dinner, I tried something a little more complex by making linguine with clam sauce. I made the sauce in the small pot and cooked linguine for three in the large pot. I also used one of the bowls to measure out some of the ingredients. The cooking was done simultaneously on the two burners of the stove. Although I cooked the clam sauce uncovered, I used the cover of the large pot both during cooking and in order to drain the pasta. Using the flip-top handle on the lid worked very well. Although the lid itself was quite hot from the steaming pasta, it was easy to pick it up using the little handle. Also, the holes on the lid worked just as designed, making draining the linguine almost too easy.

Linguine courtesy of the GSI Pinnacle Cookset

For breakfast the following day, I just boiled water and we had oatmeal in the bowls. In addition to this menu, I used both the small and large pots numerous times over the weekend to boil water for oatmeal hot cocoa, tea, and coffee. For boiling water, I kept the lids on to speed heating and also to keep the water warm after I shut off the burners. Using the lid handles made it easy to put the lids on and off as needed.

All in all, the food for the weekend was quite excellent, if I do say so myself. However, I really wanted to comment on the Cookware. The pots and pans worked extremely well. They were of good size to cook for three, and probably would have worked fine for a fourth person, as well. The handle was extremely easy to use on the pots, including taking it off one pot/pan and moving it to a different one when I was cooking with two burners. I also especially like the lids. The handle feature on the lid worked great, as did the drainage holes. They also did a good job of keeping heat in the pots, either for heating or holding warmth.

I also wanted to comment a bit on the eating gear. Normally, I do all of my eating out of a single medium-sized bowl when I am camping, in addition to a mug for hot drinks. So, having a plate was somewhat of a novel experience. The plates were fine, although I found them a little small. Since there is a risk with a plate of having food run off the side (which doesn't happen with my bowl), I found I was a little more careful eating than usual. Whether this is good or bad, I'm not sure yet. Although the shape of the mug brought me some funny looks from my camping buddies when I brought them out, I think we all felt they worked fine, including providing enough insulation to allow me to easily hold my hot drinks. The bowls also worked quite well for eating, although they are a little more difficult to clean, because I could not lick them and they are just a little too deep for me to easily wipe down the sides with a finger. This did allow me to use the sink as a dishwashing basin, and it functioned well in this capacity.

Although I was a little worried if I would have problems remembering in what order to put the items in order to reassemble the set, in actuality, this was not a problem at all.


WEAR AND TEAR

I mentioned the small dent which now mars the bottom of the large pot. I will see if this causes any cooking problems going forward.


FIELD IMPRESSIONS

All in all, I have found the Pinnacle set to work quite well, albeit in limited usage so far. I like the flexibility provided by the two pots + one pan, and all of the extra features were surprisingly effective in helping me cook.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
February 14, 2010

FIELD CONDITIONS

I used the Pinnacle Cookset on one more weekend trip over the LTR phase of the report. This trip was a weekend outing to Portsmouth, Ohio in mid January. This trip was one night of cabin camping in a rustic cabin and one night of tent camping. All the cooking was done indoors on my 2-burner Coleman stove.

Over the course of this test, I have taken the GSI Pinnacle pots on 3 trips totaling 5 nights and 8 days. Because I did not use the pots on one of my trips (an overnight), I have cooked 10 meals using these pots, typically for 3 people. I also cooked 2 light meals at home using the pots. I have used the eating gear for about 14 meals.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

As on my previous trips with the Pinnacle Cookset, testing during the LTR phase was essentially confined to car camping, although on this trip I actually loaded up the pots into my backpack to carry it up to the cabin (about 0.5 mi/0.8 km each way). I was cooking for 3 of us again.

On this trip, I made one of my favorite camping foods for breakfast: pancakes. I cooked these in the frying pan. I tried initially making 2-3 pancakes at a time, but I found that the heat distribution was not even, and they came out much better just cooking single, large pancakes at a time. As with a typical non-stick pan, I did not need to use any butter or grease to cook them, and they came out fluffy and delicious. While I was cooking the pancakes, I boiled water in the large pot, while I used the smaller pot to keep the cooked pancakes warm.

Pancakes!

This setup worked really well, and the pancakes and hot cocoa were piping hot when we ate them.

Other highlights from the weekend included Saturday lunch, for I tried a pad thai recipe which I had found at Backpacker magazine. I cooked the noodles in the large pot while cooking the chicken and veggies in the fry pan. After using the top of the large pot to drain the noodles, I put everything together with the sauce in the small pot. Again...very nice! in the small pot. Dinner was a slow-cooked stew, which simmered for about 2 hours in the large pot before we ate it. I was once again extremely pleased with the handle, as I could put it on and off the pots very quickly, which allowed me to use the handle for all the pots without any cumbersome delays when switching.

Despite the fact that I did some browning of the meat, a lot of sautéing, and some slow-cooking, it was very easy to clean these pots. Although I used a non-abrasive screubbie to clean everything, it went very fast. The coating on the pots held up very well. I also washed everything by hand (as recommended) when I got home, and there were no problems. I also have not had any issues with the dent in the pot, which has not caused any further deformity.

As before, I used the plates, cups, and bowls for the entire weekend. I offered the eating gear to my cohorts, but both of them declined in favor of their usual gear. We did use one of the cups for measuring some of the ingredients while cooking. However, there was not a lot of enthusiasm for eating from them. To my mind, the plates are a little too small and a little too flat, and the bowls are too hard to clean except in a sink. Of course, if I don't clean the bowls really well, any food or other materials will get stuck on the outside of the cup. If I clean the bowls and put them away too soon, the cup cozies will get damp.

SUMMARY

Overall, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset is an interesting piece of gear that has some really great features, and some others that I didn't care for. The cooking pots and accessories (lids, handles) are awesome and the set is just about perfect for "gourmet" cooking for 3-4 people. I will continue to use these for car camping and for backpacking when I am not watching my weight too carefully. If ounces (or grams) count, I don't know that I will want to carry 3 pots, but that is a different discussion. In terms of the plates, cups, and bowls, I am not certain if I will use them much. I am much more comfortable with a single bowl and a mug for eating, and these are also easier to clean on the trail. If I am carrying the Pinnacle with me for cooking, I might leave the plates, cups, and bowls at home, and use this space instead to carry a stove or food instead.

Things I liked about the GSI Pinnacle Cookset:
  • 3 pots gives good variety of cooking vessels
  • Pots are non-stick and easy to clean
  • Lids are highly functional
  • The handle is sturdy but simple to move between pots/pans
  • This set is extremely innovative and compact for what it provides
Things I disliked about the Pinnacle Camper Cookset:
  • Carrying 3 pots may be overkill on the trail
  • Plates are not as functional as a good bowl
  • Cups/bowls are interesting, but don't seem practical

This concludes my report on the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset. My thanks once again to GSI Outdoors for providing this equipment for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.


-larry kirschner

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