My taste buds are paganistic and tone deaf; they respond primarily to blunt force trauma and sauces with the subtlety of battery acid. My stomach is much the same, especially in the backcountry — just fill it, baby, and fast. Even if my taste buds were sensitive enough to detect the nuances of fine food, they wouldn’t have time. Thus, the Jetboil, which boils in a blink, was a revelation, the lighter, faster Jetboil Sol titanium even more so.
I first heard about the Jetboil years ago from Nate Simmons at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. The question everyone asks at the show is, “What have you seen that’s cool?” and usually there’s a shrug and a 1,000-yard trade-show stare, but this time, before I even ask, Nate grabbed me, dragged me over to the Jetboil booth, and said, “You have to see this.”
The Jetboil cooking system, as most outdoor people now know, dramatically shortened boiling times by using a heat exchanger to ramp up efficiency and reduce heat loss. Seeing it for the first time was like a vision of the future, where the elapsed time from dropping pack at the end of the day to satiated burp would be mere minutes instead of significant fractions of an hour. I was mesmerized. I had to have one.
As you can see, I do. And now, years later, this Jetboil Sol of mine is pretty nappy-looking (and yes, in this case, it’s worth the extra bucks to get the far-lighter ti model). I suppose I could have cleaned it up before taking the pictures, but I like it a little grungy. And the essence of the concept of “proven” is that it doesn’t matter what it looks like so long as it works and keeps on working. And that the scars and stains and smudges arrive only over time and use, eventually creating character and personality that distinguish one identically manufactured object from another.
For many years, I felt a certain allegiance to the MSR Whisperlite, but that was primarily because I carried the finicky SOB with me all over the world, something that couldn’t be said of too many companions. Jetboil, on the other hand, completely transformed my outdoor eating and drinking experience. It simplified my cooking life, speeded up the cooking-eating-burping loop, and, most important to this caffeine addict, made it possible to have good coffee within two minutes no matter where I am. I’ve made awesome French press brews in tents, motel rooms, and on the side of countless roads. Once Starbucks invented Via, I gave up a little on quality and got a lot back in terms of convenience and cleanup. And next week in Salt Lake City, when I pry my carcass out of bed during the Outdoor Retailer show and go looking for the next cool thing, this Jetboil will be the trick that gets me up and running. I’m more than fond of the Jetboil — I can’t quite imagine life without it.