(The Gear Loop) - Although not many of us are looking to beat records or set impressive times when out hiking, camping or tackling new trails, there is a breed of adventurer out there that demands the lightest and most efficient kit when out conquering the wilds and generally making history. After all, simple pleasures like eating a meal or warming up with a fresh cup of coffee are niceties the most ardent competitive outdoors folk can rarely afford.
The evolution of outdoor gear and advances in technology have meant that brands have kept pace with this elite set's desire for lighter gear that enables them to do things faster out on the trails. Let’s face it, we all look back at the clothing and equipment backpackers and mountaineers formerly used to brave the wilds with a certain amount of incredulity. These days, the items we take out on a backpacking expedition are not only blessedly lightweight, they’re also optimised to within an inch of their lives, meaning even us "normal" folk can stay dryer, warmer and this case, full to the brim with tasty hot meals and drinks.
Where camping stoves are concerned, none are as fast as the Jetboil Flash. This sleek integrated stove has been turning heads for years, boasting lightning-fast boil times and future-ready aesthetics. The Flash is also light enough for expeditions and compact enough to fit nicely in your backpack. So, is this the ultimate stove for the modern adventurer? We tested it on a mountainside to find out.
For the simple act of bringing water to a boil, it’s hard to beat the Jetboil Flash. It’s lightning quick, fuel efficient and it even lets you know when things are hitting the required temperatures. This makes it perfect for bringing noodles and dehydrated meals to life, brewing up a much-needed caffeine injection or simply to purify stream water. Its packs down relatively small and is easily stashed in your backpack.
However, it’s not the most versatile stove on the market and arguably isn't as good for friends and family who have the means to carry bulkier kit and want to cook proper meals. While it undoubtedly boils water with aplomb, it’s something of a one trick pony and its simmering ability isn’t great.
There are also smaller and lighter stoves out there for backpackers serious about hitting the trails as light as possible. Nevertheless, nothing else gives you the speedy boil time of the Flash.
- Relatively compact design
- Insulated cooking cup with heat indicator
- Piezo ignition
- Efficiency suffers slightly in windy conditions
- Limited simmering ability
- There are lighter stoves out there
In the Loop
A quick look at what you can expect from the Jetboil Flash stove:
- The fastest Jetboil out there, bringing water to the boil in 100 seconds
- A 1-litre insulated cooking cup that attaches thanks to innovative FluxRing technology
- Piezo igniter allows you to fire-up with just the touch of a button
- Thermochromatic colour-change heat indicator lets you known when your water’s ready
- Fuel canister stabiliser included
Jetboil Flash review: features
The Jetboil’s incredible boil time is down to the design of its FluxRing cooking cup, which slots into the stove and maximises heat transfer. The cooking cup is insulated with a logo-emblazoned cozy and a fabric handle, meaning you can drink directly from it without the fear of burning yourself. The cup’s lid has a hole for drinking and pouring, while smaller overflow holes ensure a smooth flow. You can even buy an additional coffee press that, in effect, turns it into a wilderness cafetière. Alternatively, a Java version (pictured above) comes with this caffeine-friendly kit as part of the overall package.
The cooking cup lets you know when things are hotting up thanks the thermochromatic flame logo on its side, which turns red just before it reaches a rolling boil. This handy feature saves you fuel if you’re just brewing a tea or a coffee and don’t need a full-on boil.
The stove unit includes an integrated push button igniter, meaning you can leave the matches at home. A metal valve gives you control of the gas, but bear in mind there’s very limited control over the intensity of the flame. But more on that later...
The Flash model has a height of 31cm once fully assembled, giving it a tall and thin profile that you’d think would be unstable. To counter this, a fold-out stabiliser (a bit like a mini tripod) spreads the weight across its three legs, grips the fuel canister and ensures the whole thing doesn’t topple over, which is particularly important once changeable mountain weather is factored in. The package also includes a small plastic cup, which doubles up as a measuring bowl.
The whole thing is wonderfully portable too. The stabiliser’s legs fold inwards and it neatly joins the stove inside the cooking cup, while the bottom cup slots onto the FluxRing for easy, compact transportation. At 371g, it’s relatively light for an integrated stove and doesn’t take up too much room in your backpack. However, for those seeking ultralight adventures, there are much smaller and lighter options on the market.
Jetboil Flash review: performance
The Flash’s unique selling point is the remarkable speed with which it boils water. Roaring like a jet engine, it gets those bubbles bouncing in no time. Jetboil claim that it boils water in 100 seconds and we can back that up. In controlled conditions, we brought 500ml of water to a rolling boil in mere 97 seconds. For the purposes of boiling water, the Flash is also more fuel efficient than many of its rivals, meaning you won’t go through too many fuel canisters if heading off-grid.
However, "controlled conditions" are not what the Jetboil Flash is designed for. How does it fare in the UK’s harshest mountain forecasts? Well, in all but the most challenging weathers, the Flash performs admirably. Nevertheless, the stronger the wind, the less efficient it becomes and, therefore, expect longer boil times when it’s blowing a hoolie out there. It’s worth finding a sheltered spot when it comes to brewing up as quick as possible.
The Flash is designed for boiling and boiling alone, so it doesn’t simmer effectively. You can just about create a less intense flame but it’s a bit fiddly. This means that it’s not the best stove for more intricate cooking, nor is it the most fuel efficicent when heating up boil-in-the-bag expedition meals. These meals usually take several minutes to heat through and, ideally, you’d want a fuel-saving simmer here, rather than the full-on power of the Flash, which can be a little too intense for subtle warming procedures.
Like most stoves, the Flash is not immune to wet weather. In poor conditions, the piezo will struggle to ignite and you might find it difficult to keep the flame going. It’s also worth noting that the Flash is an unregulated stove. This means it relies on the pressure inside the canister to force the fuel out. The emptier a canister, the less power you will get, while cold temperatures also have a negative impact on performance.
For the simple act of bringing water to a boil, it’s hard to beat the speed and efficiency of the Jetboil Flash. It’s perfect for dehydrated meals and brewing up on backpacking expeditions, while its push button ignition means you don’t need to worry about matches or a lighter. However, it’s not the most versatile stove and there are less weighty options out there for backpackers serious about moving fast and travelling light.
Jetboil’s MiniMo offers many of the great features found in the Flash, but also gives you greater control over the power. It’s also a regulated stove, meaning it mitigates for the canister’s pressure drop as it uses its fuel. This means that you get just as much power from an almost spent canister as you do from a newly bought one.
The Flash has a slight edge in terms of fuel efficiency and the MiniMo doesn’t boast the thermochromatic heat indicator, but these are only minor gripes. For verstatility, the Minimo might just be the better option.
Vango Atom and Ultralight Heat Exchanger Cook Kit
More competitively priced than some of its rivals and, unlike Jetboil’s products, compatible with other cookware, the Vango Atom stove and Ultralight Heat Exchanger is a solid product for those venturing out onto the trails. It comes with a sturdy 1-litre cooking pot and two plastic bowls with folding sporks that nest together superbly.
The cons are that it’s not quite as sophisticated as its Jetboil counterparts, it doesn’t truly lock together in quite the same way and takes slightly longer to bring water to the boil. Serious backpackers might not appreciate its packed size or its unpredictable performance when confronted with breezy conditions.