Weight: 15 ounces (425 grams)
A principal function of a climber’s stove is to melt snow and ice, producing drinkable water. Hot soup, coffee and the occasional hot water bottle are perks, but on long trips fuel weight adds up. For Alaska I budget 48 ounces per day for a group of six–about 8 pounds of fuel each for a three-week expedition. While toiling with such donkeywork I imagine the ideal stove, where every calorie of fuel burned produces the maximum amount of water. This process, called heat transfer efficiency, inspired the design of the Jetboil Personal Cooking System (PCS).
I skeptically paid $90 for my first Jetboil PCS three years ago and have since bought three more. Although it is unsuitable for gourmet cooking, its incredible fuel efficiency is what keeps me reaching for my Jetboil. This economy stems from heat exchange coils trademarked as the Flux Ring. Other companies have experimented with heat exchange coils, but Jetboil was the first to get it right. The well-placed stove head forces 75-80 percent of the heat through the flux ring into the Neoprene insulated pot. The aluminum rings comprising the Flux Ring are fragile, but they are protected by the plastic cup when packed and by the stove itself when cooking.
I bring one stove per tent and plan a menu requiring only hot water. A 3.5-ounce canister of iso-propane will generally support two of us for one day. The pot holds 1 liter of water, but should never contain more than half this amount if you plan to boil. Boil more than two cups of liquid, and the resulting geyser will be self-explanatory.
The Jetboil PCS includes a 32 ounce (ca. 1 liter) pot, a plastic cup, a stove with a piezoelectric lighter and a plastic lid. The total weight is less than a pound, and everything ingeniously nests inside the pot. Lighter stoves exist, but their inefficiency leads to greater fuel consumption, quickly mitigating the benefit of lighter hardware.
If you prefer a heavy pack, the downsides to the Jetboil PCS are many. The relatively thin aluminum pot cooks very hot, causing most things to stick to the bottom. Three things Jetboil should fix are: 1) The cup and lid are damn near impossible to get off at times, particularly when cold; 2) The piezoelectric lighters on each of my Jetboils broke within weeks–bring a lighter; 3) The fuel canisters are recyclable, but not refillable.
The folks at Jetboil hit a home run with the PCS. They radically improved stove fuel efficiency in a nifty, elegant cooking system. Much larger competitors are scrambling to keep up, and I comfortably believe Jetboil PCS deserves the Alpinist Mountain Standards Award.
Pros: Very efficient; moderately priced; all pieces nest together.
Cons: Not suitable for involved cooking; starter breaks easily; can be difficult to get apart in cold temperatures; on the heavy side.