Snow Leopard Cooking System by Flat Cat Gear


I first came across the Flat Cat alcohol stove a number of months ago thanks to a blog post by Jason Klass. When I watched the video that Jason included in the entry, I thought that the Flat Cat was an interesting stove. Since then I have heard some mention of the Flat Cat here and there at different backpacking forums, and then most recently on Brian Greens blog.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Jon from Flat Cat Gear contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in checking out one of his stove systems for a while. So of course I said sure! Then, just a few days ago I received the Snow Leopard Original cooking system in the mail.

Jon sells 2 main systems at his site, the Bobcat (which is designed to use with the 1.3L Evernew Non-Stick or the UL Ti cook pot as well as the REI Ti-Ware 1.3L pots) and the Snow Leopard system. The Snow Leopard system is designed to work with as many as 24 different size mug-style (smaller-diameter) cook pots. However, in order to work with so many different size cook pots, Jon offers the Snow Leopard system in 3 different options: Original, Jr. or Sr.

As well, Jon also offers 3 different stove’s with the Snow Leopard system:

  1. The FLAT CAT Snow Leopard Stove for denatured alcohol.
  2. The ISO-Clean Stove for isopropyl alcohol.
  3. The Epicurean adjustable solid fuel stove.

According to the Flat Cat Site:

All stoves have different advantages depending on your cooking needs, fuel availability, and weather conditions.

When I opened the box I was immediately impressed simply with the care (and time) that Jon took to package the items, specifically the windscreen which was very neatly wrapped in newspaper. (However, the shipping box looked like it took a hit during delivery and a small section of the top edge of the windscreen was a little smashed in, but it was easily bent back out.) Then I took each piece of the Snow Leopard Original cooking system out and examined it closely. Here is a list of the contents which were in the box, along with my own weights:

    • Windscreen: 1.1 oz (31 gm)
    • Stove: 0.7 oz (21 gm)
    • (2) Pot Stand Wires: 0.2 oz (5 gm)
    • Heat Shield: 0.1 oz (4 gm)
    • Measuring Cup: 0.1 oz (2 gm)
    • Total Weight: 2.2 oz (63 gm)

Also included inside the Ziploc which the stove was sealed in was a single sheet of paper with tons of useful information. One side of the sheet includes many useful tips and instructions, including: “Parts” listing, “Assembly” instructions, “Boiling Water” tips and information, “Packing and Storing” and of course some “Warnings and Safety” tips. On the flip-side of the sheet is even more information, but also includes helpful pictures and even a QR code that will take you to Jon’s YouTube video with information on how to assemble, store and fine tune the Snow Leopard system (as seen directly below).

So, I am planning to use the Snow Leopard cooking system that Jon sent me with an 800 ml IMUSA mug/cook pot which measures 4″ in diameter and approximately 4.3″ in height. My cooking style really only consists of boiling water and then adding it to my dehydrated meals. So, I will also be using a DIY reflectix cozy with this system to rehydrate my meals in. Below is a photo of the entire cooking system that I will be carrying, including weights.

  • Snow Leopard Original Cooking System (as listed above): 2.2 oz (63 gm)
  • DIY Reflectix Cozy with Lid: 0.7 oz (20 gm)
  • IMUSA 800 ml Pot with Aluminum Foil Lid: 2.9 oz (81 gm)
  • 1/2 LightLoad Towel: 0.2 oz (6 gm)
  • Sparkie: 0.2 oz (6 gm)
  • Total Cook System Weighed Together: 6.3 oz (178 gm)

As far as weights, this system is only slightly heavier than my beloved system that I recently put together. This will make it hard for me to leave my other kit behind, but I am curious to see what kind of fuel efficiency that the Snow Leopard system will give me. According to the instructions that came with the system, “approximately 1 tablespoon (17 – 20 mls) of alcohol can boil 2 cups of water.” Also noted in the same set of instructions, “2 cups of room temperature water will start to boil in about 8 – 9 minutes.” So, yesterday I decided to do a little video in which I show the components of the system and then did a boil test. Check it out here:

In the video I used 20 mls of HEET (in the yellow bottle) colored with 1 drop of green food coloring and 16 fl oz of room temperature (~ 65 F) water. The ambient temperature outside was 80 F and I am at an elevation of 490 ft above sea level. There were occasional slight wind breezes, although I am not sure of the wind speed (all I can say is that they were gentle and occasional). As can be seen in the video, the 2 cups of water came to a full rolling boil in approximately 8:30 and then the stove died out around 8:45.

This was the 3rd burn in this stove since I have received it, however, this was the first timed boil. The other times I simply added some fuel to watch the stove burn (the design makes one curious). Based on the above boil/burn out times, this system is right on par with my DIY system, although this is only one use so I will gather better results hopefully with more use.

I typically boil 3 cups of water for my needs 2 times a day (breakfast and dinner). At breakfast I could probably get away with only boiling 2 cups of water if I needed to, but at dinner I need all 3 cups. So far it appears that 2/3 oz of fuel will successfully bring 2 cups of water to a full rolling boil (but just barely), so based on this it will take a full oz of fuel to boil 3 cups (pending ideal conditions). So, at this time, I will still carry 2 oz of fuel per day (1 oz per meal) for use with the Snow Leopard system. This is where I am curious to see if it will change before I send the system back to Jon.

One other thing worth noting is how well the entire system packs up into the cook pot. The windscreen goes into my cook pot first and then everything else goes into the middle of the cook pot. As can be seen in the video above (or the picture below), all of my cooking gear easily fits into the IMUSA cook pot.

Overall, I am pretty excited to have the opportunity to be trying out Jon’s Snow Leopard cooking system. It is very intriguing, packs down easily, is light-weight and does indeed boil my water so that I can enjoy a nice warm meal (or drink) on the trail. Gotta love that! So, now it is time for me to simply take it out for a while and use it to see how it does in the real world…err…the real trail. So, thanks to Jon for this opportunity. And I will be sure to do a later post before I send the system back to Jon and further discuss how the cook system did for me!

Thanks for reading.

~Stick~

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 and at the request of Flat Cat Gear all items will be promptly returned.

UPDATE: 5.27.12

More on the Flat Cat Gear Snow Leopard Cooking System

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…

Notice the slight green coloring. This is from the residue left behind from the very beginning.

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.

The mod’ed stove. Note the tabs inside the stove are bent rather than sloped.

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 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 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…

What is 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…

~Stick~

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.

UPDATE: 5.28.12

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,

UPDATE: 2.6.15

Updated links to the new & improved Flat Cat Gear website.

~Stick~

4 Responses to Snow Leopard Cooking System by Flat Cat Gear

  1. Bob says:

    I’m curious what you think of the snow leopard vs a Caldera Cone? I have the Caldera Cone for an Evernew 1.3L pot, but now I’m looking for a setup to use with my Snow Peak mini solo pot or maybe a smaller 550-650 Ti pot in the future for solo trips. Note that in CA we have a long standing fire ban, so the ability to do wood fires in the CC is wasted on me.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Bob,

      Honestly, since (I believe) you can get both in either aluminum or titanium, I can’t really say one is “better” than the other… Also, I haven’t kept up with either company lately, so I can’t say if changes have been made to the designs since the ones I have.

      I will say that I like how the windscreen fits around the pot on the Caldera Cones better than on the Snow Leopard. The cones fit snug and the lip of the pot rest on the windscreen, whereas with the Snow Leopard, the tabs are bent over to match the pot, and the pot rest on wires which are skewered through the windscreen. It is also suggested to use the same Snow Leopard cone for the same pot to keep from bending the tabs repeatedly, which on the aluminum version, could eventually break off. And while it’s a moot point, I think it’s a hair easier to pack the Caldera Cone than the Snow Leopard cone with the bent over tabs.

      However, IIRC, those SP pots are tall and narrow, which means there may not be a “Sidewinder” cone option for those pots, I haven’t checked though to be sure. If not, you would have to go with the regular Caldera Cone, which cannot be stored inside the cook pot. This means you will have to find extra room outside the pot, inside your pack, to store the cone system, and depending on your set-up, and if you used the caddy for the cone, that could also be extra weight. To be fair, this may also be an issue with the Snow Leopard system… The Snow Leopard cone did fit in the Backcountry 700 ml cook pot I used, but maybe not with every small pot?

      Anyway, I hope this helps some.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  2. Zane Rose says:

    The snowleopard website lists the weight of their snowleopard unit (including wind screen) at 8 oz… wondering if you didn’t include windscreen weight in your calculations.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Zane,

      I am not sure what site/page you are looking at, but according to the Flat Cat Gear website, the total weight of the Snow Leopard cooking system is 2.15 oz. They even mention that when coupled with a 500 ml Evernew pot, the total weight only comes to 4.75 oz, but keep in mind, this includes the pot, so isn’t just the weight of just the cook system. Typically, folks won’t list the weight of systems like this with a pot because there are so many different cook pot options.

      Anyway, if you will notice, just a few paragraphs down in the above article, I include a detailed list of all items included in the cook system, along with thier individual weights, which only come to 2.2 oz. (And yes, the windscreen is the first listed item! 🙂 )

      Hope this helps.

      ~Stick~

      Like

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