[Photo] Kel Rossiter
Jetboil reminds me a lot of Powerbars and Red Bull. Aside from the fact that they are all related to food, they are also similar since each was, in its day, an innovator. They are also similar since each has failed to continue to innovate and over time has seen its market share dwindle as competitors entered the market with new and better products. The Jetboil MiniMo is another version of Jetboil’s original innovative–but now outdated–stove design. The MiniMo, slimmed down to 14.6 ounces and 5″ x 6″ dimensions, is likely an effort to appeal to alpine climbers. Although the MiniMo offers some nice features–such as enhanced simmer control–it is as if Powerbar put its Oatmeal Raisin brick in a new bag and tried to pass it off as an innovation.
Like its chief competitor, the MSR Reactor, the Jetboil MiniMo utilizes an efficient heat transfer system between the burner and pot. Put your hand next to one of these stoves while they’re burning, and you’ll instantly note that efficiency. Even with hands cupped around the burner, you won’t be burned. That efficiency is great when you’re looking for the quick, just-add-water kinds of meals eaten in the alpine, but if you do anything more sophisticated–even boiling pasta–you better watch for burning. While one of the sales points of the MiniMo is that it provides effective temperature regulation, having used it to boil a variety of pastas and grains, if you want to simmer, look for a different style of stove than the high-efficiency heat-exchange varieties. These stoves are meant for boiling water.
Beyond boiling efficiency, heat-exchanger stoves find savings in weight and size. Compare the MiniMo’s 14.6 ounces to the workhorse liquid-fuel MSR Whisperlite International’s 15.2 ounces, which doesn’t include fuel bottle weight. Unless you are planning an expedition or big group trip where you need lots of fuel, a stove like the MiniMo is the better weight and volume choice. But the question remains: Is the MiniMo the best choice among fuel canister heat-exchange stoves?
Let’s consider weight. The MiniMo appears ahead of its chief rival, the 14.7-ounce 1.0L MSR Reactor, by an ounce. But system weight only tells a partial story on any trip long enough for more than one fuel canister, as system efficiency determines how many canisters you’ll need to bring, which translates into extra weight. Read each company’s touts about its stoves and they’ll give figures that show how their stoves are superior. Lacking a laboratory to test those claims, but having field experience with the MiniMo in Alaska and the North Cascades this summer, I can say this about it: It doesn’t perform as well as the MSR Reactor’s nested burner and pot design in even moderate winds–it frequently blows out. I believe that considerable heat is lost between burner and pot even in light winds, which translates into more fuel being needed, which means more weight to carry. On long trips, the amount of additional fuel could be significant.
[Photo] Kel Rossiter
Packability is the other important factor when considering an alpine stove. The MiniMo’s svelte 5″ x 6″ figure sounds attractive, but packability is more complex than simply considering size. Since at least one fuel canister is needed on any trip, many stove pots are designed to conveniently nest a canister, but not the MiniMo. Put a standard 8-ounce fuel canister in the pot with the burner and you can’t secure the lid. A 4-ounce canister nests inside with the burner when placed sideways, but the MiniMo’s pot lid still doesn’t lock tight.
Once you’ve carried the MiniMo to your backcountry campsite, you’ll find several convenience features. As a nice two-for-one, the plastic bottom cover that protects the pot’s flux ring serves as a handy bowl, although it cracked after a month in the pack. Fold-out handles on the pot are also convenient and make pouring easy (now if only the spout on the lid really worked). Add in the neoprene cozy surrounding the pot which makes it easy to handle, while also helping to keep things warm once the burner is off, and you’ve got an easy-to-work-with kitchen kit. The piezo ignition system seems convenient but isn’t. This push-button lighting system lets you forget to pack a lighter, but you’re a fool not to bring one. The piezo ignition on the MiniMo broke within a month.
The MiniMo Jetboil shines with the final consideration for outdoor equipment–price. With a list price of $129.95, the MiniMo undercuts the competing MSR model by a cool $60.
When Jetboil first came on the market, I couldn’t believe the stove’s efficiency and ease of use. My chief complaint then was that it heated so quickly that my water was boiling before I’d found my spoon. But technology progresses and other stoves now compete with it. Jetboil is still a first-string player in the game of fuel canister heat-exchange stoves, but it’s no longer a star, and the MiniMo does nothing to enhance its reputation. Since Jetboil changed the face of alpine cooking once before, I look forward to the time when they stop celebrating their previous victory and take the stove game to a higher level.
* A great value in heat-transfer stoves–costing $60 less than its competitor.
* Compact size and shaved weight is useful for light and fast alpine forays.
* Flux ring protector serves as a useful bowl.
* Neoprene pot cover and integrated handles makes it easy to use when hot.
* Pot locks into stove base, allowing easy in-tent cooking on bad weather days (but be careful about proper ventilation and boil-over).
* In field testing, the Jetboil MiniMo was more susceptible to wind than its chief competitor. It’s hard to operate in wind and its heat-transfer is less efficient in wind, so it burns more fuel and you need to carry additional canisters.
* Packability is an issue. The pot won’t fit a standard 8-ounce fuel canister with the burner.
* Both the lid and bottom cover of the pot easily fall off in a pack. Many of the MiniMo’s parts are stamped metal, making them prone to hooking and breaking.
* Pouring spout on lid doesn’t work well. The bottom cover “cup” cracked after a month in the pack.
* Piezo lighter broke about one month into use.
* Doesn’t heat as quickly as its chief competitor, the MSR Reactor.
Kel Rossiter is the owner and lead guide for Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine, and guides in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Alaska and beyond. He is a certified AMGA Alpine and Rock Guide and holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Vermont.