Jetboil sparked a revolution in the stove market with its PCS (Personal Cooking System), which popularized the use of heat-transfer mechanisms (like the Jetboil FluxRing) to increase performance. Jetboil's latest invention, the Helios stove, isn't likely to rock the stove market as the PCS did, but it too makes use of a clever idea.
Most notably, the Helios is designed so that a fuel canister can be used upside down, improving performance in cold temperatures. When a propane/butane canister is used upright, the liquid fuel evaporates to a gas before it exits the canister. This causes evaporative cooling and decreases pressure in the canister, reducing the performance of the fuel, especially in cold temperatures. When you invert the canister, the propane/butane mix remains in liquid form as it leaves the canister, so there is no evaporation, and the fuel works consistently throughout the life of the canister. While people have been flipping over canisters for years to get more life out of them, the Helios at least formalizes the process, and even includes a plastic stand to hold the upturned fuel.
The Helios was delivered to us this spring, and we haven't tested it in extremely cold temperatures, but we did carry it on several backpacking trips during cool and warm conditions. For the most part, the Helios lived up to its claims and performed well whether the canister was full or near empty. During several tests, we boiled about 2 liters of water within three minutes. With a near-empty canister, it sometimes took an additional 30 seconds or a minute to reach the boiling point. But that's still good compared with other stoves.
While Jetboil designed the PCS stove to be used by one person, the Helios can serve a couple of people. The cooking system includes a burner, which has a wide base and an attached fuel line. The fuel line has a standard screw attachment for an isobutane/propane cartridge. The cook system also includes a 2-liter pot that has an integrated ring of folded metal (or FluxRing), which concentrates the burner's heat. A plastic cover for the FluxRing doubles as a plate, and there is a soft plastic lid for the pot. Finally, there is a snap-on windscreen.
One concern with the Helios is that it's simply not as light and compact as many other popular canister stoves on the market. But the burner, windscreen and a canister will all fit into the pot, creating an orderly system that travels well, even though it does weigh a couple of pounds. Though the base of the burner is bulky, we liked that it was very stable and had large, flip-up pot supports.
Jetboil has added several other elements to make the Helios attractive, even if it's not the smallest, lightest thing available. For example, the push-button ignition switch on the fuel line makes lighting the stove easy and safe.
Also, the Helios is designed for all types of cooking, while the PCS—and other stoves with heat-transfer mechanisms—are built to burn super hot for quick boil times, but don't allow delicate simmering. The Helios provides a wide range of flame and heat adjustment, and we successfully cooked a meal of red beans and rice that required 25 minutes of cooking on low heat. As another nice touch, the pot is wrapped in an insulating material, so you can lift it from the burner with bare hands.
There was really only one common complaint with the Helios—the plastic lid for the pot was prone to pop off. When we seemingly had it secured, a side of the lid would slip off, and this happened enough that it got annoying, so we'd encourage a tweak in the design.
Otherwise, the stove's many helpful features and fuel performance make it a good option for backcountry travelers who don't need a featherweight stove and require a cooking system that does more than boil water super fast.
SNEWS Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $149.95