manufacturer: MSR

MSR Reactor

MSR Reactor

MSR Reactor

PRO’s: Extremely powerful, excellent fuel consumption

CON’s: Heavier than you think, can’t simmer

VERDICT: Excellent stove for small expedition groups who are simply rehydrating dried meals

OUR RATING ★★★★½ 

For many years Jetboil have had the single pot camping stove market all to themselves with stoves such as the Jetboil Zip and Sol but recently MSR have joined the fray with the MSR Reactor.  But which is better ?

Although the name ‘Reactor’ sounds cheesy it’s actually an extremely good description of this stove.  It’s one of the fastest, most powerful camping stoves ever and is able to boil one litre of water in under three minutes.  Yet it’s also one of the most fuel efficient stoves as well.

It’s basically a Jetboil stove on steroids.  But, and this is the thing, that’s not necessarily a good thing.  Let us explain . . .

The MSR Reactor consists of a radiant burner which is enclosed by a unique heat exchanger and it’s this which helps to contribute to the fuel efficiency.  Because the flame is completely enclosed (and lit by a built-in ignition system) it’s virtually immune to wind which could, at best, disperse some of the heat from the flame and, at worst, blow the flame out.  This is one stove that you can use in a serious storm !

But there is a downside: the MSR Reactor has a much higher Carbon Monoxide output than any other comparable stove, a fact which is pointed out by several stickers on it.  This means that it can’t be used in a tent and we’d be reluctant to use it even in the porch of a tent so it’s a good job that it’s storm resistant !

Working in tandem with the  enclosed burner is a pressure regulator which provides optimal heat output over the life of a fuel canister.  The power output of a stove drops as the pressure inside the gas canister drops as it empties but MSR’s regulator keeps it constant almost until the canister is empty.  The downside is that you get relatively little warning that the canister is near empty so you’ll need to carry a spare – no big deal, they are small and pretty lightweight.

When not in use the stove and fuel canister stow inside of the supplied 1.7-litre pot.  This is where the Jetboil stoves and the MSR Reactor differ.  At nearly double the size of the Jetboil pots which means that the MSR Reactor can cope with cooking meals of up to three people rather than the one or two people that a Jetboil stove can manage.

So what’s it’s like in use ?

Blindingly quick are the only words that we can find to describe how this thing works.  However, like a fast car, having lots of power in tap comes at a cost.  And in the case of the MSR Reactor the price that you pay is that it’s impossible to simmer anything on this stove.

Now that’s fine if you’re just planning on heating water so that you can rehydrate instant meals but if you’re cooking anything that needs to simmer, like tinned soup or rice pudding, forget it.  It’ll just burn on the bottom of the pot unless you stir like a demented person !

But is that a deal breaker ?  No . . .

For single person use, we’d have to say go with one of the Jetboil stoves.  If you’re on a budget get the Jetboil Zip, if you’re looking higher end then go for the Jetboil Sol stoves.  This is because the MSR Reactor is too big, bulky and heavy for single person use.

However, if you’re going to mostly rehydrating instant meals for two or more people then this is a good stove to get as it’s ideal for this.

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MSR Pocket Rocket

MSR Pocket Rocket

MSR Pocket Rocket

VERDICT: extremely lightweight & compact stove but needs to be placed on a level surface

PRO’s: small & extremely powerful

CON’s: tall & narrow so can tip, not easy to use with windshield

OUR RATING ★★★★☆ 

The MSR Pocket Rocket is a tiny canister mounted stove designed for weight weenies on a strict budget.  But don’t let its small size put you off – whilst its carrying case is the same size as five triangles of Toblerone – it still packs quite a punch.  But, inevitably, compromises have been made . . .

Now let’s get one thing clear, this tiny stove is seriously light but it’s still suitable for anything from day trips where you just want a hot drink to multi-day expeditions where you’ll be using it to cook full meals.

It’s easy to use, open up the triangular red carry case (hence our reference to Toblerone earlier), take out the stove, fold out the arms, connect it to the gas canister, turn the flame adjuster and light it using a match or lighter.  There’s really not much to it than that.

The flame is powerful but adjustable over a good range via the easily reached flame adjuster.  We were surprised by the power of the flame, even on a simmer you’ll need to keep stirring to avoid burning your food on to the bottom of the pan.  This is because the flame is relatively narrow and so concentrates a lot of energy into a relatively small area of the pot.  And on the high setting this stove really rocks, bring a litre of water to a rolling boil in a very respectable three and a half minutes.

However, because the burner sits on top of the gas cylinder this is quite a tall stove and, unless it’s used on a very flat surface, it feels a little unstable.  We found that the pot being stirred needed to be held with a pot grab to ensure that it didn’t tip over.  The addition of some stabilising feet on the bottom of the gas canister would help as would pegging it down with some tent pegs.

Whilst we’re being critical, we found that the pot supports need to be opened with care as they are designed to support the pot vertically and, in order to reduce weight, they aren’t that stiff laterally and can be bent easily.

The MSR Pocket Rocket runs on MSR IsoPro canisters but if you can’t find them it’ll work fine with Primus ones too.  It’ll also accept the non-threaded Campingaz ones too which is handy if you’re unable to find the MSR / Primus ones.

So how does this stove stack up ?  Well in common with all other canister mounted stoves it suffers from three main problems: it’s not that stable, it’s difficult (and potentially dangerous) to put a windshield around the stove and, when the canister begins to empty, you can’t invert it in order to get the last few drops of gas out (unlike say the MSR Windpro and the Primus Express Spider Remote stoves).  However, these problems are not exclusive to this stove alone but to all canister mounted stoves.

That said, if you want an extremely powerful, lightweight stove and aren’t put off by the inherent limitations of a canister mounted stove then this is one of the best.

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MSR WindPro

MSR WindPro Stove

MSR WindPro Stove

VERDICT: an excellent stove ideally suited to windy, cold locations. The ideal expedition stove but a little pricy

PRO’s: small, powerful and includes a windshield. Works at low temperatures due to pre-heater

CON’s: more expensive than competitors

OUR RATING ★★★★½ 

Whilst canister mounted stoves where the burner is mounted directly on top of the fuel canister such as the Campingaz Bleuet 206 are cheap, they have a number of drawbacks. Firstly, they aren’t that good on rough surfaces as the combination of a narrow base and a tall, top heavy structure, means that they could tip over. The second is that, if it’s windy, then a lot of the heat from the burner simply gets blown away.

Whilst it is theoretically possible to use a windshield around them to protect the burner from the wind, this has the side effect of heating up the canister full of fuel which is a BAD (not to mention, dangerous) idea !

Seperating the burner and gas canister by a flexible steel hose has two advantages: firstly that the stove sits much lower to the ground and is therefore much more stable and secondly that the burner can be safely surrounded by a windshield without heating up the gas canister as well.

An added advantage is that, if the stove has a pre-heater on the fuel pipe which passes over or alonside the burner, then the stove can also operate at temperatures where the liquified gas in the canister refuses to vapourise. By simply inverting the canister and allowing the liquid to trickle down the hose to the pre-heater, it’ll vapourise thanks to the heat from the burners.

The MSR WindPro is one such stove that can do this, as is the Primus Express Spider Remote. However, although the Go Systems Sirocco stove has a very similar design it lacks the pre-heater and can’t be used down at lower temperatures.

So how does the MSR WindPro stack up against it’s obvious competitor the Primus Express Spider Remote ?

The most obvious difference is that the MSR WindPro includes a windshield and the Primus Express Spider Remote doesn’t but these can purchased on the high street relatively expensively. Other than that the stoves are very, very similar. Both feature three legs which open out to provide a wide, stable base for large pots and both offer good temperature control.

The MSR is a fraction lighter and a fraction smaller than the Primus stove although only the really weight-obssessed will notice any difference.

Annoyingly the similarities continue with the (in our opinion) idiotic position of the burner adjuster. Whilst it’s easy to get to with the canister in the upright position, when the canister is inverted it’s very fiddly to adjust the flame. This more of a problem on the MSR WindPro than the Primus Express Spider Remote however, something we can only attribute to the slightly stiffer braided hose.

One thing we learned the hard way – do not try and light this stove with the windshield around it as you’ll burn your knuckles !

So bearing in mind that the MSR WindPro costs around £30 more than the Primus Express Spider Remote, is it worth it ?

We’d have to say yes but only just. Adding a windshield to the Primus will add around £15 to the price of it, factor in the lifetime warranty and no-quibble returns policy and the wide-spread availability of spares, and the MSR WindPro just about clinches it. However, if you’re working on a really tight budget and plump for the Primus Express Spider Remote instead you won’t regret it – both are excellent stoves.

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MSR Dragonfly Multi-fuel Stove

MSR Dragonfly Multi-fuel Stove

MSR Dragonfly Multi-fuel Stove

VERDICT: An excellent stove for expedition use, excellent flame control too. A first for MSR!

PRO’s: Powerful, adjustable flame, multi-fuel capable

CON’s: Noisy, fuel hose a little short

OUR RATING ★★★★☆ 

TODAYS BEST PRICE: £126.00 from Go Outdoors

MSR camping stoves are legendary among hardcore outdoor folk with this reputation having been earned on countless expeditions to far flung corners of the globe. However, this reputation has always come at a price: cooking on an MSR stoves is like cooking on a blowtorch. MSR is touting the Dragonfly stove as a softer version of their expedition-grade XGK stove with one important additional capability: controllability. But is it any good ?

The MSR Dragonfly is the heaviest of the MSR range of stoves but that’s not a complaint. MSR stoves are so light that you’ll barely know that you’re carrying one and this one is no exception. There have been no compromises on the quality of materials used to make the stove so the additional weight comes purely from the additional components needed to adjust the flame.

So how does it differ from the XGK ?

The MSR XGK uses large diameter tubing between the fuel tank and burner to ensure that, no matter how dirty the fuel that you use, it simply won’t clog up. The Dragonfly, on the otherhand, has a tapered needle mechanism to adjust the flow of fuel at the base of the burner and it’s this weak link which can clog. If it does, stripping it down for cleaning is relatively straight-forward but it’s quite easy to lose one of the tiny safety seals. In our opinion, you should carry spares and try not to strip it down in the first place ! Fortuantely spares are very easy to get hold off as the design has barely changed is its introduction in 1998 which is testimonary to the robustness of the design.

So, accepting that this could be used as an expedition-grade stove so long as some spares as taken with you, what do you get ? You get the burner, the pump and the hose to connect them plus a foil circle to protect ground, a windshield and a small bag to carry everything. What you don’t get is the fuel bottle but this is because MSR want buyers to chose the size that suits their needs but these are inexpensive.

This is a true multi-fuel stove: although it work best with Coleman Whitegas it will also burn unleaded petrol, kerosene, diesel, and even jet fuel ! All without the need to leave a trail of empty gas canisters behind you.

Starting the stove is easy, if a little scary the first time you do it. Simply pump the fuel bottle 20-30 times to pressurise it, open the flame adjuster to let out a small amount of fuel, then close it again. Light the fuel carefully if you wish to retain your eyebrows, wait a few seconds and then slowly open the flame adjuster. The stove will burst into life with a satisfying roar. Actually, we mean ROAR ! This stove is noisy!

What’s immediately clear is just how powerful this stove is (boil time for a litre of water is 4 minutes) especially if you put the included windsheild around it to ensure that the maximum amount of heat goes into your pot. Annoyingly this is not adjustable and limits the size of the pot that you can put on the stove. This seems strange as the pot supports can actually take larger pots that the windshield allows so our advice is to ditch the included windshield and buy two of the folding ones that most camping shops stock.

But does it simmer ? After all MSR’s main selling point for this stove is its controllability. And the answer is . . . . yes ! It really does simmer and the flame adjuster offers the ability to go from a gentle flame to a passable impression of a blowtorch with a fair degree of control.

On the face of then, this is the best stove in the MSR range. We’d certainly take it anywhere that we go camping but we’d also take a spares kit just in case we needed to strip it down. There’s no getting away from the noise of this stove but then all pressurised multi-fuel stoves are noisy to some extent – the quietest one we’ve tried is the MSR Whisperlite International. If we were being super critical we’d also say that the fuel line is just a tad short which limits where you can place the fuel bottle. A longer, more flexible fuel line would be nice but we can live with the one that it comes with.

Overall this is a good stove – the controlability of the flame is excellent and its light weight means that you simply won’t know that it’s in your rucksack. Coupled with its ability to run on almost any fuel and we reckon that this is an excellent stove for expeditions. Just remember to pack a spares kit just in case.

Todays Latest Prices for MSR Dragonfly

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