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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > Mons Peak 123 UL HE Cook set > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Mons Peak IX 123 UL HE Cook Set

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - September 15, 2018

Field Report - January 3, 2019

Long Term Report - February 26, 2019

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 65
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 230 lbs (105 kg)
Email address: kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

I do most of my hiking in the desert Southwest, but occasionally get up into the Pacific Northwest and my old stomping grounds in Northern Minnesota.  I am a comfort-weight guy when it comes to most gear, trying to stay as light as possible but I don't go to extremes.  My typical cook set is a Jetboil that I've had for over ten years, but I've used everything from wood burning, alcohol and white gas stoves.

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Manufacturer
Mons Peak IX
sw01
Manufacturer website
https://www.monspeakix.com/
Model tested
Trail 123 HE UL Cook Set with Stove HP BR
Year manufactured
2018
Country of manufacture
China
MSRP
USD $119.95
Warranty
3-year product lifetime warranty against defects of materials and craftsmanship from the date of purchase
Weight

Manufacturers spec
Measured
Small pot
5.4 oz (154 g)
5.4 oz (153 g)
Small pot cover
3.3 oz (94 g)
3.2 oz (92 g)
Large pot
6.6 oz (188 g)
6.5 oz (185 g)
Large pot cover
4 oz (114 g)
3.9 oz (111 g)
Stove
3.6 oz (103 g)
3.6 oz (102 g)
Total
22.9 oz (653 g)
22.6 oz (643 g)
Materials
Hard anodized aluminum alloy, stainless steel, elastomers
Heat output
10,200 BTU
Volume
Small pot
25.4 fl oz (750 mL)
Small pot cover
14 fl oz (400 mL)
Large pot
43.9 fl oz (1300 mL)
Large pot cover
20.6 fl oz (600 mL)
Measured Dimensions
(width x height)
Small pot
13.0 x 10.0 cm (5.12 x 3.94 in)
Small pot cover
12.0 x 6.0 cm (4.72 x 2.36 in)
Large pot
15.2 x 13.0 cm (5.98 x 5.12 in)
Large pot cover
14.1 x 6.7 cm (5.55 x 2.64 in)
Boil times

Manufacturer
Claim
Measured
Large pot with 1 L water 2:40
3:01
Small pot with 0.5 L water 1:20
1:42

Initial Inspection

The Mons Peak IX 123 UL HE Cook Set consists of two sets of heat-exchanger equipped pots and matching lids, one large set, one small set, plus a gas canister burner.  The lids can be used as a pot cover or as a frying pan (no heat exchanger when used as a frying pan).  The set nests together with a 250g (8.8 oz) gas canister inside a mesh bag to allow the entire cook set to be carried as one piece.

sw02The pots are made from anodized aluminum which will provide non-stick surfaces.  The swing-out handles are plastic-coated steel to allow the pot/lid to be picked up without a hotpad.  I have mixed feelings about this handle design - I have an older pot with a similar design and I managed to melt most of the plastic off the handles!

The pots sit directly on the burner legs as shown in the photo at left.  There are no interlocks, and the burner legs do not fit inside the heat exchanger ring, the pot just balances somewhat precariously on the legs.  The does make it easy to remove the pot, but I can see the pot potentially falling and spilling if bumped.  Care will need to be taken!

The lids/pans are too small for frying anything large, and the sides are quite high making it difficult to get a spatula in there to turn anything.  On the other hand, their substantial capacity should make them useful as cups or bowls for coffee or cereal in the morning, or serving soup.

The cook set does not come with an insulating cozy nor a windscreen, though the external ring around the heat exchanger will protect the flame above the burner stand from wind.  I normally make coffee with a French press attachment that mates with my stove, so I'll have to find a different solution for my morning caffeine dose since this cook set manufacturer does not offer such an accessory.

Although it is interesting that the whole set nests into one package, I wonder how often I will want to carry both the large and small pots.  The small pot is adequate for my solo trips, and the large pot will be nice if I have a companion with me and we want to share meals.

Trying it out

I attempted to replicate the manufacturer's claimed boil times for both pots.  I used 81 F (27.2 C) tap water and conducted my tests at home, indoors, at an altitude of 2700 ft (820 m).  At this altitude the boiling point is around 206.7 F (97.1 C).  The manufacturer did not provide the starting temperature of the water nor the altitude at which the measurement was made for their claims, but my conditions should provide an optimistic estimate since most of the backcountry water sources are far cooler than my tap water in Tucson.  My measurements showed boil times about 15-20% longer than claimed.

One thing I missed while conducting my little test was gradation marks on the inside of the pots to make it easy to measure typical fill volumes.  I commonly boil 2 cups (about 0.5 L) for my meals, and it would be nice if the pot made it easy for me to measure this out.

I also observed that this stove puts out quite a flame.  During my test my wife came out of a back room to see what the noise was, as the burner sounds like a small jet engine on takeoff and has an impressive flame intensity and size.  I was also able to adjust the flame down quite small, so I am hoping that simmering should be possible.

Summary

I can't wait to get out on the trail and make some meals with this cook set!  It offers a lot of options and a design that I am not familiar with, so I am intrigued with the possibilities for new culinary feats!  I'll be interested to see how accident-proof the handles and burner pot support are in practice.

Thanks for reading this Initial Report, stop back in two months for the Field Report.

Field Report

Test Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance Hiked
Altitude
Weather
Pots used
October 4-6, 2018
Long Valley campgrounds near Payson, Arizona
Arizona National Scenic Trail
1.3 miles (2.1 km)
6750-7300 ft
(2055-2225 m)
38-65 F
(3-18 C)
Sunny and clear
Small
October 22-25, 2018 Gila Wilderness in Western New Mexico Middle Fork
24 miles (39 km) 6800-7350 ft
(2073-2240 m)
32-65 F
(0-18 C)
Rain and more rain
Small
November 30 to December 6, 2018
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Corridor + Clear Cr
50 miles (81 km)
2480-7260 ft
(756-2213 m)
25-60 F
(-4-16 C)
Snow, rain, some sun
Small

Hammock Hang at Long Valley Campground

This was a 3-day 2-night car camping trip.  The hammock aficionados of the desert southwest get together every autumn at a campground up on the Mogollon Rim, the edge of the Colorado Plateau, just north of Payson, Arizona.  We compare rigs, exchange do-it-yourself ideas, drink adult beverages and eat enormous quantities of food around a campfire.

I used the stove to make coffee in the morning and to heat up one lunch of barbecued pork.  I used instant coffee on this trip, as I didn't bother to bring a coffee pot.  This worked very well.  The burner heated up the water very quickly.  I used the lid as a coffee cup, which worked surprisingly well.  The insulated handle was a little awkward, but kept me from burning my fingers on the hot cup/lid.

I was concerned when I heated up my lunch that the barbecue sauce would burn due to the sugar in it, but the stove has a remarkable simmer capability that allowed me, with frequent stirring, to heat up my sandwich meat nicely.  When I cleaned the pot I had no burn spots.  That's pretty darn good - I was impressed.

Non-Trail Use

I have a YouTube channel on backpacking topics, and I recently made a video on making and using ghee (clarified butter).  In the video I show how to use it for dry baking trail biscuits, in this case cheese biscuits.  I used the Mons Peak IX stove and small pot set for the filming.  In the following image taken from the video I am just getting ready to remove the biscuit from the pot and baking pan:

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The stove and pot worked wonderfully for this application.  Because the biscuit is made in a baking pan, there is nothing to stick or burn to the pot.  What really helps in dry baking is to have a very low simmer on the stove to avoid burning, and I was successful in baking the biscuit with no burn, but evenly and fully cooked!  Yeah!

In the video I also made re-hydrated eggs (scrambled) and buttered toast.  The following image is from the scene where I am just finishing up cooking the eggs, and the already-toasted (pan-fried actually) bread rounds are at the left:
sw04

I used a lot of butter/ghee to prevent the eggs from burning which worked quite well.  Note in the photo that I used the lid of the small pot as a frying pan.  Without the heat exchanger on the bottom, the pan/lid does not get too hot and burn the eggs.

Middle Fork of the Gila

sw05I've hiked the lower sections of the Gila extensively, but never made the drive up near the headwaters at Snow Lake before.  The weather forecast was for one night of rain, but that turned into rain every night and an all-day rain on my planned big mileage day.  This hike requires constant wading across the Gila River, so I was wet all day long from mid-thigh down. Combining that with hiking in the rain and colder temperatures I skirted with hypothermia a few times and had to severely curtail my expectations for how far I would trek.  It was a hike with lots of "character-building opportunities"...

I knew that I would be fighting the cold on this outing, so I provisioned myself with three hot meals per day plus coffee.  Many of the meals, like the one shown at left require two boils: one for hot water to re-hydrate the meat, and the second one to cook or heat the starch.  I dehydrate most of my dinners, the one at left is Instant Pot pressure-cooked chicken and instant polenta.  The fat used is the ghee described in the previous section.

Breakfast every day was instant coffee and oatmeal, so two boils there as well.  I took a gas canister with 75 g of fuel remaining (I always weight my fuel before departure) and a full 100g canister.  The 75 g canister ran out while cooking breakfast on day 4, so I was able to get 14 boils from 75 g of fuel.

sw06The photo at right shows my cooking setup on night one.  My Ursack food bag is on the right with my black Jetboil measuring cup beside it, sit pad in the middle, stove and lighter in the foreground, water and polenta at left (the chicken was re-hydrating inside the pot).

This was obviously not level ground (I often camp on hillsides with my hammock), and the tall grass made for a very uneven surface.  I was glad I brought my Jetboil canister stand to help steady the apparatus.  My lighter was almost out of fuel, so I struggled a bit to get the stove to light.  I missed having an integrated igniter built into the stove.

The biggest frustration is that the heat exchanger pot does not sit very well on the stove - if it slips off to the side just a little, it "falls" into the heat exchanger and that risks spilling the pot contents.  This seems like the biggest drawback of the whole system to me so far.

All my meals came together successfully.  I ended up using the pot lid for a coffee cup several mornings, and that works pretty well.  I continue to be impressed with the fast boil times, it's pretty amazing how fast I was able to heat water for coffee in the morning!

Grand Canyon

This was a 7 day/6 night backpack trip through the canyon.  We had planned to do a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, but a nasty blizzard and frigid temperatures at the North Rim persuaded us to change our plans.  We went as far as Cottonwood on the North Kaibab, then doubled back and spent two nights on the Clear Creek trail, my favorite winter Grand Canyon area.

I had hot breakfast every day, no hot lunches, and cooked every night save one during the week on the trail.  Each of us brought our own stove, so I brought just the small pot and lid.

Prior to this trip I purchased a lightweight, collapsible cup for drinking and measuring water (the red disk in the photo below).  This was indispensable during the trip.  Here's a photo of the cook kit taken at breakfast time at Clear Creek:

sw07

The only issue I had all week was that my scrambled eggs stuck a bit to the lid/frypan.  I used plenty of clarified butter to fry the eggs in, but towards the end of cooking they began to burn to the bottom of the pan.  Not unusual, and the pan cleaned up nicely as can be seen in the above photo.

I continue to be impressed with the short boil times - I was able to heat up everything from my hot water for my morning protein shake (as pictured above) to my dinners quite a bit faster than my companions.  Good stuff!

I had a very full pack on this trip, and the cookset was a bit clunky to pack up and stow in my pack, and it has a tendency to rattle around a bit.  The following photo was taken of the cook set at Phantom Ranch:

sw08

Summary

Overall the cookset has worked very well for me over the last few months.  The combination of the powerful stove and heat exchangers on the pots has resulted in fast and efficient boil times.

Good things:

  • Great low simmer capability on the stove.
  • Fast boil times.
  • No problems with food sticking to the pot.
  • The lid(s) can indeed be used successfully as a frying pan.

Questions:

  • I have yet to use the large pot.  Maybe I just don't camp with a partner often enough!
  • I sure would like a way to make coffee from grounds without bringing an additional pot.  Instant coffee works, but it's just not the same!
  • Need measurement marks (2 cups or 473 mL) on the inside of the pot so I don't have to bring a measuring cup.
  • Pots are not stable on the stove - they need to be designed to not fall off.  The lids/frying pans are no problem, I expect to move around a frying pan over the flame for even cooking, but there's no excuse for the pots not to interlock.

Long Term Report

Date
Location
Trail
Distance Hiked
Altitude
Weather
Pots used
January 22-23, 2019
Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona
Romero Canyon
12 miles (19 km)
2600-5500 ft
(790-1680 m)
Sunny and cold
25-55 F
(-4-13 C)
Small
February 4-5, 2019
Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Monument near Holbrook, Arizona
Wilderness Loop
9 miles (14.5 km)
5450-5800 ft
(1660-1770 m)
Partly cloudy, very windy, chilly: 35-55 F
(2-13 C)
Small
February 7-8, 2019
Gila River canyon near Kearny, Arizona
Section 16 of the Arizona Trail
27.5 miles
(41.4 km)
1730-2150 ft
(525-655 m)
Sunny, variable winds, 32-65 F (0-18 C)
Small

Romero Canyon

It had been over a month since I had spent a night in the backcountry, so I headed out to my favorite close-by spot.  The timing was good, as we've had excellent winter rains and I camp next to a stream/waterfall up there which had great flow.  It was a little cold, so I took extra insulation to stay warm in camp.

The side purpose of my hike was to film some footage for a YouTube video I was working on about dehydrating scrambled eggs.  I made dinner and breakfast in the Mons Peak pot, in both cases a scrambled egg burrito with chili mixed in.  Here's a frame from the video where I'm pouring boiling water from the pot into the freezer bag I used for rehydrating:

sw09

I sure do like the fast boil times on this stove/pot system.  Makes for a quick meal!  I can report that the stove worked just fine in the chilly early morning temperatures.  My water bottles were partially frozen, but the stove was fine!

Painted Desert Wilderness Loop

I've been itching to do a decent hike with an overnight in the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Monument for some time, and finally got around to it.  There is no trail, no cairns, just a route through the desert.  Good thing I have a GPS app on my iPhone, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to follow the route at all!  The challenge for the stove on this hike was wind - it blew all day and all night long while I was there, with gusts to about 35 mph (55 kph).  Stoves lose a great deal of efficiency in the wind, and since this stove did not come with a windscreen it had to do its best!

I made three meals with the stove on this trip: lunch day 1 (top photo below), dinner day 1, and breakfast day 2 (lower photo below):

sw10

Note the chunk of petrified wood to the left of the pot in the top photo - the stuff is everywhere along this hike!  It may not be apparent, but the lower photo (breakfast) was taken inside the vestibule of my tent.  It was way too windy and cold to be making coffee and breakfast outside, so I opted for the indoor method.  Some people frown on vestibule cooking due to the fire hazard, but with a carefully handled canister stove it is no big deal and something I've been doing since I started backpacking in Minnesota.

The stove performed well at lunch and breakfast, but struggled at dinner when the winds were really blowing.  I chose a campsite that was as protected from the wind as I could find, but it was still blowing enough that it impacted the stove's efficiency substantially.  I had it on full blast, but still struggled to get my noodles to boil.

Gila River Canyons - Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT)

I had been itching to do this section of the AZT for several years.  I had hoped to do a 3-day hike, but the loop I wanted to do on the far end was going to be problematic with water and route-finding, so I left this option for another day.  I made four meals with the cookset on this trip, two hot lunches a hot breakfast and hot dinner:

sw11

The cookset is hard to see in the upper-left photo, but it is down near my feet.  Upper-right is the potato soup lunch from day one.  Lower left is dinner on the boil - quite the plume of steam coming off the pot.  This set can really boil when I crank up the stove.  Lower-right is lunch day two, pork ramen.

The cookset performed flawlessly the entire trip.  It wasn't quite as windy as the last trip, so all my boil times were very reasonable.

Summary

Overall I was pretty dang happy with the performance of this cookset, with the exception of questionable performance in high wind.  The other issue I had was the precarious balance of the pots on the stove legs.  I wonder if the design couldn't be modified slightly to bring the heat exchanger outer ring down a bit so the pot rests securely on the stove legs, and the main flame protected from the wind.  I'm sure there would be drawbacks to changing this, but it might be worth consideration.


Many thanks to Mons Peak IX and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.


Read more reviews of Mons Peak IX gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > Mons Peak 123 UL HE Cook set > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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