For the last six years or so I’ve been using the Jetboil cooking system and I have to say it has performed flawlessly (except for the piezoelectric push-button igniter, which has never really worked for me). Lately though I’ve been shaving the weight I carry and when I heard about the Jetboil Sol Ti I decided to upgrade. First issue was that it wasn’t available for sale in Australia. I always try to buy local (even if it works our a few dollars more), mainly for peace of mind when it comes to warranties. In this case it simply wasn’t available and even as I write this review (three months after purchasing it) I’m still amazed that I can’t find it for sale in Australia. I ended up buying mine from the REI store in Fresno, California, for about $120. The Aussie dollar was pretty strong at the time and I considered this a bargain.
So how does the Sol Ti differ to the original Jetboil. Well for starters the Sol Ti’s cup is made of titanium. The original weighed 200g and the new Ti weighs in at 115g. A substantial saving but you have to take into consideration that the Sol Ti cup is also a tad smaller (by about 200ml). I didn’t find this a big deal and ended up preferring the smaller size. The Sol Ti also comes with a thinner (some might say ‘flimsier’) neoprene cozy. There has been some criticism about this cozy but I found it worked really well in the field and I never felt the heat through it as some people claim. As for the piezoelectric push-button igniter, well lets just say it has its good and bad days. I simply don’t use it any more and wish that Jetboil would just get rid of this ‘feature’ and save a few extra grams. The stove unit itself is also lighter and has what I think a more refined heat control and a better wire flame control handle. Definitely easier to use.
In a practical sense the Jetboil was designed to mainly boil water or other liquid foods (such as soup). It was never designed to cook thick stodgy meals (such as risotto) as the heat control doesn’t allow for effective simmering. The pot is also completely the wrong shape, although the addition of a pot support means that you can buy the larger group-sized cooking pot. For me the Jetboil works great since I almost entirely use the Jetboil to boil water to reconstitute pre-cooked dried meals. Overall the Sol Ti is fast and more importantly it’s reliable.
Original Jetboil weight (cup, lid, cozy, pot support and stove unit): 495g
Jetboil Sol Ti (cup, lid, cozy, pot support and stove unit): 340g
The difference in price between the Original Jetboil (or the current Jetboil Sol Advanced) and the Jetboil Sol Ti is about $30 – $40. That translates as about $10 for ever 40g in weight saved. Pretty expensive when you think about it but shaving those vital grams comes at a premium. All up the Jetboil Sol Ti gets a two-thumbs-up from me.
• Jetboil Thermo-Regulate™ technology – consistent heat down to -6?C
• 0.8 Liter Titanium FluxRing® cup
• Insulating Cozy
• Convenient, reliable push-button igniter
• Pot support and Stabiliser tripod included
• Drink-through lid with pour spout & strainer
• Bottom cover doubles as a bowl and measuring cup
• Compatible with all Jetboil accessories
I was up at Mt Alexander Regional Park on Sunday checking out the main walking trail loop for our forthcoming guidebook, The Goldfields. I’ve done the Mt Alexander walk at least four times, the last time in 2005 for our Daywalks Around Melbourne guide. What really struck me on Saturday was just how run-down the walking trail infrastructure has become. Following our map in Daywalks Around Melbourne, we walked the Goldfields Track from McQuillans Road to Ballantinia Track via Dog Rocks and Langs Lookout. This walk has been realigned up through the old Koala Park and now has the distinctive Goldfields Track ‘gold-tops’, walking trail marker posts painted yellow. The grass is currently very high and in places the trail is barely visible and the gold-tops really help.
Despite this the trail along this section of the walk is what I would classify as in average to poor condition. Signage could have been much better (no sign at the junction leading to Leanganook Picnic Area is especially confusing) and the trail is in need of urgent maintenance and erosion repair, particularly under Scorpion Rocks (the boulders midway between Dog Rocks and Langs Lookout). The trail leading up to Shepherds Flat Lookout is currently impossible to locate and the signage is either non existent or falling to bits. The walk up along Ballantinia Track was enjoyable and much better than I remembered it, most likely due to the fact that no vehicles have used it, probably since the January 2011 floods.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day was the southern section of the West Ridge Walking Track which is links Dog Rocks carpark to a small carpark just west of Leanganook Picnic Area. This trail is marked by Parks Victoria on the Mt Alexander Regional Park Park Notes. Parks Victoria also have info boards in the park showing this walk in detail. Interestingly there is no signpost indicating the start of this walk in the Dog Rocks carpark and we could only find a single very old marker post 200m into the forest. After a long search in the undergrowth we finally gave up looking for this trail. It seems to have been reclaimed by the bush.
Mt Alexander Regional Park is a major recreational asset due to its close proximity to the growing regional centres of Bendigo and Castlemaine, and its now quick and easy access from Melbourne along the new Calder Freeway. Instead of developing and maintaining important walking trails to encourage people to use this beautiful reserve Parks Victoria it seems is just letting them slowly decay away. As I’ve said before, it’s all well and good to put in walking trails, but there must be a budget to make sure that these trails are regularly maintained. It’s such a shame that for one reason or another Parks Victoria don’t seem to be able to do this in Mt Alexander Regional Park.
One of the things that surprised me during our recent 24-day walk along California’s John Muir Trail was how popular the instant (dehydrated or freeze-dried) food pouches are in the United States. We saw a lot of people at various campsites along the way and I can’t think of seeing anyone cooking in a billy or lightweight frying pan. Even those out in the mountains for just a couple of days all seemed to be going down the dehydrated path. Considering how cheap these dehydrated foods are, and the fact that they taste pretty damn good, you can understand their popularity. Add to this the convenience of not having to carry a bowl or billy. You simply pour a cup or two of boiling water into the pouch, let it sit for five minutes and then eat. No more washing up. I like it.
Normally Karen and I dry our own meals. Unfortunately bringing our own dried food through US customs was not going to be straightforward. Buying the food pouches in Australia was also not an option as the variety is very limited and the prices the outdoor retailers charge here are well over double that in the United States. In the end Karen ordered the bulk of our main meals from a place called Mary Janes Farm, a sort of hippyish organic farm produce place in Moscow, Idaho. We also bought a bunch of Enertia breakfast and desert food pouches from Wilderness Dining. The guys at both Mary Janes Farm and Wilderness Dining were really helpful and organised to post our order directly to our hotel in Yosemite Valley. This worked out really well.
So how did it taste? Considering we usually dry our own foods (which are cooked exactly to how we like them) I was pleasantly surprised. Just about all of these commercial dehydrated meals were delicious. Perhaps the only minor point is that some of the Mary Janes Farm main meals were a tad bland, but we carried a bunch of small hot chilli packets which we used to fire them up a bit. The Mary Janes Farm products were organic (a good selling point to us) and the packaging had the added advantage of being burnable (a major consideration on long walks). Perhaps my only regret in having experienced these newer dehydrated pouch foods is that I’m now wishing we had these or similar brands available (at a reasonable price) here in Australia.