Jetboil is one of the best manufacturers of backpacking stove systems. If you’re looking for lightweight solutions to getting a hot meal on the trail, you can’t go wrong with any of Jetboil’s boilers, but if you’re trying to find the absolute cream of the crop it’ll come down to either the Jetboil Zip or the Jetboil Flash.
We’re going to break the two down and see which one comes out on top, so if you’re ready to learn everything you can about these two offerings from Jetboil, let’s get started!
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Jetboil Zip vs Flash: Which Boiler is Best? – Overview
Here are the top 3 picks!
The reason it’s so hard to pick between the two of these boilers is that they’re so similar and they’re both such an excellent purchase to make if you’re looking for something that will keep you flush with warm drinks and clean water. The Flash and the Zip both encourage you to do all of your cooking, rehydrating, sanitizing, and transportation in the same vessel.
They’re both designed with this insulated outer shell with a fabric sleeve that you can safely grab when your beverages have cooled down a little bit. This neat little feature is the thing that ties these two boilers together the most. They both utilize Jetboil’s FluxRing design. This is a simple ring underneath the boiling vessel. It uses fire and airflow to direct the heat right into your water.
The advantage of boiling your water in batches as small as this is that you can use some pretty interesting engineering tricks like the FluxRing to get a boil in a few dozen seconds. Not all of the similarities are positives though. The insulated area on the outside of both of these Jetboils is prone to one huge point of failure.
If your flames are too high or you leave them unattended for too long, the heat is likely to spill out over the outside of your Jetboil cup and melt the outside of the cup. If you’re especially unlucky when this happens, you’re probably going to end up melting the handle right off of the cup.
This won’t be a problem if you’re always careful about the size of your flames and you keep your eyes on your Jetboil when they’re doing their work. These little packages get incredibly hot very quickly, so they’re going to need special attention paid to them. Only light the flames when you’re ready to get the ball rolling, you won’t be waiting long and you’ll get a boiler that will last much longer.
The Jetboil Zip and the Jetboil Flash are both incredible boilers for hitting the trail. They each have a lot of great things going for them, and if you’re not careful, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re exactly the same. The biggest difference between the two is their size. While the Jetboil Flash is bigger than the Jetboil Zip, it’s not by much, but that little bit of size difference really adds up.
The full liter capacity of the Jetboil Flash is enough to make it a little bit more versatile than the Jetboil Zip. The Zip is going to be a huge headache if you’re trying to boil water for more than a single person. If you’re only interested in using it for yourself, then it’s perfect, but the Jetboil Flash is going to be the go-to option if you’ve got a partner on the trail with you.
The second-largest difference between the two boilers is going to be the time it takes either of them to bring your water to a boil. They’re both incredibly fast and they’ll both give you a container of fully boiling water in around five minutes. In fact, the amount of time it takes to boil a container filled to its capacity is close enough for both of these boilers, it might feel like you’re not really saving that much time.
In cases like this, it’s good to remember that the Jetboil Flash is boiling way more water in a much tighter time frame. The Flash and the Zip also differ from each other in some of the smaller details. The Zip’s bottom cap is opaque so if you end up using it like a small bowl on the trail, then it’s going to be a little bit less messy-looking because of the dark colors and the fact that less light is illuminating the stained plastic.
The Flash has a thermal logo that changes colors when the water has reached a boil, which is a nice quality of life improvement, you’re not going to have to keep checking back while you wait (if you even have time to check back in since it boils so quickly).
The size of the Jetboil Flash raises an interesting problem. You’re able to use the boiling vessel as a cup, but if you’re using the boiler to prepare hot drinks for two people, how do you decide to use that feature? Often people end up just bringing along a second cup so they don’t have to hog the hot container, but this defeats the purpose of even being able to add that lid in the first place. It’s a perfect case of bigger not being better.
The Jetboil Zip only really works for a single person, and because of that, you’re able to take advantage of the ability to cap and drink straight from the boiler since you’re not being encouraged to share. Another huge difference between the two of these is going to be the cost.
While the two of these boilers aren’t so far from each other in terms of price, it might be enough of a factor to sway you one way or the other. The Jetboil Flash is going to be a little more expensive because of the increased size and the addition of the push-button ignition.
1. Jetboil Flash
The Jetboil Flash is the big brother of the Jetboil Zip. It’s basically everything the Jetboil Zip can do bumped up a bit. This comes with several advantages, but it also means that there are a couple of key downsides to cranking all of the knobs up to eleven. The Jetboil Flash, just like the Zip is powered by attaching it to portable gas canisters. Slotting it in is as simple and screwing it into place.
The size of it and the ease of attachment makes it the perfect companion for a long trip or a short jaunt to the top of a long hiking trail. The vessel for the water is large enough for a full liter of water without becoming so large that it’s a cumbersome addition to your camping or hiking gear. In fact, the boiler is big enough to store your gas canister inside.
What you lose in storage space by having a slightly larger boiler you ironically immediately gain back in additional storage if you’re clever. The bottom cover of this boiler, just like with the Jetboil Zip can be used as a measuring cup or a bowl for whatever foods you’ve rehydrated or whipped up over your boiler, this is another excellent space-saving technique they’ve employed in designing this quick boiler.
This boiler also reduces the steps in between you setting it up and getting your fire started by adding a push-button ignition to get your fires started without having to fish out your matches or lighters. It also acts as its own hot beverage container. After you’ve boiled your water and thrown your drinks together, you can just attach the sip-top lid included with the Jetboil Flash and keep yourself going.
The boiling time for the Jetboil Flash lives up to its name. You’re going to be getting 16 ounces of boiling water in under two minutes. Once you’ve got everything set up your water is well on its way to a rolling boil. In fact, this boiler works so quickly you’re better off watching this pot boil because it’s prone to boiling over if you’re reheating something like soup or ramen noodles. If you’re not feeling up to cooking inside of the boiler, that’s totally understandable. It’s also just the perfect solution to rehydrating your backpacking rations.
2. Jetboil Zip
The Jetboil Zip is designed to get you going as quickly and as easily as possible. It’s the most popular, cheapest, and one of the smallest single-person cooking systems that Jetboil has released. The boiler itself is fueled using canister gas. It’s a no-hassle system getting your Zip from one canister to the next once you’ve tapped it out. The entire system is incredibly light, weighing in at a mean 12 ounces.
The compact design of this boiler makes it easy to bring along in any pack no matter how tightly packed it is. You’re pretty much always going to be able to find at least a little bit of room to accommodate the Jetboil Zip. Once you’ve lit the fire underneath the pot, your water will reach a boil in about 2 and a half minutes per 16 ounces.
That means if you fill this boiler all the way up to its maximum capacity of 0.8 liters or 27 ounces, you’re looking at a wait time of just under five minutes for about two coffee cups worth of boiling hot water in It’s honestly really impressive to see this little boiler get to work. It’s so unassuming and compact that you’d think it would take much longer, but the compact construction and what Jetboil calls their FluxRing technology harness
If you’re the type that hates eyeballing your ingredients, the bottom cover of the Jetboil Zip can act as an accurate measuring cup and bowl, saving you on having to bring yet another dish along in your pack. The water vessel itself also comes with a built-in handle so you can just detach it and drink the beverages you’ve prepared without having to bring along another cup to drink out of.
They even include a sipping lid so you can slap it on top and keep your backpacking downtime to a minimum. The Jetboil Zip shines the brightest if you’re taking it out while you’re backpacking on your own. If you’re only prepping water or meals for one, this boiler is incredibly well suited to solo trips. The cup you boil all of your liquids in is going to be a perfect size and shape for just lifting up off of the harness and taking for a walk.
It’s large enough to slake your thirst without being a pain in the butt to hold while you’re making your way through the rest of your hiking or backpacking trail. The Jetboil Zip doesn’t have any kind of ignition built into the cooking system, so you’re going to have to make sure you bring along a lighter of some kind or some heavy-duty matches that can hold up to the abuse of long-distance backpacking.
Not having any ignition to speak of is a little bit of a damper on an otherwise excellent product, but it’s worth pointing out that push-button ignition systems tend to wear out over time. You could say that by cutting out this feature they’re also cutting out future annoyance once the button eventually wears out.
If you’ve ever seen the Jetboil Zip and the Jetboil Flash next to each other, you’ve probably had a hard time setting them apart. On the surface, they’re almost exactly the same. When you look at them with a discerning eye you’ll see that the Jetboil Zip shaves off a little bit of material in service of making a more compact cooking system.
3. Jetboil Flash Java Kit
If you’re in the market for either of these boilers, but you have a specific craving that can only be satisfied by a nice warm cup of coffee, there’s a secret third option: the Jetboil Flash Java Kit. No conversation about the Jetboil Flash is complete without talking about the Jetboil Flash Java kit. It’s Jetboil’s answer to fans of a hot cup of coffee.
It’s all of the best aspects of the Jetboil Flash with the addition of a few extra accessories to brew the perfect pot of coffee no matter where you end up on your travels. If you’re familiar with making French press coffee, this is exactly the same process. The Jetboil Java comes with an accessory that allows you to steep coffee grounds in your freshly boiled mountain water, and then you just firmly plunge the tool into your Jetboil.
It’s that simple to make coffee when you’re out on the trails, even the strictest coffee snobs are going to have a hard time arguing against these delicious results. This variant of the Jetboil Flash is almost exactly the same as the Flash. The speed at which the water boils is still about 100 seconds, which is lightning fast, especially when compared to its competitors.
The cup the water boils in is still capable of holding a full liter of water. The vessel is insulated and detachable so you can pick it up and keep hiking without missing a beat, and the boiler itself is still powered by attaching it to a portable gas canister.
The Jetboil Flash is going to be the winner here. It’s a much more robust system and you don’t end up losing much by increasing the size of the boiler just a tiny bit. What you lose in portability you get back in versatility. This boiler is bigger so, obviously, it’s going to be able to handle a much larger volume of water. This increase in size also allows you to heat up a wider variety of liquids, though.
If you’re a fan of soup or noodles while on the trail, this boiler will let you leave the pots and pans at home, you won’t have to set up any campfires to get yourself some tomato soup, and if you’re clever you’ll be able to whip up any number of small meals inside of this boiler. The only downside the Jetboil Flash has when you compare it to its little brother is the push-button ignition system.
It’s tempting to want to have something as convenient as a button press when you’re tired from a long day of blasting through the trails, but in the long run buttons like these will eventually fail you and they’re not really worth trying to repair or replace. When that happens you’ll be lighting the Jetboil Flash just like the Zip, so if you’re looking at the button lighter as a selling point, try not to base your decision on solely that feature.
The fact that the Jetboil Flash comes in a variant that’s kitted out to make coffee is another huge advantage that the Flash has over the Zip. This is just one more way in which the Jetboil Flash is much more versatile and an overall better value, even though the price is slightly higher.
Bonus tip: If you’re a huge coffee fan and you can’t muster the strength to hit the trail without a cup of the good stuff, then here are some tips to brew the perfect cup!