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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Pinnacle Soloist > Owner Review by Andrew Buskov
GSI's ultimate, integrated cooking and eating solution.
Tester Biographical Information:
I’ve been backpacking for nearly 25 years, and have slowly started developing my ideal style. I’ve gotten my pack weight down to roughly 15 - 25 lbs (6.8 - 11.3 kg) before water, and am whittling it down every hike. Day hiking is nice, but getting out over multiple nights is really what I enjoy. I like to take my time and view the scenery as opposed to hiking hard. I also like being comfortable and insist on an air mattress. I usually tent or hammock, but stay in shelters when needed.
(From manufacturer's documentation and website)
The GSI Pinnacle Soloist is one of the various nForm integrated cook sets offered by GSI. It includes a 1.1 L (37.3 fl oz) non-stick and hard-anodized aluminum pot with integrated potholder / storage clamp, a crushproof cooking lid that doubles as a cup top for use with hot liquids, a cup / bowl with integrated insulating sleeve, a storage sack / wash basin that is welded and sealed for holding water, as well as a telescoping spork and stove protection pouch. In essence, it is designed for ultralight backpacking, while still having some of the extra features that a true minimalist might be willing to give up.
I have owned this item since roughly August 2009 and throughout that time it has become my standard cook set for most of my backpacking and hiking trips. Within that time frame I have used the Pinnacle Soloist on approximately 18 different occasions ranging from family day hikes and geocaching trips to multi-night distance hikes at high altitude (well they were high for this lowlander). It has been used in weather ranging from 15 F (-9 C) with blowing icy sleet and snow to blistering temperatures over 100 F (37 C) with full sun, no shade, and no wind. In short, it's been used from one miserable extreme to the other as well as all the pleasurable weather conditions in between. Altitudes where I have used this cook set have ranged from roughly 375 ft (110 m) around the western Kentucky area to over 10,500 ft (3200 m) at Thunder Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Soon after opening and inspecting all instructions I washed the whole set to get all manufacturing oils and detergents off prior to my first real use. Immediately I noticed how well the pan was coated. Using Teflon with Radiance technology (as mentioned on the manufacturer's website), GSI has created a pot that almost repelled anything that touched it. This was easily noticed during rinsing as the water poured out completely with not a single little drop remaining inside. It reminded me of the coating that I apply to my windshields; water just doesn't want to hang around. This is seen in the photo of boiling water. The water droplets on the side of the pot quickly form together and roll back into the pot without leaving a streak. With the Infinity (material the bowl, lid, and spork are made from) bowl the water also didn't stick, though it didn't seem to be "repelled" as much as with the pot. Either way, it was easily apparent how nice cleanup was going to be with these items out on the trail.
As mentioned above, GSI has developed the use of the nForm storage concept. This is truly ingenious as everything packs down into a nice tight little package that is no bigger than the storage sack itself. Everything "nests" either inside or on top of the previous item placed in the pan such that it closes up nice and tight for packing. The only caveat to this is when I use a large canister, which I will describe further in detail below. This also allows me some extra room for a lighter, salt / pepper shaker, and various packaged condiments if I choose. I've even packed a few bags of herbal tea in there from time to time just so I wouldn't have to dig through my food sack in the wee hours of the morning.
The only canister stove I currently own, largely in part to the exceptional quality and lack of need for another, is the Snow Peak Giga Power stainless version. Because of this, it has been the only stove I've packed with the cook set. I have, however, played around with a friend's Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium stove. I mention this because the packability of the GSI Pinnacle Soloist can at times depend on the stove that is to be packed. For example; the Giga Power has four long wire arms which pivot above the head into a tight package. However, the LiteMax has three pressed aluminum arms that pivot around the shaft below and above the head during packing. As such, the LiteMax is much easier to pack inside the Soloist when using a large canister than my Giga Power is. This is definitely something to consider when purchasing the cook set.
In the end though, I am still able to get the Giga Power, a large fuel canister, salt shaker, small lighter, as well as all Soloist items packed nicely though it does take a bit more effort than when I'm using a smaller sized canister. To get the package as small as possible not only do I have to remove the protective cap from the fuel canister but I also have to put the stove inside the cup a specific direction so that it the piezo igniter can nest along the side of the cup rather than on top of the canister valve. I must also pack the spork on the bottom between the canister and the pot. This is the only configuration I have found that, while still a bit bulky as seen by the gap between the lid and pot body in the pictures, still allows the pot holder / clamp to keep the unit together nicely for storage.
The time to obtain a boiling pot of water was extremely fast. I was able to boil 16 oz (0.47 L) of fluid in 1 minute 59 seconds, roughly 20 seconds faster than I was able to achieve with my previous cook set. Granted, there were likely minor meteorological differences that may have resulted in some of the time differences, but the altitude and general location of the two tests were very similar. I would definitely have to attribute at least some of this decrease in boiling time to the coating that is used for the pot itself. GSI states that the "secret lies in a specially-formulated topcoat engineered to enhance heat dispersion and virtually eliminate hot spots."
Cooking food in the pot just as painless as boiling water. I usually stick to dehydrated food during my multi-night outings, but have taken eggs, bacon, cans of soup, and even leftover chili to cook or reheat inside the pot. At no time did any of the food stick to either the pot or the cup, though I have at times had some of the powdery ingredients cake up around the rivets for the handle that are inside the pot. This caking of powdery ingredients is also very noticeable around the telescoping guides for the spork. I've even burned eggs slick up inside the pot and not had them stick. I know it may sound funny, but this actually made my food taste better and my dining experience happier. Maybe this was just because I knew I wasn't going to have to slave over the wash bin scrubbing for hours, but either way it was enjoyable. Cleanup is easy with a small sponge and a couple drops of detergent just to loosen up the food particles.
The durability of the cook set is superior. There is some minor scratching on the inside of the pot bottom from the base of large fuel canisters. This has not affected boiling or the non-stick coating that I've noticed though. There is also some scratching on the side of the pot where the outside edge of the cup sits when it is placed in the bottom of the pot and a small fuel canister is carried. I attribute this scratching to various utensils, salt / pepper, and other items getting lodged between the cup and the pot during transport. This has also not affected the non-stick properties.
The included storage sack / sink is made from thick durable nylon. It feels very thick as it is completely coated inside with a waterproofing material. The seams are also sealed with additional waterproof tape. At the top of the sack is a thinner nylon band that has a thin nylon cord running through it to cinch up the sack. The clasp is a small orange spring clasp that grips the nylon cord very well. Although the clasp is relatively small, it is easy to grip making opening and closing the sack simple. Getting the pot inside the sack is not as easy as I'd like though. As the pot is very snug within its sack, the pot handle "clamp" tends to get hung on the nylon band when stowing. Having the nylon band a bit wider, while still being allowed to cinch down to the top of the pot, would allow the pot to slide inside the stuff sack more smoothly.
The other negative aspect that I have with the set is the lack of various measurement graduations. The only measurements found are inside the cup. There is a graduated line that has milliliter measurements on one side and ounce measurements on the other. While this works for a good majority of the pre-packaged food on the market, I have found a few brands that use cup or quart measurements. It would be nice if the other side of the bowl had additional measurements on it. This would eliminate the need to remember conversion tables and ensure that the proper amount of liquid needed is not miscalculated.
In closing, and to be quite honest / blunt, I don't see myself purchasing another cook set any time soon. While it may be titled the GSI Pinnacle Soloist, it has enough items that I can comfortably feed 2 as long as we have bottled or sacked water. Until items start sticking, the handle falls off the side of the pot, or the plastic materials break this will remain my main cooking set for the types of trips I generally take. In addition, I would definitely recommend the GSI Pinnacle Soloist cook set to my friends or others. In fact, I have done just that multiple times.
Noted Positives & Negatives:
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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Pinnacle Soloist > Owner Review by Andrew Buskov
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