We’ve come a long way since the days of built-in campground cookers, and backpackers can now carry their cooking system with ease.
Jetboil makes some of the top backpacking stove models around. We’re going to compare two of them in a boiler-battle between the Jetboil Flash vs Jetboil Zip.
Do you need to Cook or Boil?
The first thing you need to understand when making a comparison between the Jetboil stoves is the fact they are boilers, not cooking stoves. Both are unregulated cooking systems, so there is no pressure regulator.
Devices like this are generally considered 3-season cookers which isn’t something you’ll want if you plan to set up camp on the side of a mountain, at higher altitudes. With that in mind, there are a few advantages to this particular brand of camping stove which include some cool accessories.
What can they do?
While the Zip and Flash can’t cook a 5-course meal out of the box, they can boil water in minutes and provide you with a hot cup of coffee or fresh soup.
For the occasional hiker, this may not sound like a big deal but believe it when we say a hot meal can brighten up your day. Unfortunately, it also means you’re limited to dehydrated foods like MREs and liquids unless you plan to carry extra gear.
As these units are little more than simple propane-based cooking systems, the accessories add considerable value (if you don’t mind a little extra weight).
They aren’t included with either device, but you can opt for anything from a FluxRing Frying Pan to a coffee press or a hanging kit.
Weight and Capacity
Both the Jetboil Flash and Zip are lightweight and compact but this doesn’t compromise performance.
The Zip is the sveltest of the two at 340 grams without the fuel stabilizer.
It can hold 0.8 liters in the cooking cup and is capable of boiling 12 liters of liquid for every 100-gram Jetpower canister.
The boil time clocks in at around 2 minutes and 30 seconds but will vary depending on the conditions while they list the power at 4500 BTU/h or 0.9 kW.
As for the Jetboil Flash, it’s 31 grams heavier and a bit larger with a 1-liter capacity. While more powerful than the smaller version at 9000 BTU/h or 2.6 kW, you won’t be able to cook as long.
In regards to the operating time, it can do 10 liters per 100 grams of fuel which is a bit of a downgrade.
Both are light in the pack which brings us to the one area that truly separates the two products.
These cookers share more similarities than differences aside from one critical area. It’s the features that separate these two cookers and should help make your buying decision simple.
The Zip is what we would refer to as “basic” although still a fine device for solo backpackers and campers. It has an insulated neoprene cover with a handle attached and sports a lid you can sip through – complete with a strainer.
You can use the bottom cover as a mixing bowl, and while it comes with a canister stabilizer, you will have to pick up fuel or any other extras yourself like with the Flash.
While the Jetboil Zip is extremely easy to set up and use, there is one drawback. You can adjust the burner, but you will need something on hand to light it with.
Speaking of adjusting the burner, in order to keep it small, the plastic knob is rather too close to the heat source for our liking and is difficult to use with gloves on or with wet fingers.
There is no ignition system, so you may want to have some waterproof matches handy – an item you ought to carry anyway. Overall, it’s small, mighty and performs as advertised.
It’s not hard to tell the Flash apart from the Zip, based on its design. It has the same comfy cozy on the outside with a handle, but it comes in different colors.
You can choose from options like Carbon, Blue Desert, Matrix, and Wilderness although it’s not the highlight of the Flash. That would be the cooking time and a unique temperature gauge.
If you’ve ever pulled something off the stove too early or scalded your mouth with hot coffee, you know the importance of finding the right temperature.
You won’t have to guess with the Jetboil Flash as it has a thermochromatic color changing heat indicator which changes color before your eyes. You also don’t need to carry matches with this model, thanks to the button ignitor.
A push button ignitor system will fire up this boiler in a split second, and the company claims it’s the fastest model yet. While we haven’t put that to the test, the 9000 BTU/h specification speaks for itself.
It’s heavier and bulkier than the Zip, which is great if there are 2-3 of you in your camping party. If you’re out backpacking solo, it’s just a bit on the large side.
The Flash also has the same drink-through lid and is just as safe to use as it’s slightly smaller sibling.
Our Verdict: Jetboil Zip or Flash?
These compact, portable stoves are ideal for people looking for a quick way to heat up food or boil water in the wild. That includes survivalists as well as backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
They are portable – fitting easily into your backpack – although best suited for smaller groups of 1-2 people instead of a larger group.
Between the two cookers, the Jetboil Flash is the superior product. We dig the fact you can get an idea of the temperature beforehand, and the push button ignitor system means there’s no need for matches.
Those additional colors are the fun, but the Zip is comparable in almost every other aspect. It’s also a little cheaper and gives you a little more fuel efficiency and burn time.
The fact that the Flash has a larger water capacity isn’t really that impressive, given the extra weight and bulk. In terms of features it’s better, but for a solo camper, the additional capacity in unnecessary.
As long as you plan to stick to pasta, soups and warm beverages, either of these boilers is an excellent choice for the trail. If you need help decided what to cook on your new unit, be sure to check out the top options for the best freeze dried backpacking food.