I'll start this off by saying I originally wasn't a fan of the Reactor. I thought, why would anyone want to carry that beast? 17+ ounces for a stove just seemed wrong. So what if it boiled lightning fast or was super efficient in windy conditions? And then Sooperfly sent me a Reactor to test and, well, it wasn't long before I bought one of my own .
I've never been a fan of Jetboils either. When the Sol came out I figured meh, just another Jetboil fail in a lighter package. But as time passed, people who used it seemed to like it - a lot. I started looking online for head to head comparisons against the Reactor and not only was the Sol not too far behind in boil time, but it was actually more efficient in one of the head to head tests, even with some moderate wind. That was impressive enough to order an Aluminum Sol and do some tests myself.
Today my package from moosejaw arrived. Initial impressions:
I like the way the pot snaps on to the stove. This should make it less prone to tipping than the Reactor.
I really like thermometer indicator on the outside. Brilliant! Hopefully it's a reliable indicator in practice.
I like the cozy around the pot. Better than no insulation on the Reactor and I wonder if it helps with efficiency. It should also keep water from cooling off while also letting you hold the pot without needing to use the handle.
The small cup / bowl is also a nice addition (albeit adding 1.1 ounces to minimum weight). Looks like you can also drink straight from the mug without burning lips thanks to the plastic lid (as always YMMV) but this might save the weight of a cup as well.
How can you not love a piezo igniter? This is something I wish the Reactor had.
The 1.3 oz burner attachment, presumably for cooking with a regular pot or pan, would seem to be another good idea. I can see this potentially working for our backcountry pizzas.
I can't really think of anything I dislike so far. It seems Jetboil really put their thinking caps on here. No, it doesn't have the red thimbleberry flame of the Reactor, but hey, if it can still hold its own in wind, that's all that really matters.
As far as weight... The Reactor weighs in at 17.3 oz and the Aluminum Sol is 10.1 oz according to my scale (excluding the small cup, mini tripod, and pot attachment). I think it's fair to exclude the 1.1 oz cup weight, assuming you would otherwise bring one. So that's about a 7 oz savings vs. the Reactor. You also don't need to bring a lighter for the Sol, so that's another ounce savings (assuming you carry spare matches in your emergency kit just in case).
Now, on to some tests! No, these aren't controlled tests or lab precise, but they are real world tests. I left the stoves outside tonight for an hour along with a pitcher filled with tap water. I then put 1/2 liter in the Sol and 1 liter in the Reactor. Wind was slight to moderate. I lit each stove and didn't turn them off until the water reached a rolling boil, no sooner, to ensure a fair comparison. The Reactor canister had less fuel, so it's at a slight disadvantage. Here you go:
Test 2 (Light wind)
Sol: 3 minute 15 second boil (1/2 liter, 6 grams fuel)
Reactor: 4 minute 30 second boil (1 liter, 12 grams fuel)
I plan to do more tests over the next few days, hopefully with more wind swirling in the back yard, but so far I'm impressed and can see the Sol finding a place in my pack on shorter trips or trips with a single partner. While the boil times may seem long, keep in mind that I waited for a rolling boil. In reality, the water is probably hot enough after 2.5 minutes, which is about when the Sol thermometer indicator turns orange.
Test 5 (Light wind w/ occasional gusts)
After bringing 4 L to a rolling boil (4 boils on Reactor, 8 boils on Sol)...
Sol: 183g canister start weight, 138g end weight (6g per boil)
Reactor: 185g canister start weight, 138g end weight (12g per boil)
Test 6 (Fail)
Tried to test another rolling boil with 1/2L in each pot but both canisters ran out of fuel at 133g (looks like MSR fibs by 5 oz on their canisters).
It seems the Sol is slightly more efficient than the Reactor. I could hear the Sol flutter when there was the occasional strong gust of wind so suspect it will need some shielding to maintain its edge in windy conditions. The Reactor will likely pull ahead in swirling winds. Overall I'd call it a draw for efficiency over all conditions. Reactor wins for boil times. Sol wins for weight savings. I'd say both have a place in the gear closet.
Very nice comparison Tom. I've stuck with the Reactor for a long time because it seems to work better with a group (the larger pot helps). Having two reactors can take care of a fairly large group in the backcountry. However, you have me very intrigued. I wonder about the efficiency at altitude. I've had good experience with the Reactor at 10k-ish. Would be interested about the Sol's performance at altitude.
I can't see altitude making too much of a difference. I'm at 750' on Cougar Mountain. I would agree the Reactor is the clear choice for larger groups. I'm tempted to head down to REI and pick up the new Jetboil Sumo 1L pot and compare boil times. If the Reactor is still ~75% faster then I'm not sure why anyone would opt for the Sumo to save 2 ounces, at least just for boiling water. Then again, I've learned to try first before drawing conclusions.
Looks like your boil times are pretty consistent with last year's Backpackinglight.com tests.
The Reactor scored lowest marks in fuel efficiency and burner control.
Ultimately the 'value' factor was the main reason I got a Sol recently, as it works darn fine for melting snow and is also a great choice for sharing on trips when you want to keep the weight down. I found a 1L Sumo cup at a REI garage sale recently, although I have yet to use it. I'd be interested in the results if you test one out
Would be interested about the Sol's performance at altitude.
I've mentioned this previously, prior to people considering the Sols as an option. I've used the Sol at elevations from 9+ to almost 12K with zero problems. On the Winds trip, it was not even with the JB cookpot, it was with a regular ti pot.
Good to see that folks are looking at this stove as being different than some of their previous stoves, if only because it IS different.
i know from my friends jason and kyle that canisters .. and they use the jetboil, but i have to assume it's the same for all? don't work well on snow -- they burn less efficiently and use up fuel faster -- and can even fail (which happened to kyle -- not a good thing when you're depending on melting snow for water) ... anyhow either could tell you all the whys about it ... something to do with canisters using 2 types of fuel?
so their solution: putting it in a ski boot when cooking ..
jace and i have talked about the jetboil because camping together with his was my 1st and only experience with one (and i do like the convenience and quick cooking time) .. anyhow one of my concerns (besides the inability to recycle them -- which has be dealt with now) was high altitude .. and as i recall he said yes they aren't as reliable as white gas stoves, but he also usually basecamps around 10K and it's never been an issue at that elevation .. again he could talk more on that .. he also was in the winds this past summer and maybe has something to add .. could air temp has something to do with it too?
yes iron thx .. i know .. that's what i said .. we addressed it just previously in another thread but good to repeat it here so everyone gets the message and starts recycling them .. btw i think it's jetboil who put out the "green" version with a punch at the request of rei
I'm going to have a couple of Sols out in the Columbia Basin this weekend. I'll let you all know how they do in the wind, because if you've ever fished Lenice, you know it can be quite breezy out there. It won't be at elevation, but we're likely to have wind.
For whatever reason, the rumor persists that somehow canister stoves have trouble at altitude. They don't.
There's nothing intrinsically limiting about canister gas with respect to altitude, nor is there anything intrinsically beneficial about liquid fuel.
Piezoelectric ignitions? That's a different matter. Lighters with piezo especially tend to fail at altitude. Stoves with piezo tend to do better than lighters but still fail more frequently at altitude.
Cold does affect canister stoves, but there are ways to compensate.
Tom! Fascinating stuff. I wonder if it would be better to do 500ml each so that the results are more apples-to-apples comparable? I'd be interested anyway.
Question: Are you running both flat out? I know my Reactor gets a lot better "mileage" if I turn it down some.
I'll be especially interested in hearing about high winds and serious cold. Brad Groves recently published an article on BPL that found really amazing cold weather performance on the part of Reactor, and I can't think of a stove I'd rather have in high winds.
Was able to do a couple more tests today, one with swirling winds and hail. The Jetboil Sol seems up to the task. I wouldn't give much credence to 5 grams vs. 6 grams or 11 grams vs. 12 grams. It's likely rounding error. To account for that I should probably just start with a new canister and see how many boils I can get out of each stove, doing a second 1/2 L boil on the Jetboil immediately. That may give a slight advantage to the Jetboil Sol (since the pot will retain some heat for the start of the second boil), but it's probably how it would work in practice with 2 people.
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