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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > JetBoil Flash Stove > Test Report by Richard Lyon

JETBOIL FLASH PERSONAL COOKING SYSTEM
Test Series by Richard Lyon

Initial Report September 27, 2009
Field Report December 7, 2009
Long Term Report February 8, 2009


PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 63 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Email address: montana (dot) angler (at) gmail (dot) com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years, regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do at least one week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do forced marches too.  I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still tend to favor my favorite camp conveniences over minor weight savings.  I normally cook with a canister stove and have been a dedicated Jetboil user for several years.

INITIAL REPORT
September 27, 2009

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION and DETAILS

Jetboil calls Flash "a mobile cooking solution designed to enhance the outdoor experience of front-country day-trippers." It appears to be the second generation of the company's revolutionary PCS, its flagship product and the first self-contained canister stove system available to backpackers.

Ready for useWhen assembled for use Flash consists of, from bottom to top, (a) a plastic canister stabilizer, (b) a fuel canister, (c) a burner unit with built-in igniter, (d) a cooking cup with built in heat exchanger (called the FluxRing), and (e) a flexible plastic lid with sipper holes.  There is a sixth piece, a hard plastic measuring cup that may be used as a cooking or drinking vessel when the stove is in use.  The cooking cup does double duty as a mug for food or drink.  The system furnished to me does not include a fuel canister; Jetboil does sell its own Jetpower branded fuel in 100 g and 230 g canisters.

Like the PCS, items (a), (b), (c), and (e) nest inside the cooking cup when the system is packed up for storage, with the measuring cup fitted over the fins of the FluxRing.  Jetboil recommends the following order for storage: stabilizer (folded up) inside the legs of the burner unit; burner unit at the bottom of the cooking cup; canister on top.  It also fits easily and snugly with the stabilizer wedged over the top of the canister.

The burner unit has a rectangular piece of wire for adjusting gas flow, and the instruction sheet indicates that the igniter is "improved."  This is operated by pushing a small button on the burner unit located on the opposite side from the adjuster.  The cooking cup has a neoprene cozy with a webbing handle on one side and a sewn-in sleeve on the other.  The sleeve may be used to store one or more of Jetboil's Jetset utensils, as shown in my photographs.  The inside wall of the cup has a mark half way up with a warning: "Max Safe Fill 2 cups [0.5 L]."  The measuring cup has markings in one-quarter cup increments.Ready for my pack

Flash's new feature is the slash-shaped panels on the outside of the cooking cup, which illuminate when the temperature of the liquid in the cup approaches boiling.

Flash is new, so new that information about it has yet to be posted on its manufacturer's website.  The retail packaging and a press release and instruction sheet that accompanied the product are the source of any "listed" information or quotations in this Initial Report.

Manufacturer: Jetboil, Inc.  
Web Address: www.jetboil.com  
Height of cooking cup, including heat exchanger fins: 7.1 in/18.1 cm
Diameter of cooking cup: 4.0 in/10.2 cm
Height of full system, packed: 7.25 in/18.4 cm
Height of full system, assembled with a 100 g Jetpower canister: 11.8 in/30.0 cm.  The canister stabilizer, which is not strictly necessary for operation, is 0.6 in/ 1.5 cm high.
System Weight, without canister: 15.4 oz /437 g
Capacity: The cooking cup holds one liter (four cups) of liquid. As noted Jetboil recommends, with its warning marking and in the instructions, that boiling more than half this amount risks a spillover.  
Color: Violet.  Also available in Carbon, Gold, or Sapphire.
MSRP: $99.95 US
Warranty: One year

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Since purchasing my first PCS in 2005 I have been an ardent Jetboil fan, as some of my other Test Series and Owner Reviews on this site attest, so I looked forward with great interest to my examination of the Flash.  The bright purple stands out, as do the panels on the cup, but overall Flash looks very much like its predecessor: efficient, compact, and cleverly designed.  I noticed three other differences: the measuring cup is hard plastic rather than more flexible rubber on the PCS, the cup is much easier to remove from the heat exchanger fins when assembling the system for cooking, and fuel feed is adjusted with a wire rectangle rather than a plastic knob.  The wire rectangle must be folded out before screwing in the fuel canister.

TRYING IT OUT

Flash is easy to assemble.  Following the steps in the instructions (all of which are intuitive) I removed the measuring cup, folded out the legs of the canister stabilizer, folded out the wire adjuster, fit my 100 g canister into the inside grooves on the stabilizer's legs, screwed the burner on to the top of the canister, and fit the cooking cup onto the top of the burner unit.  The bottom rim of the cooking cup has two small grooves that mate with small bumps on the inside of the burner rim and allow the cooking cup to be nudged into place with a slight turn to the right.

Jetboil recommends not lighting the stove with the cup attached (also not running the stove with an empty cup), so I removed the cooking cup, added half a liter (two cups) of water, lit the stove (the igniter worked with one push of the button), and returned the cooking cup to its perch.  In 95 seconds, sure enough, the indicator strips glowed orange, and ten seconds later the water reached a rolling boil.  This experiment occurred at a temperature of 85 F (30 C) at a few hundred feet (~50 m) above sea level.  I performed this test in my side yard in a brisk wind; like the PCS the heat exchanger functions as an effective wind screen.

I then replaced the Jetpower canister with a 645 g Primus canister to the burner unit to confirm that Flash worked with other makers' canisters, which it did.  The larger Primus canister fit exactly into the outer grooves on the stabilizer.  I also verified that my Jetboil PCS French press and FluxRing Fry Pan accessories worked with Flash.  There was room to store the stabilizer that supports the Fry Pan inside the cooking cup with the rest of the system.  This was welcome news; coffee and fried trout are two vital backcountry food groups for me.

LIKES

Praise on or criticism of performance, other than my continued admiration for Jetboil's compact design, will be saved until after field use.  I will say that I like the idea of the indicator stripes.  The only performance problem I've had with my PCS comes from Jetboil's speedy boiling times. (It's not named Jetboil for nothing!) More than once I've returned from a minor camp chore to find coffee bubbling over the rim of the cup.  Fair warning would be great.  I shall examine whether this feature compromises boiling efficiency in any way.  The bright colors (other than Carbon) are a definite improvement; they make it easier to spot the unit amid other cooking and camping gear.

FIELD REPORT
December 7, 2009

Flash has made it to Jetboil's website, supplementing (not replacing) the original Personal Cooking System (PCS).  The website confirms one of my Initial Report observations: Flash is compatible with all PCS accessories.  Jetboil sets a suggested retail price of $99.95 US for Flash; at the same price is the Flash Java Kit, which appears to be a Flash with Jetboil's French press accessory.  The website lists dimensions exactly the same as those I measured, but a weight (14 oz/397 g) about ten per cent less that what I measured.

FIELD CONDITIONS

Backpacking use has been one overnighter near Kerrville and a three-day trip in Lost Maples State Park, both in the Texas Hill Country, in October, and an overnighter near Dallas last weekend. In the Hill Country I managed to avoid any precipitation (no small piece of luck this rainy fall) and had temperatures ranging from 45 F (7 C) at breakfast to 85 F (30 C) during the day, and with no heavy winds to contend with.  My luck ran out last weekend, as North Texas had chilly weather, down to 25 F (-4 C) at night and occasional snow flurries.  All hikes were with groups but except for hot drinks we didn't prepare group meals, so my cooking was only for me.  Flash was used for boiling and frying; for the latter I used my Jetboil FluxRing Fry Pan on Flash's burner unit.

I've also carried the Flash on several day hikes in the Dallas area, in the rain and in bright sunshine, from 40-90 F (4-32 C).  I'm fond of hot tea even in warm weather (my English heritage, I guess) and Flash was used for this purpose for from one person to four.

All of this testing occurred at low elevation, not exceeding 1500 ft (400 m).

OBSERVATIONS

Packability and Ease of Use.  Development of a complete and compact system was what made Jetboil's name among backpackers, so it's no surprise that Flash is easy to assemble and disassemble and fits neatly and compactly into any pack I own.  I had no problem carrying it in an 1800 cubic inch (30 L) featherweight day pack, along with rain gear and a sweater.  I find it a great convenience to have cup, stove, pot, coffee press, and fuel all in one place in my pack, making it that much easier to have a hot drink or hot snack at a rest break or lunch stop.  There's enough spare room inside for a few tea bags and packets of sugar.  As noted in my Initial Report I store my fork and spoon through the notch on Flash's neoprene cozy, making up a complete trail cooking system and mini-pantry.  I consider this design aspect of Flash (and its predecessor PCS) nothing short of genius.

Set up, which I described in my Initial Report, is easy and intuitive and I'm ready to start boiling only a minute or two after extracting Flash from my pack.  Boiling times at low altitude have been less than Jetboil's listed time of two minutes for a half-liter (one pint).  It's been a bit longer when I ramp up to my personal maximum of three cups (~0.7 L) of water.  With that amount I watch the cooking cup closely, as I don't want a spillover.  Flash's warning stripes make that job easier, illuminating about ten seconds before a rolling boil, and their illumination is much easier to see than steam coming out of the sipper hole on the cooking cup's lid, the only tell-tale on the PCS.  Jetboil is tough to beat for quick and easy boiling.

Ready for fryingFrying is easy too, especially when I can use a pan that includes a heat exchanger.  That requires two Jetboil accessories: the FluxRing Fry Pan and Pot Stabilizer.  Here they are on the Flash's base.  The Pot Stabilizer isn't absolutely necessary but it's a good idea.  Without it a low flame is occasionally smothered by the Fry Pan.  Frying allows me to make use of the fuel adjuster.  When boiling water I usually turn the adjuster all the way up, then off completely when the water boils, but the adjuster allows fine tuning to prevent scorching or to allow gentle cooking of fish or meat.  My one non-meal-in-a-pouch dinner in the backcountry was a rib eye steak that I had frozen the night before the trip and allowed to thaw on the hike in.  The Fry Pan-Flash combination was perfect for cooking this.  High heat at first to sear in the juices, then a couple of minutes at a simmer for each side, with the pan covered, to get the meat to the proper degree of rare.  The adjuster is easy to use and, because the canister is attached directly to the stove rather than a fuel line, any adjustment has immediate effect.

Flash is efficient.  One large (230 g) Jetboil canister has served for three breakfasts, two dinners, and at least a dozen rounds of hot drinks without any noticeable increase in cooking time.  In my camp kitchen breakfast always includes at least two rounds of coffee, and with a coffee press I was the designated coffeemaker each morning.  With four caffeine addicts that meant two or three three-cup batches each morning, so I've already exceeded Jetboil's posted canister capacity, and there's still fuel left in the tank.

Reliability.  Flash excels here too.  I have yet to have to hit the piezo more than once for ignition.  The heat exchanger baffles make an excellent windscreen; no problems yet with any gusts extinguishing the flame.  The neoprene cozy keeps the cooking cup's contents hot.  On one occasion I was interrupted on a day hike tea break by a call on my mobile phone.  After three or four minutes my tea, steeping in the cooking cup, was still almost too hot to drink, just as it had been when I put the cup down to pick up the phone.

The cozy insulates well enough that I can handle the cooking cup barehanded without using the fabric grip.  This is particularly helpful right after boiling, both to remove the cooking cup from the burner unit and to pour boiling water into a meal pouch or someone else's tea cup.

Especially when using the tripod base (an included accessory) Flash's tall and narrow profile hasn't caused any worry about tipping over, though I should say that flat, hard ground or a flat rock hasn't been difficult to find on any of my hikes.

Cleaning.  The only liquids I've had inside the cooking cup have been coffee, tea, and hot water, as other meals were fried or eaten from the pouch that stored their contents, so cleaning has been really easy.  A rinse to dispose of coffee grounds, a bit more water heated up, a drop of soap added, a brief scrubbing, a final rinse, and I'm done.  On day hikes, when tea is the beverage of choice, it's usually a single rinse after each steeping.  I clean the cup upon return to home with soap and hot water.  So far the coffee and tea have left no stains that I can see or any aftertaste that affects the following round of beverages.

Summary.  So far Flash has been a worthy upgrade from its worthy predecessor the PCS.  I like including the slot for my utensils on the cozy (this was an accessory for the PCS), the bright color, and the warning flash.  My only suggestion would be to dispense with the webbing handle, which for me at least isn't used very often.

I consider the Flash system, like the PCS, to be a niche product, its niches being solo cooking and, when used without an accessory, boiling water.  The Flash cooking cup is too narrow for any frying or sautéing.

LONG TERM REPORT
February 8, 2010

FIELD CONDITIONS

In the past two months I've been able to use the Flash in the Rockies, in colder conditions than before.  In late December I took the Flash to Jackson, Wyoming, in anticipation of a backcountry yurt trip on the west side of the Teton Range.  Though I was dissuaded from bringing the stove on the yurt tour, I did use it twice for tea while skiing inbounds - at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on December 26, in clear conditions at 25 F (-4 C) and relatively calm weather, and at Grand Targhee resort (across the Tetons in Alta, Wyoming) on December 30, at 15 F (-10 C) in snowy and windy weather.  Altitude on both trips was roughly 10,000 feet (3000 m).  Each trip I stowed the Flash in my regular day ski pack.

The second trip was to the same area in late January, on which I used the Flash for lunch on two in-bounds ski days at Jackson Hole.  Both days were cold and windy and snowy, about 20 F (-7 C).  On the latter day I used the Flash for a full ski-day lunch - soup and tea.  Again I carried my regular ski pack.  On this and the earlier trip I stowed the fuel canister in the inside pocket of my parka, as I routinely do for any canister stove when the temperature drops near freezing.

I've also used the Flash for tea, soup, and chili while day hiking in the chilly winter we've had this year in North Texas.  Temperatures have ranged from 30 to 60 F (-1 to 16 C), in generally fair weather with no significant wind.  I carried the Flash in my Crumpler The Bumper Issue day pack (the subject of another test report on this site).

OBSERVATIONS

As before the Flash has performed very well.  Not perfectly - I've had a few piezo misfires - but very well.  All the other observations in my Field Report hold true through the wintry conditions I've faced.  Boil times at altitude were in the 4-5 minute range (I don't wear a watch when skiing), in my opinion very reasonable.

Making chili allowed me to examine Flash's simmering capability. The package directions and past experience dictated a twenty-minute simmer at low heat immediately after bringing the post to a boil.  With the wire tab it was easy to turn down the heat to the point of an occasional bubble in the pot, then let it steep for the allotted time.  The insulating capacity of the cooking cup and sleeve is great - contents stayed warm long enough to finish eating half a cup and then reloading the plastic cup for the dregs.  

As noted, I did have my first piezo failure, on the windy day at Targhee just before the New Year.  It took three strikes to fire up the stove.  I examined the piezo to see if pressure from pack storage or other mishandling might be to blame.  I detected no deformity and thus have no ready explanation for this failure.  It hasn't recurred, even in windy conditions, so I still deem its batting average acceptable over the past four months.

Based upon another estimate I'd say the indicator panels light up about ten seconds (in Texas - a few seconds longer in winter in the Rockies) before the water in the cooking cup reaches an initial boil.  In my opinion this feature alone justifies the transition from Jetboil PCS to the Flash.  This warning tells an attentive camper when it's time to add a meal or, more importantly, to turn down the heat to let the breakfast coffee steep before things boil over.

The second benefit of Flash's design, unchanged from my Initial Report,  is its bright color.   I find it easy to catch my eye when I glance back to the kitchen after checking the horizon or chatting with my comrades.  Repeating another like: I'm really pleased that Jetboil made the accessory sleeve and fold-out canister stabilizer standard issue rather than accessories.  I use both on every outing and am grateful not to pay a premium to do so.

My only reservation with Flash is the fuel adjuster.  The rectangle is slightly stickier than the knob on the PCS and must be folded out for use.  In my opinion it's not worth the marginal weight saving.

SUMMARY

I've been an outspoken Jetboil proponent since I bought my PCS.  The Flash has done nothing to quell my enthusiasm for this innovative and exceptionally easy to use personal cooking system, which I'll carry until it wears out or there's a new iteration.

My Test Report ends here, with thanks to Jetboil and BackpackGearTest.com for the chance to upgrade to the Flash.



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Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

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