The "Jetboil Flash" is the updated version of the old "Jetboil Personal Cooking System", and whilst there are no dramatic changes there have been some minor alterations for the better. I have used the older system before, so i am familiar with it (it's a gas cooker!) but, like a child near Christmas, I got all excited at the shiney shiney. For clarification when I say "Flash", i don't mean Gordon but the new cooker. Jetboil pertains to the older one.
To kick off with then, the Flash is a self contained gas cooker with a 1 litre anodised aluminium pot (which also doubles as a mug) and a pan stabiliser as standard. These will all fit together inside the pot with enough space for a 100 gas canister, leaving enough room for a little brew kit or some cleaning rag. One thing that I noticed straight off the bat was that whilst unpacking it all the components seemed to fit together a lot more snugly than the older jetboil, which not only helps prevent any rattle (I used to have to stuff a rag in the top of my old one in order to prevent this) but also helps to protect the pietzo igniter.
This igniter was a bone of contention with the old cooker. The jetboil one used to stand quite proud up and over the old burner, which did work at first. However, after a bit of careful handling by its green owners, it soon resulted in using the old mkII lighter as the thing just wouldn't light the bastard, especially in high winds. One of the major selling points of this cooker is that it is self-igniting, removing the need for fiddling around like an irish priest at Easter. It was also very difficult to light the burner with the cooking pot fitted, so you then had to somehow screw the pot on the already very hot burner. It might seem an easy enough task in your kitchen, but after 5 days on exercise in some cold craphole it does become a tadge irritating. Thankfully the new design of having the igniter set much closer to the burner will help to prevent damage. The gas canister, whilst fitting snugly to the burner, doesn't touch the igniter which is again a good thing. During the testing process I did a spot of hill walking, and whilst acting like a dick managed to drop my bergan off a hill. The burner was in the front compartment and must have taken a fair few knocks on the way down, but still lit up first time which was reassuring. Needless to say, the day a squaddie is caught without about a thousand lighters in his kit is a sad one.
One problem with the burner unit is that there is no real windshield, so in high winds in can be tricky getting it going. There is a heat displacer pattern on the underside of the pot (I dont know the science) to speed up the cooking process which does help a little, but whatever way you angle it the wind will always have a vent pointing into it. Having said this, a bit of intelligent placement will go a long way to solve this. Another problem that affected the old jetboil was that it was quite top heavy, and cooking on uneven surfaces tended to result in the cooker falling over when your back was turned, spilling your brew and cooking your daysack. The stabiliser support provided helps to stop this as much, and as it is free is a good thing. You can also fit the 100, 250 and larger gas cans to it as it has 2 size fittings. It can be a bit fiddly at first, but once you've got the knack of it it takes no time at all.
The gas handle has also been changed. The old one was a plastic knob set into the burners side which was great, until it started to boil and dribble boiling water down the sides of the mug burning your hands as you tried to sort it out. Bad admin some might say, but a familiar situation for some. The new one has a larger wire handle that can be kept stored by flipping it back over the gas port, keeping it safe, but when extended protudes far enough out to stop the hand burning/fiddly situations of the older one, especially when wearing gloves.
The pot has a clear plastic lid, with drinking port and vapour hole, so you can see how the waters getting on. The bottom is protected by a hard clear plastic mug-type thing, which nobody uses as a mug but helps stop any damage to the fragile fittings there. This is important, as most breakages of the system tend to stem from this sort of damage in my experience. Another good use of this mug thing is to pour warm water into it and then set the burner up in it. The warmer water excites the gas and results in a quicker cooking time, especially in cold weather.
The pot also has a neoprene sheath, with a couple of gucci features. It has an extra holding strap to hold a spoon or lighter, a carrying handle when drinking from the mug and a colour changing heat display. The heat display changes colour from yellow to orangy red depending on the temperature of the water inside. This is a very useful addition as A. you know when the bugger is about to boil and B. To conserve gas it is handy to know that it takes just as much gas to get water to boil as it does to get it to around 100'c, or so I have been informed, and C. Looks quite gucci. The gas settings on the burner also seem to be more tuneable, the old one would either boil like mad or be off. You can do more cooking on this one, it is not as tuneable as other cookers out there but for brews and boileys it is more than suitable - i wouldn't want to use it to cook spaghetti bolognaise though.
When I first received it I put it in a race against the kettle, and I am proud to say that the Jetboil won - boiling in less than a minute and a half. I have used the same 100' gas can to make around 10 brew ups and it's struggling now, but for 5 days cooking for 2 people in rather chilly conditions this is good when you consider the amount of fuel you would have to otherwise carry. I would advise carrying spare gas in the bergan too, but for short exercises a fresh 100 should be sufficient (possible EM moment there).
In conclusion, the Flash is a good cooking solution for the discerning trooper or outdoorsy type. The £80 price tag is fairly high, but then most cookers are around this price anyway and the jetboil does come with the cooking pot, stabiliser and burner in one - doing away with the need for mess tins. If money is really that tight, have a whip round and just buy one as patrol kit. This little bad boy will live in the front pouch of my bergan from now on! I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars, being ideal for those quick brew stops. It is a bit big, filling a utility pouch in your webbing or the front pouch on your bergan but the fact it includes everything you need to cook, i think, makes it worth it.
For those eco-friendly types, you can also get a crack-it thing from jetboil that allows old gas cartridges to be recycled.
Jetboil Flash Stove kindly supplied by RVOps