Enjoying great success with their Personal Cooking System, Jetboil has added a cuple of new components to their product line including the accessory Fry Pan and the new Helios Group Cooking System.
It has only been a couple of years since the Silverback of Woods Monkey, Garrett Lucas, introduced me to the Jetboil Personal Cooking System. This small propane stove finally moved me away from my multi-fuel Coleman unit and has won a permanent place among my camping and emergency gear. You will find it mentioned in several reviews and articles on the site but I will still give you a quick run down on the basic unit. The Personal Cooking System consist of a one liter (32 oz.) mug and a small burner unit. The burner unit screws directly onto the 100 gram propane canister while the mug locks into place on top of the burner.
All you need to do to light the unit is twist the control valve, open the gas flow and push in on the Piezo electric igniter. The valve regulates the gas flow very well and a single canister will give you over 40 minutes of run time. Since, by the company’s claims and my own testing, it only takes about 2 minutes to bring 16 oz. of water to a full boil. A single canister will do a lot of cooking and on several occasions I have used the stove on three day camping trips without having to change the fuel. The secret to the rapid heating is the “FluxRing” installed on the bottom of the mug. An accompanying photograph will do a better job of explaining this folded metal ring than I could with words. The FluxRing captures and concentrates the heat from the burning gas and greatly improves the efficiency of the stove. To make it even more handy, once your cooking is done the burner and gas will store easily in the mug making a compact unit that will fit well in your pack. I have sung the praises of this little system for the past few years but that is not my objective with this review. Jetboil has advanced over time and has added several accessories for the Personal Cooking System and also a new and larger system called the Helios.
One of the first accessories to come about was a small folding base stabilizer that would snap onto the bottom of the gas canister. The extra width greatly enhanced the stability of the entire system during use. The nice part is that once used, the base stabilizer can fold up and be packed into the mug along with the rest of the system. The last thing you want to do is to heat a liter of water to a nice boil and then tip it over onto your foot. Instead of being an accessory, I believe this stabilizer should be a part of every kit. Packaged with the stabilizer is slip-on pot support that allows you to place a pot or frying pan on top of the stove burner unit. The mug that comes with the kit covers most uses, especially since the mainstay of the Personal Cooking System is soups, stews, and water for dehydrated foods . This will do for most cooking, but there are times when you just want more. Jetboil made sure you didn’t need to go to another stove by adding the pot support.
YES, this will also store in the standard mug along with everything else. If you think you are giving up the advantage of the FluxRing on the bottom of the mug when you switch to a pot or frying pan, don’t worry. Jetboil has come out with their own 1.5 liter pot and small frying pan. Both items have the FluxRing attached and it works as well as mug. Sorry, these two are going to take up extra space in your pack. It’s a little price to pay for fresh eggs at breakfast. The Personal Cooking System is just that. The entire unit is based on a single person’s needs. The addition of the frying pan and 1.5 liter pot expands the system somewhat, but even with these items I would not use it for more than two people. Jetboil wasn’t about to give up on getting a share of the family camping market and has recently added a new system called the Helios to their product line. The Helios is designed as a high capacity unit designed for five people (or the average family). Unpack and study the unit and you will notice the same technology as the Personal Cooking System just in another arrangement.
The stabilizer base now holds the meter valve and gas canister away and separate of the cooking unit. This section is connected to the cooking unit by a gas line about 11 inches long. The cooking unit holds the burner and acts as a rest for a 2 liter cooking pot. Like all of the other pots, mugs and frying pans from Jetboil, this pot has the FluxRing attached. If you need more, there is a 3 liter optional pot available but at this time there is not a frying pan for this unit. The efficiency of the Personal Cooking System was carried over to this new stove. Before I go into actual use of these systems let me mention that Jetboil has other accessories available. These range from a nice set of cooking utensils to a coffee press designed to fit the mug. You can also buy additional mugs and pans to expand your system to your individual needs.
I started my camping about 45 years, well lets just say awhile ago. At first all of my cooking was done over an open fire while camping with the Boy Scouts. Once I really got into enjoying my outings, I started to carry a small wire grill top to place over the fire pit. From there I went to liquid fuels and the large Coleman stoves. Are you starting to notice a trend? The years went by and my gear got bigger. A little wisdom finally started to take effect and I cut back on everything but a single burner multi-fuel Coleman stove and a small cook kit. Then the Silverback showed up at the door of the studio to show his new Jetboil outfit. I was hooked! The entire setup can ride in a single pocket of my Mercworx pack and it has stayed there ever since. If I leave home, that pack is in my truck and the Jetboil is always in the pack. Many times I have relied on nothing else to provide me with my cooking needs for weekend trips. Even on a couple of week long trips I had no further needs. But there are some new play toys and in the studio and now is the time to find out if I need to expand my cooking gear.
First, I set up the Personal Cooking System that has served me well for the past couple of years. Even though I knew the results before I even started, I poured 16 ounces of cold water into the mug and started to measure the amount of time needed to bring it to a full boil. With an outdoor temperature of 65 degrees the water was at full boil in 2 minutes, 10 seconds. This would do for my morning coffee and I pulled out the frying pan to try a little bacon and eggs. The frying pan with its FluxRing, to match that found on the mug, showed no signs of an uneven heat. The control valve for the gas was smooth and let me adjust the flame from a simmer to a full heat without a hitch. At that time I left the flame at max and ran the canister empty. A new 100 gram gas canister lasted for a total of 84 minutes. By the way, a 230 gram canister is also available. One thing I failed to mention was that there is a protective cover that slips over the bottom of the mug for storage. This protects the FluxRing from damage but also acts as a drinking cup when removed. The protective cover for the frying pan’s ring makes for a nice plate during meals.
Now it was time to get serious and set up the larger Helios system. Setup was rather easy (yes, I did scan the instructions) and the push button igniter lit the flame on the first try. I did notice that it took a little time for the control valve to work itself in a bit before it started to make a smooth adjustment from one temperature level to another. This unit does have a wind screen that was provided but I never really felt the need for it during the times I tested the unit. The separation of the gas unit and the large burner support gave the whole affair a stable situation. It would take some effort to spill your dinner with this stove. With a full liter of water the boil time with the pot was 2min. 35 sec. and the run time for a new 230 gram canister was 95 minutes are full power. As with the other system, the FluxRing provided a nice even heat.
The results are simple, I would feel safe in suggesting either system to someone who wants to take the pain out of preparing a meal. The Personal Cooking System should handle your needs for solo camping or even more if you add the frying pan and pot. The Helios system can cover family sized outings. Sorry, clean up is the same no matter what system you buy, but both units store within themselves and take up less space than most other systems. Now you just need to decide which unit you need.