Monarch Adventure Food – Jetboils & Coozies


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 8, 2016      

I love food — lots of it. I’ve been on a few trips where we didn’t have enough. Those were not fun times. Water is nice too. On a multi-day ski trip, both are impossible without a disaster-proof stove system.

Cooking up a meal on the Monarch Icefield

Cooking up a meal on the Monarch Icefield

While planning for our Monarch Icefield ski mountaineering trip, Eric, Coop and I went back and forth about what cooking system to bring. Traditionally, white gas stoves are the go-to option for a trip like this. White gas has the advantages of being fully functional in the cold, and easy to carry in large quantities. The best white gas stoves also are powerful snow melters. Unfortunately, it’s difficult (and sometimes dangerous) to light them. They also aren’t very efficient.

Jetboil and other integrated canister stoves, on the other hand, have the advantage of being easy to use and mega efficient if set up with dedicated heat retention systems. As fuel spills are less common and they don’t have a pump to malfunction, they’re also safer in a tent or vestibule (as long as it’s well ventilated). Unfortunately, due to bulky packing cannister fuel isn’t easy to carry in large quantities. The most popular canister stove, Jetboil, also doesn’t traditionally work very well in the cold, and has cooking pots that may be too small for group winter camping.

We ultimately decided on bringing two Jetboil canister stoves; a Jetboil Sumo, and the new Joule stove system. The Joule would be our main stove, with the Sumo as a backup and a lighter option to bring during day trips.

The Joule is a new offering from Jetboil that is more oriented to group expedition use. It is bigger and heavier than normal Jetboil stoves, with a large 2.5 liter pot. The stove orients the fuel canister upside down, and elevates it from the cold ground. The fuel is also routed through a tube that goes past the burner, similar to a white gas stove. All these features eliminate many of the disadvantages that Jetboils have for winter expedition use. It has a huge heat output of 10,000 BTUs, and is still quite efficient. For comparison, the highest heat-output white gas stove I could find maxed out at 10,500 BTUs.

The Jetboil Joule cook system. Note the upside-down fuel cannister.

The Jetboil Joule cook system. Note the upside-down fuel cannister.

Fuel line routed over the burner on the Joule.

Fuel line routed over the burner on the Joule.

The Joule packed up in it's insulating coozie. The stove fits neatly inside the pot, with no disassembly.

The Joule packed up in it’s insulating coozie. The stove fits neatly inside the pot, with no disassembly.

I’d never used coozie cooking, or cannister stoves on an extended trip, and I was quite interested to see how our system would work. It ended up being an excellent way to go.

We wanted to reduce how much fuel we hauled along with making life easier in camp. To do so, we decided to utilize quick cooking foods along with an insulated pot cover for “coozie cooking.” I fashioned a coozie out of a reflective window shade and duct tape that fit the Joule pot well. We ate granola and milk most mornings, with the occasional hot breakfast. Additionally, only one of us drank coffee in the mornings. We hoped all that would mean that we didn’t use too much fuel throughout the 15 day trip. On the other hand we wouldn’t exactly be sipping fuel as we needed to melt lots of snow, as well as making hot drinks and lunches during storm days.

We estimated our fuel needs, and then erred well on the side of caution. We ended up bringing 8 small 230 gram fuel canisters and 1 large 450 gram canister. That totals to 2290 grams, which is a little over half as much as we would have hauled with white gas at the generous standard of 100 grams of fuel per person per day. Thus, we saved almost 5 pounds of weight by going with the Jetboil. After a few days into our trip, we realized we weren’t using our daily allotment of fuel. Through the rest of the trip we didn’t skimp on fuel usage. Even so, we ended up having 3 full canisters, plus 2 partly full canisters left over at the end of the trip, so we could have conceivably brought even less fuel. This is a significant discovery in terms of reducing overall baggage weight for these big human-powered trips.

The Joule proved to be an excellent stove. It melted snow incredibly fast, and sipped fuel. Although the stove has a very hot burner, it can be turned down very low to simmer. We even managed to make quesadillas in the bottom of the pot without burning them. That is amazing.

We didn’t have any issues with the stove in the cold, even on frigid mornings. The pot size proved to be great for our group size of 3 hungry dudes. We made fairly massive portions of dinner, and didn’t fill up the pot. The Joule is a hefty stove, but it fits inside it’s pot without disassembly, so it was nice and easy to melt water during short rest stops. The size of the stove base also makes it stable. We never needed to use a stove board or anything else to support it in snow. Also, since the burner is quite a ways from the stove base, it doesn’t tend to get hot and melt into the snow.

The Joule system does have some disadvantages and things I would like to see changed. For one, the pot is incompatible with other versions of the Jetboil, and vice versa. In fact, apparently the Joule would potentially melt a hole through another Jetboil pot if you attempted to use one instead instead of the dedicated bucket. Also, the stove only can use the small or medium (230 gram) canisters. This appears to be a necessary compromise, however, to keep the size down and allow the cannister to be inverted. The major issue we experienced was that the piezo lighter mechanism melted. The button is positioned close to the burner — clearly too close — it melted on day 10 of our trip. I’ve had issues with Jetboil Piezo igniters not working in the past, but much to my delight this one worked almost every time — until it melted, anyway.

The Joule pot is a good size and shape, but could use some improvements as well. The lid doesn’t have a pour hole like other Jetboil lids. This is an excellent feature, especially when you’re melting snow and unmelted chunks can mess up your water draw. Also, the handle is flimsy and doesn’t lock closed around the lid securely. It also doesn’t reliably lock in the open position, something important while moving big pots of food unless you want to be licking dinner off your tent floor.

The piezo igniter of the Joule. It's located super close to the burner, above the plate that separates the fuel canister from the burner.

The piezo igniter of the Joule. It’s located super close to the burner, above the plate that separates the fuel canister from the burner.

Handle of the Joule pot. It works, but it feels a bit wimpy, and can collapse, especially with a full pot of food.

Handle of the Joule pot. It works, but it feels a bit wimpy, and can collapse, especially with a full pot of food.

Melting snow in the Sumo on a long day away from camp.

Melting snow in the Sumo on a long day away from camp.

The Sumo is an older stove made by Jetboil. It is simply a large pot that fits onto the standard Jetboil burner. However, it did come with their newest burner design (reviewed with the MicroMo here). The Sumo is a terrific stove, although the large pot does feel a bit unstable with the small burner. The Joule is a bit too large to comfortably carry on day trips, so we often took the Sumo instead. It is larger than a standard Jetboil, but it is perfect for melting a large amount of snow — or making hot drinks for 3 people. Another nice feature of the Sumo is that the large pot enables the stove to be stored inside fully assembled (with even enough space for a pack of noodles).

Our food system worked well. Dinner consisted of simply boiling water in the Joules big pot, pouring in the ingredients, then putting it in the coozie for 15 minutes. We made some delicious meals this way. It enabled us to save fuel and not spend much time bent over the stove breathing fumes. The combo of the two Jetboil stoves was perfect for this system, as they added ease of use and efficiency. We used the Sumo stove exclusively for melting snow and boiling water, thus keeping the pot clean. The Joule was used primarily for food cooking, but also for melting snow.

Coop and Eric took charge of meal planning and did a fine job. We used “Bear Creek” meal packs, bought at the grocery store, often combined with either instant potatoes, or quick-cooking rice. We also used bulk re-fried beans and supplemented our meals with salami and cheese. Our repasts were focused on being cheap, simple, light, and delicious. For this reason, we didn’t use many basic ingredients, but also didn’t use expensive freeze-dried food.

Shop for Jetboil stove systems.

Comments

14 Responses to “Monarch Adventure Food – Jetboils & Coozies”

  1. Tim July 8th, 2016 11:57 am

    Great review!

    A bit off topic, but what is the fire-starting device of choice for your trips? I used to have a refillable lighter that was supposedly rated for 12k altitude, but it stopped working and is not made anymore.

    What is durable, works in the cold, and works up to 15k?

  2. Louie III July 8th, 2016 3:35 pm

    I just take multiple BIC lighters. They occasionally stop working, but having a backup or two has always been enough for me.

  3. John Baldwin July 9th, 2016 10:40 am

    Great review Louie. Just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed your whole series of articles about your trip. Looks like you guys had a fantastic time and I’m really impressed by the style you did the trip in. It was also fun to bump into you out there :).

    It doesn’t sound like you guys were that hungry if you could cook for 3 in 2.5l pot 🙂

    Very impressed by your coozie idea and my hunch would be that this was where your big savings on fuel came from. Any thoughts? I know the Joule stove is pretty efficient but not sure it would explain that much fuel savings over a white gas stove. We have been using Primus Eta pots on our white gas stoves. The Eta pots have a built in heat exchanger (similar to the Joule) that are something like 30% more efficient than a regular pot. The only drag is the largest pot is 3l and when we cook for 6 people we use an 8l pot 🙂

    I think another thing to keep in mind is how your fuel and stove weight compares to your food weight. When you are carrying a week or more of food even white gas is only about 10% of your food weight. It is important that you are able to cook good hearty satisfying meals which it sounds like you were.

  4. Andrew July 9th, 2016 11:27 pm

    Louie,

    Can you go into more detail on the coozie? Is it worth it for the smaller jet boils? Ive got an original Jetboil and I love it, even if it is just a short day trip for a hot beverage or reloading on some water.

    I did a long day in Yellowstone this spring with three guys and we used it to refill our water bottles at 10k and it took a lot longer than I would have liked, and left us kind of hanging out more than we wanted to. Thoughts?

  5. Lou Dawson 2 July 10th, 2016 4:26 pm

    Tim, we have quite a bit of “fire starting” content and I don’t mean comment flame ward (smile). I probably should use one of the posts for our next Throwback Thursday. Meanwhile, check this search link:

    https://www.wildsnow.com/backcountry-skiing-search/?cx=partner-pub-8093284038752434%3Ayxtlw7-4zut&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=fire+starting&sa=Search

    Lou

  6. Joe John July 10th, 2016 9:03 pm

    Excellent review Louie. I appreciate the honest positives and negatives from a seasoned professional like yourself. Wildsnow.com better content than WSJ.com. As far as litters, I like the bulky but powerful Blazer Piezo micro torch. You can set the whole camp on fire with it a and refillable.

  7. JCoates July 11th, 2016 6:04 am

    Has anyone ever done a formal “coozie” test? I’ve always wondered if the temperature gain you get from using one is worth the extra weight?

    Any blog masters have time to measure the temperature of a pot of water (or oatmeal or whatever) after 20 minutes in the freezer with and without a coozie? I’d be interested to know if the effect is worth it or just psychological.

    I’d do it myself but too much time already wasted reading these damn ski blogs in the mid-summer… 🙂

  8. Louie Dawson 3 July 11th, 2016 12:55 pm

    Although the pot is nominally only 2.5 liters, that is when it is filled to the “recomended max” line on the side of the pot. When cooking, we routinely filled it all the way to the top, which makes it hold about 3 liters. This is a bit easier to do with the coozie cooking, since once you add the ingredients you don’t need to cook the pot anymore, and consequently don’t need to stir much (if at all).

    As for the coozie’s effectiveness, we only used the coozie to keep the pot (and food) from losing heat after it had been brought to a boil. We didn’t use the coozie while the stove was on. I haven’t done any formal testing, but it’s easy to tell that the coozie is effective. After adding the ingredients to the pot and putting it in the coozie, we would let it sit on the snow for 15-20 minutes. Even after sitting this long, the food would often still be too hot to eat. I know that hot food sitting in a pot in those temperatures will get quite cold in 15-20 minutes (without the coozie).

    The coozie doesn’t weigh much, and makes packing easier, as it protects the pot and stove from getting crushed or bent in the pack.

  9. Tim July 11th, 2016 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the links, Lou. It seems surprising that with all of the engineering talent involved in backcountry travel, no one has produced a high-quality, lightweight, reliable, refillable lighter. Any ideas?

  10. Pierre Ebbinghaus July 12th, 2016 5:08 am

    A good lighter for wind and refillable is a Tradeflame Micro Blow Torch part of the Companion Brands.
    They use butane so you have to keep it warm in your pocket in cold weather under -5º C or 23º F as butane won’t vaporise under that I think. Anyway keep it warm. They work very well and are refillable.

  11. Tim July 12th, 2016 7:10 pm

    It seems like the piezo circuits can be a the problem for use at altitude. Have yo used this above 10k?

  12. Pierre Ebbinghaus July 13th, 2016 1:27 am

    No but if your really in doubt then steer clear of piezo and use a flint from Light My Fire. They never fail wet, dry or at altitude, or a Bic brand lighter with flint igniter but not refillable except the very old ones. Just keep it warm. The Old fashion Zippo lighter also works at altitude I’ve read, they have flint but I would still keep them warm as the fuel is not as volatile as butane.

  13. Will hurst July 14th, 2016 5:44 pm

    Tim,

    I would go with Pierre’s recommendations for high altitude fire starting. All lighters are unreliable. A ferrocerium rod with striker is bombproof and works wet, dry, hot, cold and at altitude. I always have one in my pot and at least one more tucked away in my pack inside my fire starting kit.

    I have had only one rod malfunctuon, but that was only after maybe thousands of strikes with a sharp striker. Even after it was broke it was still usable

    One of the great things about using a rod to light a stove is that you can light the stove from a distance – fewer burned eyebrows! =:O

  14. Riley July 15th, 2016 12:00 am

    Tim,

    You’re correct about the piezo having trouble at high altitude, but only for cold starting for some reason. I used the Joule for 41 days in the Alaska range and the piezo always worked at higher altitudes when the stove was already hot. I thought maybe it was a temperature issue, but I had no trouble below about 11k in equally cold temps.

    I like to just have three or four of the tiny bic lighters stashed around camp. They don’t even need to have butane, the flints work well for starting a stove.

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