A couple of months ago, Jon from Flat Cat Gear sent me this Snow Leopard (Original) Cooking System to check out. Since then, I have used the stove a number of times, many of those here at home for a cup of tea, cocoa or even to try out some different backpacking meals. However, I also took this system out with me on a few day hikes and most recently on an overnight hike up to Mt LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
When I first received the Snow Leopard Cooking System, I had all intentions of using it with an IMUSA 800 ml cook pot, however, I quickly ended up changing over to my Backcountry.com 700 ml cook pot. For some reason, I was experiencing some inconsistencies in boil times as well as burn out times when using the IMUSA cook pot, so after talking with Jon, he suggested me to give my Backcountry pot a try.
After further thought on my part, I wonder if the particular IMUSA pot I was using was pushing the size limits for the “Original” Snow Leopard System (remember, the Snow Leopard System is offered in 3 sizes) and was also contributing to the inconsistencies. According to the chart on the Flat Cat Gear site, the Original Snow Leopard System will work with a cook pot 4 inches tall and 3.6 – 4.1 inches in diameter. This particular IMUSA cook pot is just a hair over 4 inches. On the other hand, my Backcountry pot has a diameter of only 3 & 5/8 inches.
Also worth noting, I was using food coloring to color my fuel when I started using the Snow Leopard System (I added 1 drop of food coloring into a 4 oz fuel bottle). When I stopped using the IMUSA pot, I also stopped coloring my alcohol with food coloring at the same time. (In the past it seems that I also experienced some inconsistencies when coloring my fuel, and while I cannot say for sure that this is a problem, I have since decided that I will no longer color my fuel.) However, to this day, coloring still remains in the actual stove. I figure it will eventually burn away one day, but it sure is sticking around longer than I expected…
However, since I stopped coloring the fuel, as well as started using the smaller diameter Backcountry cook pot, the times have been a bit more consistent. In a “controlled” environment, the boil times (when using 20 mls of fuel and 2 cups of water) are consistently between 8:30 and 8:50 with a burn out time of around 11:10. When using the system outside in a relatively calm environment (again, with 20 mls of fuel and 2 cups of tap water) I generally get a boil around 9:15 – 9:30 and a burn out time around 10 minutes.
I would also like to add that Jon contacted me just recently and told me about a mod that he has started making to the Flat Cat stoves which would lead to reduced variability in the time to boil and increased fuel efficiency. He asked me about sending me a mod’ed stove out, or just simply giving me the info to make the mod myself. Seeing that I was heading out that very weekend, I requested Jon to simply send the info to do the mod myself.
Jon quickly sent me the instructions (along with pictures) of how to do the mod myself. It was actually quite easy. I simply used my thumb to push the tabs inside the stove down into the corners. Before the mod, the tabs inside the stove were sloped downward, but after this mod, the tabs were now pressed against the side wall and followed the contour of the stove along the bottom floor.
Since doing this mod I have only used the stove 3 times, which were on the trail. I like to do my homework before leaving out on the trail so that when I get ready to cook (by this I mean boil water) on the trail, I already know what I need to do. When getting ready to cook, I simply want to set the system up and get it going, and then go on with the other tasks (such as setting up/breaking down camp or preparing the food). So, because of my limited use after the mod, I cannot say from personal experience what kind of difference the mod has made concerning boil times or fuel efficiency.
Also worth noting, about 80% of the time I have used this system, I have used HEET (in the yellow bottle) as my fuel, but recently I have picked up some S-L-X Denatured Alcohol to try out with some stoves. The few times that I timed a boil when using S-L-X in the stove, I did notice a slightly faster boil time than when using HEET, but I have not used it enough to know for sure how consistent it is.
As well, when on the trail I generally prefer to boil more than 2 cups of water so that I can have a little extra water to clean up with afterwards. Because of this, I still carry and use 1 oz of fuel per meal. Also, when on the trail, I do not use a syringe or a measuring cup to measure the fuel out. Instead, I have 30 ml markings on my fuel bottle and I simply measure (eyeball) the fuel according to the markings when filling the stove on the trail.
As far as set-up, now that I am used to handling the system, set-up is quite simple. I will admit, the first few times I set it up, I had to fidget with it a little to get the holes in the windscreen lined up correctly to get the pot support pins in the holes while making sure that the tabs at the top of the windscreen were layered correctly and in the right spot, but after assembling a few times it became much easier. Even so, I have found that tear down and storage of the system is just as easy.
A word on storage though… I have found that some care is required when packing the windscreen with the remaining items inside the cook pot for transport. If the remaining items are carelessly thrown into the cook pot, or any downward force is applied on those items when the windscreen is inside the cook pot, this can cause the tabs on the windscreen to bend. If this happens, I can simply reposition the bent tabs before my next use, however, constant bending of these tabs are discouraged since this can eventually cause the tabs to break off. (But, I do not see this as a fault of any sort, but simply a reason to treat my gear with the respect and care that is required of it. I practice this with all of my gear, no matter the level of durability which is to be expected.)
Overall, I have grown quite fond of this system. The Snow Leopard Cooking System is a well thought out, attractive, efficient and dare I say durable, alcohol cooking system. And of course, quite importantly (at least to me), at 2.2 oz for everything other than the cook pot, let’s not forget lightweight! Although, I will admit, as someone who buys an item and then looks for ways to lighten the item even more, there are a couple of things I would do to lighten this system even more. (But I will admit, it wouldn’t be a drastic change in weight by no means, but hey, every little bit adds up…)
First off, I would leave the measuring cup behind. As I mentioned already, at home I measure out fuel into a fuel bottle and make markings right on the bottle. This is not as precise, but it is very close and weighs nothing. As well, I would also swap out the heavier/thicker heat shield for a single layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil cut to the size of the windscreen’s footprint (this is inexpensive and can easily be swapped out for a brand new piece before leaving out on each trip). This will only shave off 0.2 oz from the total weight, but to those of us who count it…it means something… 🙂
(Although, I admit that I like that Jon sends these items with the system. This gives the owner a choice of using the more durable/precise items which he sends, or to leave them behind and/or to supplement them with lighter options. Also, for those who enjoy using measuring cups, I believe that Jon has found a nice little measuring cup with a convenient pour spout. This is nice because when using the provided measuring cup, I kept dribbling the fuel when I would pour the fuel out of the fuel cup and into the stove ~ maybe this was just me though. However, this resulted in a tiny bit of the fuel landing outside the stove rather than inside the stove…)
So, now it is time for me to send the Snow Leopard Cooking System back to Jon. I will say that I will miss this system for sure, but I will also admit that it will be ok because I really enjoy using one of my very own DIY cook system’s as well, which I have recently made some changes to!
In closing, I would like to say that I think Jon has a great system here. And to make it even more appealing, Jon offers 2 other stoves (which use different fuel sources) that can be used with this system, which in my opinion, makes this a very versatile system. I also love the fact that the Snow Leopard Cook Kit is an entire cooking system/kit and that one only needs to add a cook pot to it to make it complete. And even better still, this system will fit a wide range of cook pot’s which allows this system to really fit a variety of hikers specific cooking style. The one mentioned here just happens to be mine…
So, what’s yours?
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, feel free to post them below or better yet, contact Jon at Flat Cat Gear. As well,I would like to give a huge thanks to Jon for giving me the opportunity to check out his Snow Leopard Cook System personally. I have enjoyed my time with it…
Disclaimer: Flat Cat Gear has loaned me (free of charge) this Snow Leopard Original Cooking System for reviewing purposes. I do not own this system. At this time I am now returning all of the items that Jon sent me for review.
After talking with Jon about returning the items to him, he requested me to hang on to the hardware indefinitely due to the fact that he has changed up the design somewhat since sending mine. I happily accepted! In the future I would love to try out both the simmer ring that he has designed for the Flat Cat stove as well as one of the Iso-Clean stoves!
So, I want to extend my thanks to Jon for both the opportunity to try this cook system out as well as for letting me hang on to the system.
Thanks for reading,