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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Outdoors Explorer Stove Kit > Test Report by Andrea Murland
I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, Europe, and Nepal. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, and prefer to be hut-based for overnight trips. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.
Description & Initial ImpressionsThe GSI Outdoors Explorer Stove Kit is not yet shown on their website at time of writing, but appears to consist of their Glacier Camp Stove, Glacier Stainless 1.1 L Boiler, and Folding Foon.
The Glacier Camp Stove is a direct-mount canister stove, and screws directly onto the top of a liquid pressurized gas canister certified to EN417. The stove is not folding, with the exception of the flame adjuster handle, which folds in towards the center of the stove. The head of the stove is 12.5 cm (4.9 in) in diameter, and the top of the pot support arms sit 8.3 cm (3.3 in) high (plus the canister height, of course). The four pot support arms are angled slightly towards the centre of the burner and have a serrated top surface. The burner has three rows of holes around the circumference of the head, but nothing in the center. The manufacturer specifies that the burner outputs 11,000-12,970 BTU/hr. The stove comes with a carrying bag made of nylon covered in mesh. The stove fits in the carrying bag with room to spare. The stove came with a manual in English and French. The warnings in the manual cover a variety of topics, but focus on not using the stove in an enclosed space due to carbon monoxide, not getting the canister hot, not lighting anything nearby on fire, and that the stove will get hot. There are also warnings to never use a windscreen and only use GSI Outdoors brand isoButane fuel canisters certified to EN417. Only cookware less than 9.1 in (23.1 cm) in diameter and less than 6 in (15.2 cm) high should be used with the stove.
The Glacier Stainless Boiler 1.1 L is a pretty heavy-duty feeling stainless steel pot. It comes with a lid with a small folding wire handle, and the pot has a folding handle which folds over the lid to keep it in place. To deploy the handle, I squeeze the two pieces of the handle together to “unlock” it, and then fold it down. To stow the pot handle, I again squeeze the two pieces to release it. The pot handle feels very sturdy when in position for use; there’s no wiggle or floppiness to it. The inside of the pot is stamped with metric volume markings every 250 mL, and imperial markings every 8 fl oz. These markings are raised and are also visible on the outside of the pot. The pot (handle excluded) measures 12 cm (4.7 in) in diameter and is 12 cm (4.7 in) high. The handle extends 13.3 cm (5.2 in) from the side of the pot. The Boiler comes with a mesh carry bag with a drawcord closure.
The Folding Foon is a folding fork/spoon combination utensil. The bowl of the foon is made from acetal, and has two tines and a bowl that measures 4.3 cm (1.7 in) across. The foon has a stainless steel wire handle and is 15.5 cm (6.1 in) long when unfolded, and 9.4 cm (3.7 in) long when folded. To lock the foon open, there is a plastic piece that slides along the handle and clicks into place on the bowl of the foon. It can be released by a firm pull.
Trying It OutThe first obvious thing to do seemed to be putting the stove on a canister (after reading the manual, of course!). I happened to have a partially-used GSI 110 g isoButane canister sitting around. The stove easily screwed onto the canister with no resistance. The stove’s flame adjuster valve unfolded easily and was easy to turn.
I next filled the Boiler with cold tap water. At 500 mL and 1 L the markings in the pot were reasonably close to my kitchen measuring cup. Lifting the pot by the handle with 1 L of water inside felt sturdy. I did find that the lid was a tight fit to get seated fully on the pot; I had to push it into place.
I tried to light the stove and got…nothing. I took the stove off the canister and tried again, and still got nothing. I tried a different stove that I have at home and had no issues at all, and realized at that point that I hadn’t heard the typical release of gas when screwing the stove onto the canister, so I tried a third time. That time I got the usual “hiss” and the Glacier Camp Stove lit with no problem. Strange…and I will definitely be trying a few more times at home before venturing into the field!
Once I had the stove lit, it seemed that anything beyond a quarter turn of the flame adjuster valve didn’t produce any more flame. There doesn’t seem to be much of a simmer range, it’s either on, really on, or the valve seems to be doing nothing. At maximum flame, the flames were escaping well beyond the edge of the Boiler and licking up the sides of the pot. I had to turn it down quite far to keep the flame under the pot. My partially-empty canister seemed to drop pressure quite fast, with a noticeable pressure drop through the several minutes that I had it on. Although the canister was fairly empty, I was surprised by how much decrease in flame intensity I witnessed.
While boiling the pot full of water, the handle on the lid became quite hot, and I found that the tight fitting lid was quite difficult to get off once everything was hot. The handle was hot to the touch close to the pot, but cool enough to use near the tip. Even holding the handle near its end, the pot full of water was easy to lift.
The foon is long enough to reach the bottom of the pot to stir, though it will be interesting to see how stirring food with a spoon with tines will work.
I tried a few configurations of packing things into the pot. A small canister easily fits with plenty of space to pack other small items around it. The stove fits into the pot on its side; it is too wide to slide in upright. Both the canister and stove will definitely not fit!
SummaryThe Explorer Stove Kit includes a heavy-duty stove and pot and an ultralight folding foon. The stove and pot seem mis-matched; the stove seems to be better suited to a larger diameter pot than provided. I like the sturdy handle and volume markings on the pot. I am, however, nervous about the limited simmer on the stove and how much burnt dinner I might be eating this spring, but am looking forward to getting out in the field with it!
Field ConditionsI have had the GSI Explorer Stove Kit out for three nights of car camping in the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains. In all cases I was camped at about 1400 m (4590 ft), and overnight temperatures were down to around freezing or just below. I used the stove to cook dinner and breakfast each time. Each time, I used the same partially-empty large canister of fuel, not GSI-brand.
ObservationsThe stove is easy to set up, which is great. It easily screws onto the canister and then I’m ready to go. The pot and spork also each only take seconds to be ready – simply unfold the handles.
The pot works well. It’s a good size for a one-person meal, though it’s taller and skinnier than what I’m used to. I really like the volume markings on the inside. I usually guess how much water to add to my one-pot pasta dinners, and usually end up with either soup or stew. My guessing with this pot is much more accurate and I actually had something the consistency of pasta all three nights! I boiled my pasta-pesto water over one night, and the outside of the pot was easy to clean up at the time and later, with the exception of the really burnt on sections closes to the burner.
The spork has been easy to eat with. I’ve been eating pasta with bite-sized vegetables for dinner and oatmeal for breakfast, so I’ve only really needed the spoon function. I do find that with the tines on it, it’s a bit hard to scrape the bottom or corners of the pot when I’m trying to keep things from sticking.
The stove works well on its own. I would say its strength is in boiling water in a windless environment. I typically use a stove with a windscreen and it surprised me how long it took to boil water with a light breeze, even with the stove partially sheltered. Cooking my dinners was a challenge, as I had one-pot pasta dinners each night that needed cooking. The problem with these is that they burn to the bottom of the pot if there’s too much heat. I’m used to that happening some, but I wasn’t able to turn down the stove very far. The range of flame seems to be much smaller than the range that I can turn the handle – I get to full flame well before the handle is all the way open, and the turndown is minimal. I also found it hard to turn down the flame and have the setting stay. The handle seemed to spring back towards open a little bit, so I had to turn it down a little farther than I actually wanted. Since I was trying to get the flame as low as possible, I accidentally shut it off a few times in this process.
The other thing that I noted in my Initial Report and have now confirmed is that the flame licks up the outside of the pot when the burner is on full. A wider pot would eliminate this issue, but this stove doesn’t match the burner style. I found that most of the pot handle got quite hot, so I could only pick up the pot by the very tip of the handle. Also, when I boiled over my dinner, the food ran down straight onto the burner rather than onto the ground, and because the flame comes up the sides of the pot it burned to the outside of the pot quite fast.
SummarySo far this stove seems to perform about as expected for a canister stove with no windscreen, though it has poor simmering performance. The pot and spork both work well enough on their own, and I like the pot’s volume markings. The disappointment so far has been how the stove and pot work together as a kit. Stick with me as I rely on this kit as my cooking equipment for an eight-day trip soon.
Field ConditionsThe GSI Explorer Stove Kit came with me on an 8-day backcountry canoe trip this summer. The trip was 116.4 km (72.3 mi) long, including 10.8 km (6.7 mi) of portages, at an elevation of 945 m (3100 ft). Temperatures during the trip were warm, getting up to about 23 C (73 F) during the day with nighttime temperatures around 10 C (50 F). Weather ranged from clear and sunny to torrential rain with every level of rain and cloud in between. Camping was a mix of basic campsites where cooking was done on the ground or a stump, to campsites where there was a cooking shelter with picnic tables to use.
ObservationsMy experiences during the Long Term testing phase confirmed my observations from Field Testing. All of the components of this kit work well enough, but I don’t think they pair well together.
The stove itself does best when trying to heat something rapidly, such as for boiling water. I was never able to figure out a way to turn it down very much, and the handle springing back to a higher setting when trying to turn it down remained a problem. In order to turn it down enough that it would actually remain at a low setting, I usually ended up turning it off by accident. I found that when cooking food in the pot (rather than just water), I preferred a non-stick pot to help prevent burning on the overly hot stove.
The pot worked well as a one-person pot. During this phase I primarily boiled water in it for drinks and breakfast, as when cooking dinner I was cooking for four and this pot was too small. My favourite thing about this pot is the volume markings on the inside, though I also like the sturdy handle. I was always able to pick up the pot by the handle, even immediately after boiling water (though it was by the tip of the handle, as the part of the handle close to the pot is way too hot). The little folding wire handle on the pot lid did come off once, the ends slipping out of the slot. It was easy to put back together and I gave it a quick squeeze with pliers.
The foon worked well. It performed best as a spoon, particularly for thicker food like oatmeal or mashed potatoes. It did okay with soup, though there was some dribbling from between the fork tines. As a fork it doesn’t excel, as quite a bit of force is required to actually stab something with the tines. It was a bit difficult to stir cooking food with the foon, as the tines on the end make it a patchy surface to scrape the bottom of a pot with. I think I prefer to carry a spoon and fork than the foon. It is easy enough to clean, and packs up nicely for storage. I did find that licking out all of the crevices of the foon prior to trying to wash it worked the best, as my fingers couldn’t get into all of the ridges.
As I mentioned, I don’t think that the components of this kit work well together. The primary reason for this is that the burner head is too wide for the pot. The flames lick up the outside of the pot, which is a waste of energy for heating.
SummaryAlthough I like some of the components of this kit, the kit as it was delivered won’t become a part of my backcountry setup. The primary reason is that the pot and stove burner are a poor march in diameter, reducing the stove’s efficiency. As well, the stove doesn’t simmer well, making actual cooking difficult.
Volume markings on inside of pot
Pot cleans up well after a burnt-on spill
Foon folds up small for storage and works reasonably well for eating
Pot is too small diameter for burner head
Burner doesn’t simmer
Turning down the burner is very difficult, the handle springs back to a higher position
Thanks to GSI Outdoors and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test this stove kit.
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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Outdoors Explorer Stove Kit > Test Report by Andrea Murland