Why You Should Stick to Matches and Why the Jet Boil Stove Kicks Butt
In gear today there is a trend to buy things completely on spec, i.e. this one is 1.5 oz lighter so I’m buying it for 2x the price. It can accomplish the same thing, right? I’m not against squeezing ounces or size out of a pack, but this mentality probably kills people and surely ruins a shit load of trips. Usually the lightest alternatives DO provide the function needed, but the hassle to get things to work properly can be overwhelming. This is especially the case when mother natures shows us her dark side.
Let’s go through my favorite example. Wait for some really, truly bad weather. Now, grab your fancy fire starting tools and head into the backyard. Shave some magnesium off your firestarter, collect some natural kindling, and try to start a fire via spark. This can take literally hours. That’s in your own backyard! I’ve done it in the field when I needed a fire immediately. If it weren’t for the fact that I always carry waterproof, long-burning matches and a wad of kindling, I would have probably croaked with my fancy firestarter in my hand. Oh I know, I can already hear the outcry from the YouTube outdoorsmen, “well you obviously need to practice with your gear” and “oh, it just takes some skill, nana nana boo boo”. It is impossible to practice really, really shit situations. Do not move away from tried and true methods just to save a little weight. Having long-burning matches kicks that crap out of Bear Griyls macho man fire starter and any other similar swindle, period.
Go through this process with all your gear, particularly safety/survival gear. Practice in the harshest conditions you can replicate and then ask yourself, “If I was hurt, or if the wind was twice as hard, or if I was already freezing cold and wet could I perform with this gear?”.
The Jet Boil Stove is an example of a piece of equipment that has impressive specs and holds up to this test. However, a group of people will argue that MSR Pocket Rockets, Whisper Lights and similar stoves do save space and and a few ounces over the Jet Boil. This is true. So, let’s talk about key function of a backpacking stove and explain why the Jet Boil is worth it.
1. Stability to cook and wind resistance.
Cooking stability is most important in places where getting water is tough. Losing a pot of boiling water can really be a set back. People consistently under estimate this in the Rocky Mountains. Everything looks green, but let me tell you water can be tough to find. It usually means going down and hauling it back up some steep geography.
Without wind resistance you end up with a stove that takes longer to heat (heat goes down wind), you have to constantly relight, and the stove burns a huge amount of fuel. Have you ever tried keeping a pot on and a flame going with a pocket rocket in 30MPH wind? It’s really tough. The amount of wasted heat dissipated down wind makes it so you better have a mule to carry all your fuel canisters. With a Jet Boil there is a built in wind screen that threads into the pot. This accomplishes both stability and wind resistance.
2. Ease of lighting.
In rough situations a built in ignitor can be a life saver. I keep a Jet Boil in the top of my bag. Without hesitation, I can pull it out with one hand and have heat in 15 seconds. This is really nice and comforting. I can also keep my gloves on (matches/lighters are tough with gloves) which is always welcome on frigid nights.
There is so much new, high-tech gear out there. Just don’t give up an ounce to get a pound of pain in the ass in return.
By Cliff Gray
Cliff is a registered outfitter in the State of Colorado, guiding and outfitting over 80 hunters a year for elk, sheep and mule deer in the White River National Forest and Flat Tops Wilderness Area of the Rocky Mountains. He has years of experience hunting mule deer and elk in the Rocky Mountains via remote backpacking and horse/mule packing. He is a private pilot and a certified wilderness first responder.