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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Outdoors ULSoloist Cook System > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse

GSI SOLOIST COOKSET
TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
LONG-TERM REPORT
August 13, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Edwin Morse
EMAIL: ed dot morse at charter dot net
AGE: 70
LOCATION: Grawn, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Late last summer I did a 2 week hike on Isle Royale. My starting pack weight was 32 lbs (14.5 kg), including 10 days of food and 3 qt (2.8 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: GSI Outdoors
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: GSI Outdoors
MSRP: US$ 29.95
Listed Weight: 0.594 lb 9.5 oz (269 g)
Measured total Weight: 10.0 oz (283 g)
Stuff sack, wash dish: 1.0 oz (28 g)
kettle: 6.5 oz (184 g)
cup: 1.5 oz (42.5 g)
Lid: 0.9 oz (25.5 g)

Other details: According to the website: "dimensions: 5.15" x 5.15" x 5.6" (13 cm x 13 cm x 14 cm)

1.1 L (1.16 qt) Pot, Strainer/Sip-It Lid, 14 fl. oz. (414 ml) insulated cup/bowl, Stove Bag"

Again, according to the website the cup is: "Cascadian™
The recyclable, inexpensive answer to all your outdoor dining needs. This lightweight, flexible material is easy to pack, stack and carry. And it's available in four bold colors, to identify individual settings and brighten up any meal."

and the kettle is:
Halulite™
Say goodbye to scratches, burn circles and ounces. As light as Titanium, Halulite is a proprietary alloy that also conducts heat better and more evenly-so you can leave the extra fuel at home. Plus, every piece is Hard Anodized to create a surface that withstands scratches and abrasions like nothing else. It's ultra light without the sacrifices. Now that's smart."

The lid is: "Crushproof, dual-use lid made of Lexan® resin prevents deformation of your pot/lid while serving as a Sip-It Lid or integrated strainer."

In my view the cup is an orange colored "plastic" material. The sides are slightly flexible. the dimensions inside the cup are: 4 in (102 mm) diameter and 2.5 in (64 mm) high. I filled the cup and poured the water into a 4 cup measuring cup. According to this method it holds 2.5 cups (588 ml) The cover appears to be a thin Neoprene type of material, which is easily removed so I can wash the cup. I took the cover off the kettle and tried (and tried and tried) to make it fit the cup. After getting rather frustrated I handed it to my wife and told her it was supposed to fit like a sippy cup. She just turned the lid over and put it on the cup! With the lid (what I think of as) upside down it becomes a very snug fitting sippy cup.

The kettle is a dark metal that measures 4.75 in (121 mm) high and 4.5 in (114 mm) in diameter. The kettle easily holds a liter (1.06 qt) of water but I doubt that I would heat that much water very often.

The stuff sack is a heavy black material that appears to be coated on the inside. I filled it nearly full of water and it easily holds 8 cups (1.88 l) of water.

There was also a well made black 3 in by 5 in (7.6 cm by 13 cm) envelope with a hook and loop closure in the plastic sack. I have no idea what this is for.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The whole set (cup, kettle and lid) came in the stuff sack in a cardboard box. The box had pictures as well as descriptions in English and French.
Cookset in stuff sack
My first impression was that the set is more bulky than my previous setup. Then I started looking at possibilities. I separated the Cookset parts to see just what it looked like.
stuff sack, cup, lid and kettle

The cup with insulating sleeve and tight fitting lid appears to be a good camp coffee cup.
cup with lid
The insulating sleeve easily pulls off so I can wash the cup.
cup with sleeve removed
Then I found that either my alcohol stove or my canister stove will fit inside the cookset with room for my lighter and a camp towel or bandana for padding.
Set with stove inside
The kettle appears to work with my alcohol stove.
kettle on stove

This just might be a more compact set up than I have been using since I can pack everything except fuel inside the kettle.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The same warnings are on both the website and the brochure inside the box.
The instructions were more warnings and cautions then instructions. The first was the standard warning to wash with hot water and mild detergent prior to initial use at home and dry immediately. I say it is a standard warning because the same instructions are with all dishes and cookware I have purchased.
Then there were cautions:
"Never heat nFORM Ultralight cookware to extreme temperatures or allow it to boil dry.
Pot and strainer lid intended for stovetop use only. Not for use with microwave ovens, conventional ovens or open campfires.
Handle may become hot when cooking. Always use caution when grasping handle. Never expose handle to direct flame."

In my opinion the first caution is the important one. When I started backpacking I used a white gas stove that only had one flame setting, full blow torch mode. The extreme temperature is no longer a problem with alcohol or canister stoves. The caution never to allow the kettle to boil dry will change one of my practices. It always seemed very easy with my other kettles to put them back on the stove carefully to heat dry.

TRYING IT OUT

I tried the Cookset on the deck picnic table. I used my Pocket Rocket canister stove with about a half a qt (47 ml) of water in the kettle. I made soup and coffee. Actually I boiled the water in the kettle, then I poured part of the water in a zipper bag with my dehydrated soup. I used the stuff sack for a cozy. I poured the rest of the hot water into the cup with instant coffee.

I think this system will work well for me with a little more practice.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will first use the Soloist Cook System in the backyard a few more times to begin learning the best way for me to use it.

During the test period I will answer the following questions:
How will the Soloist Cook System fit my cooking style?
Will the Soloist Cook System work with all the different stoves I
have over a 4 month time period?
The design looks interesting, and innovative.
Will the Soloist Cook System rattle when in my pack or will I need to
pad the cup so I hear no rattles?
I do a most of my backpacking food preparation by boiling water and
pouring it into a Ziploc bag with a meal I have dehydrated.
Will the Soloist Cook System work for just boiling water on either a
canister stove or an alcohol stove?
Will the Soloist Cook System cup and sip-it lid keep my coffee hot
while I enjoy the early morning sunrise?
How durable is the Soloist Cook System?
Will the Soloist Cook System stand up to several days at a time of
being stuffed into my backpack and then used to fix 2 hot meals each
day?

SUMMARY

The Soloist Cook System appears to be a well designed system for backpack camp cooking. I will need to change some of my methods and I think the change will be an improvement. I now have a system rather than the collection of pieces I used last year. I am looking forward to using and testing this system out on the trail.



FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I used the GSI Soloist Cookset on two trips in the previous two months. The first, in late April, was an overnight hike, with a friend, in the nearby Manistee National Forest. We hiked a loop of 22 mi (35 km), partly on the North Country Trail (NCT) and partly on the Manistee River Trail. The terrain was mostly dry sandy hills with a few wet and muddy areas. The weather was clear and unusually warm with a high of 78 F (26 C) and a low at night of 50 F (10 C).

The second trip, in early May, was a group trip consisting of four days and nights of backpacking in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the NCT. We hiked a total of 41 mi (66 km). The terrain varied from flood areas and swamps to high and sandy hills. We even had a few snow drifts to hike through. The weather was just as variable. We had a few sunny days with a high temperature of 65 F (18 C) the warmest day and a low of 37 F (3 C) on two nights. We also had steady rain part of one day and most of one night.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I used a Brasslite alcohol stove for the first trip. My backpacking suppers consist of my own dehydrated soups so I can keep things simple and just heat water. Generally I just have a Clif bar and coffee for breakfast. Since I am testing the Cookset I took oatmeal as well as coffee for breakfast.

The kettle worked very well with the alcohol stove for both supper and breakfast. It was great to sit back and enjoy my coffee (that stayed hot) while waiting for the oatmeal mixture (oatmeal, dried milk, raisins and walnuts) to cook. I've found that regular oatmeal cooks just as well in a zip lock bag and a cozy as it does in the microwave at home. Before getting the GSI Soloist I had used the zip lock in empty plastic powdered sports drink jar with a screw cover and a cozy for both my soup and oatmeal. With this trip I put the zip lock with my food in the stuff sack for the Cookset. Since it was not insulated I let it set a little longer (7 minutes instead of five) and the oatmeal was cooked, hot and ready to eat. Meanwhile I drank hot coffee from the insulated sippy cup and relaxed.
Relaxing for breakfast
Breakfast time

I carried the same kind of food for the second trip but I used a Pocket Rocket canister stove this time. I also made a mistake and learned something more. I usually learn something from my many mistakes. I assumed (yes I know) that a 4 oz fuel canister would be enough for four days since that amount has worked on previous trips. I did not consider that I usually only heat enough water in the morning for one cup of coffee. This trip I had two cups of coffee and oatmeal each morning as well as coffee on two nights. One night and one morning I had to fix my food under the tent vestibule to stay out of the rain.
fixing supper May 3, 2008
rainy day supper

The Soloist Cookset worked very well with the canister stove. The problem was that I ran out of fuel the third night. One of the other backpackers was using a Bushbuddy wood stove. I knew he would not run out of fuel so I asked if I could use his stove. I was a little worried about burning or melting the handle covering so I was very careful about that. I can now report that the Soloist also works with the Bushbuddy wood stove, which I used for both supper and breakfast. If I had been alone I would have just built a small wood fire on bare ground.

I wrapped the kettle in a spare plastic sack when I packed it back in the stuff sack. The black soot came off easily at home. I used plain liquid dish soap and rubbed it with my hands until it was clean. If I had had any of my older kettles I would have used beach sand and oak leaves to clean the black soot off. I did not want to scratch the new kettle with sand. If I owned and used a wood stove I would probably just leave the kettle black. Well, the Soloist kettle was already black but not wood smoke soot black.


SUMMARY

I am happy with the GSI Soloist Cookset, more so after using it a few trips. I had considered the Soloist to be more bulky than other sets I use. If I were to make such a simple comparison it would be true. On the other hand, I can pack my stove, fuel, lighter and bandanna in the Soloist kettle with the cup. Thus the GSI Soloist is the most compact total system I have used. I've used the Soloist on three types of stoves (alcohol, canister and wood) and it has worked well with each stove. The complete cooking system is easy to pack since the stuff sack is almost slippery smooth and I can jam it into any available space. The stuff sack also saves me from bringing the plastic jar and the cozy.

I can only think of maybe one or two negatives about the Soloist. The kettle seems tall to me and when nearly filled with water I feel it is top heavy and might tip. On the other hand I seldom fill it more than half way. The other possible negative is that the kettle is black. Supposedly a black kettle heats quicker than the lighter colors. The black color does make it a little harder to tell when all the wood smoke soot is cleaned off. I may never use a wood stove again, OTOH, I might buy a wood stove and let the kettle stay black.

This concludes my Field Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've been on two backpacking trips in the last two months. I had fractured my ankle in mid May so I didn't do as much hiking as planned.

The first trip was just a short overnight walk, starting July 10 and ending July 11 on the North Country Trail, in the Manistee National Forest in northwest Lower Michigan. My doctor had told me to "try a short walk of a mile or a mile and a half" (1.6 to 2.4 km) and if my ankle didn't give me trouble I could go back to my normal hiking routine, so I decided to make the short hike an overnight. The weather was warm and clear with a high temperature of 78 F (26 C) and a low during the night of 60 F (16 C). The trail was smooth and the terrain was slightly hilly and rolling pine and oak covered forest. I used the Cookset with a Brasslite alcohol stove on this short trip. Here is a picture from early morning when the birds were just starting to sing.
morning coffee
enjoy the morning

I adopted a slightly different procedure for these two trips. I set my Ziploc bag of dehydrated soup in the Soloist stuff sack to pour in the boiling water and sealed both the Ziploc and the stuff sack. Then I put the stuff sack with Ziploc and soup in a bubble wrap mailing envelope. After about 10 minutes I took out the Ziplock and put it in the cup for easier eating.
evening meal July 10
evening meal July 10

In this picture I'm waiting for the water to boil. My dehydrated soup in the Ziploc is in the GSI stuff sack and the bubble wrap envelope is ready for use.

The second trip was a seven night trip in late July on the High Country Pathway (HCP) in the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northeast Lower Michigan. Depending on which source I read the loop trail is 70 or 80 miles (113 km or 129 km). The weather was generally warm with temperatures ranging from a high of 81 F (27 C) and a low one morning after I started walking in the rain of 50 F (10 C). There were frequent rains the first 3 days and 2 nights. The terrain is rolling and often hilly (for Michigan) with swamps, creeks or rivers between the hilly sections. The vegetation varies from pine and hardwood forests in the higher areas to heavy brush, ferns and swamp grass in the low areas. Here is a picture from the HCP hike. I was camped about 500 feet (152 m) from a road and about 200 feet (61 m) from the trail. My camp could not be seen from either the road or the trail.
evening meal
evening meal

I used the GSI Soloist Cookset every morning and night while I was backpacking, with a canister stove this trip.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

My "cooking" while backpacking consists of boiling water. I make a variety of soups and chowders at home which I dehydrate and store in Ziploc freezer bags. My nightly backpacking meal consists of rehydrated hot soup and cold water. My breakfasts are a large cup of coffee and an energy bar or, if the weather is colder, and oatmeal mixture with the coffee. The Soloist kettle with cover boils water very well. I really like the insulated cup and cover. I like to sit back and enjoy my coffee while I listen to the birds sing and contemplate the day ahead. The GSI Soloist Cookset has performed very well for me.

SUMMARY

The Soloist is bigger with more volume than other kettles and sets I've used in the last 15 years. This provides some advantages I had not previously thought about.
Likes:
The kettle insulated handle allows me to pick up a kettle of boiling water without gloves or a bandana.
The kettle/cup cover lets me watch the water nearing a boil and keeps my coffee hot while I'm enjoying my morning coffee.
The stuff sack I use for a cozy for my evening meal.
The size of the kettle allows me to pack my cup, stove, lighter, hand cleaner and a camp towel all in one place. In other words, my kitchen is organized for the first time.

Dislikes:
The only thing I can think of is the overall bulk but there are compensating advantages.

I will probably continue to use the GSI Soloist Cookset for most of my backpacking since there are too many advantages to go back to the 'system' I used before.

This concludes my Long Term Report. I have really enjoyed testing the GSI Soloist Cookset!
I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and GSI for giving me the opportunity to test the GSI Soloist Cookset.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of GSI Outdoors gear
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