By Jason B.
Integrated cooking systems intrigue me, I like organization and everything having its own spot. Ever since the first Jetboil came out I have been hooked. Sure, I could piece together parts for an ultra-light system or otherwise come up with my own solution, but there is elegance in an engineered system. GSI Outdoors has been putting together integrated cooking systems for a while now, and I am fortunate enough to have the Pinnacle Soloist Complete system to play with over the next few months.
GSI Outdoors is a small privately held family company based out of Spokane, Washington. They make an assortment of outdoor items mostly focused on making backcountry cooking better. I like how they describe their mission on their website: “We take great pride in our ability to create new and exciting items from products which others believed could not be improved or which they believed were not worth the effort.”
The GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist Complete is an all in one integrated cooking system designed for one person. The kit comes with GSI’s Pinnacle Stove, Windscreen, 1.1 L Pot, Strainer/Sip It top, 14 oz insulated cup, telescoping Foon, and Welded Sink/Sack to hold it all together.
The main component of any kit is the stove. GSI Outdoors states that the stove is a “lightweight, high efficiency canister stove that provides 9,629 BTU/h.” It is very small and compact and looks similar to other small canister type stoves that sit on top of the canister. It is fairly simple. The pot supports fold up to make the triangle that the pot and windscreen sit on, but the legs ALSO fold out. I missed this feature the first few times I used the stove. This tidbit of information is in the instructions, but in my opinion it is not very clear. If the legs are not folded away from the stove, the windscreen base and windscreen will not fit on the stove and it can cause all sorts of consternation since the pieces won’t fit together. In addition to the legs, the stove has a long and easy to use gas control arm. Overall, the stove seems solid, once I figured the legs out.
The Windscreen and Windscreen Base are made out of aluminum. The Windscreen Base sits on small attachments on the bottom side of each of the stove legs. The Windscreen is cylinder shaped and sits on top of the Windscreen Base and connects together via folded ends.
The 1.1L pot is a standard pot that is a little taller than it is wide. It is coated with Teflon Radiance technology to keep food from sticking. One of the things I really like about the pot is the integrated folding handle. When in use, the handle locks in place and has a rubberized handle to protect the user’s hand. When not in use it folds over the top of the pot and holds the lid in place. In addition, there is the Strainer/Sip It top which is a plastic molded lid with strainer holes on one side and a drink opening on the other.
The cup holds about 14oz according to GSI Outdoors, and features an integrated insulation sleeve that is supposed to keep drinks hotter longer and presumably cold drinks colder longer. The cup easily fits inside of the pot. The Strainer/Sip It top also fits the cup. One knit pick is that neither the cup nor stove have any volume markings that would be useful for measuring out water for other uses.
The telescoping Foon is neat, the Foon end slides and locks into place at the end. I am interested to see how well it does digging deep into dehydrated food bags and if there are any issues cleaning it. Finally, the Welded Sink/Storage Sack holds it all together and because the sink is welded it can hold hot or cold water for washing dishes. The company website also states that the entire system will hold a 110g or 220g fuel canister. This is something I will definitely test out over the next couple months. I feel like every different company tweaks the sizing of their canister so I am interested to see which canisters will nest with the system.
In general, I tend to evaluate cooking systems on a couple criteria – durability and most importantly usefulness. For durability, I generally evaluate how well the components of the stove perform and last. I will also look at the durability of the pot, cup, Foon and the Sink bag. The second criteria is usefulness. This is a single pot system so I don’t anticipate cooking meals that require multiple pots, but will evaluate how well it boils water for drinks and dehydrated meals. What one pot meals can I cook? Is it easy to clean? How well does it work in windy or unsheltered conditions? These are just a few of the questions I will look at as I use the stove over the next couple of months.
Update May 1, 2017
I have used the GSI Pinnacle Soloist Complete System while backpacking in Alabama and Mississippi over the past couple of months, and it has performed admirably. The system excels at boiling water efficiently, is easy to use, and cleanly fits together in a single clean system.
I have used the stove on the following trips over the past few months: 4 night backpacking trip on the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama, on two overnight trips in the Black Creek Wilderness, and on a 2 night camping trip at the Longleaf Horse Trail in Mississippi. Weather was overall warm with high humidity. I dodged thunderstorms using shelters on the Pinhoti Trail but had no weather issues in the Black Creek Wilderness.
As I mentioned in my initial review usefulness is the most important criteria, and Pinnacle Soloist Complete system excelled in this area. The system works well together – the wind screen protects the flame; the pot holds enough water to make freeze dried meals and hot drinks with ease; the insulated cup kept my food and drinks hot; and the folding Foon means I don’t have to search through my pack for something that can be used as a utensil because I forgot my silverware again.
I generally only heated water for drinks and food, but that does not really challenge the stove. It boils water with ease. While at the Longleaf Horse Camp, I decided to try cooking with the flame and only needed to heat up some homemade turkey burgers. I used a titanium frying pan that fit on the stove without the windscreen. I was able to heat up the burgers for dinner, but not without some difficulty common to these types of stoves. All the heat from the stove was concentrated in a single spot on the pant which meant constantly trying to rearrange the burgers to not turn them to charcoal in the middle of the pan. The flame is adjustable, but I wasn’t able to get a low enough flame to gently warm the burgers. This is a minor nitpick common to these types of stoves.
A second nitpick with the Pinnacle System is the sink sack. If it was shirt I would say it is a fitted shirt. The sink sack is just large enough to fit around the pot. This makes it challenging to stuff the system in the sack. I would like to see a sink sack with a little more room that would make it easier to put the system away.
My second criteria was durability which has been superb. I have had no issues with any of the system components and they all are working as they should.
Overall, the GSI Pinnacle Soloist Complete has performed great. I plan on continuing to use the stove over the next month or so and will see how the stove performs cooking one pot meals instead of just boiling water. I will also continue to keep an eye on durability and performance.
Final Update August 7, 2017
I have continued to use the GSI Pinnacle Soloist Complete system for all of my cooking needs since my last update and it has performed well while cooking one pot meals and remains durable with the exception of a little accident with my daughter.
I have used the Soloist kit on two trips since my last update, a weekend camping trip to Buccaneer State Park in Mississippi, and a 40 mile multi day backpacking trip on the Black Creek Trail in Mississippi. Weather for both trips was typical for summer around here – 90s and tons of humidity. I did not experience any precipitation.
I know from my previous use that the stove does a great job of boiling water for dehydrated meals and hot drinks, but more importantly I wanted to know if I could cook one pot meals. While at Buccaneer State Park, I cooked one my favorites, Chicken and Rice. I used Lipton’s Chicken and Rice package and then add a can of cooked chicken. It may not sound like much but the Lipton’s has to be boiled then reduced to a simmer for 10 plus minutes before it is ready. The stove did a nice job allowing me to both quickly bring the mixture to a boil and the turn the heat down to keep a nice simmer. One of the other challenges for cooking this meal is that if the water is even a little off it can burn and stick to the bottom of a pot which generally creates a mess for cleanup. I did not burn my meal, but I was interested in how easy the pot would be to clean. I was gladly surprised that it was super easy. The rice and seasoning mixture came out easily with a little soap and water. The opening in the top of the pot is large enough to reach in an wipe everything down.
One of the things that attracted me to the Pinnacle Soloist was the ability to pack everything in the pot including the fuel canister. It was not intuitive to me how everything would fit, luckily GSI includes a diagram on their website and on the literature that comes with the stove that shows how to pack the system with a fuel canister. The trick was turning the cup upside down on top of the stove, foon, and fuel canister. This allowed everything to fit in the pot. However, it was still a little tricky and I never seemed to get the lid to close flush.
My only real issue with respect to usefulness of the Pinnacle Soloist kit is the Foon. It is awesome that it is compact and fits in the kit, however I found that it is a little bit flimsy when trying dig to the bottom of the pot or the bottom of dehydrated meal package. I would prefer a spoon that is a bit longer and less flimsy.
The durability of the stove has been great. Everything works and performs as intended. However, the stove did not turn out to be pre-teen proof. While camping at Buccaneer State Park, I kept all of our camp gear in a plastic wheeled tote for easy organization. When I was done using the stove and it had cooled, I would just set it in the tote still set up. The lid on the tote is flimsy, but my daughter did not realize this and went to sit on the top of the tote and ended up falling into it. She landed on the set up stove bending the legs so severely that the stove legs would not fold up or hold the pot. The stove was toast, but my daughter was fine, just embarrassed. GSI replaced the stove for me even though it was my fault. That’s great customer service.
As I said at the beginning, I like the simplicity that comes from an integrated stove system. The Pinnacle Soloist had fit the bill. It allows me to heat water quickly as well as cook one pot meals. Durability was great, except for our one mishap that was no fault of the stove. Overall the stove has performed great and is a great value for the cost.
Thanks to 4Alloutdoors.org and GSI Outdoors for providing the Pinnacle Soloist Complete System for this review.