Ever since I started making camping an integral part of my life I have strived to find products that meet my needs as efficiently and simply as possible. A couple other criteria I want any tool I use to possess are a robust build quality and fitting into the limited space available in the Tacoma. In that quest we have used several different stoves from smaller white gas fuel backpacking stoves to the classic, green Coleman dual burner, to a higher quality version of the Coleman stove, a 16″ 2-burner Cook Partner fueled by propane, to this latest experiment using the Jetboil Genesis Basecamp stove.
In the past I have not considered Jetboil stoves because of their extensive use of the wasteful Jetpower Fuel canisters. While smaller and recyclable (after first taking additional steps using a proprietary tool) those fuel cans are still single-use and are on par with a typical 16.4 oz (1 lb) propane cylinder in not meeting one of my important criteria which is being refillable.
While I like the idea of small fuel canisters, not being refillable has long been a sticking point stopping me from adopting their use. But, low and behold, there now are options that meet our criteria of small and refillable, namely the Flame King 1 lb Refillable LP Cylinder.
14.1 oz canisters are available branded as Flame King, U-Haul and Little Kamper as well.
Not wanting to burn myself to death I made it a point to watch the Refill Training videos on Flame King’s website before buying anything. Once comfortable with the refill process I bought the Flame King refill kit. This included one of the refillable canisters shown above as well as a stand to mount the donor propane tank upside down and an adaptor that connects the two tanks for the refill process. I performed a refill at home and it worked just as I had hoped. While the stand is useful when using a standard 20 lb propane tank as the donor we do not carry a tank like that when out and about so we leave the stand at home and just turn our 6 lb aluminum tank upside down and carefully perform the refilling process as needed.
So…on to the stove. On the day it arrived we took it out of its black, zippered, nylon case and set it up for the first time. Knowing my cooking style I realized that the nice, shiny, silver drip tray would soon be coated in food spillage and needed to learn how to disassemble the stove for easier cleaning.
Once disassembled you can see what a simple (and hopefully robust) mechanism this is. At first I couldn’t see or figure out how the gas gets from the side the propane canister is attached to (left) to the right side burner. On closer inspection I found that both hinges are hollow and the rear/back one had a small tube that carries the gas from side to side.
I had a very specific spot in my kitchen gear box for this to fit into so size mattered. At 9.8 inches at its widest (when folded closed) and 4.6 inches tall (we’ll say 10″x5″ when in its black, zippered case) this fit nicely.
After using it successfully a literal couple of times we brought it into the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon for the July 4th week where it’s first shortcomings were exposed. Everything worked as expected the night we arrived. The next morning however when I went to light the burner no gas came out. My brilliant deductive reasoning behind this revelation was because I heard no “hiss” of gas and the igniter spark didn’t start a flame. Knowing the propane canister was full I tried again and turned the control knob much farther than I had normally needed to in the past. Still no gas. No “hiss,” no gas smell, no feeling any jets of gas coming from the burner holes. Now intrigued I opened the control valve all the way and that got a result, although one that surprised but did not delight me. All of a sudden it seemed things worked and a large white gout of gas erupted from the burner and created a stinky propane cloud all of 3 feet in diameter. I quickly turned the control knob down, all the way to “off.” The gas cloud stopped billowing from the burner and quickly dissipated but I could still hear the hiss of gas escaping from somewhere and could still smell it as well. Making sure the propane canister was correctly tightened and seated into the regulator (it was) I immediately could tell that gas was escaping from inside the regulator’s valve. I unscrewed the propane canister and was rewarded with an immediate quiet and lessening gas stench. So, found the problem. The cheap (in bulk – I’m guessing $2), Chinese (probably) regulator had died. Too bad it’s a holiday and I can’t readily get another one. Luckily I have a spare cooking system in my backpack and pull it out.
Small, lightweight and easily packable we have an earlier version of this Vargo Titanium Stove. We had a little bit of alcohol and could still heat water for morning coffee or simple meals needing little more than boiling water to prepare. The alcohol lasted two days and then we were forced to use Esbit Fuel Tablets for the remainder of the holiday weekend. They are a type of Hexamine fuel tablet and work quite well.
So, at least we had options that worked and that we were familiar with but still, the holiday did not go as smoothly as planned and it was because of a cheap part that Johnson Outdoors, Jetboil’s parent company chose to ship with a $259 stove.
Once we were back in civilization and had Internet access again we emailed Jetboil customer service about a warranty replacement for the regulator since we had owned the stove for all of three months. Our first email was sent on July 21st. Our first reply was received on August 5th.
I bolded the parts I found interesting in the below email excerpts and my thoughts are in parentheses after each bolded portion.
“Thank you for your email and interest in our products. I am sorry to hear about the regulator issue you had experienced on your relatively new Genesis stove. When did you purchase your Genesis? (Ah, good old corporate greed; if it’s not in warranty we don’t care)
At this time, we find it best to have your Genesis stove AND regulator returned for inspection. (Really? I have to send in the whole thing and not just the little regulator?) Please note that our Jetboil items have a 1-year warranty and we will require a copy of your receipt sent prior to issuing a return authorization number and return UPS label for a warranty inspection. (I get it, corporate greed again)
If you wish to follow the warranty procedure, please reply with a copy of your receipt, full name, address and phone number so I may set up a return authorization request.
We look forward to your reply.”
I emailed them again on the August 6th asking how long this warranty inspection might take. The response arrived on August 26th stating:
Thank you for your reply. Typically our turnaround time can take up to 4 weeks. (Leaving on another Adventure quickly, certainly before 4 weeks, not going to wait around that long)
We look forward to your reply.”
With this level of customer service I kind of assumed that Johnson Outdoors had just recently bought Jetboil and was still in the process of integrating the two company’s systems and so maybe a bit of patience was in order. But, no. In fact, Johnson bought Jetboil in 2012 so…just kind of a lackadaisical, poor customer care culture inside the company translating to a less then satisfactory experience for me, the customer.
Obviously no quick, simple fix from the company is forthcoming so I started an online search for a replacement regulator. I found the same POS part that broke in the first place on the Jetboil website that I remember being around $40 although I cannot seem to find them anymore, anywhere on their site. There were rumblings online that my experience was not exactly rare and others had also found the warranty “service” lacking as well and so had gone looking for alternatives.
I still had my old Coleman Stove which had a regulator that looked essentially the same as the crap Jetboil part and thought that might be a quick, easy fix. Nope, the threads don’t match. Coleman’s are course threads, Jetboil’s are fine. Damn. I found a post online mentioning that Stansport made a part much like Jetboil’s, that fit correctly on the Jetboil stove, worked perfectly and was half the price. Found the Stansport part at Amazon (“Currently unavailable” as I write this post) and when it arrived it did what the Internet said it would; it fit correctly, worked perfectly and was half the price. As an additional bonus the Stansport regulator is rated to handle larger propane tanks whereas the original Jetboil regulator very specifically only mentions that it is “compatible with standard 16.4-ounce propane bottles.”
So, now, with the new regulator we can use the stove with the refillable 1 lb cylinders or our 6 lb aluminum tank. We’ve decided to normally use the big tank and keep the little refillable as a spare for when and if the large tank gets emptied away from a nearby propane refill station. Another plus is that we can turn off the valve of the big tank. For several reasons this is a good move. First, for safety’s sake if it gets windy and things might get blown over. Second, the hose connected to the stove’s regulator weighs less than the 1 lb canister therefore putting less mechanical strain on the connections. Thirdly, when we are using the stove for the last time before breaking down and moving camp we can time the cooking and turn the valve off at the large tank about 30 seconds before the cooking is finished. The stove will stay on and continue burning the remaining propane in the hose and system until it is all consumed and the stove burns itself out. This means that when we disassemble the stove from the tank there is no residual propane in the system to leak out and be wasted. It may not be much but every little bit counts especially when we are out in the middle of nowhere.
So, the first problem with the stove was the cheap regulator but that is not the last. The second annoying issue is that the lever igniter on the left burner works only some of the time. The igniter is a simple piezoelectric unit. Piezoelectricity was discovered in 1880 by the French physicists Jacques and Pierre Curie (who was married to Marie Curie). The geek in me could go deeply down that rabbit hole but I will spare you the lengthy explanation and instead say that certain crystals build up an electrical charge and then release it as a spark when they are smacked with something hard.
The unit on this stove has a lever on the outside.
When you move it back towards the hinge it is compressing a spring in the enclosure on the interior wall of the stove.
When enough energy is captured in the spring it reaches a release point and drives a metal piece forward to strike the piezoelectric crystal. This creates an electrical discharge which travels from that enclosure, down the black wire and to the insulated metal wire electrode bent to within about .25″ of the steel burner surface where, hopefully it sparks against it and ignites the propane gas.
A neat and elegant solution. Too bad it works maybe half the time… even in perfect, dry, windless conditions. But regardless of conditions it can make the “pop” sound but no spark is seen or the spark travels downwards from the base of the insulator where the electrode emerges to either ground itself on the drip tray or just disappear into the notch where the insulator pokes through the drip tray. I did check the gap between electrode and burner and it meets the criteria set forth by Jetboil.
Per the user manual: “If igniter will not spark, check positioning of electrode in relation to burner. If not positioned as shown in instructions, re-position the electrode accordingly. If igniter still fails to spark, use matches or a lighter.”
Expecting another months-long warranty ordeal we decided to take that advice and just use a wand lighter (which also uses a Piezoelectric igniter) on those occasions when we just cannot get that side of the stove to light in a timely fashion. Annoying but I need my morning coffee and warm food.
So, now we’ve covered first two annoyances of the stove (crappy regulator and unreliable igniter) and the one annoyance of the company itself (extremely slow warranty correspondence and processes). Now to the third and final shortcoming: material quality. Let’s remember, this is a $259 stove. The first picture at the top of this article is taken from the Jetboil website and that indeed was how this stove looked when we first bought it. Now, after about 9 months of use, those bright and shiny burners look like this:
I get it, they still work parceling out propane in a nice, even pattern. I’m not a manufacturing guru but I just bet, had they skipped the polishing process to get the burner all bright and shiny, that they could have saved some time and money which might have trickled down to the retail buyer, in this case me. What I want is a burner made of Titanium which I realize is harder to machine and overkill for the simple job this burner is needing to perform but still…want. The orange body and cooking grate are ferrous steel (as is the burner). The drip tray is aluminum. The propane fittings are copper. What this accomplishes is to have different metals in direct contact with one another setting up the possibility for Galvanic corrosion. Now I am sure the designers of this stove didn’t expect it to be used in a manner that would create one of the more common environments for galvanic corrosion, namely immersion in sea water or more generally, in contact with an electrolyte but we have been in such situations. Prolonged and regular camping on beaches up and down the west coast has us in an environment ripe for sea spray and humidity and salty fog. We have woken up on many mornings with “dew” dripping from numerous surfaces. Later in the day when the dew has evaporated there is regularly a crusting of salt left behind, many times looking like unevaporated water droplets. That’s not even taking into account me adding salt to boiling water for the cooking of various pastas which will inevitably slosh over the pot and onto the stove. And even if I am completely wrong about galvanic corrosion being an issue, the environments we have spent time in with this stove have resulted in rust.
I would expect that cheap Chinese-sourced steel would rust after being heat-cycled but that would be seen on the areas where pots and pans actually sit during cooking not on the outside ring that merely gets warm.
It seems like Jetboil made the decision to chrome the cheap Chinese steel (or coat it in something shiny) instead of polishing it or using a better quality steel…or a better manufacturer. Like the burner itself this would be an item that, in my perfect world, would be made of titanium. As an extra, added bonus the stove would weigh noticeably less, not rust and would merely turn some pretty variant color in the purple or blue spectrum. Heck, I’d pay $100 more if several of these parts were made out of Titanium instead of low grade steel. I will not hold my breath though.
You might think after reading this far that I really dislike the stove and that would be understandable…but somewhat incorrect. I am being incredibly picky, petty and detail oriented so that you might get a full picture of the pros and cons of this stove but there are in fact some pros.
The two main factors that weigh in on the “good” side of my equation are it’s size and storability as well as how smooth and highly adjustable the flame control is. First the gas control. The gas knob turns smoothly and allows four full turns for incremental adjustments. Unlike numerous other stoves I have lived with there is a noticeable and useable difference in heat output, even within one single knob rotation. Other stoves have also had what seemed like a rubber seal within the system so that when you turn the knob and find just the right heat setting and then let go of the knob it literally moves position to lessen the tension from the rubber part and in doing so changes the flame height which is highly annoying. With the Genesis stove there is none of that. I can set it high to get water boiling quickly or turn it down to delicately melt butter for popcorn or if I want to make a brown butter sauce. Yes ladies, I am a gourmet…as long as we’re talking about boiling water or making popcorn. Seriously though, my popcorn kicks much butt.
The second factor in the plus category is this stove’s folding design and packability in the box that I keep my kitchen supplies in. Except for my MSR Dragonfly backpacking stove, every other stove I’ve used has been housed or built into its own metal box which did not fit in my kitchen box.
The box slides under the bed platform in the Tacoma’s shell and has very little room to roll or bump around which is why I wanted a stove that fit within it. While zipped up in its form-fitting, lightly padded storage bag the stove is protected from any dust that finds its way into the box as well as from any dings and dents from being slammed around in the box during high-speed, slow-speed, smooth, bumpy or any other type of enthusiastic offroad excursions we regularly find ourselves undertaking.
In counting out the attributes of this stove it would seem that the pluses are outweighed by the minuses. In number that may be true but when taking into account its usability some of the picky minuses don’t hold the same importance as the pluses for my needs. Could the stove be “better.” Undoubtedly yes, but that would inevitably raise the price and it already is at the high end of the pricing tier for “Basecamp” stoves. I am assuming this is a case of a new design which cost a lot to bring to market but not of the best quality or most polished presentation, much like the tent we put though its paces a few years ago. Jetboil seems to have made the choice to focus on looks more than longevity. Bling more than brawn. We’ve only had it since April of last year (2020) and so it has not yet been put through the whole gamut of situations it will eventually find itself in as it comes along with us on our varied adventures. I expect that after further use we may come across some more insights into its quality and usability and will certainly update this review when that happens.
I have not yet used a “Star” rating system in our reviews but I will start with this product. For our past and planned usage, so far, we award this stove a 3 out of 5 Stars.
Thanks for reading and Willow and I hope to see you out there.
*Used without permission but believed to be within the fair use doctrine