When Saphira found out that Kmart was selling a $49 Ultra Jet that had, ahem, striking similarities to a Jetboil, she had to give it a proper run for its money. So, how does it stack up against the uncontested King of the Camp Stoves? Is this a budget-win or a cheap catastrophe?

 

In the world of hiking gear, a couple of brands have emerged as the (pretty much) undisputed winners in their category. Want the best camping stove money can buy? It won’t be long before you’re looking at a Jetboil. Renowned for their speedy boil-times, they’re a must-have for the modern outdoor adventurer.

Depending on which model you get, a Jetboil stove costs between $149 (for the Zip) to an eye-watering $269 (for the Sumo). But what if you want an excellent camp stove without the hefty price tag? Can you get comparable performance at a fraction of the cost?

Recently, I spied a $49 ‘Ultra Jet’ at Kmart which, it can only be said, bears a striking resemblance to a Jetboil stove (I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up on the next episode of Paternity Court).

Naturally, I wondered whether this $49 Kmart camp stove could even hold a candle (pun intended) to the reigning king of the camp stoves.

Online, I found overwhelmingly positive product reviews, YouTube commenters lamenting about their local Kmarts being out of stock, and an abundance of Ultra Jets being sold for twice the retail price on eBay. Safe to say, I had high expectations.

Only one way to find out – put her through the paces.

For this review, I’ll be taking into account five things – boiling time, gas usage, weight/size, design, and durability/ethics. My point of comparison will be my tried-and-true Jetboil MiniMo, which retails at around $249.

More Adventure Than I’d Bargained for at my Local Kmart

I figured the trip to my local Kmart would be a pretty in-and-out-again job, but I was wrong. One fire alarm (not caused by an Ultra Jet, to my knowledge) and a 30-minute store closure later, I was finally able to get to the camping section.

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

 

I was then left scratching my head at the difference between the Ultra Jet and the newly released Ultra Jet 1… The specs online show that the Ultra Jet 1 is a bit taller at 27cm x 14 cm compared to the base Ultra Jet’s 23cm x 13cm dimensions. The online specs also state that the Ultra Jet uses 140g of gas per hour. The unit I purchased was labelled ‘Ultra Jet’ (not Ultra Jet 1!) but I was charged for an Ultra Jet 1 ($59). The box stated a gas consumption of just 80g/hour, which doesn’t match up with the online specs. I measured the stove at home and she came in at 23cm height. Confused? Me too!

So, kids, I wish I could tell you which of the two models I bought, but I really don’t know.

Read more: 14 Best Hiking Backpacks in Australia in 2023

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

Boiling Time Test

First up: fact-checking the claimed boil times. The Jetboil MiniMo has a sticker boiling time of two minutes 15 seconds for 500mL of water. I timed her in perfect conditions (mild temps and no wind) and got an impressively fast one minute 43 seconds – 30 seconds faster than advertised.

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

 

The Kmart Ultra Jet is a fair bit bigger and claims to boil 1L of water in three minutes five seconds (this claim applies to both the $49 and $59 versions). I measured a slower time, of three minutes 47 seconds on the Ultra Jet.

To make a more direct comparison to the Jetboil MiniMo, I also boiled just 500mL and got a time of two minutes 15 seconds – 30 seconds slower than the Jetboil MiniMo.

Clearly, the Jetboil is in fact the winner here. But when you’re talking about 30 seconds difference, does it really matter?

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

Gas Usage Comparison

Gas canisters are an ongoing cost for camp stoves. As I mentioned earlier, the stoves all have different fuel consumption rates and boiling times.

So, how many 500mL boils will you get from a 230g canister of gas?

Jetboil MiniMo – 1.72 minutes to boil @1.67 grams of gas per minute = 2.87 grams of gas per boil or 80 boils for a 230g canister.

Ultra Jet – 2.25 minutes to boil @ between 1.33 and 2.3 grams of gas per minute (stated specs differ) = 2.99 to 5.18 grams of gas per boil or 44 to 77 boils for a 230g canister.

At first blush, this seems like a big difference, but considering Kmart sells gas canisters for just $4.50 a pop (and even the more expensive ones are only a tenner each), you’d have to boil a LOT of water to make up for the extra up-front costs for a Jetboil. Keep in mind this is all based on claimed consumption rates as I have no way of accurately weighing my gas canisters and wasn’t about to boil water for an hour straight (sorry).

Hot tip! Got lots of half-full canisters lying around? Consolidate them with flipfuel before your next trip.

Weight & Size Comparison

On the box, the Jetboil MiniMo comes in at 415g and roughly 13cm x 15cm. The Kmart Ultra Jet is about 100g heavier at 511g and has stated dimensions of 23cm x 13cm. But after measuring them myself, I realised the Jetboil’s dimensions refer only to the pot itself, whereas the Ultra Jet’s dimensions include the stove attachment (the Ultra Jet’s pot is actually only 17cm tall). Despite this discrepancy, the entire Jetboil pot and stove are still the same height as just the Ultra Jet’s pot alone.

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

 

The added height is a drawback for hiking – it’s just a way bulkier fit in your pack. I went on a day hike and wanted to have a brew with mates, but the Ultra Jet took up ungodly amounts of space in my backpack. I wouldn’t bother with it again for a day hike. If you’re looking for something for car camping, then no worries, the Ultra Jet is fine, but for hiking, I’d say the Ultra Jet is too massive.

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

Design Comparison

At a glance, these babies are identical. Both use stainless steel and aluminium and are covered in a black neoprene sleeve (with a spoon slot). The pots screw on to the burner the same, they have similar lids, the same iconic orange stabiliser legs, and both come with a plastic bowl.

The Ultra Jet’s bowl packs away inside the pot itself, whereas the MiniMo’s bowl sits on the bottom of the pot and protects it (but also leaving the bowl more vulnerable to cracks and damage, in my experience).

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

 

Neither the MiniMo nor the Ultra Jet pack together completely with both the gas canister and stove inside the pot, which is annoying. The Ultra Jet seems like it’s centimetres away from fitting everything in, especially given its extra pot height, yet somehow still manages to fall short (pun intended).

The only real differences are the handles and simmer control.

In short, the handle on the Jetboil makes sense, and the handle on the Ultra Jet does not. The Ultra Jet’s handle is long horizontally rather than vertically, exposing your fingers exactly where the silicone protector cuts off (hello finger burns). It’s also more unwieldy than the Jetboil design.

The simmer control on the Ultra Jet is non-existent – this baby is made for boiling water and nothing more. The Jetboil MiniMo, in comparison, has super fine precision in the flame, resulting in way fewer burns and clean-up duty, and fancier meals.

The other benefit of going with a Jetboil design-wise is compatibility with the Jetboil coffee plunger and the universal pot support, which allows you to use a frying pan. You don’t get that with the Ultra Jet.

Durability & Ethics

The body of the Ultra Jet gives a very sturdy impression, but when you look more closely you can see where corners were cut. The Ultra Jet’s orange stabiliser legs are made from very bendy plastic, whereas the Jetboil’s don’t give at all. The neoprene sleeve is finished with nice stitching on both edges on the MiniMo but is quite loose and just cut-off on the Ultra Jet.

I’m not particularly impressed by the durability of either brand’s bowl. The stainless steel has a higher quality finish on the MiniMo, and the handles are secured with six bolts to the Ultra Jet’s two.

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

 

So, yes, the Jetboil seems more durable, which is important for sustainability. But was it also ethically made?

To answer this, transparency is key. Unfortunately, neither Jetboil nor its parent company Johnson Outdoors Inc. offer much in the way of this.

JOI does have a statement about its supply chain, perhaps because it’s legally obligated to by the laws of California, where it operates. The gist of the statement is that they make their suppliers declare they’re not involved in any labour violations. The onus seems to be very much on the suppliers to assure and enforce that. No further details are provided about audits, compliance, violations, or conditions, and the statement hasn’t been updated since 2017.

So, I was frankly shocked to find that Kmart Australia provides a detailed list of memberships, statements, and an Ethical Sourcing Policy. It also provides posters detailing the policy in seven appropriate languages complete with a QR code and hotline for reporting violations. The percentage of unannounced audits is reported, as well as the percentage of suppliers with breaches/violations. This level of transparency is a step up from what was available for JOI/Jetboil.

So, does this mean Kmart is the more ethical choice? No. But it is slightly more transparent and less vague about its commitments. At the end of the day, neither company is transparent enough about conditions and wages for me to call them ‘ethical’ (or not), and I can’t say that spending extra money on a Jetboil is actually going to ensure more ethical production.

The Verdict

The Kmart Ultra Jet is an easy choice for the budget-conscious car camper or picnicker looking for a stove on the go, mainly for soups and coffees. It’s also worth considering as an intro camp kitchen piece for the new or irregular hiker. But keep in mind the lack of simmer control.

Handy tip! Pick meals that rehydrate in hot water rather than keeping the stove on while cooking. e.g 2 minute noodles, oats, bulgur, or instant mash.

Read more: 11 Best Camping Stoves in Australia in 2023

 

Camp Stoves, Kmart Vs Jetboil, Comparison

 

For the established hiker, I don’t think anything in the world could convince them to surrender their Jetboil, and I’m not about to argue otherwise – it’s lighter and more compact (even more so if you go with the Zip model), more durable, boils quicker, has way better simmer control, and is indeed more efficient.

I wish I could also recommend Jetboil as a more ethical purchase – and personally in the absence of other evidence I take the bet that a $200 piece of gear was made in better conditions than a $50 piece of gear – but un/fortunately Kmart is actually the one providing more documentation and transparency on this front. If you’ve got the cash to burn (which in this economy admittedly nobody does) I still think there’s something to be said for supporting quality products instead of Kmart’s ‘race to the bottom’.

Read more: 10 Best Sleeping Bags in Australia in 2023

So, who wins?

Kmart – Ultra Jet

  • Budget option
  • Best for car campers or day-trippers
  • For soups and coffees

Jetboil – Minimo

  • Brand-name
  • Best for ultralight or established hikers
  • For proper cooking (simmer control)

FAQs Kmart Vs Jetboil

What’s the difference between the $49 Ultra Jet and the $59 Ultra Jet 1?

Stated specs differ, but it appears the Ultra Jet 1 is a bit taller. Gas consumption rates may also differ.

 

Is the Ultra Jet compatible with the Jetboil Universal Pot Support?

No, the Ultra Jet stove is wider than Jetboil’s Universal Pot Support, so they’re not compatible.

 

Is the Ultra Jet compatible with the Jetboil coffee plunger?

The pot widths are different, so the coffee plunger isn’t compatible with the Ultra Jet.

 

How many boils do I get out of a canister of gas with the Ultra Jet?

Depending on the gas consumption of your model (which seems to vary between 80g/hr and 140g/hr), 40 to 80 boils for an Ultra Jet and up to 80 for the $249 Jetboil MiniMo (100g/hr).

 

Can I use a different size gas canister with the Ultra Jet?

The Ultra Jet packaging states it can only be used with a 230g butane/propane mix.

 

Does the Ultra Jet pack together with the fuel inside?

Neither the Jetboil MiniMo nor Kmart’s Ultra Jet pack together with a 230g gas canister inside. However both pack away with the bowls and legs.

 

What can you cook with an Ultra Jet?

Due to the lack of simmer control (it’s pretty much an on-or-off situation), the Ultra Jet is best suited for soups and coffees.

 

Is the Ultra Jet good for car camping?

Yes, it’s well suited for car campers, since weight and size are less of a problem.

 

Is the Ultra Jet good for hiking?

The Ultra Jet is 20% heavier than a Jetboil and twice as tall, and therefore is quite bulky and not as good for hiking. Additionally, you’re more limited with what you can make in it due to the lack of simmer control. However, it might be a good starter option for a new or irregular hiker.

 

Saphira was supplied with a budget from WAE to purchase the Kmart Stove at full price and was allowed to say whatever she liked about it!

Photos by Saphira aka @hikertrashling