MSR Stoves are manufactured by Cascade Designs. The company was established in the 1970’s after two engineers; who had been laid off during the Boeing financial restructuring in which 50,000 people lost their jobs and John Burrows, an outdoor enthusiast with a vision for improved equipment.
Their first product was developed to create a better camping mattress, as Burrows who was an avid mountain climber had found air mattresses had a tendency to leak while foam pads failed to give adequate support.
They spent months formulating, refining and testing until they developed a perfect design of open celled foam. Within a couple of years they had begun production of the first self-inflating camping mattress in the world. They have continued to develop product ranges over the years with the ethic of producing quality products which have the strength and durability to withstand the rugged demands of outdoor pursuits. They aim to manufacture the bulk of their products in house and have production facilities in different areas of the world including Seattle to support the community devastated by the Boeing layoffs.
MSR have a comprehensive range of stoves which are suited for the various demands of different camping and outdoor situations, including backpacking and family camping.
This simple and inexpensive stove has a hard case and great durability which is perfect for backpacking. It is a small canister model of stove which has a very basic design making it very easy to use. It is extremely lightweight at just three ounces and has a packed size of seventeen cubic inches. It provides good functionality and comes complete with a triangular solid case which provides the stove protection when in transit. The main disadvantage of this model is that although the pot support struts extend to a good diameter, they do not fold out completely flat. This means that your pan or pot is balancing on three little points which creates stability issues. It also has a raised center of gravity which exacerbates this issue due to the designs long stem. Check out the online exclusives at REI.com
This particular design has been popular since it was introduced in the 1980’s. It is a very dependable, versatile and lightweight liquid fuel stove. The simple design provides a great deal of stability with the three leg base supporting the central burner. The stove is easy to use and controlled with a valve on the pump. It is small enough to be practical for most expeditions and weighs just over eleven ounces. Set up and disassembly is very easy even in adverse conditions to provide a great degree of reliability.
The “Universal” aspect of this WhisperLite model is that it is hybrid fuel which combines the liquid fuel and canister capabilities. This allows you to burn almost any fuel with ease. With the new technology for air control, the optimal air and fuel mix is produced to ensure a great performance.
The main concern with the Whisperlight range was that it could be a little slow to light. The process of priming could be a little tricky and can take about two minutes. This issue has been addressed with the Universal model and is promised to be much easier to light and use. This should also address the other concern which was that the stoves struggle to simmer. Even if these issues continue to be a slight annoyance, it does provide a versatile cooking surface which is capable of heating foods and baking bread or even brownies.
This is one of the most efficient and storm proof liquid fuel stoves on the market. It provides very fast results and is compact and easy to use. Its design appears to be very simple but it is actually one of the most technologically advanced stove systems available.
Set up is simple. Screw the burner on, light it put on the pot and within three minutes your liter of water will be at boiling point. It features a number of innovative and unique features which make it an excellent performer. It is one of the widest stoves available and has a perforated metal surround which captures air and acts as a built in wind screen. It includes a regulator for pressure which provides a consistently low level of pressure regardless of the age and level of fuel in the canister. This ensures that the stove can perform well even in lower temperatures, higher altitudes or when the pressure of the canister decreases.
Unlike many other stoves, the Reactor does not only rely on convective heat. The burner has metallic foam incorporated which can dispatch radiant heat to improve performance. The large pot which has a capacity of 1.7 liters contains an inbuilt heat exchanger at the bottom of the pot. When this is seated above the convex burner, it blocks wind, traps heat and effectively increases the surface area of the burner. It is built to withstand the rugged use and abuse of expeditions with solid yet fold-able handles which are not compromised when the pot it full. The Reactor is also completely windproof. Even in very adverse conditions it performs very well while maintaining function quietly.
However the Reactor does have some drawbacks. Although it is great at boiling, the stove does not perform well on low heat levels and struggles to simmer. This means that even more durable foods need to be constantly monitored and stirred. It is also limited to specific cookware which means that the standard pot supplied is rather large for one person and is far more suited for parties of three or four. However a smaller 1 liter pot and a larger 2.5 liter pot are also available for purchase separately.
The other major drawback is the fact that it functions so quietly and the burner is encased by the cooking pot that you struggle to tell if it is still lit. You have to lift the pot completely off the burner to check which can be extremely problematic if you are trying to cook something more complex.
Despite these issues, the Reactor has a very advanced design which is ideal for situations which require storm proof, compact and efficient cooking options such as backpacking.
The Dragonfly provides a very stable cooking surface which has the excellent stability and control of any country kitchen. It can handle large cooking pans and pots and is able to handle simmering for even extended periods of time. It is remarkably easy to use and set up, but it does consist of a heavy and large frame which makes it difficult when weight and size are at a premium.
The Dragonfly makes an excellent stove for base camp. It can easily accommodate larger groups and can cook at high levels or low simmers with a simple turn of a valve. It has three big legs which when unfolded provide a very wide cooking base. It has a robust fuel pump and the slightly thicker line allows the burning of a number of fuels including diesel, white gas, kerosene, gasoline and even jet fuel. The line is a little short, so it does restrict the cooking area slightly but it does provide the control of a regular kitchen stove.
The stove is not really suited to lightweight users. It has a substantial weight of almost fourteen ounces and requires almost two liters of pack space which makes transportation a bit of a burden. It is also quite loud during use and the fuel line is a little inflexible. However, for serious expeditions where you are establishing a base camp, it provides the convenience and flexibility of kitchen style cooking, or the capacity to accommodate larger groups if the burden of carrying can be shared.
The range of MSR stoves is expansive and built to withstand the demands which outdoor pursuits and expeditions place on equipment. However, they all have their strengths and weaknesses which make them better suited to certain activities. Before you commit to purchasing a new stove, you should consider a number of factors including;
- What is the primary environment it will be used in?
- What is your size of party?
- Is weight and pack size at a premium?
- Are there any specific environmental extreme conditions it will be exposed to?
- How complex will your cooking needs be?
- Length of trip and how much fuel the stove will need for the duration.
By considering all these issues, you will be able to assess which particular models are best suited to your needs. Most importantly, when you do purchase your new stove, be sure to fully familiarize yourself with the basic operation, assembly and dis-assembly process while in the comfort of your own back yard. You should be completely confident that you can fully use the stove before you attempt to take it on an expedition. Finding out that you struggle with particular techniques or complexities of use while in extreme conditions can be at the very least frustrating and at the very worst dangerous. You should have complete confidence in your stove and any other equipment before you enter the wilderness.
We also have a review on the Coleman Sportster Stove that you mind find interesting. Please click the link to be taken through to the review page.