This is it, my first official gear review. You will forgive the lack of polish on this one. I’m also test driving the camera capabilities of my new Samsung Galaxy S3. We’ll see how this goes. Hopefully it will be kind of akin to teenage Spielberg shooting 8mm movies on an airfield in Arizona (shout out to Arcadia High School!) though the trajectory of my development will likely lend itself more to that of Senor Spielbergo.
Anyway on to the review. It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. (Sorry couldn’t resist myself)
This is the second time I’ve been on the trail with my newly acquired/3 month old GSI Halulite Minimalist that I got for my birthday in July. The first time it didn’t leave the pack. I will avoid completely blaming the Minimalist for that situation but it does leave it very suspect.
The second time out was my most recent hike. But let’s start out with the specs. Again, I apologize for my lack of professional grade reviewing but I do not yet have a scale. Well I do have a scale, I put it on the bathroom scale and it said 0. So there you have it. This thing weights 0 lbs!!! Sweet. For completeness sake I will quote specs from the GSI website but those are probably heavily biased to make me buy their item so they can’t be trusted either. In fact in retaliation for this injustice I will steal their picture too (fair use!)
Weight- 6.3 ounces (okay, okay it’s probably true- other reviews actually repeat its accuracy)
Capacity- 0.6 L
Material- Halulite (from what I can gather this is a coating over an aluminum core that resists scratches, helps with heat distribution, and is lighter than some other material)
I chose the Minimalist after doing a ton of research on what people are using for cooksets. As many know, backpackers talk about 4 things- weather, food, stoves, and cooksets. There are a lot of people using titanium sets, especially those by Snow Peak. I ran into some thru-hikers on the AT and they all had one. I played around with these in REI and in the end I decided against them.
For one I heard that cleaning them wasn’t all that easy. Granted at this point we have only done FBMs but I assume this will not be a longer term guarantee. The other piece is that I wanted whatever I picked to be useable as a mug. At this point we are really enjoying the option of hot coffee in the morning and then tea or hot chocolate in the evening. Given our Southbound plan, cold weather will be a big reality. That also lends me to insist on an insulator. Now yes I know the enterprising backpacker in me should make this myself but right now I’m not there yet.
The bottom line was that I wanted something light enough for when I do my solo hikes that could boil water quickly and cleanly and still be used efficiently as a mug. The Minimalist seemed to do all those things and at $27 it was a no-brainer. Well it was a no-brainer to ask for it as a birthday gift (yes I’m 32 years old and I still have a wish-list for my birthday, judge if you want but I’m pretty sure there are reindeer on those socks I see on your feet right there).
Out of the box there are a few things to know about the Minimalist. Looking on the GSI website or on Amazon is a bit misleading. For one the lid on the Minimalist is not clear. A clear lid would be GREAT idea because you could see if your water was boiling. Opaque black. Alas.
The lid is also designed to be placed inverted on the pot while the water is boiling. This keeps the lid freely removable while boiling(as opposed to sealing it on there in the reverse). In the pictures it has a plastic tab to facilitate that lid removal… mine does not. Alas.
Outside that the Minimalist arrives as advertised.
My recent hike with my dad was the first time using my GSI Halulite Minimalist. Holy crap is this thing amazing. Liz and I had previously used the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker on all our hikes. While it was good for two people, it was a lot of weight, and not necessary for the Freezer Bag Cooking we do thus far. The Backpacker pot also doesn’t have any insulator, something that will need to be remedied for it to remain an option as the water gets cold FAST.
The Halulite in combination with my JOGR Camp Stove (not the ultralight one, the big round one) boiled 2 cups of water in what must have been 2-3 minutes easily. That was new for me. I don’t have any official boil times as yet but I will fix that next time. After boiling we poured the water into the mugs from the Pinnacle Backpacker and threw in two Starbucks Via each and enjoyed a nice strong cup of coffee. (PS- the Italian Roast is baller status, if you like strong coffee accept no substitutes). I was able to make two normal-human sized cups of coffee with this bad boy. If you are Venti Quad Latte kind of person you would need to reboil for each person. That said, if you are by yourself, set this guy on your stove, boil water, throw in your instant caffeinated beverage of choice and you are good to go. Fast and easy.
In my mind this is the best “coffee-mug” I’ve seen. Sure there are ones that can act as a French press but any coffee aficionado knows you don’t drink directly out of the press (that’s cowboy coffee). There are ones that are a kettle too but that’s single purpose. If your end goal is a quick easy cup of coffee (even cowboy coffee) this guy will do the job. The only downside is that the opening on the lid is very low flow. While it’s the ideal setting as a spout, as a cup I prefer higher flow. Again, this isn’t a coffee mug, its a pot that doubles as a great mug.
The Minimalist continued to amaze as we boiled water for our food. I was a little concerned about not being able to boil enough water with its 0.6 L capacity. However I’ve yet to make a FBM that takes more than 2 cups of water so this was fine. In this case we made Idahoan Instant Red Potatoes (with a BUNCH of dried bacon bits… mmmm) as well as our favorite recipe from the Dusty Camel- stuffing mix, cranberries, walnuts, and a pouch of chicken. Even with having to reboil water with each bag the meals were ready and warm at the same time. It was also nice to be able to do a controlled pour using the lid. The only downside for cooking is that the Minimalist has no markings telling you measurements. I pre-pack my FBMs and write my water needs on it. While I can easily make my own reference points on the pot, it would be a nice addition.
The other downside to the lid is actually a pretty big problem. It’s basic physics– heat a solid, solid expands. So when you put the lid on the pot to keep all that warm goodness inside, the rubber seal expands. When this happens it is VERY hard to get the lid off. There is a little tab on the rubber to improve your grip but it really doesn’t work. It would have to be a firmer solid instead of rubber to create the necessary leverage. Not a huge problem but I could definitely see someone trying to take the lid off to add some sugar to their coffee or salt to their Ramen (wait that would never happen) and the jerking of taking the lid off could send things flying. I’m not sure there is a home-made remedy to this but I don’t believe the Jetboil has the same problem (completely different lid though).
Another nice feature was the insulator. I’m generally skeptical of these type of things as they are often made cheaply and are not effective for their purpose. Not here. We let the bags of yum sit for a minute to cool and soon realized the mash-po’s needed more water. This is was the test. After sitting in the sleeve with the lid on for about 5 minutes the water was still piping hot.
The only downside to the sleeve is that in it’s awesomeness it creates another problem. It is so perfectly fit to the pot that it is difficult to get the pot out. You/I can’t just grab and it and slide it out because the neoprene sticks. It is a two-hand job. Not ideal. In fact for the most part I had to invert the whole thing and push it out from the bottom like a push-pop (I’m sure there’s a better simile but I could really go for a push-pop right now).
The biggest complaint is that the task of moving the pot with boiling water from the stove to the insulated sleeve is not possible with the provided silicone gripper. Even if you leave enough room at the top of the pot to grip it without submerging your fingers in the water, the heat off the water can be a bit much (or I just have wuss hands). In the end we filled the pot as much as possible and moved it to the sleeve by dipping the gripper in the water. It worked but you had to move fast and it could have slipped very easy and the result could have been horrible (no like really horrible). There really is no way to grip the pot with the gripper and keep your hand out of the way of the heat. I will need to search for an answer to this because I know a lot of people have had similar experiences. The reality I can see at this point is that you will be removing the pot with your glove on. Not ideal but not horrible. There just isn’t an easy way to manipulate this pot when hot due to its lack of handles.
The problems with the accessories continued. I didn’t even take the spork with me because nobody has anything positive to say about it. It collapses yes, but it reportedly will even do that as you scrape the bottom of your FBM, hoping to get that last bit of mash-po in the corner. It also is said to catch a lot of food in its groove seen below and therefore hard to clean. Seems like it would easily break in your pack if put under any pressure as well. I will keep my Sea To Summit long spoon.
I am very happy with the GSI Halulite Minimalist as a lightweight, solo option for a cook set. It seems to boil fast, retain heat, and should clean up quite easily. It is a versatile option as it can offer you a great pot as well as an awesome coffee cup. I can already see myself on the AT, dragging one morning after a bad night sleep in a shelter, stopping off around 10am and 3 minutes later continuing on with a hot mug of coffee in my hand (yes you could easily walk with this thing). At a price point of $27 (you can find it cheaper if you endeavor) it is a great pick up for anyone on a budget as well. While there are lighter options out there, for me the addition of a functional lid and awesome insulation sleeve beat out all the titanium options. It is now absolutely my pot of choice for solo trips. I am going to use it on our next 2 person hike and see how it services there as well. Really the only deal-breaker Con is the difficulty manipulating it while hot. To be honest I’m very ready to use a glove- I don’t have to keep track of some handle and it cuts weight down. Done.
Pros- low cost, low weight, versatile, retains heat well, easy to clean
Cons- must use a glove to take off stove, lid sticks, spork not competitive with other utensil options
Disclaimer: This product was not purchased by Kory. It was given to him by his parents as a birthday gift because they love him. It did not bias his review in any way. He likes talking in the third person as well.