For those folks that are looking for high performance camp cooking gear, Woods Monkey takes a look at a few items from Snow Peak including their Lite Max Stove, Mini Solo Cookset, and their Titanium Spork. Constructed of the latest high-end materials, these items promise great quality with light weight for the trail monkey on the go and we’ll see if Snow Peak delivers on that promise.
A hands-on look at Snow Peak’s Lite Max stove and Mini Solo Cookset
Everyone has their own approach to how they enjoy the outdoors. Some see the outdoors as a change of venue, but like to keep some of the amenities they’ve grown accustomed to in the regular world. Others enjoy the more primitive aspects of recreating in the outdoors and use the approach of improvisation and employing wilderness skills to get by day to day. But, there are those of us that enjoy both approaches and like to change things up every now and then as well. One of those things that makes life easier is to use a stove for cooking rather than starting and building a fire. It’s quicker, cleaner, and doesn’t require as near as much work. But, given that I’ve only got a limited amount of space for extra items in my pack, whatever I add has to be compact and give good value for the space it occupies. That’s where Snow Peak’s new Lite Max stove comes into the picture. At only 1.9 ounces, this stove redefines the illustration of a compact and portable stove. Even in its bag, the Lite Max will literally fit within the open hand. Heck, even if you didn’t have room in your pack, you could easily put it into your front pocket.
We touched base with a rep from Snow Peak, and they sent out a few items to try out on a recent backwoods adventure. They sent the new Lite Max Stove and their Mini Solo Cookset–just the items you’d want if you’re needing to stick to the basics while saving space and weight. The Mini Solo Cookset is a simple affair. It’s a 28 ounce pot, a 10 ounce cup, and a lid all of which can be packed into the include nylon mesh stuff sack. Better yet, everything is constructed of titanium which adds additional strength while cutting back on the weight just a bit. And, out on the trail, every ounce counts. Ask those folks who go to the extreme of cutting off their toothbrush handles just to save on weight. And, just to make things interesting, the Snow Peak rep also sent their Titanium Spork to try out as well. As far as cooking and making hot drinks were concerned, I was good to go. Out of the gear that Snow Peak sent, it was the Lite Max stove with which I was most fascinated. I was a little dumbfound when I pulled the tiny pouch out that was supposed to carry the stove. I almost thought they forgot to put the stove in the pouch and had only included an accessory pack of sorts.
I’ve worked with all types of different cooking systems for the outdoors over the years, and have found some good ones that work well in most situations. But, the Lite Max stove is the smallest and most compact stove I’ve used to date. It’s components are made of titanium and aluminum for the best balance of light weight and strength. That’s not to say that its small size precludes it from performing well. I tested the Lite Max under varying conditions–with titanium cookware, aluminum cookware, with a wind block, without a wind block, etc. After running several different time trials with those varied conditions, for me the Lite Max averaged four minutes and forty seconds to bring a liter of water to a full rolling boil—read again, a rolling boil. Certainly, if you look at the numbers from various manufacturers, that time is a little off from larger systems from different brands. But, I have found that the times listed by most companies are the very best achieved under the most ideal circumstances. The average time I listed includes tests done under several different sets of conditions. The brand fuel canister make a difference, so does altitude, wind speed, temperature, covered or uncovered, and of what material the cookware is made. Aluminum conducts heat better than titanium on the whole, but the advantage to titanium is strength and light weight.
So if a company claims a boil time of say, three minutes and thirty seconds, that really doesn’t tell you much, because things are a lot different out in the real world. Considering the type of stove the Lite Max is–a very small open burner directly attached to an isobutane fuel canister, I found that it performed quite well. In fact, it performed just as well as some larger units we’ve tried if you compare average boil times. I attribute any difference to its very small size and the proportionately smaller burner head. That’s just the trade-off you have to make to get a smaller and lighter package, and I think it’s well worth it.
The specs from Snow Peak list the Lite Max at 11,200 BTU’s which is in the same range as other stoves of this type, which speaks volumes because of its size. It’s very simple to operate. You simply screw the Lite Max stove into a butane canister, turn on the gas valve, and then light the gas with a match or lighter. Once done, you’re in business. You can regulate the gas flow with the valve arm, though you won’t get quite the precision for fine cooking that you would with a larger and more complicated system.
The first night I tried the Snow Peak cookware and stove, I made a simple meal from a pouch of dehydrated food from Mountian House. This is the usual fare for outdoors folks, especially for those that are moving fast on a trail and don’t have the space or ability to carry large cooksets and regular food. It is easier to reconstitute dehydrated meals with water at camp because they are lighter to carry during the day. Personally, there are several Mountain House meals that I quite like, so I don’t see eating these meals as any kind of burden. So, while everyone else around me was getting their dinners ready, I set out the Snow Peak gear and got to work on mine. In just under fifteen minutes, I had the water boiled, the dinner done, and was sitting back to enjoy the cool evening air that was settling in over our camp. It was during this first mean that I got to try out Snow Peak’s Titanium Spork. I’ve used a couple of different sporks in the past, and have never been moved enough to make the transition.
But, I kept an open mind as I tried Snow Peak’s iteration of the concept, and they did a pretty good job overall. Their spork has a fairly deep bowl for a good bite of food, and the tines are long enough (unlike some others) to truly use it in place of a fork. Throughout the few days that I used it, I got more and more used to the concept and quit reaching for my fork, which wasn’t there. The only quibble I had with it at all was that I wished the handle was just an inch or two longer. It would feel more natural sitting in the hand and it would be a little easier to reach the bottom of those pouches of re-hydrated meals. But, that’s a minor quibble. What you gain in space, weight, and versatility more than makes up for that one minor complaint.
The next morning, I got up and set the Solo Cookset pot in the fire to heat up some water to make some coffee and for breakfast. The morning’s menu consisted of eggs with ham (not one of my favorite dehydrated meals) for which I used the cup as the serving dish. I’ll admit to rapidly wolfing down the eggs, not because of hunger, but just to get it over with. I think I’m going to stick with oatmeal for the mornings. Once the cup was cleaned out with hot water, it served double-duty as my coffee mug. The cup has two little handles that swivel out for gripping. They are large enough to comfortably use the mug without getting burned the the hot contents of the cup. Once done, you flip them back into place, and put the cup down into the mesh stuff sack.
The nice thing about the Mini Solo Cookset is that the pot will nest inside of the cup to help conserve space when packed in the stuff bag. If you need to conserve even more space, you can leave the duo out of the stuff bag and you can nest a standard Nalgene-type bottle inside of the pot as well. So, the folks that put it together thought of the various ways for the trail walker to not only cut down on weight with the titanium acessories, but also save space for other things as well. For a minimalist system, it’s pretty well thought out, and you could get by with just this cookset and a fire if needed. But, for a couple more ounces, you can also pack the Lite Max stove inside the pot with space for some other small items as well. Then, you’ll have a fairly rounded out kit with just the addition of a fuel canister for those times you’re tired or just feeling a little too lazy to get a cooking fire going.
While the Lite Max stove and the Titanium Spork are both sold individually from the Mini Solo Cookset, I found that the three items worked in concert with each other very well together. You’re going to pay a little of a premium to get the titanium construction of the spork, cookset, and the stove components, but you get the additional benefits that titanium offers over aluminum components. All in all, it’s a great system that’s compact, works well, and does a great job covering all the bases of a minimalists needs for camp cooking chores. You’re not going to grill fish or cook pancakes with it, but as I mentioned in the beginning, you can fall back on those primitive wilderness skills to make your own grill and a way to bake and fry things. But, you’re always going to need a sturdy container or two to transport water and to boil it. In this one area, this isn’t something I would leave to chance or compromise, and that’s where the Mini Solo Cookset really shines.
As a system, all of these components integrated with each other nicely to give a robust cooking set with a very small footprint. If you’re one of those folks that cuts the handles off your toothbrush to save weight, but you’re pulling your hair out over performance, you need to give the Lite Max Stove and the Mini Solo Cookset a try. I think you’ll have found your answer!