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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Jetboil Helios Cooking System > Test Report by Will Rietveld

Jetboil Helios Cooking System

Test Series by BackpackGearTest.org

| Initial Report | Field Report | Long-Term Report |


Tester Information
Name: Will Rietveld
Age: 66
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft (183 cm)
Weight: 170 lb (77 kg)
Email: (willi_wabbit at bresnan dot net)
City & State: Durango, CO 81301
Location for Testing: Southwestern US (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico).

Backpacking Experience—I have been an avid backpacker for 50 years. Backpacking is my passion. I backpack the year around in the Southwestern United States (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico).

Backpacking Style—I have been a lightweight backpacker for 35 years and an ultralight backpacker for 9 years. My wife and I give presentations on lightweight and ultralight backpacking in our local area, and have developed a website called Southwest Ultralight Backpacking (http://home.bresnan.net/~swultralight/) to share information.

Initial Report (November 17, 2008)

Product Information
Manufacturer: Jetboil
Manufacturer Website: http://www.jetboil.com/
Product Tested: Helios Group Cooking System
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Included: 2 liter (2.1 qt) pot with lid, pot supporting burner assembly with piezo ignition, windscreen, bottom cover, fuel canister stand
Packed Dimensions: 4.5 in high x 8.25 in diameter (11.5 cm x 21 cm)
Weight: Measured weight 29.3 oz (831 g); manufacturer weight 28 oz (793 g)
MSRP: $149.95 US
Options: 3-liter pot (19 oz/550 g, $59.95 US), includes lid and bottom cover

The Jetboil Helios cooking system (left) consists of a pot-supporting burner assembly, a 2-liter pot with a flux ring attached to the bottom to increase heat transfer, and a stand that supports an inverted fuel canister. The entire stove packs into the cook pot (right), which provides a compact and durable unit for packing.
The Jetboil Helios cooking system (left) consists of a pot-supporting burner assembly, a 2-liter pot with a flux ring attached to the bottom to increase heat transfer, and a stand that supports an inverted fuel canister. The entire stove packs into the cook pot (right), which provides a compact and durable unit for packing.

Product Description
The Helios is the newest in Jetboil’s line of integrated cooking systems powered by canister fuel (iso-butane + propane blend). It consists of a pot-supporting burner assembly, a 2-liter pot (3-liter pot available) with a flux ring attached to the bottom to increase heat transfer, and a stand that supports an inverted fuel canister. The Helios is different from previous models (Personal Cooking System and Group Cooking System) in that it uses “liquid fuel injection”, which means liquid fuel is supplied from the canister to a pre-heat tube where it is vaporized and then mixed with air and burned. Previous models ran on vaporized fuel directly from the canister, which can be sluggish in cold temperatures. The new Helios also comes with a detachable windscreen to further increase efficiency. The entire system fits inside the cook pot so it can easily be carried in a backpack.

Features and Specifications (Compiled from the Jetboil website and product packaging)

  • 2-liter (2.1 qt) cook pot with non-stick surface, flux ring attached to the bottom, fold out handles, insulating cozy, and plastic lid. 3-liter pot available as an option
  • Integrated pot support and burner assembly with a fuel line and cable that attach to a remote fuel canister and piezo-electric igniter, respectively
  • Liquid fuel injection – liquid fuel is fed to a pre-heat tube where it is vaporized and then mixed with air and burned
  • Electronic ignition – simply push an external button to light the burner
  • Snap-on plastic windscreen that coils up inside the cook pot for storage
  • Entire cooking system packs into the cook pot and is sealed with plastic lids on top and bottom
  • Cooks for groups up to five people
  • High efficiency (72%)
  • Boil time: 3 minutes to boil 1 liter (1.06 qt) of 68 F (20 C) water
  • Fuel Efficiency: 24 1-liter (1.06 qt) boils from an 8 oz (230 g) fuel canister
  • Usable temperature range: -10 F to 100 F (16 to 24 C)
The Helios burner assembly (left) has pot supports that rotate into place, a canister fuel burner head, a pre-heat tube where liquid fuel from the canister is vaporized before burning, and piezo-electric ignition. The pot has a flux ring attached to the bottom (right) to increase heat transfer. The three pot supports contact the bottom of the pot, inside the flux ring.
The Helios burner assembly (left) has pot supports that rotate into place, a canister fuel burner head, a pre-heat tube where liquid fuel from the canister is vaporized before burning, and piezo-electric ignition. The pot has a flux ring attached to the bottom (right) to increase heat transfer. The three pot supports contact the bottom of the pot, inside the flux ring.

Initial Impressions
The Helios is beautifully designed. Each component is well designed in itself, and the entire system is designed to quickly assemble for cooking, and disassemble to fit into a durable, compact unit that is easy to carry in a backpack. However, the Helios is on the heavy side (29.3 ounces/831 g by my measurement), so for weight efficiency it needs to be used for a larger group. For a group of five people, the weight per person gets down to about 6 ounces (170 g), which is good. For couples, the Helios should work very well for car camping, where weight is less of an issue, but it would be too heavy to backpack and cook for just two people.

The Helios is especially suited for winter camping because it is a liquid feed system. While conventional top-mount canister stoves become sluggish in cold weather (because the fuel has to vaporize in the canister, and it vaporizes less as it gets colder), a liquid feed system continues to function at full capacity. A liquid feed system empties the entire fuel canister, while a top mount system (at cold temperatures) leaves some unburned n-butane in the container. With its liquid feed system, the Helios should perform well for melting snow and cooking meals in cold temperatures for a hungry group of winter campers.

Materials and Construction
Although the weight of the Helios adds up to 29.3 ounces (831 g), I don’t see how it could be made any lighter, considering its purpose. The cook pot and pot stand assembly are made of a durable aluminum alloy, and top and bottom lids, fuel canister stand, and windscreen are made of lightweight durable plastic. The Helios seems to be built to last, yet is as light as is reasonably possible. The design and construction are indeed impressive.

Assembly and Use
From its packed configuration, the Helios is very fast and easy to set up and use. Simply remove the top and bottom covers, remove the burner assembly and spread the pot supports, spread open the fuel stand and connect a canister, and light the burner with a push of the igniter button.

My initial tests with the Helios consisted of several test runs to measure its boil time and fuel consumption (see next section). While conducting my tests I found that the stove continues to burn for about 12 seconds after the valve is closed at the canister. The fuel in the fuel line between the canister and the burner needs to be expended before the stove will stop burning. This burns some extra fuel, but it can be minimized by closing the valve at the beginning of boiling.

Boil Time and Fuel Efficiency Tests
Jetboil claims that the Helios will boil 1 liter of 68 F (20 C) water in 3 minutes, and do twenty-four 1-liter (1.06 qt) boils from an 8 oz (230 g) fuel canister. Doing the math, the latter comes to 0.33 ounce (9 g) of fuel to boil 1 liter (1.06 qt) of water. I decided to test their claims to see if they are accurate. I measured one liter (1.06 qt) of water by weight (1000 ml = 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds), adjusted the starting temperature to 68 F (20 C), and weighed the fuel canister (to the nearest 0.001 ounce/0.03 g) before and after each test. I found the boil time to be 3 min 29 seconds and fuel consumption to be 0.36 ounces (10 g) per liter of water boiled. Both numbers are fairly close to the Jetboil’s claims, but are nevertheless higher. Taking elevation into account (water boils at 197 F/92 C at my 6600 ft/2012 m elevation), I note that it would require even more time and fuel to boil water to 212 F/100 C at sea level. I also ran a test with a 10-15 mph (16-24 kph) wind using a box fan, and found it took 4 minutes 23 seconds and 0.45 ounces (13 g) of fuel to boil 1 liter (1.06 qt) of water, which is about one-third more.

Apparatus used to test boil time and fuel consumption of the Helios. The photo does not show my analytical scale used to weigh the fuel canister before and after each test run.
Apparatus used to test boil time and fuel consumption of the Helios. The photo does not show my analytical scale used to weigh the fuel canister before and after each test run.

 

Field Report (February 17, 2009)

Amount and Type of Use
During the first two months of testing I used the Helios on five trips for a total of 13 days, as detailed in the following table:

Activity

Number of Trips

Number of Days

Telemark Skiing

3

3

Car Camp/Day Hike

1

6

Igloo Camping

1

4

Totals

5

13

In contrast to items I have previously tested, where I used the item for 30-40 days during the test period, I found the Jetboil Helios group cooking system more difficult to use often. Because of its bulk, 29.3 oz (831 g) weight, specialized use, and season of testing, I had to make a special effort to use it for a group as intended.

On three one-day telemark skiing trips, I carried the Helios in my daypack and made hot soup and hot beverages at lunch time for groups of two to six people. Daytime temperatures were 10-20 F (-12 to -6.7 C) and the altitude was about 10,500 ft (3200 m).

On a winter car camping/day hiking trip in southern Utah, my wife and I established a remote backcountry basecamp and cooked breakfast and dinner for two people, plus hot beverages for four people. Two other people joined us for half of our six-day stay, but they brought their own food and stove. Morning temperatures were 19-23 F (-7 to -5 C) and evening temperatures were 38-42 F (3-6 C) and the altitude was 6000 ft (1829 m).

etboil Helios in use cooking dinner on a cool January evening in southern Utah.

Jetboil Helios in use cooking dinner on a cool January evening in southern Utah.

I took the Helios on one winter camping trip in the Weminuche Wilderness in southwestern Colorado, where we traveled on skis carrying backpacks, constructed an igloo basecamp at 11,500 ft (3505 m), and went on daily backcountry skiing excursions from camp. The Helios was used to melt snow for water and for cooking breakfast, dinner, and beverages for two people. The temperature inside the igloo ranged from 25 to 35 F (-4 to 2 C) with high humidity.

Inside an igloo at 11,500 ft (3505 m) in February, we used the Helios to melt snow for water and prepare meals and beverages for two.

Inside an igloo at 11,500 ft (3505 m) in February, we used the Helios to melt snow for water and prepare meals and beverages for two.

Performance
Things I really like about the Helios:

  • The components of the Helios fit inside the cookpot, creating a compact, durable unit for packing.
  • The Helios was easy and fast to setup, use, and disassemble. The fuel and ignition cables are already attached to the burner unit, so all that’s necessary is to attach the fuel line to an inverted fuel canister.
  • The stove lights easily with its piezo ignition, usually with just one push of a button. The stove lit easily in cold temperatures, high altitudes, and high humidity conditions.
  • For melting snow, the Helios is a workhorse. On our igloo camping trip we melted enough snow to provide about four gallons of water (15.1 liters) and the Helios did it with ease without using a lot of fuel. We used a low flame for better fuel efficiency and to warm up the igloo a bit.

While cooking with the Helios, I noticed some issues:

  • Because of the longer fuel line between the fuel canister and burner, there is a significant lag time between a fuel value adjustment at the canister and the flame height at the burner. When the stove is initially lit after assembly, it requires several adjustments of the valve to get the desired heat level at the burner, but it requires little or no re-adjustment on subsequent lightings.
  • The burner is moderately noisy at all throttle levels, but is not irritatingly loud like many white gas stoves.
  • In cold weather, the plastic top lid is too stiff to snap on over the top of the cook pot. It snaps on easily at room temperatures.
  • The pot doesn’t have a pour spout, so it’s messy to pour from the cook pot into a cup or other container.

When initially started, the stove sputters for a few seconds due to liquid fuel being fed to the burner, but the vaporizing tube works very quickly to provide vaporized gas for a steady flame. I also found that it’s best to place the lid on the pot upside down when cooking. This seals the top of the pot for cooking efficiency and allows excess steam to escape as needed.

In my testing so far, all of our cooking was simple meals where we simply boiled water, added our dehydrated food or soup mix, brought it back to boiling, and let it hydrate about 10 minutes before eating. Our beverages amounted to boiling water and adding it to our beverage of choice in a cup. We did not do any complex, multi-step meals in the first two months of testing, because it’s simply not desirable or convenient to do that in cold temperatures. Also, we did not encounter any significant winds during the first two months of testing.

Long-Term Report (April 21, 2009)

Amount and Type of Use
During the second two months of testing I used the Helios on two trips totaling 13 days, as detailed in the following table:

Activity

Number of Trips

Number of Days

Car Camp/Day Hike

2

13

Totals

2

13

In early March, my wife and I traveled to the Dragoon and Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona , where we camped in National Forest and National Park campgrounds and day hiked for a total of 11 days. We used the Helios to cook breakfast and dinner each day for two people. Temperatures ranged from 30 to 80 F (-1 to 27 C). The temperature was near freezing on several mornings, it was very windy several evenings, and we had one rainy evening and morning. We ate one-pot meals, and cooked brownies in the Helios two evenings.

In mid-April, we traveled to Chaco Canyon National Monument in northern New Mexico , where we camped in a campground and cooked dinner and breakfast for three people. The morning temperature was 30 F (-1 C). We cooked one-pot meals.  

Performance
We boiled water for beverages every morning and evening. Consistent with our earlier experience, we found that it’s messy to pour liquids from the Helios pot. The pot does not have a pour spout, so a slow pour results in liquid running down the side of the pot, and soaking into the neoprene cozy around the pot. A fast pour works better, if we pour into a large cup. For transferring hot water to a coffee cup or Thermos, it was easier to dip it out of the Helios pot with a cup rather than try to pour it.

We cooked brownies for desert two evenings by liberally oiling the pot and frying dollops of the batter in the covered pot over very low heat (left photo). The brownies stuck badly to the pot. Our experience confirmed that the pot does not have a non-stick coating.

We cooked brownies for desert two evenings by liberally oiling the pot and frying dollops of the batter in the covered pot over very low heat (left photo). The brownies stuck badly to the pot. Our experience confirmed that the pot does not have a non-stick coating.

 

Pictured is dinner for two simmering on the Jetboil Helios. We found that the 2 liter (2.1 qt) pot supplied with the Helios has enough capacity to cook for three adults.

Pictured is dinner for two simmering on the Jetboil Helios. We found that the 2 liter (2.1 qt) pot supplied with the Helios has enough capacity to cook for three adults.

On windy evenings, we felt fortunate to have the Jetboil Helios to cook our meals. Its integrated windscreen minimizes the effects of wind, so cooking in the wind was no problem.

Summary
The following bullets summarize my experiences with the Jetboil Helios, based on seven trips and 26 days of use during a four month test period.

  • The components of the Helios nest inside the cookpot, creating a compact, durable unit for packing.
  • The Helios is easy and fast to setup, use, and disassemble. The fuel and ignition cables are already attached to the burner unit, so all that’s necessary is to attach the fuel line to an inverted fuel canister.
  • The stove lights easily with its piezo ignition, usually with just one push of a button. The stove lit easily in cold temperatures, high altitudes, and high humidity conditions.
  • The Helios is very fuel efficient, only 0.36 ounces (10 g) of fuel burned per liter of water boiled.
  • The integrated windscreen minimizes the effects of wind on stove efficiency, but it does use one-third more fuel in a strong wind.
  • For melting snow, the Helios is a workhorse. On our igloo camping trip we melted enough snow to provide about four gallons of water (15.1 liters) and the Helios did it with ease without using a lot of fuel.
  • Because of the longer fuel line between the fuel canister and burner, there is a significant lag time between the fuel value adjustment at the canister and the flame height at the burner. When the stove is initially lit after assembly, it requires several adjustments of the valve to get the desired heat level at the burner, but it requires little or no re-adjustment on subsequent lightings.
  • The burner is moderately noisy at all throttle levels, but is not irritatingly loud like many white gas stoves.
  • In cold weather, the plastic top lid is too stiff to snap on over the top of the cook pot. It snaps on easily in warm temperatures.
  • The pot doesn’t have a pour spout, so it’s messy to pour from the cook pot into a cup or small mouth container.
  • The pot does not have a non-stick coating. Fried foods stuck badly, even with the pot well oiled.
  • The Helios with a two liter (2.1 qt) pot will cook for up to three adults.

Acknowledgement
I would like to thank Jetboil and the BackpackGearTest Group for selecting me to participate in this test.

Will Rietveld



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