The second installment of the Alpenglow Sports “Light is Right” gear review series brings focus to Jetboil’s new Sol Advanced Cooking System. A new stove for summer 2011, the Sol is the second topic in a summer of Alpenglow reviews for Unofficialsquaw.com.
MSR revolutionized the backpacking stove world in 2003 with the creation of their 3oz. Pocket Rocket. Fast-forward 8 years and the choices in stoves, especially canister stoves, are astounding. With their feather weight, compact design, fast boil time and ease of use, canister stoves have become the go-to choice for most backpackers. Jetboil ups the ante by creating a self-contained cooking “system,” where all components (pot, pot stabilizer, windscreen, burner, canister tripod and canister) are included and nestle within one another for a clean, compact package.
The Sol Series is modeled after the ever-popular Personal Cooking System (PCS) but in a smaller, lighter, and more featured package. It is available in two models, the Sol and Titanium Sol. For the purposes of this “Light is Right” review, we will focus on the Titanium version.
Weighing in at a scant 8.5 ounces (excluding canister), it comes with an insulated 0.8L (27oz) pot, lid with pour spout and strainer, advanced igniter, pot support, and a tripod for stability. All components fit within the pot in a clean, organized fashion.
While many of the features repeat from the PCS, two new features stand out in the Sol. The first is a totally redesigned lid, usable for both coffee and straining pasta. However, it is the second feature, Jetboil’s Advanced Thermo-Regulate Burner Technology that really sets the Sol series apart. This new technology employs a pressure gauge in the neck of the stove unit. The result is a greater, consistent fuel efficiency and better performance at colder temperatures down to 20 degree Fahrenheit. To illustrate why this is so vital, and a bit revolutionary, read on!
Canister stoves have traditionally come under criticism for longer trips, bigger groups, and/or functionality in cold temperatures. Canister refuse and storage, and a lack of simmering capability are also proven downsides to canister stoves. Most importantly however, traditional canister stoves lose their efficiency with successive boils due to a decrease in pressure within the canister itself. The result of this is continually increasing boil times for one liter of water.
If not considered for longer trips, a serious flaw in fuel estimates may occur. Obviously, there is no reason to buy a lightweight stove if the user has to bring additional fuel canisters resulting in a heavier system more comparable to a fuel-bottle system. Traditionally, this has kept canister stoves in the realm of shorter trips with 1-3 people.
With their patented FluxRing Technology, first showcased in the PCS, Jetboil sought to remedy this problem. When compared to conventional canister stoves, this concentration of heat, via the folded ribs that surround the flame, results in faster boil times AND an increase in fuel efficiency. The end result is fuel efficiencies of over 80% when compared to the 30-40% of typical stoves and cookware (from http://www.jetboil.com). The bottom line is a weight and monetary savings, as the user has to carry and better yet, purchase, less fuel. A stove that cooks faster and uses half the fuel is a good addition to any quiver.
However, when comparing the overall fuel efficiency of canister stoves, things can get confusing very quickly. For instance, if used with a 100-gram canister, the Sol will boil 16 ounces of water in 2.25 minutes, burn for 60 minutes, and yield 12 boils (96 total ounces). However, when one compares such values of the Sol to the PCS, they are identical and in one instance (boil time), actually slower (2 minute PCS boil time versus 2.25 minutes for the Sol). While the Ti Sol is 5.5 ounces lighter than the PCS, it is also $50 more expensive. Without proper education, this would lead many to believe such a marginal weight savings and slightly longer boil time not justifiable for the $50 price difference.
However, the trump card the Sol possesses on the PCS, and any other canister stove for that matter, is its Advanced Thermo-Regulate Burner Technology. For example, while the FluxRing Technology of the PCS does increase heat concentration and fuel efficiency when compared to other canister stoves, it does nothing for the decrease in pressure within the fuel canister. The problem with a decrease in pressure within a canister is an increase in boil times. Jetboil should refer to the PCS boil time of 2 minutes/liter only for the very first boil in the life of a canister. Burn times for successive liters of water show a marked increase, i.e. 2.1, 2.3, 2.7, 3.2 minutes, etc. for the PCS. The Sol, with its Advanced Thermo-Regulate Burner Technology, maintains a consistent boil time of 2.25 minutes per liter for the lifetime of the canister. Ultimately this makes the Sol more fuel-efficient! Whew!
The bottom line is the Titanium Sol is lighter, smaller, and realistically (when values are constant) more fuel-efficient than any other canister stove manufactured today. The only exception is the Sol’s direct competitor, the MSR Reactor, which we will cover next week!!
The Titanium Sol will run you $150, while the standard aluminum version $120, which consequently comes in at 10 ounces. Mentioned before, the PCS comes in at $100 with a weight of 14 ounces. All three run on standard canisters which have a threaded neck. All stoves are great ones and it’s only us weight nerds that geek out on all the specifics!