Outdoor retailer Blacks has kindly donated a JetBoil ZiP Cooking System for review. In this post, I will describe the system and offer a comparison to my regular stove for lightweight backpacking trips. I’ll also offer some early thoughts of using the JetBoil in the field (including at height in the Scottish mountains). A second review will follow after using the system for a number of months, particularly in winter conditions.
JetBoil ZiP unpacked
Many readers will be familiar with the JetBoil system. At its heart is a ‘FluxRing’ heat exchanger fixed to the base of the cooking pot. The exchanger integrates with the burner and this, the manufacturer claims, provides more efficient heat application compared to regular stoves. So, the stove should cook faster and use less fuel. The ZiP is one of the smaller, more basic models in the JetBoil line up and is intended for solo use.
The standard JetBoil ZiP includes:
A gas canister stand
Cooking pot, with FluxRing attached and insulation ‘cozy’
Rubberised lid, with integrated strainer and pouring spout
A folding pot stand, allowing you to use the stove with other pans
A measuring/drinking cup
I have the additional coffee press which integrates neatly with the system.
Before assessing whether the JetBoil lives up to the manufacturer’s claims over boil times, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how neatly the system packs together.
The measuring cup affixes to the bottom of the cooking pot, protecting the fluxring to an extent. In the cooking pot sits the canister stand, the burner, a standard 100g canister and the pot stand. The lid fits tightly on top of the pot keeping all the elements together in a neat and tidy package.
In addition, the coffee press dismantles and sits within packed stove, the basket in the measuring cup while the plunger separates and sits in the burner – very neat indeed.
It’s worth pointing out that all elements must fit together in a particular way In order for them to sit in the pot neatly. You soon get the hang of it though. Other size canisters will work with the JetBoil but you lose the neat packing.
The JetBoil ZiP is a very solid and stable cooking unit. Gas canisters used so far snap securely into the stand, providing a solid platform for the unit. The burner screws in to the canister and the pot ‘twist-locks’ into the burner. This is a little fiddly at first, but becomes easier with use.
A regulator is located at the base of the burner, tucked away to allow the neat packing. This is quite difficult to access and would be awkward to operate with gloves. This regulator is very much and on-and-off affair, too, with little or no control over flame intensity.
This limits the JetBoil to a stove primarily designed for heating water to rehydrate food or heat prepared food in a foil bag… and for making brews of course. Simmering will be difficult, though.
I first thought that lighting the JetBoil would be tricky given the flame is hidden within the stove body. This has not proven to be the case, though and a spark from a lighter or fire steel works well.
All elements of the stove operate nicely in concert and are well engineered… It feels like a quality product. The pot is graduated and the cosy insulates the contents to an extent while protecting bare hands.
The only disappointment is the measuring cup which is limited as a receptacle for hot drinks. Hot liquids cause the plastic to deform quickly in the hand resulting in spills. This is a shame as it hinders the multi-use nature of this part of the cooking system.
Use the JetBoil ZiP in the field and its efficiency is immediately apparent. Boiling loch water for tea appeared to be very quick – once in benign conditions at 600m and then in heavy mist and some wind at 900m.
Nevertheless, I decided to run a direct comparison with my current ‘overnighter’ cooking system.
MSR Pocket Rocket
Snow Peak Titanium Cup
Snow peak Ti Spork
MSR pot bag
Early impressions that the JetBoil is heavy compared to my regular rig have proven to be unfounded. In a direct like-for-like comparison there was very little in it, the JetBoil actually being marginally lighter.
With canister and spork, but minus pot stand, the JetBoil weighs 570g on the kitchen scales. With the pot stand, the stove measured a whisker under 600g. The Pocket Rocket kit, including canister, was 580g. (You could lose the Snow Peak cup and save some weight.)
For the purposes of my unscientific performance test, I brought 500ml of tap water to the boil on both stoves using the same canister, the Pocket Rocket going first.
Being a new canister, I was able to turn the ‘Rocket to its maximum setting and the unit roared. Heat was intense around the stove, with a clear heat ‘cloud’. The MytiMug was very hot once the water had boiled, the handle far too hot to touch.
By contrast, the JetBoil was a much more subdued affair. The gas usage rate did not appear to be as high as the Rocket, with very little heat dissipation around the stove.
Timings were as follows:
Pocket Rocket – 3:52.25
JetBoil ZiP – 3:18.30
I initially was surprised by these results as I thought the JetBoil would perform better given my observations in the field. The time recorded also falls someway short of the manufacturer’s claims of a 2.5 minute boil for 500ml.
As for the comparison, I believe the ‘Rocket has the ability to apply a lot of heat (and use a lot of gas) when canisters are new. This performance tails off somewhat once a canister has been used a few times. I expect the JetBoil to deliver more consistent boil times throughout a canister’s life, though time will tell.
On the subject of economy, JetBoil claims a 100g canister will provide 60 minutes burn time using the ZiP. This translates to 12 litres of water boiled. Given my fairly hefty tea/coffee consumption – and assuming I am not boiling water to purify it – a 100g canister would last 5-6 days. Previous experience suggests this is better than the performance I’d achieve with the ‘Rocket.
The JetBoil ZiP is a well-made unit which provides a compact, light and stable cooking system. While it may not perform as well as the manufacturer’s claims – and further testing will explore this – it offers a compelling choice if you are looking for a new gas stove for lightweight trips.
However, it is not without limitations. Retailing at £80 (although can be found cheaper) the unit is expensive, particularly if you have already invested in cookwear. However, if you are buying your first stove and cookset, the price differential is not so great. The poor and distinctly fiddly regulation of gas flow also limits the stove to water-heating duties, although this potential limitation will be explored further in the field.
Thanks again to Blacks for donating this stove. I’ll post further observations once it has been used in a range of conditions.