When it comes to our outdoor equipment one of the items that get a lot of use if you do much camping and backpacking is the cook stove. It is one of the most essential pieces of gear you will own, so it’s important to do your research and make sure you are getting a quality piece of equipment that is serviceable and built to last.
Now there are many varieties, brands, designs, and even fuel types when it comes to camp stoves, and like most things, there are also plenty of opinions on which is the best and why.
The cook stove can also be a handy resource for a prepper. While there are many ways to cook food without using a gas or electric stove, few are as quick, manageable, controllable, or efficient as a camp stove. Camp stoves are primarily designed to boil water.
Since the majority of our food stores is dried foodstuffs, creating boiling water is a primary concern. Another benefit of a camp stove over other options like building a fire, is that it produces no smoke and leaves no evidence behind.
Disclosure: This post has links to 3rd party websites, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. See my full disclosure for more.
In this article, we are going to review the MSR WhisperLite Stove. The Whisperlite has been on the market for over 25 years with little changes, and it is loved by many. We will take a look at the specifics of the stove, the design, and how it operates. We will also talk about the company that manufactures it, MSR.
Mountain Safety Research (MSR)
MSR or Mountain Safety Research started in 1969 as a one-man crusade to improve the safety of outdoor climbing gear.
The founder was Larry Penberthy, who believed that “Better, safer, more reliable equipment is the key to unlocking greater adventures.” This same idea is the main mission that still drives the company today.
According to their website:
“At MSR, we are engineers, tinkerers and passionate outdoor users–each with strong perspectives on how a product should work based on our own experiences in the wild places we love. But collectively, we believe that innovative solutions are bred by challenging convention, and that functionality, simplicity and reliability are the governing elements of enduring design.”
MSR has grown significantly since its one-man beginnings in 1969 and has become a world leader in outdoor gear for high-level adventurers. The MSR team is still a tight-knit group, however, and they maintain strict control over the manufacturing process, with many of the items being manufactured in the same building where the developers and engineers design them.
The MSR product line now includes outdoor gear in multiple categories including climbing, camping, and hiking. Each product is thoroughly tested before its released and undergoes a constant re-evaluation, and safety testing in MSR controlled labs. All this ensures that when you purchase and use MSR gear, you can trust that it will work, and will continue to work.
The MSR WhisperLite Stove
The Whisperlite Camp Stove has been on the market and in use for over 25 years now and has seen hard service all around the world. Campers, hikers, adventurers, climbers, and even scientific expeditions have all used the WhisperLite in just about every condition imaginable on planet earth.
While MSR has certainly earned their reputation for producing reliable gear, their WhisperLite stove has taken that reputation even further.
The WhisperLite features a simple, durable, and compact design that runs on white gas. There are other versions available, the International and the Universal, that will allow you to use different liquid fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, AV gas or jet fuel, mineral spirits, kerosene, and even canister fuel.
The stove is self-cleaning using “Shaker Jet” technology and is very simple to set up and take down. The stove is also field maintainable.
One of the main draws to this particular stove is that it can cook more volume than a lot of the other stoves on the market, but is still lightweight and small. You can easily prepare food for two to three people on the WhisperLite, where that would not be possible with some smaller stoves.
The WhisperLite has earned its place as a favorite with adventurers due to its impressive length of service, proven reliability, and straightforward and simple design.
The Whisperlite stove is a liquid fuel stove that uses an external fuel bottle that is refillable. The standard model uses white gas, which is commonly known as Coleman fuel or camp fuel but is available from a variety of companies including MSR who sells their own white gas variety called MSR Super-Fuel.
The fuel is delivered to the stove by pressurizing the fuel bottle. This is accomplished by the fuel pump assembly that comes with the stove. This assembly consists of the central tube which has a dip tube (fuel pickup) on the end that is placed down inside the fuel bottle.
Attached to the other end of the tube is a plunger assembly that allows you to pump air into the container to create the pressure. There is a control valve assembly that sits under the plunger unit. This is where the fuel line of the stove is connected into the assembly.
The control valve throttles the amount of fuel that is released from the pressurized fuel bottle into the fuel line and out to the stove. There is a stem that comes out of the control valve that houses a control knob to adjust the flow.
Once the liquid fuel leaves the control valve, it travels down the fuel line and into the stove body. Here a stainless steel fuel line carries the fuel up into the flame where it is super-heated and turns from a liquid into a gas. The gas is then carried out of the flame area and into the generator below where combustion occurs.
When you first light the stove from a cold start, it is necessary to prime the stove, which consists of placing a small amount of fuel into the fuel cup on the bottom of the stove and lighting it. As the fuel burns down, it heats the hard fuel line and generator, which allows the unit to convert the liquid fuel to gas.
This can be done by pouring fuel directly into the cup and lighting it, or by pressurizing the fuel bottle and slowly cracking the valve to allow a small amount of fuel through that will accumulate in the fuel cup as liquid fuel. It can then be lit, and as it burns down the valve can be slowly opened, and the stove will catch.
There are also priming paste products on the market that allows you to dispense a small amount of paste from a tube into the fuel cup, which then acts the same as the liquid fuel above.
The stove has three metal legs that lock into position to hold your pot or other cooking vessels. These legs fold down for storage. While MSR will not list a maximum weight that the stove can support, I have personally had over 10lbs on the stove, and it was as steady as a rock.
Maintenance on the Whisperlite is minimal, but it will need some regular care to maintain maximum performance. Most of this maintenance is due to carbon buildup and deposits from burning petroleum-based fuel. The rest is due to normal wear and tear on things such as rubber O-rings.
To perform maintenance, you can use a kit provided by MSR. For standard annual support, you can use the MSR Annual Maintenance Kit for Liquid Fuel Camping Stoves. This kit provides the necessary materials needed to keep the stove running efficiently.
For more advanced maintenance, or to have on hand for more technical repairs, you can buy the MSR Expedition Field Service Kit for Camping and Backpacking Stoves. This kit includes all of the parts that are needed for most field repairs and for a complete maintenance overhaul of your stove.
- Width (Standard) 4 in
- Weight (Standard) 9.5 oz
- Length (Standard) 4 in
- Height (Standard) 6 in
- Minimum Weight (Standard) 11.5 oz
- Minimum Weight (Metric) 0.33 kg
- Packaged Weight (Standard) 15.2 oz
- Packaged Weight (Metric) 0.43 kg
- Burn time (white gas) per 600ml / 20 oz. of fuel =136 minutes
- Boil time (white gas), 1 liter 3.9 minutes
- Water boiled (white gas) per 100 ml of fuel5.1 liters
- Water boiled (white gas) per 1 oz. of fuel1.5 liters
- Origin: Made in Seattle, USA
- Warranty: Lifetime
I have been using the MSR Whisperlite for over 5 years now. I have used it for many different situations and reasons, and I have always had 100% perfect performance and have yet to have any part of the system fail on me.
Before purchasing the Whisperlite, I had used a variety of backpacking and camping stoves during hundreds of camping and hiking trips. I have also used canister style stoves, wood burning stoves, alcohol stoves, and other liquid fuel stoves.
The reason that I chose the Whisperlite out of all of the numerous options on the market was the reliability, service life, and design.
The Whisperlite is more than capable of doing all of the cooking needs in camp. Whether its just boiling water or frying eggs, it is just about adjusting the control valve to control the flame.
Wide open you can expect to boil a liter of water in about 4 minutes, and hot enough to bathe with at about 2 minutes. I have also used the stove in very heavy rain and had no complications.
The 20oz fuel bottle that is sold by MSR will last my wife and me for about a week of meals, cooking twice per day, and heating up water to bathe. I can prepare most meals without having to re-pressurize the fuel bottle after the initial 15 pumps.
We have also used the Whisperlite for warmth during an emergency. This is not an intended use of the stove, but it was all we had, and it did work. We ended up extending a piece of mylar blanket over the top of the stove to funnel heat back to us, and it sufficed until we could self-rescue.
One of the most common complaints about the Whisperlite is priming the stove. A common nickname for the Whisperlite in the backpacking community is “fireball.” This is because when you light the fuel in the fuel cup to heat the generator and fuel lines, it does create a small “puff” when the fuel ignites.
This is exacerbated when priming in the dark, or if you release a little too much fuel. After some practice priming the stove I have had no issues, and the many people I have taught to work a Whisperlite have never had any problems either.
The second most common complaint is that you can’t control the flame and will burn all of your food. This is of course due to user error. You can use the control valve to slow the amount of fuel being fed to the stove, and therefore control how much flame you have.
Managing the heat this way is, of course, more difficult than turning a flame control knob or some other type of heat setting on your stove at home, but again just requires some practice.
We also carry a small canister stove and a can of fuel as a backup in the unfortunate event the stove is lost or has a malfunction but have never had to use either one.
Should You Buy It?
The MSR Whisperlite is a powerhouse of a resource that belongs in any preppers supplies. The versatility, reliability, and dependability mean this is a stove that you can depend on to work when you need it.
You will be able to cook and boil water with high efficiency and without a complicated system, or excess smoke, trash, and evidence of your presence. It packs small and is lightweight and highly portable. I would highly recommend a Whisperlite stove to any prepper.
Born and raised in Kentucky, Steve grew up deep in the mountains on a family farm. After college, Steve spent over 15 years working in public service and has experience in Fire, EMS, and Law Enforcement. He has also worked with training and deploying search & rescue and service dogs for utilization in a variety of services.
Steve is also a Scout Leader with the Boy Scouts of America, and works to teach preparedness to the next generation. Steve has worked with and taught firearms and self-defense in multiple venues, from tactical applications to long range shooting, and also has extensive training in first aid and wilderness first aid.
An active prepper, Steve has devoted hundreds of hours to mastering and teaching skills and techniques for use in survival, homesteading, and general preparedness.