• 2014
  • Sep
  • 19

JMT - John Muir Trail 2014 - Gear Review - Cooking System

For our hike of the John Muir Trail this summer we were carrying a gas powered cooking system.
I want to document some of the lessons learned.

Before the Hike

In the UL hiking community it is somewhat frowned upon - but be decided to carry a cooking system for warm food on the trail. We even carried Starbucks VIA coffee for a relaxed morning coffee before hitting the trail and in some cases even had warm breakfast rice to start the day.

Before the hike we did decide for a couple of pieces of gear:

Our resupply included a replacement pack of matches, and Muir Trail Ranch is selling Primus Power Gas at a fair price.

On the trail

Our morning always started with boiling about a liter (2 Snow Peak Cups) worth of water - for our morning coffee (Starbucks VIA tasks great on the trail). The lid went onto the pot - upside down - so it would not fall off. And the bottom cover was used a a bowl for cereal. While the water was heating up one of the cups was used to mix the powdered milk with some cold water for the cereal bowl.

We found out that it is possible to fit the sporks and the canister stand into a cup, and one cup and the cooker into the pot. To avoid scratching the inside of the pot too badly the above listed tyrek sheet was used to wrap everything. It lasted 20 days, no problem, and would have lasted longer if needed. Tyrek can also be washed with water and soap should be need arise.

The second cup is used for lunch (mostly dehydrated humus) and is thus stored accessible in the pack, while the pot with the rest of the cooking gear can be stored deep in the pack.

Unfortunately the igniter of the jetboil is a bit moody - it doesn’t work when it is cold, or if you are too high - so we decided to bring a box of matches - but the strike pad on the matches got moist and the matches also did not work too well above 8k feet. So we learned two things - if you cup your hand over the igniter you can collect enough gas underneath your hand to create a combustible mixture, if you press the igniter be ready to pull your hand away. Don’t wear anything flammable (frogg toggs) while doing this. Also be careful not to touch the igniter while pressing the button - the piezo discharge is quite strong.


So next time - I would take an exotac polystriker or nanoStriker with me - it is 10g more than the match box, but it might prevent me from having to put my hand into a gas flame. Together with some rubbing alcohol from the first aid kit, and some bandage pieces it would also allow me to easily start a fire if needed. (We actually did not make a single camp fire on the JMT thru-hike).

The Primus Power Gas lasted for at at least 14 liters (at which point we replaced it with plenty of gas to spare) at the MTR. My current estimate is that we use a maximum of 25g of gas a day for about 2l of hot water. The gas amount needed varies greatly with wind, elevation and initial water temperature. We mostly used the Jetboil at 50%. So one 230g cartridge lasts us 10-12 days.