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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Outdoors Explorer Stove Kit > Test Report by Kurt Papke

GSI Explorer Cook Kit

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - March 7, 2019

Field Report - May 28, 2019

Long Term Report - July 23, 2019

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 65
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 230 lbs (105 kg)
Email address: kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

I do most of my hiking in the desert Southwest, but occasionally get up into the Pacific Northwest and my old stomping grounds in Northern Minnesota.  I am a comfort-weight guy when it comes to most gear, trying to stay as light as possible but I don't go to extremes.  I cook several hot meals per day while on the trail, so I use my cook kits a lot.

Initial Report

Product Facts

This product is not yet on the market and did not appear on the GSI website at the time this Initial Report was published, so there may be some uncertainty as to naming, pricing, claimed weights, etc.  The product I am evaluating includes a pot with lid, retractable spork and a stove that fits on a gas canister.

Product Information
Manufacturer
GSI Outdoors Inc.
Manufacturer website
https://gsioutdoors.com
Products tested
Glacier Stainless 1.1 L Boiler + Glacier Camp Stove
Country of manufacture
China
MSRP
Unknown, product not yet priced
Warranty
30 day return policy
Materials
Pot: stainless steel
Stove: unknown, but mix of metal and plastic
Measured dimensions/weight

Weight
Dimensions
Stove
6.2 oz (175 g)
5 in W x 3 in H (127 mm W x 76 mm H)
Pot
11.7 oz (334 g)
4.6 in W x 4.6 in H (117 mm W x 117 mm H)
exclusive of handle
Spork
0.6 oz (17 g)
3.5 x 1.75 x 0.625 in (89 x 44 x 16 mm)
Total
18.6 oz (526 g)
Stove and spork stow in pot,
so ostensibly same as pot dimensions


Initial Inspection

g01

When I opened up the box and took the cook kit out, my first impression was "this is one of those pieces of gear that is going to last forever".  The pot seems sturdy enough that I could use it for a camp stool.  The handle is very robust (see photo above left), I think I'll be able to lift a full pot of food without worrying about dropping anything.  The burner on the stove is huge, but the pot is pretty wide so it should distribute the heat well.

In fact, the burner may be a little over-sized.  When I fired it up to do a boil time test, the flame extends well past the outer edge of the pot when the gas adjustment is fully open.  See photo at upper right.  I had to turn down the gas a bit to keep the flame on the pot bottom.

The only thing that feels a little flimsy is the flame adjustment - it is made of thin wire and flexes pretty easily.  It is not going to break, but it just seemed so much less "beefy" than the rest of the system that it struck me as odd.

The pot has nice markings on the inside for both metric and Imperial volumes.  See photo above at lower right.  The markings are large and bold enough to be easy to see and read.  The stove is designed well to keep the pot in-place.  As is visible in the above photo at lower left, the stand is serrated and sloped so that the pot stays nicely in place and does not have any tendency to slide off.

With the size of the pot and stove it seems like it would be a good idea to use 250 g (8.8 oz) fuel canisters for stability purposes.  I have a canister stabilizer for the small 100 g (3.5 oz) canisters, but I am concerned that when the pot is full of liquid or food the high center of mass will make things tipsy.

Finally, I did a quick boil time test with the standard 16 oz (473 ml) amount of water at 70 F (21 C).  Time to rolling boil was 3.5 minutes, a respectable time.  This was with the burner turned down just slightly from its maximum so the flame did not extend past the pot bottom.

Summary

I am looking forward to getting this cook kit out into the backcountry and making some meals with it.

Good Things:

  • Sturdy design, it's not going to fall apart.
  • Pot marries well with the stove, no tendency to slide off.
  • Distinct pot volume markings for easy measuring.

Concerns:

  • Somewhat heavy.  Not a problem for car camping, but has a little extra heft for backpacking.

Check back in a few months for my report from the field.

Field Report

Testing Locations/Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance Hiked
Altitude
Weather
April 4-5, 2019
Coronado National Forest, Huachuca Mountains near Sierra Vista, Arizona
Reef Townsite
(car camping)

2 miles
(3.2 km)
7200 ft
(3000 m)
Partly cloudy, windy.  Highs around 65 F (18 C), lows around 44 F (7 C).  Very windy.
May 5-6, 2019 Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona AZT: Gordon Hirabayashi TH to Hutch's Pool
15 miles
(24 km)
3622-4983 ft
(1104-1519 m)
Mostly sunny, slight breeze.  High of around 85 F, low of 46 F (29-8 C)
May 18-19, 2019
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains just North of Tucson, Arizona AZT: Marshall Gulch TH to Lemmon Pools
9 miles
(14.5 km)
7000-8000 ft
(2130-2440 m)
Mostly sunny, slight breeze, 36-60 F (2-16 C)

g02

Carr Canyon - Reef Townsite

This was a single-night car camping trip to do some reconnaissance for the upcoming Arizona Spring Hammock Hang next month at this campgrounds.  I wasn't able to reserve the group campsite, so I wanted to check out the single sites and get an assessment of the winding mountain road leading up to the site.  I used the cook kit three times, for some hot broth (photo above upper left), dinner and breakfast the next morning (photo above, upper middle).

As is evident from the photos, I did not use GSI fuel.  I substituted a leftover Snow Peak and a Jetboil canister.  Both worked just fine.

The challenge was using the stove in high winds.  The flame never got blown out, but came close, and it had a pretty big impact on boil times.  In all instances I was boiling one pint (470 mL) of water, which seemed to take about 10 minutes to get up to a rolling boil.

Pictured in the second photo above is the collapsible cup I used with this cook kit, since it does not come with a cup, nor is it easy to drink directly from the pot.

AZT To Hutch's Pool

Hutch's Pool is an iconic Tucson backpacking destination, and a welcome respite for Arizona Trail through-hikers as it offers a chance to have a dip in a mountain pool.  Despite having lived and backpacked here for 10 years, I still had not been there, so packed up and did a short overnight.  The trailhead is a memorialized prison camp used to inter Japanese Americans during World War II, and now bears the name of the man who fought so hard against this unnecessary internment.

I used the Explorer cook kit for 3 meals and a mid-morning snack on this backpacking trip.  The above right photo shows lunch cooking along the trail.  The photo at the bottom left shows the detail of a one of the few meals I made with the cook kit that involved more than boiling water.  This is my homemade dehydrated spaghetti with meat sauce.  I had to boil water to rehydrate the meat sauce, then cook the noodles (angel hair pasta).

Everything worked pretty well but the burner throws so much heat up the side of the pot that I feel like I singed my fingers a few times while I was stirring or adding ingredients to the pot.  I also noticed that the stove stays hot for a long time after dousing the flame.  The central stem contains a lot of metal, and was too hot to touch even a few minutes after shutting down the stove.  I don't know if the storage sac for the stove is heatproof or not, but I didn't take any chances and allowed the stove to cool down well before stowing it.

I also noticed on this trip that if I tried to throttle back the stove, it had a mind of its own and tended to return to the prior/higher setting.  I found if I overcompensated the valve, it would return to a reasonable level of flame output.  There are limits to this technique however, if I throttle it back too much of course the flame goes out.

I have mixed feelings about the spork.  I like how it folds up so small, and the plastic tip allows me to stir and mix contents in a freezer bag without puncturing the bag.  On the other hand, food slides off of the tip, and it has a tendency to fold up when I wish it did not.

One additional note from this trip: I used the cook pot to eat my cereal out of in the morning.  Works reasonably well, though the pot is a little deep to scoop cereal out of the very bottom.

AZT to Lemmon Pools

Another overnight to a stellar but little-known water feature in the Catalina Mountains.  There is a reason I am doing so many of these this year: we had great winter & spring rains, and the mountain pools are spectacular.

I cooked lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning on the stove.  I brought three partially filled gas canisters to make sure I didn't run out, but this stove uses a lot of gas.  I used two of the three.

The stove is shown in action at our campsite near the pools in the photo above at lower right.

I nearly burned my fingers on the handle cooking dinner.  The handle is far enough away, I didn't expect it to get hot, but the burner throws so much heat up the side of the pot that my expectations were dashed.

Summary

There seems to be a fundamental mismatch between the design of the stove and the pot.  The burner is wide enough for a frying pan.  Either the pot should be wider, or the burner should be narrower.

Pros:

  1. Sturdy construction: no dents, nothing is bent or damaged
  2. Stove, spork, and lighter nest well inside the pot for transport

Concerns:

  1. Poor performance in windy conditions
  2. Lots of wasted heat up the pot sides due to over-wide flame, can even cause the handle to get hot
  3. Stove stays hot for a long time
  4. Difficult to modulate heat output, especially simmering

Long Term Report

Testing Locations/Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance Hiked
Altitude
Weather
June 22-23, 2019 Mount Baldy Wilderness, near Pinetop, Arizona Mount Baldy Loop
20 miles (32 km) 9190-11142 ft
(2801-3396 m)
Sunny, breezy, temperatures 30-68 F (-1-20 C)
July 6-7, 2019 Tonto National forest, Pinal Peak just south of Globe, Arizona
Various
~2 miles
(~3 km)
7600 ft
(2310 m)
Partly cloudy, 55-70 F
(13-21 C)
July 20-21, 2019
Chiricahua Wilderness, Southeast Arizona
Crest Trail
14 miles
(22.5 km)
8300-9450 ft
(2530-2880 m)
Sunny, breezy, 50-70 F
(10-21 C)
g03

Mount Baldy Loop

I have lived in Tucson, Arizona for 10 years, and never visited, much less hiked, Arizona's White Mountains.  Mount Baldy, Arizona's second-highest peak is located there, and I needed some high-altitude training.  I drove 5 hours to the trailhead early Saturday morning, hiked until I could no more, then got up the next morning and completed the loop before driving back. I was pretty beat that night when I arrived home.

I was too bone-tired when after setting up camp on Saturday night to cook a hot meal.  I just had some jerky and a trail bar and called it a night.  Needless to say, I was starving when I awoke the morning and made myself a huge pot of oatmeal, cooked directly in the stainless pot.  Oatmeal can be nasty to clean out of a pot.  I dry camped that night, so I had to make good use of my water and could not afford to waste it needlessly on pot cleaning.  Fortunately the Explorer pot cleaned up nicely with a splash of clean water and liberal use of my fingers as a scrubber.  I used my bandanna to complete the task, and the pot was sparkling clean!  Glad to see this cleans up so easily.

Pinal Peak

This was an overnight car-camping trip to a campground I had never been to before, despite being less than 3 hours from my house by car. I cooked two meals in the GSI cook kit: spaghetti for dinner and oatmeal the next morning.

I tried to capture in the above left photo the issue with the burner being too wide for the pot.  The bubbles from the boil are visible around the outer edge of the pot, but there are fewer and smaller bubbles towards the middle.

I've found that the spork that came with the cook kit can be difficult to clean.  On the above photo, upper right, is a close-up of the spork AFTER being cleaned as thoroughly as I could with the utensils I had with me.  I think a toothpick would be required to get the bits of oatmeal out of the hinge area.  This makes the spork a likely source of mold and/or bacteria growth.  I've become increasingly frustrated with the way it often folds up on me, despite my best efforts at locking it in place.

I was anxious for breakfast in the morning and turned the gas up pretty good on the stove to get my water boiling for the oatmeal.  When I went to take the pot off the stove I nearly burned my hand, and had to use the stove stuff sack as a hot pad to avoid a nasty burn.  This is clearly a safety issue.

Chiricahua Crest Trail

This was a high-altitude hike to acclimate for my upcoming Colorado hiking week.  I had lunch at the Rustler Park trailhead campground (see photo at upper middle position in the collage above).  I made up some potato soup that was enhanced with some jerky meat.  It reminded me that another thing I dislike about this spork is that it is pretty useless for eating soup.  Unfortunately, soup is one of my favorite trail lunches.  The spork holds so little liquid that way too many spoonfuls are required to eat my lunch.  On this occasion I got so frustrated I just picked up the pot and drank directly from it, of course pouring half of it down the front of my shirt.

I used the cook kit on the trail again for dinner, though I just boiled water.  It was pretty windy in my campsite at dinner time, and the burner almost blew out a few times.  I made a makeshift windbreak from a big rock and my food bag, and that helped a little bit.

I made hot instant coffee for breakfast the next morning with the cook kit with no issues.

Summary

The positive things I can add to my Field Report Summary is that the stainless pot cleans up easily and to a spotless condition, and that as expected this is a durable piece of gear.  Four months later and many meals cooked in it, and it looks brand new, although the burner has the typical "heat exposure" look to the metal.

On the downside, I will not use this spork again.  It folds up when I try to use it, has too small capacity for liquids and is impossible to clean.  Also, the pot handle getting hot can be pretty serious if the burner is cranked up.

Many of the issues with this cook kit could be corrected if the manufacturer simply made the burner smaller in diameter.  It would be a more fuel efficient stove, simmer better, and would prevent the handle from getting burning hot.


Many thanks to GSI Outdoors and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.


Read more reviews of GSI Outdoors gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Outdoors Explorer Stove Kit > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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