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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Outdoors ULSoloist Cook System > Test Report by Gail Staisil

GSI Ultralight Soloist Cookware

Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan


Page Contents:



Initial Report:
GSI Ultralight Soloist Cookware
April 9, 2008

Tester Information

Name:
Gail Staisil
Age: 55
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 138 lb (63 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman2001 AT yahoo DOT com

For the last 18 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.


Product Information



Manufacturer
GSI Outdoors
Website http://gsioutdoors.com
Contact
1.800.704.4474
Model Ultralight Soloist Cookware
Color
Charcoal pot, orange bowl, and clear lid
Packed System Dimensions (Manufacturer's and Tested Weight)
 5.15 in X 5.15 in X 5.6 in (13.08 cm X 13.08 cm X 14.22 cm)
Pot Weight (Tested)
6.8 oz (193 g)
Strainer/Sip-it Lid (Tested)
0.8 oz (23 g)
Insulated Cup/Bowl (Tested)
1.5 oz 42.5 g)
Storage Sack for the whole set (Tested)
1.1 oz (31 g)
Stove Sack (Tested)
0.3 oz (8.5 g)
Manufacturer's  Weight  (TOTAL)
0.594 lb or 9.2 oz (270 g)
Tested Weight (TOTAL)
10.5 oz (298 g)
Model Year 2008
Country of Manufacturer
USA  (Spokane, Washington)  Made in China
MSRP $29.95 US

 
 


Initial Impressions and Product Description
 
The GSI Soloist Cookware System belongs to the ultralight category of cookware that is offered by the manufacturer. They make a large variety of cookware catering to every category of camper including gourmet and base campers. According to the manufacturer, the Soloist System is an "integrated cooking and eating system". There are essentially four main components in the set but the manufacturer also includes a stove bag.


Features1.1 L pot and 14 fl oz bowl
 

The Soloist set arrived in perfect shape and it appears exactly like it did on the website.
The main component of the system is the 1.1 L (1.16 qt) pot. The pot is made out of Halulite which is a proprietary hard anodized alloy. It is reported to have many fine qualities. They include its lightweightness (reported as light as Titanium), it's high heat conductivity with even heat that promotes saving fuel, and its surface durability that's not supposed to scratch or show burn circles.

The pot measures approximately 4.5 in (11.5 cm) in diameter and is over 4.5 in (11.5 cm) high. It features a 5 in (12.7 cm) long locking handle that can be swung up and locked over the top of the pot so that the parts of the system fit together before placing it in its stuff sack (it could also be stored this way without the sack).

The insulated bowl/cup is made out of Cascadian which is a polypropylene material that is lightweight and flexible. The plastic-type bowl reportedly holds 14 fl oz (414 ml) and it measures about 4 in (10 cm) in diameter at the top lip and has a depth of around 2.5 in (6.4 cm).

The bowl has a removable circular 2 in (5 cm) wide piece of neoprene-type material that stretches and fits around its sides. This material acts both as a non-slip barrier for holding the bowl and possesses thermal qualities to keep a drink hot . 

A pot lid made out of Lexan is included in the set. This resin plastic-type material is lightweight and cut resistant.
It also reportedly doesn't stain or hold flavors. The lid is multi-functional and performs as both a sip-it lid on the bowl or as a strainer for the cook pot. While the lid perches easily over the top of the pot with the knob on the lid facing upward, it sits the opposite (knob down) on the top of the bowl. It has a much tighter fit on top of the bowl so that it needs to be pressed downward to snap in place. This allows the bowl to serve as a sip-it cup with the lid staying tightly in place.GSI Soloist System
Packing instructions
The final component of the set is the stuff sack. This waterproof sack with welded seams is only slightly larger than the pot and it features a drawstring and cordlock at the top. It's also intended to be multifunctional and can be alternatively used as a wash basin at camp.

Not only do all of the pieces fit into the stuff sack but there is a diagram on the side of the pot that shows the order of preference for their placement. The diagram also includes placement of a fuel canister, stove, and folding utensils that are not included in the set.

As previously mentioned, the manufacturer does also includes a stove bag presumably to keep a stove from scratching the interior of the pot while being transported. This 3 in (7.6 cm) by 5 in (12.7 cm) flat soft bag has an overlap with a Velcro-type closure. It weighs only 0.3 oz (8.5 g) and would most likely be used for canister-type stoves. I plan to use both an alcohol stove and an Esbit stove with the set so they don't fit the sack. I will find another use for the sack such as to hold utensils or similar.

 
Cautions and Dangers


There are a number of warnings, cautions and danger indicators that the manufacturer lists in their accompanying brochure (printed in English and French). Most of them are common sense however they are worth stating. They include not exposing the cookware to extreme temps or allowing the pot to boil dry, to only use the pot and strainer lid on a stove top and not over a camp fire or household type ovens including microwaves. It also suggests to use caution when grasping the handle, not to expose the handle to direct flame and not to separate the the bowl and lid when they are full.

Further possible dangers that are noted include always using the handle in the locked position, avoiding steam burns by placing the pot lid's vent holes away from handle, stove controls and self when cooking and holding the pot lid securely against the pot when straining or pouring.
 
 

Care
 

The manufacturer suggests washing the cookware with hot water and mild detergent and drying immediately at home before using. In the field, they suggest it can be cleaned out with sand and a clean dry cloth. Boiling water can be used as a soaking and cleansing agent and straining food bits into a waste container should be done to limit environmental impact. The components of the system should also be dry before storage to prevent mold. Reportedly microwaves and dishwashers may prematurely age the components. Food should not be stored in the pot or bowl long term.

So far, I'm pleased with the GSI Ultralight Soloist Cookware. While I have already used it during a four-day backpack, I will save the field information for the next report. The set had arrived just before my last trip's departure. I have many more trips planned during the entire testing period so I am looking forward to its continued use.
 
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Field Report:
GSI Soloist Cookware
June 10, 2008

Locations and Conditions

During the field test period, I have used the GSI Soloist Cookware during several extended trips. They included three four-day backpacking trips for a total of 12 days. Locations ranged from and included conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to lakeshores and hiking trails
. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1200 ft (366 m).

April Backpacking Trip:

Location: Mackinac State Forest - Lower Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Bushwhack, partly snow-covered forest and swamps
Distance: 13 mi (21 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days
Backpack Weight (included transport of snowshoes, traction devices, etc): 42 lb (19 kg) 
Sky and Air Conditions: Sunny, partly cloudy
Precipitation:
None
Temperature Range: 23 F (-5 C) to 63 F (17 C)


Early May Backpacking Trip:

Location: North Country Trail - Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Maintained trail
Distance: 41.3 m (66.5 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days
Backpack Weight: 30 lb (13.6 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, partly sunny, rain
Precipitation:
0.15 in (0.38 cm)
Temperature Range: 34 F (1 C) to 62 F (17 C)

Late May Backpacking Trip:

Location: Fox River Pathway and Lakeshore Trail - Lake Superior State Forest, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Maintained trail
Distance: 58.25 mi (94 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days
Backpack Weight: 28 lb (12.7 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, rain, snow
Precipitation:
0.50 in (1.27 cm)
Temperature Range: 37 F to 54 F (3 C to 12 C) (mostly 40 F to 45 F/ 4 C to 7 C)
 

Performance in the Field

First Trip Details/Observations

The GSI Soloist Cookware has been used for a total of 12 days while backpacking. It had literally arrived hours before the first backpacking trip in the field test period. I quickly washed the components and changed out my old pot, cup etc. so that the new set could immediately be used in the field. I normally use a 0.8 L (0.85 qt) pot compared to the larger 1.1 L (1.16 qt) pot and a light plastic 12 fl oz (355 ml) cup compared to the bigger 14 fl oz  (414 ml) bowl.
GSI Soloist Set with Trangia Stove set-up
For this trip I had planned to pack a Trangia alcohol stove with stand and fuel. I wasn't sure if I was going to need to melt snow at some point during the trip as the winter still lingered in the area where I was headed (I didn't want to carry a white gas stove system for this purpose as I do in the dead of winter but my Esbit stove requires too many tabs for such purposes).

Anyway, I fit the bowl, alcohol stove, stand, matches, circular stove base and pot gripper all inside of the new pot. The fuel bottle and bulky windscreen was packed separately.
Being in a hurry before left, I had packed an MSR windscreen and stove base which would work well enough but I noted to look for a lighter solution next time I went backpacking. 

During this trip I was cooking for myself and I don't need much water for each meal and drink. I filled the pot up approximately half way and put on the lid. I lit the alcohol stove and set the pot on the Trangia triangular stove base that supported the pot nicely on uneven ground. This was a bushwhacking trip so there was no such thing as flat cooking spaces. The alcohol stove burns very quietly and it's often hard to know if it's heating properly unless I remove the windscreen and check the flame.


Lexan Lid

What I immediately loved about the clear Lexan lid on the pot was that I could see water droplets forming on the lid and I knew that the stove was heating properly. I was able to see the water come to a full boil. What fun! The lid just sits on the pot, not tightly but just right. Instructions did relate to hold the lid in place when pouring the contents so I gently placed one of my fingers on the top knob. The pouring spout works quite nicely without any
loss of contents. I also love the long handle on the pot. It is easily grasped without a pot holder or grips. I won't pack those again for this particular set up.
Tester sipping chai from the sip-it bowl

For most of that trip I used the bowl for my chai tea or hot chocolate. I put the powdered drink mix into the bowl and poured hot water into it, I then stirred the mixture and snapped the pot lid onto the bowl. It makes a firm seal and fits snugly. This keeps the drink hot and provides a sip-it lid to drink from the bowl.

The only downside to using the lid for this purpose is that I often have extra hot water left in the pot that I like to keep hot. The lid becomes non-usable for the pot. I had to find something else to put over the top of the pot so I temporarily used my windscreen.

I especially like the neoprene-wrapped bowl as it keeps my fingers warm from the contents but not so hot that I can't hold it. I often don't
continuously drink my hot drink so I noticed that the drink stayed a lot warmer than my usual thin-walled plastic cup that doesn't have a lid or neoprene cover.


One Bonus Turns into Several

During this trip, I decided to try using the stuff sack as a wash basin. I normally don't pack such an option so it was quite the luxury. Being dual purpose will give me an incentive to pack it often. The soloist set can be easily packed without the stuff sack, but it does provide damage protection from other contents in my pack. The outside of the sack is made of a slippery fabric so it's easier to slip down into my pack too.

I also used the stuff sack to retrieve water from a river. Since the sack is very rigid, it does a fine job for this purpose. It doesn't hold a lot but it then can be used to repeatedly fill my narrow-mouthed water bottles and 3 qt (3 L) hydration bag.

Another bonus that I came to quickly discover is using the stuff sack as a cozy for my dinner that is hydrating in a Ziplock Bag. The stuff sack is more rigid and shaped than my old carrying sack that I often used for a cozy. I don't have to worry about it falling over. It also will replace homemade reflective cozies that I sometimes have carried for that purpose.


Second and Third Trip's Observations
Pot with Esbit Stove and titanium windscreen
During my next two four-day trips, the weather was still cold but I knew I wouldn't have to melt snow for cooking purposes. I used an ultralight titanium Esbit stove with the cook pot instead. As this particular stove is very tiny, the pot had to be set on it just right in order for it to stay centered. This time I also used an ultralight titanium wind screen and my normal stove base (made out of a foil pan). Since the former is stored in a rolled up position, it also fit handily inside the pot.

Besides the neoprene-wrapped bowl, I also stored my matches, four days of wrapped Esbit Fuel (12 cubes), stove, windscreen, stove base and everything except my (too long) spoon all right in the pot. I actually had leftover room and probably could store an additional dozen or more Esbit cubes as well
for a longer trip.

When using the Esbit tabs, I found that I had to experiment a bit more with how much water I could put in the pot and bring it to a boil. My first few attempts were short sighted as the water didn't boil quick enough and my Esbit burned up. I had to use another half cube of Esbit to bring it to a boil. I was more careful after that to just heat the amount of water that I needed for one meal (normally 20 fl oz to 24 fl oz/594 ml to 710 ml). The pot simply holds more water than I need at a time so I overestimate when I fill it.


Another Bonus

I have continued to use the storage sack for multiple purposes during the second and third trip. In addition to the previously mentioned bonuses, it has been especially nice for storing the pot that becomes blackened by Esbit fuel. I placed a removable circular piece of a plastic bag on the inside bottom of the storage sack so that the stickiness from the Esbit on the pot wouldn't soil the stuff sack for other purposes. Burning Esbit fuel does leaves the bottom of the pot rather dirty and I usually never clean it off fully in the field. I used to carry a large size Ziplock to store the pot I used but I don't need to now.

 

Care and Durability

As imagined, the exterior of the pot stayed in perfect shape when burning alcohol fuel throughout my first trip, but the Esbit fuel made it a bit of a mess during the last two trips. I cleaned the pot off at home after the trips with a nylon scrubber. The Esbit has left marks on the bottom of the pot that are hard to scrub but that seems to be normal for most pots.

The Lexan lid and flexible orange bowl remains in great condition. The interior of the bowl is a bit scratched but that is likely due to my using a titanium spoon to stir or mix the contents of my drinks.

The handle of the pot has a bit of the surface plastic scrapped off. At first I couldn't figure out why that occurred but after studying it, I realized the handle was pushed inadvertently inside the pot on at least one occasion by the pressure of other items in my pack. The defect so far is mostly cosmetic.

As far as cooking, I've mostly boiled water in the pot. I did cook a macaroni and cheese dish in the pot itself. I stirred the contents frequently and none stuck to the pot. Although most of the liquid was absorbed in cooking, I did use the strainer lid to drain a bit of the liquid before adding the cheese. I was easily able to clean the pot by stirring in a bit of clean water and using a wet towel.

 

Storage

The GSI Soloist Cook System has been carried in two different types of backpacks. It has packed in both rather well and takes up comparable space to my former system. The packability of this product is excellent and I don't have to worry about the contents shifting.
Although this pot/lid and bowl system is a bit heavier than my old system, it definitely has more advantages. I did reduce some weight in other ways by changing out additional equipment such as my windscreen to a lighter one, and eliminating the pot gripper. I do love the portability of this system and how everything compacts with no wasted space.

So far, I am very pleased with the versatility and convenience of this set. Even though it is classified by the manufacturer in the ultralight category, it certainly is not the lightest option in the market but I have readily adapted to its attributes. I will likely continue to use my Esbit stove for some of my trips but I will also use a lighter Vargo Titanium Decagon Alcohol Stove for my trip to the Tetons in August. I will also be cooking for two people so I will communicate my impressions of using the pot for that purpose. It certainly is much bigger than I need for myself so I'm hopeing it will be suitable for two people.
 
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Long Term Report:
GSI Soloist Cookware
August 11, 2008

Locations and Conditions

During the long term period, I have used the GSI Soloist Cookware during several extended trips. They included a two-day backpacking trip, and an eleven-day backpacking/plus basecamp trip for a total of thirteen additional days. Locations ranged from and included conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to lakeshores and mountainous terrain
. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to over 10,700 ft (3260 m). 

 
July Backpacking Trip:

Location: Grand Island National Recreation Area, Michigan USA
Type of Trip: Maintained trail
Distance: 22 mi (35.5 km)
Length of Trip:
2 days
Backpack Weight: 22.5 lb (10.2 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, Partly Sunny, High Humidity, Windy, Extreme Flying Bugs
Precipitation:
None 
Temperature Range: 64 F to 78 F (18 C to 26 C)   

August Backpacking Trip and Basecamp Trip:

Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA
Type of Trip: Maintained trail backpacking trip (6 days) plus basecamp trip (5 days)
Distance: 72.5 mi (117 km) trip total (46.9 mi/76 km) backpacking, (25.6 mi/41 km) dayhiking
Length of Trip:
11 days total
Backpack Weight: Approx 32 lb/14.5 kg (included bear canister, two-person tent)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly Sunny, Partly Cloudy, Low Humidity
Precipitation:
0.03 in (0.08 cm) Rain
Temperature Range: 36 F to 85 F (2 C to 29 C) 


Performance in the Field

Summary

During the entire testing period I have found the GSI Soloist Cookware Set to be a fine substitute for my former cookware set. It was my only cookware set for a total of 25 days of camping.

Even though it is deemed a "Soloist Set", for me it has worked best when I am cooking for two people. My own needs don't warrant the extra liquid capacity it provides when I am doing solo trips. This certainly wouldn't be an issue for those who require more water for their individual meals and drinks. Most of my solo meals only require two or more cups (16 fl oz to 24 fl oz/470 ml to 473 ml) of water. That's enough for both making a cup of chai or hot chocolate and the other cup for reconstituting my dried food.

However, I do like the fact that the pot is large enough that I can carry my stove, rolled-up windscreen and foldable baseplate all inside of the pot making an additional stuff sack unnecessary.

Despite its large size, the soloist pot shines in its durability, cleanability and my most favorite attribute is the coated handle on the pot. It has virtually eliminated the need to carry pot grippers. I have also greatly enjoyed the way the cookware set stacks together to make a very compact unit.


First Trip Details/Observations
Soloist pot on top of Vargo Stove on the beach
During my short trip to Grand Island Recreation Area in Michigan, I used the GSI Soloist Cookware with a Vargo Titanium Alcohol Stove. This stove is very lightweight (1.2 oz/34 g) and has three raised bumps for the pot support. I wondered if I would have difficulty with the pot staying on the supports but it held its place well on the uneven sandy ground.

Because this was my first time using the stove in preparation for a mountain trip in August, I experimented with boil times and the amount of denatured alcohol needed as I would be cooking for two on the next trip. Instead of my usual two or more cups (470 ml plus) of water, I poured four cups (940 ml) of water in the pot. It still had room for more water so I knew it would work well for the next trip.


Second Trip Observations

I extensively used the same set up as above on my eleven-day trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. I was highly pleased with the capacity of the pot while cooking for two. The setup worked well to boil water for my sister and I for all our breakfast and dinner meals.

I continued to use the bowl for my drinking purposes. It is easy to clean and just the right size for my chai tea. During this trip I didn't use the lid as a sip-it lid as the weather was warmer and I didn't need to keep the liquid hot. However I did use it as a pot lid as intended.

I have continued to use the provided cookware stuff sack as both a carrying case and food cozy. It keeps the set together and its use keeps other items in my pack clean. It has also come in handy to set water out to heat in the sun for clean up purposes. The black color absorbs heat and the cold water heats up fast.


Durability

The GSI Soloist Set has held up extremely well during the entire testing period. The pot is somewhat discolored on the outside (note picture) but that is to be expected due to using it while cooking with Esbit tabs during the field test period. The inside of the orange-colored Cascadian bowl is somewhat cosmetically scratched as I have used it with either a Light My Fire Spork or a long-handled titanium spoon. The latter most likely caused the surface scratches. Although the bowl is flexible, it has retained its round shape.

I will continue to use the GSI Ultralight Soloist Cookware for many of my future trips as it has more favorable attributes than not for my style of backpacking.


Pros
  • Great packability
  • Long wrapped cook handle eliminates need for pot gripper
  • Versatile Lexan lid
  • Neoprene wrap on bowl protects hands from too much heat
  • Stuff sack can be used as wash basin, food cozy and storage sack
  • Flexible bowl seems unbreakable

Cons
  • Lightweight but not ultralight!
  • More pot than I need for one person

Tester Remarks 

Thanks to GSI Outdoors and BackpackGearTest for making possible the great opportunity to test the Ultralight Soloist Cookware. This report concludes the test series.  

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