Take a look at the JetBoil Flash and the Primus EtaSolo and it's blindingly obvious that they work on near identical principles. Both are personal cooking systems that use a hard-anodised cooking 'mug' with integral heat exchange fins at the base to eke as much efficiency as possible out of a small canister of fuel which screws onto a burner which, in turn, clips to the mug.
In addition, both sport heat-resistant, insulating sleeves with built-in handle and have integrated piezo electric igniters and both are designed to pack away neatly and compactly into the mug along with a mini gas canister.
So far so good, but which is better? The original JetBoil or the Swedish take on the same concept.
Primus EtaSolo - £75
The EtaSolo has been around for a few years now, but it's not had to see where the inspiration came from. It uses a 0.9L hard-anodised, aluminium pot with heat exchanger and a rubbery lid that allows you to pour out water with the lid in situ. Sound familiar? So might the wrap-around, removable, heat-insulating sleeve with handle.
Also present and correct is a folding stand to stabilise the gas canister and hence, the stove itself and an integral pizero electric igniter. And there's a adaptor plate and three little stove prongs so you can use the stove with a conventional pan if needed.
It's not all the same though: the EtaSolo also comes with a neat, lightweight hanging device so you can suspend the stove from a handy point inside a tent or on a bivvy ledge for example.
Total weight with the hanging device is 459g and without it 435g. Junk the pan attachment plate and bits and it's down further still to 373g.
JetBoil Flash - £95
The Flash is somewhere in the middle of JetBoil's range of cooking systems. It has a 1.0L hard anodised aluminium pot complete with integral 'Flux Ring' heat exchanger, built-in piezo ignition, gas canister support, insulated sleeve - all sounds familiar no - and an adaptor plate to allow use with normal pans. It also incorporates a colour changing heat indicator on the sleeve.
Unlike the EtaSolo, there's no hanging device. It does, however, come with a clip-on plastic cup to protect the FluxRing. And it's very, very green.
Total weight is 485g all on, but lose the FluxRing protector and it's down to 454g and junk the conventional pan support and weight falls again to 419g.
So how do the Primus and the JetBoil compare in use? Here's a head to head to help you decide between the two.
Starting with the JetBoil, the stove is reckoned to boil 0.5L of water in 2 min 30 sec plus eke 12 litres of water boiled from a 100g canister.
Meanwhile the Primus EtaSolo has a claimed 2 min 10 sec boil time and a burn time of 59 minutes on a 100g canister. Our calculations make that a rough 13.7 litres of water boiled per 100g of gas.
So that's a theoretical win for the Primus.
Real Life Boil Times
Using a semi-full gas canister, we brought 0.5L of cold water to a rolling boil with both stoves and recorded the times. We got 3 mins and 3 secs from the Primus and 3 mins 28 secs using the JetBoil.
So that'd be a real life win for the Primus.
On the face of it, the Primus looks like a faster boiling stove, with lighter weight and a cheaper price tag, but there's more to stoves than just how fast they boil water.
Here's the thing, in many respects, the JetBoil simply has a more evolved and easier to use design, even if the burner on the Primus apparently works slightly better. What do we mean?
- Twist to lock JetBoil pot attachment is easier to use than the fiddly button mechanism on the Primus.
- JetBoil fold-out wire flame adjuster is easier to access than the recessed Primus one.
- JetBoil burner sits more securely on the cartridge thanks to block at its base which sits on the canister.
- JetBoil 'normal stove adapter' is a once-piece affair, the Primus has four fiddly components
- JetBoil lid is translucent making it easier to see what's happening in the pot.
- JetBoil canister stabiliser folds smaller which means it fits easily insider the pot.
- JetBoil insulating sleeve has heat indicating panels so you can see if things are boiling hot.
- Everything fits inside the JetBoil when stowed, not so with the EtaSolo.
In fact the only area where the EtaSolo really scores a plus is with its light hanging attachment which allows you to suspend the stove assembly from an overhead point in cramped scenarios like bivvy ledges. Even that has a question mark against it. The Primus web site page for the EtaSolo says that some hanging attachments have a manufacturing fault and may fail, the advice is to pull hard on the attachment before using it as 'this can cause the EtaSolo to fall down unexpectedly'.
Top marks to Primus for being open about the issue, but hardly confidence inspiring if you do intend to hang the stove up in use. Our's, for what it's worth, works fine and withstood a serious tug without issues.
We think the JetBoil wins on the general useability front. Maybe not that surprising given that it's evolved over a number of models to its current state. In comparison, the Primus EtaSolo sometimes seems a tad 'bitty' and just less refined.
Take the pot adaptor for use if you want to use the burner unit with a normal stove. The JetBoil one is a single piece disc with fold-out, serrated pan supports that just clips onto the top of the burner. By contrast, the Primus solution is three bent metal prongs that sit in locating holes in the burner coupled with an additional metal disc. Just a bit fiddly and you can imagine simply losing one of the small pan-supporting rods in a moment of camp-breaking carelessness.
In short, the JetBoil simply seems more evolved.
Verdict - JetBoil Flash or Primus EtaSolo?
Both these stoves actually do a really good job within the limitations of the format. As long as you plan your menu accordingly - dried food, one-pot meals - they're effective and efficient at eeking out the max from you gas canister.
On the face of it, the Primus would seem to have the edge. It's lighter - though note, there are lighter JetBoil models out there too, the Sol Ti for example - and has a slightly more efficient burner, but in real life, we actually preferred the JetBoil.
It's still very quick and efficient and the basics just works slightly better. The pot attachment system is fiddly on the Primus with two red buttons to press simultanously in a hot area of the stove, which the JetBoil simply twists off.
Similarly, the protruding wire flame adjuster on the Flash aces the recessed plastic knob on the EtaSolo and we prefer the translucent lid on the JetBoil to the black Primus one, though both pour just fine.
And then there are accessories like the pan support plate and canister base, which again are just more evolved and better thought out with the JetBoil.
The one big plus of the EtaSolo for some users will be the hanging system, but as above, check carefully that yours is fault free before relying on it in a real world situation.
Ultimately, we'd trade a little efficiency for general useability which for us, gives the JetBoil a real world edge.