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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > GSI Halulite Minimalist > Test Report by Derek Hansen
GSI Outdoors - Halulite Minimalist
Test Series by Derek Hansen
16 Apr 2010
The Halulite Minimalist is marketed as a one-person backpacking cooking pot/mug. The package also includes a plastic and silicone lid with a pour/sipper slot; a silicone pot gripper; an insulating sleeve; and a collapsible, telescoping “foon” (fork/spoon combo).
The 0.6 L (20 oz) pot is designed so all the packaged components can fit inside, including a 4 oz (110 g) fuel canister and a miniature stove, which are sold separately. The pot is composed of a “proprietary alloy” called “Halulite.” When I called GSI Outdoors, they confirmed it is an aluminum pot created from high-grade 3000-series aluminum, which, according to the International Alloy Designation System, is aluminum alloyed with manganese, and can be work-hardened. The pot has also been hard-anodized. Hard anodized, according to About.com:
GSI Outdoors claims their Halulite aluminum alloy is “as light as titanium,” and “conducts heat better and more evenly.”
The lid is marked as a #7 recyclable plastic, composed of co-polyester and acetyl. The lid has a removable rubber ring that helps create a seal inside the pot. The lid has three holes: one sipper hole and two small pin-holes.
The lid is intended to be reversible. While cooking, I turn the lid upside down for a “soft” seal. With the lid turned around, it can be pushed into the pot to create a “hard” seal to create a sipper mug.
The food-grade silicone pot gripper has a small magnet embedded inside that allows it to attach to a fuel canister, for example, while not in use. It is used by inserting two fingers into the pocket and my thumb opposite to pinch the pot. The silicone pocket keeps my fingers away from any scalding liquid for a short period of time.
The insulating neoprene sleeve slips easily over the aluminum pot to provide a protective barrier against a hot pot, and to also keep contents warm. The bottom of the sleeve has a textured rubber material with a hole in the center. The hole allows for air to escape when inserting the pot into the sleeve.
The foon (combination fork and spoon) is made of plastic. The handle slides over the spoon/fork to compact it for storage.
At first blush, this cook set is very chic. The pot is basic, but the set is well thought out so everything can nest together and work together as a system. With a lightweight stove, this really looks like a great minimalist cook set.
Light as Titanium?
I was excited to test the Minimalist because it claimed to be as light as titanium with better heat conductivity. When I did my first measurements, however, I was disappointed to find that the Minimalist pot was heavier than my similarly sized 0.6 L (20 oz) titanium pot. What was the Minimalist made of? I did some investigating, including calling GSI Outdoors, and found that the pot is made of an aluminum alloy. I was hoping “Halulite” was some new space-age material. Turns out, “Halulite” is just a marketing term for GSI Outdoor’s proprietary aluminum alloy.
In my phone conversation, GSI Outdoors told me they use a high-grade 3000-series aluminum alloy. I received a reply from Michael Skillingberg of Aluminum.org and he confirmed that many cooking products use the 3000-series alloy. So much for the “light as” claim. The pot is still light, and much of that is achieved with its simplistic, no-frills design. It’s just a pot!
I was, however, happy to find that my measurements were pretty much exactly what the manufacturer reported. I just do not find any evidence that the “Halulite” aluminum alloy is as light as titanium.
The pot on the left is 0.6 L (20 oz) titanium with integrated handles, weighing 2.6 oz (74 g). On the right is the GSI Halulite Minimalist, aluminum alloy, weighing 3.45 oz (98 g).
My next test was to satisfy my curiosity about heat conductivity. I didn’t want to do anything really scientific, just match the Minimalist against my similarly-sized titanium pot in a semi-controlled environment: my kitchen stove. I measured 2 cups (473 ml) of cold tap water into each pot and lit the gas burners on high and started my timer. Now, to be equally unfair, my titanium pot had a very rounded bottom, compared to the Minimalist with a very square bottom. I was certain the round-bottom titanium pot would get to a rolling boil before the Minimalist. Both pots began showing micro-bubbles after a few minutes, but to my surprise (and delight), the Minimalist got to a rolling boil first, at 6 minutes 18 seconds. It took the titanium pot an additional two minutes to get to a rolling boil.
I don’t plan to do any more head-to-head comparisons, as this is not the purpose of this test series, but this little experiment did satisfy me that the pot conducts heat well.
When I first heard of the magnetic pot gripper, I was envisioning a traditional gripper that magnetically attached. When I saw the silicon “pincher,” it made more sense. The magnet is only used to stow the gripper when not in use. The magnet does not attach to the aluminum pot, but I tested it on a fuel canister and it worked great. I typically do not carry my canister stove when I backpack as it is pretty heavy compared to my home-made alcohol stove. I might have a few car camping trips where I can lug my canister stove to test the magnetic gripper. My only worry with the gripper is that the magnet would also help keep the gripper off the ground and clean. Without a convenient magnet attach point, I’m going to have to think of a good place to protect it. With two cups (0.5 L) of water in the pot, the gripper touches the water, so contamination is an issue.
When I tested the pot gripper with boiling water in the pot, the silicone protected my finger tips from the searing heat for a few seconds, but I couldn't hold onto the pot for too long because eventually the heat penetrated and became too hot to touch. I think this will be long enough to do basic cooking chores.
The retractable plastic foon is a novelty item that I’m most worried about using. The sliding mechanism snaps into position when fully extended, but it does feel flimsy and I’m worried about breaking it. While examining the spoon, my son successfully dismantled it and installed it backwards. I didn’t realize it was that easy to take apart, and I was also amazed my 6-year-old did it so easily. I was able to fix it by popping out the rubber stopper at the end and sliding the foon end the correct way.
The foon had a sticker that wrapped around both sides of the surface that explain how to safety retract the spoon without jamming your fingers. When I removed this sticker, residue remained on the plastic that has proven difficult to remove. I’ve scrubbed and scraped, but it is going to take a little while to completely remove the sticky residue. I’m a little frustrated about this, but I am confident I can defeat this sticky obstacle.
When upside down, the lid rests lightly on top of the pot. However, when I correctly fit the lid on the pot, the fit is tight and secure. So tight, in fact, that it is difficult to remove. Very difficult. The manufacturer recommends getting the rubber wet before installing, which I did, but that didn’t seem to help when I tried to pry off the lid. The best solution I could find was to firmly pull with my finger tips (there isn’t much to grab or hold on to) and slowly pull until the lid eventually opened. I’ve tried digging my fingernails into the rubber, but that only revealed that the rubber is removable. It did help remove the lid, but it also removed the rubber o-ring too. I’m glad to find the ring removable because it will make it easier to clean. The lid is just very, very difficult to remove once it is installed correctly.
The sipper hole works great! I fixed myself some hot cocoa and the drink stayed warm for about hour with the cozy wrapped around the pot. There are two pin holes that allow air to enter and escape, which makes drinking easy. Stopping one of the pine holes reduces the sipping hole to a slow drip.
I pulled out a few stoves to test how stable the pot would be on different surfaces. I had to modify the Esbit stove, but that was no problem. All of the stoves (see image) worked fine, but I preferred the low-profile stoves because they lowered the center of gravity for this somewhat tall pot. The canister stove was the most wobbly of all the stoves, but this is expected with such a high center of gravity.
PRO— Components easily nest inside the pot; simple and lightweight design; integrated cozy.
CON— Not as light as titanium; fitted lid is very difficult to remove; I'm worried about the durability of the plastic spoon; Worried about keeping the pot gripper clean when not in use and attached to a metal object.
13 Jul 2010
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I was able to use the Minimalist during 10 days of backpacking and camping. I also packed the pot set on numerous day hikes in northern Arizona, although I didn’t have the chance to use it then. In addition, I’ve had fun using the pot set at home to cook meals with my kids, and at work where I periodically prepared meals at my office.
Here are a few highlighted trips.
May 15–16, 2010 ~ Pumphouse Wash, Arizona. One of two overnight camping trips with my three oldest sons. The elevation was around 6000 ft (1829 m), heavily forested, with a river flowing down into the slot canyons of Oak Creek. Low temperature was 29 F (-2 C) and the high was 68 F (20 C).
May 28-29 ~ Sycamore Rim Trail, Kiabab National Forest. After taking my sons on consecutive overnight trips, I needed to take my daughter, age 8, to make it fair. We backpacked near the Sycamore Creek and hammock camped. We also hiked KA Hill, elevation 7287 ft (2221 m), an elevation change of 1017 ft (310 m) from our camping spot. I carried food for both of us and my pack weighed 12 lbs (8 kg). The low temperature was 35 F (2 C) and the high was 74 F (23 C).
July 1–4 ~ Fremont Indian State Park, Utah. At an elevation of 6000 ft (1829 m), I expected this central mountain area to be more heavily forested, especially with a major river and several tributaries running through the area. Instead, this area of central Utah was arid, hot, and wind-stricken. This event was a major car camping expedition with the extended family.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I’ve really grown accustomed to packing this stove on all my trips, including day hikes. It packs so easily and compactly that I don’t even think twice about taking it, even if I don’t have plans on using it. It’s become part of my essential list because it’s so easy to take. My packing list with this stove hasn’t changed much and everything has fit comfortably inside the pot, including:
Cooking for more than one person has worked out pretty well, especially with boil-in-a-bag meals. During one of my father/son trips in May, I heated up two batches of water; one for hot cereal, and one for hot chocolate and clean-up water. This was enough to feed three, although we did share the hot chocolate. I kept the clean-up water hot by keeping the pot inside the neoprene sleeve.
I have had no problems heating water with the Halulite pot and it has performed well enough that I have no complaints about its performance. I’ve used about the same amount of alcohol as I’ve used with other pot set-ups, and there has been nothing to indicate the pot is under-performing.
During my father/daughter trip, I tried something different for my daughter by putting her hot food bag into the neoprene sleeve to keep her from burning her hands, and to keep her meal warm. The zip-top bag worked well folded over the edges of the sleeve, and the sleeve provided a rigid form making eating out of a bag a little easier.
One of my concerns with this set is the lid. While in the outdoors, I try to keep my utensils and anything I use to cook clean and debris free. The reversible lid has posed a unique problem as both sides of the lid must be kept clean and I had to create extra steps to place the lid on a clean surface while not in use. My solution, for now, has been to use the neoprene sleeve as my “clean room” where I’d place the pot gripper, lid, and foon while not in use.
The other issue with the lid is how tightly it fits on the pot. For this reason, I’ve been reluctant to drink directly out of the pot because in trying to open it on a few occasions when tightly fit, I would inevitably spill or splash hot liquid while aggressively opening the lid. As the lid was so hard to peal off, I typically never fastened it completely shut.
The good news is that GSI recently sent me a replacement rubber ring for the lid. At first I thought it might be because of a recall, but upon inspection, it appears that the lid has been re-tooled. There is a thumb tab on one side and the lid detaches much easier now. I haven’t had a chance to field test this new rubber ring, but I look forward to trying it out — including trying to sip liquids from the pour spout.
The pot gripper has worked pretty well, but I’m still finding that I have to be extra careful to keep it out of the dirt and debris since I have to put the gripper into my water/food in order to hold the pot. I’ve had more than one “Ooooh, that’s hot” moments as the steam escaped the pot as I poured water out, and on a few occasions I was able to feel heat through the gripper, enough that I had to put the pot down. Other times I’ve resorted to just grabbing the pot with my cotton bandana to pour. That worked fine except one time when the bandana caught on fire from my stove.
The foon has been more of a toy to my kids than a usable utensil. I like that it folds down compactly, but it isn’t really long enough for boil-in-a-bag meals, and it doesn’t feel very durable. I’ve had the spoon part pop off the handle more than once under pressure, and my kids have found it is easy to dismantle, much to my dismay. Thankfully, the utensil hasn’t shattered or broken and it is still usable; I'm getting good at putting it back together.
FIELD USE SUMMARY
This pot has really worked well. It packs well, cooks well, and has met my needs and has worked for heating water for my kids.
PRO—Convenient to pack; the components nest easily inside the pot; holds enough water for a few meals.
CON—The lid is a bit tight; the foon is too short; the lid and pot gripper take extra care to keep clean while cooking.
LONG TERM REPORT
13 Sep 2010
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Here are few highlighted backpacking trips where I used the cook kit.
July 16-17 ~ West Fork of Oak Creek, Coconino National Forest, Arizona. I convinced a co-worker to do an S24O trip (less than 24-hour trip) into the Oak Creek Wilderness area. Immediately after work, we drove down to the canyon and hiked up the creek about 4 miles (6 km) and hammocked in the canyon. The elevation was level at 5400 ft (1646 m) and the overnight low was in the mid-60s F (16 C). We were up by 4 AM and back on the trail and back to our car, passing folks just rising for the day.
Aug 13-14 ~ Fisher Point, Coconino National Forest, Arizona. Another S24O trip just outside Flagstaff. The 9-mile (14.5 km) trip took us through skunk canyon (6600 ft/2011 m) and up to the top of Fisher Point (7000 ft/2134 km). We pitched our hammocks on the edge of a cliff. Overnight low was 48 F (9 C).
Sep 3-4 ~ Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail, Kiabab National Forest, Arizona. This 11-mile (17.7 km) loop hike was cut short due to my daughter getting ill, but we enjoyed a wonderful 6-mile (9.6 km) overnight backpacking trip along the Sycamore Canyon near Paradise Forks. Overnight low was around 50 F (10 C) and the elevation was 6700 ft (2042 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During my backpacking trip to Oak Creek, I used the Minimalist to boil water to re-hydrate meals for dinner and breakfast. Dinner was bean burritos with fresh tomatoes and cheese. My companion was eating an MRE with a heater pack, and he was extremely jealous. I was able to cook with the Minimalist and eat before his meal was ready. I kept a portion of the boiled water hot with the insulated sleeve for clean up, which worked perfectly.
I used the Minimalist in a similar way on my hike to Fisher Point, but on my trip around Sycamore Canyon, I was cooking pizza in a frying pan and used the Minimalist to thaw frozen pizza sauce and toppings. I used a different stove in Sycamore -- an MSR Whisperlite. This stove has a much wider base and the pot barely fit, and I was worried about it being stable enough while I boiled water. Thankfully nothing spilled.
I like the pot gripper idea, but I think the pot is a bit narrow when using it because I can't get my hands far enough away to avoid the scalding steam. The best way I've found to avoid this is by holding the pot and tipping on its side, which can be tricky. When I pinch the gripper and hold the top of the pot, I have less range of motion pouring to the inside than the outside of my arm -- an interesting observation on human mechanics. I normally pour by turning my arm to the inside, so it took some re-training to pour the other way. The other thing I had to keep in mind was making sure the gripper didn't get dirty, since it fits so low into the pot, it often touches food or water being cooked.
The insulating sleeve works great, but it would be nice if the coloring or pattern was a different color than the pot, simply to help distinguish whether or not the pot is in the sleeve before burning it. The new lid seemed fine, but arguably, I didn't drink many hot liquids from the pour spout. I like the new tab, which has helped me open the lid a lot easier.
The foon leaves much to be desired. I wish it were longer and had a better locking mechanism. It's easy to collapse the utensil, and my kids find it way to easy to disassemble. I doubt I will take the foon on future trips.
PRO—Great solo cook pot with a nice insulated sleeve. The new lid opens much easier with the tab.
CON—The foon is too short for boil-in-a-bag meals and collapses easily. The pot gripper keeps my hands too close to the hot food (scalding steam, etc.)
I would like to thank GSI Outdoors, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.
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