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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > JetBoil Flash Stove > Test Report by Andrew Henrichs
Jetboil Flash Stove
Test Series by Andy Henrichs
January 28, 2010
When I first unpacked the Jetboil, I was very impressed with how well everything was stowed away. The legs on the orange tripod fold inwards and take up very little space when packing. The tripod attaches very firmly to small or large fuel canisters. When first trying it out, it actually took some prying before I could get the tripod to release the canister. The tripod, burner, and a small fuel canister fit inside the cup with about .5 in (1.3 cm) to spare. The burner and fuel canister can be stowed connected or separated. The burner uses standard thread screw-on style fuel canisters. The base cover attaches to the base of the cup with three small plastic tabs. Slot them into corresponding holes in the base of the cup, give it a quarter turn, and the base cover is attached. This cover also serves as a measuring cup with a small lip that marks 1 C (250 mL). On the interior of the cup, there is an engraved line halfway up the side with the words "Max Safe Fill 2 Cups." While the cup can hold 1 L (4 cups) of liquid, this much liquid would likely boil over when heated.
When assembled, the unit is quite solid. The burner attaches to the cup by slotting some small metal bumps into corresponding grooves and twisting to lock. I was impressed that the Jetboil Flash is quite stable even when the cup is filled with water. When the Flash arrived I found a previously used fuel canister from another stove manufacturer, screwed it onto the Jetboil, and lit it up. It ignited without any problems, but I was less than impressed with the heat output. It just sounded wimpy. I soon realized that was because the fuel canister I was using was nearly empty. I proceeded to use the Flash three times over the next two days while camping and hiking. Each use, I boiled 2 C (.5 L) of water for tea and timed how long the water took to boil. The first two uses were with the nearly-empty fuel canister. Both of these uses took place at an elevation of approximately 8,300 ft (2,500 m). Temperatures were approximately 40 F (4 C). The water took six minutes and 50 seconds to boil during the first use and seven minutes and 30 seconds to boil during the second use. I used 10 g (.4 oz) of fuel to boil these 4 C (1 L). The final use was with a brand new Jetboil fuel canister at an elevation of 12,000 ft (3,700 m). The air temperature was approximately 65 F (18 C). The new canister made a huge difference. The stove lit with a roar and the 2 C (.5 L) of water boiled in three minutes. Not what Jetboil claims, but not bad nonetheless. I found that the temperature indicator does indeed turn orange when the contents are hot, but it completes the change before the contents are actually boiling. During the next phase of the test, I will measure the temperature of the water to determine at what temperature the indicator is totally orange. When hiking, I stowed the Flash in a water bottle pocket on the side of my fanny pack. It would occasionally rattle as my travels led me over rocks and around logs, but this could easily be remedied by stuffing a bandanna in the top of the Flash before I put the lid on. So far I've been very happy with the Jetboil, but I have a lot more testing to do.
I have used this stove system five times on three separate days during the Field Report phase. All three days were in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area in Colorado. The first use was while hiking to an alpine lake in the central portion Indian Peaks Wilderness. I used the stove system at both the trailhead as well as the lake to make tea and warm up. The elevation at the trailhead was approximately 8,500 ft (2,600 m). At the lake, it was approximately 11,500 ft (3,500 m). The day was sunny but quite cold. There was a stiff wind out of the west and that kept the temperature at the lake around 25 F (-4 C). When I arrived at the lake, I encountered wind-deposited snow up to 2 ft (0.6 m) deep. I was able to find a clear spot on a rock to rest and fire up the stove. The second and third use were in the same area of the northern section of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Both times, I went on a 10 mile (16 km) round-trip ski tour towards Sawtooth Mountain. The first time, I again brewed up a cup of tea at both the trailhead and the ridge I stopped at. The elevation of the trailhead was approximately 9,000 ft (2,700 m) and the elevation of the ridge I stopped at was 11,000 ft (3,400 m). Temperatures ranged from 25 F (-4 C) in the morning to 35 F (2 C) in the afternoon. Again, there was a steady wind that kept the wind chill cool. The third use was along the identical route of my previous visit. This time, I continued up the ridge to approximately 11,500 ft (3,500 m). It was much colder on this trip, with a high of only 20 F (-7 C). It was quite sunny with minimal cloud cover and almost no wind.
I have been fairly under whelmed with the Jetboil Flash so far. I like the fact that it stows in such a small package so efficiently. In ideal conditions, it does boil water very quickly. Unfortunately, in anything but ideal conditions, it has been unreliable. My biggest complaint is with the burner and igniter system, which is significant when using a stove. While the piezoelectric started sparks every time the button is pushed, the stove rarely ignites on the first push of the button. It typically takes three clicks to start it; once it took me eight clicks. Once lit, I find that the Jetboil Flash is one of the quieter stoves I have used. While this may seem to be a benefit, it makes it difficult to notice when the flame blows out. Unfortunately, the flame blows out regularly. I think it has blown out four of the eight times I've used it. Every time I have used it above treeline the stove has blown out, even with only minimal wind. In one instance, I didn't realize it had blown out for almost a minute. I have tried to shelter the stove with my body, my pack, snow drifts, etc but to no avail. Gusts have found their way in and extinguished the stove.
Like most canister stoves, boil time increases significantly when it is cold out. I have always stowed the canister inside the Jetboil Flash cozy inside my pack. This hasn't done as much to insulate the cartridge as I would have hoped. As a result, I have to either warm the cartridge inside my jacket for a while or accept the fact I will have reduced performance when using the stove. Again, this problem is inherent to all cartridge stoves.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the orange canister tripod is incredibly useful in the snow. This was a part that I never expected to use. Instead, it provides a very versatile and stable base for the Jetboil Flash. I've also found that the measuring cup makes a poor base when setting the stove on the snow. It's incredibly slick and the stove tends to take off downhill like a bobsled. The measuring cup also serves as as very handy snow scoop when melting snow. While I wouldn't want to melt a large amount of snow with this stove due to the time and fuel required, as well as the limited capacity, it does a good job of melting a cozy full of snow in a reasonable amount of time.
On my last outing, I noticed some rust on both the base of the canister and along the inside edge of the burner assembly. I must have packed up the stove before it was completely dry and forgot to dry it at home. The rust does not affect performance and I was able to clean most of it off with just my gloved finger.
I have used this stove on three additional days during the LTR phase. I have used it on one backcountry skiing day trip and one overnight backpacking trip. All of these uses were in the Front Range of Colorado. On the backcountry ski trip, I used the stove to boil up a cup of water for tea before I started my descent. This was at an elevation of approximately 11,500 ft (3,500 m). It was a picture perfect day with blue skies and almost no wind. I hunkered down behind a large snowdrift and soaked in the view while the water boiled. Temperatures were relatively mild; it was 30 F (-1 C) when I used the stove.
My overnight backpacking trip was at a local county open space that offers free semi-primitive backcountry campsites. The sites are only 1 mi (1.6 km) from the trailhead and are at an elevation of approximately 7,000 ft (2,100 m). The temperature on my hike in was about 40 F (4 C). This had dropped to around 30 F (-1 C) by the time I crawled into my sleeping bag. When I finally emerged from my tent, temperatures were a chilly 25 F (-4 C). By the time I left camp, the sun was high in the sky and the temperature was back above 40 F (4 C). The winds were quite calm on this trip, with occasional gusts in the evening. I used the Jetboil Flash several times during this outing. The first day I used it to boil tea water when I arrived at camp as well as to boil water for a "boil, add, wait" style meal. The next morning I boiled water for tea as well as instant oatmeal.
Field Observations and Summary
I have had better results with the Jetboil Flash during the LTR phase. It did not always ignite on the first click of the igniter, but the second click always did the trick. As I mentioned earlier, all of my uses during the LTR phase were on days with little to no wind. As such, I did not have any issues with the stove blowing out during use. When used on my final ski tour, I filled a quarter of the cup with water and topped this off with snow. The snow melted quite quickly and I had a boiling cup of water within 9 minutes. I was very happy with this time given my elevation and the fact that most of the boiling water started as snow.
The stove performed even better on my backpacking trip. I carried in water to this campsite and boiled it for all of my hot drinks or meals. The average boil time for this outing was about 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Again, this is longer than Jetboil claims, but still is impressive. Fuel consumption was just as impressive. I have used one 100 g (3.5 oz) Jetboil canister for all of my testing and it is not yet empty.
While I initially dismissed it as a gimmick I would often leave at home, I have found the tripod base to be quite useful. It really does improve the stability significantly for a very minor weight penalty. I'm not sure I would bring it on every trip, but I found it to be particularly useful when using the stove on snow and will likely continue to use it while using the stove in snowy country. The burner assembly has been a bit of a disappointment. I have found the piezoelectric igniter to be less than reliable over the course of this test. As I mentioned in my previous reports, while it sparked every time I pressed the button, the stove did not always light. It seemed to be especially unreliable early in the test for whatever reason. I was also disappointed at how vulnerable the stove is to being blown out by a gust of wind. Even with decent protection, I found that the stove can blow out quite easily. I understand that canister stoves, by their nature, cannot employ a windscreen that completely encircles the burner. I guess I just expected it to take more than a gentle gust to extinguish this stove. To compound this problem, the stove is quiet enough that it is not always easy to determine if the stove is still lit or not. I guess I will have to do a better job in the future of selecting a sheltered cooking area.
The insulated cozy around the cup is very nice. It insulates incredibly well. While I can feel some warmth radiating through the insulation, that's almost always a great feeling when nursing a hot cup of tea. The color changing heat indicator was also a nice touch. It was very convenient to simply glance at the side of the stove system and see how far the water was from boiling without opening up the lid and letting heat escape. Likewise, it was nice to see that my tea was cooling off so I finish my drink off before it was cold. The compact size of the stove is very nice; the self-contained nature of the system makes packing and stowing a breeze.
Given my issues with the stove ignition and wind vulnerability, I don't think the Flash will become my stove of choice, although I will continue to use it when the situation calls for it. I am still slightly wary of its reliability and will usually default to my trusty liquid-fuel stove. I don't think I would ever bring the Flash on a ski backpacking trip when I am melting snow for water and running it in a cold environment. I just am not confident in the Jetboil Flash in those conditions. I will continue to use the Jetboil Flash occasionally on fast and light solo backpacking trips or on day trips when I think a warm drink may be welcome.
Igniter system can be unreliable
Thank you to Jetboil and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test this stove.
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