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MSR WindBurner Stove System Review

manufactured by:
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
129.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On January 26, 2016
Last modified:October 26, 2016

Summary:

The MSR WindBurner is a backpacking stove system built around a wind-proof and super fuel-efficient radiant burner. Unlike conventional backpacking stoves, radiant burners don't have flame jets making them impervious to windy weather so that they burn hotter and longer on the same amount of canister fuel.

MSR WindBurner Stove System
MSR WindBurner Stove System

The MSR WindBurner, is a new canister stove system built around the wind-proof and super fuel-efficient radiant burner that the company originally developed for The Reactor Stove. Unlike conventional backpacking stoves, radiant burners don’t have flame jets, which makes them impervious to windy weather so that they burn hotter and longer on the same amount of canister fuel.

The WindBoiler Radiant burner has no visible flame
The WindBurner Radiant burner has no visible flame

The WindBurner radiant burner has a rounded concave surface, covered by a wire screen, that sort of looks like the surface of the sun when it’s been lit and burning gas. While the burner pulls in air through side ports to enable combustion, it is completely covered and enclosed by the WindBurner pot, making it an excellent stove for camping and cooking in highly exposed campsites without natural wind breaks.

The MSR WindBurner is a packaged as a complete stove system, meaning that you can cook and eat out of it without requiring an additional cup or plate. This is an important distinction when comparing the WindBoiler to individual stove and cooking components, since you’d have to acquire many different parts to replicate its out-of-the-box functionality.

The WindBurner, as packaged includes:

  1. A radiant burner head
  2. Anodized aluminum cook pot with heat exchange fins
  3. Pot cozy with integrated handle
  4. Canister stand for better stability
  5. Locking top lid with strainer and sip lid
  6. Combination measuring and drinking cup
  7. Absorbent cloth for cleaning

When packed, all of the stove components fit together inside the cook pot and are held in place by the pot lid, which snaps into place and stays shut (nice!) in your backpack. There’s also enough space inside the pot to store a small fuel canister, making the stove easy to transport in your pack.

The WindBoiler pot has an insulating sleeve with a built-in handle
The WindBurner pot has an insulating sleeve with a built-in handle and a locking lid

Boiling Water with the WindBurner

To use the stove for boiler water, you need to light the burner manually using a match or some kind of striker that throws a spark, since there’s no igniter built-in. This unfortunately is the “fly in the ointment with this stove.”

While the WindBurner is very efficient and wind proof once it’s been lit and the burner is covered with a cook pot, you probably waste most of the gas you save (versus stoves with a built-in igniter), getting the WindBurner lit, since this has to be done manually while the burner and your flame source are fully exposed to the wind. Not adding an integrated igniter to this stove is a design gaffe in my opinion and undermines the claim that the stove is more wind-worthy than competitive products.

If you buy a WindBurner, I suggest you spring for a firesteel because it can be used to light the stove in windy conditions, even when a match will blow out.

The MSR WindBoiler does not have an integrated Piezo Ignitor, so lighting it with a match in windy conditions is difficult and some sort of firesteel (shown) or ignition tool is needed
The MSR WindBurner does not have an integrated Piezo igniter, so lighting it with a match in windy conditions is difficult and some sort of firesteel (shown) or ignition tool is needed

Once lit, operating the WindBurner is simple. Once the burner starts to glow red…since that is the only way you know its been lit, stack the pot on top of the burner head so it locks into place securely.

When your water boils, turn off the stove and add dehydrated food to the cook pot to rehydrate before eating it. The pot, which is anodized aluminum, is wrapped with an insulated sleeve called a cozy, and remains hot for a surprisingly long time (over 10 minutes) while you are waiting for your food to absorb water.

Simmering is virtually impossible however, because the stove will go out and needs to be relit when you turn the gas down too low (which is very easy to do). Unlike a stove with flame jets, you can’t see if the stove is still lit because there’s no visible flame. That visual cue is simply not there. This is also a problem with MSR’s Reactor Stove which uses the same radiant burner technology.

The bottom of the WindBoiler Cookpot has heat exchange fins which aborb heat and keep the pot warm even after the burner is shut off.
The bottom of the WindBurner Cookpot has heat exchange fins which absorb heat and keep the pot warm even after the burner is shut off.

The WindBurner Cook Pot, Lid, Cozy, and Cup

The WindBurner cook pot, like the stove, is engineered for boiling water, and has heat exchange fins on its bottom that absorb heat and keep the pot warm even after the burner is shut off. The pot is wrapped with a nylon pot cozy to help keep the pot warm while you rehydrate food inside, but also helps prevent burning yourself against the hot pot. The cozy has a handle, which is quite rigid, and provides excellent support for carrying and pouring hot liquids.

With a capacity of 1.0 liters, the pot can double as a mug and bowl to drink and eat from. The effective capacity of the cook pot is much smaller though at 20 ounces max (recommended by MSR), not 32 ounces, in order to prevent messy boil overs. The inside of the cook pot has graduated fluid markings in both fluid ounces and liters for measuring the water you want to boil, as does the accompanying plastic cup, which can hold 16 ounces/470 ml of liquid.

The WindBurner Pot comes with a BPA-free plastic lid, that has a built-in strainer, pour spout, and pressure vent. The lid locks over the contents of the pot quite securely, and won’t come undone inside your pack.

The Canister Stand

When fully assembled and filled with water, the WindBurner stove system is top-heavy and unstable if you cook on an uneven surface like the ground or a rock. While many people discard the canister stand as unnecessary weight, it really is a valuable safety feature if you’re the slightest bit prone to knocking over your stove.

It's easy to cook oatmeal and other soupy foods that you just need to add hot water to, straight from the cookpot
It’s easy to cook oatmeal and other soupy foods that you just need to add hot water to

Eating from the Pot

The WindBurner cook pot serves dual use as a pot for cooking with and a cup for eating and drinking from. While the cloth cozy does provide sufficient insulation to grip the pot, you may still need to wait a minute or two for the pot or the food inside it to be cool enough to eat.

When separating the pot from the stove, make sure not to touch the metal surrounding the burner head, because it gets very hot and you can easily burn yourself.

Cleaning the Cook Pot

Cleaning the WindBurner cook pot is easy because you can’t use it to simmer any kind of food that might burn on the bottom of the pot.

While the WindBurner does come with a small square of blue cloth which can be used for cleaning, it’s rather flimsy and not very useful for scrubbing. I lay mine on the bottom of the cook pot to help deaden the sound that the small gas canister makes against the bottom of the pot when stacking all of the stove components in the cook pot during transport.

MSR Test results for fuel efficiency in windy conditions
MSR Test results for fuel efficiency in windy conditions. MSR’s own benchmarks show that the WindBurner is less efficient than competitive stoves when cooking out of the wind.

Likes

  • Complete cook system including stove, pot, lid, canister stand, and optional cup
  • Heats water fast
  • Small canister fits into the cook put with all of the stove components for efficient transport

Dislikes

  • No built-in ignition source, making it difficult and less efficient to light in windy conditions
  • Can’t simmer
  • Tested unit is heavier than claimed weight: 16.75 ounces actual (15.25 claimed)

Assessment

The MSR WindBurner is a perfectly adequate canister stove for boiling water and rehydrating freezer bag style meals on backpacking trips. But at 16.75 ounces tested (15.25 ounces claimed), not including a fuel canister, it is heavier and provides less convenience than other complete cooking system stoves, including ones that have a built-in self-igniter and simmering capability. Much as I like the radiant burner technology in MSR’s WindBoiler and the Reactor Stoves, I’m not convinced that most backpackers need a wind proof stove for boiling water when they can move behind a natural wind break to cook and eat their meal.

Disclosure: MSR provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample MSR WindBurner for this review. This post contains affiliate links which help fund this website. 

Liability Disclaimer: The author of this site is not responsible any damage, personal injuries or death as a result of the use of any information, maps, routes, advice, gear or techniques discussed on this blog and web site. All outdoor activities are carried out at your own risk.

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19 comments

  1. It is an interesting stove, and well executed, but will it do well against the much cheaper and lighter Zip and Flash stoves?

  2. Piezo igniters don’t work reliably above 5000ft. Up here we have to carry a different ignition source anyway. That the WB doesn’t have a piezo integrated is a plus, as it saves weight.

  3. When I worked at REI pretty much the only reason Jetboil stoves were returned was due to a bad or broken piezo. MSR may be trying to avoid this. I got my Jetboil for $8 due to a broken piezo.

  4. Mmmm, same head as my Coleman tent heater….and yes I set a Hikers Grill across the top of it and heated up water for freezed dried foods and such…but stability was an issue so I backed off, but it was a good test and it would work in an emergency..And yes that is the same size fuel Cannister the Coleman Heater uses.. My issues against purchase is the Handle on the Pot for one, two I do not trust tall cooking units relying on the stability of the fuel Cannister as the base for the rest of the unit…and of course the Price..I also have found a smaller size Candle or Barbecue Lighter that is half the size of a regular one and have been carrying that of late..I like being able to light the stove with one hand.. Thank you for another good solid review

  5. What about the CO production, hich was noted as important in the Reactor, maybe dangerous compared to the more conventional flame stoves ?

    • I expect it will be similarly high because this burner is modeled after the reactor, but I don’t believe MSR has publicly released any measurements. Don’t cook with this stove inside a tent.

    • Paulet, it’s hard to tell. The Reactor used Venturi tubes as a means of obtaining the proper fuel-air mix. The Reactor had an inverted CO curve, the opposite of most stoves. In other words, the lower the stove is turned down the MORE carbon monoxide is produced. The flow through Venturi tubes just stalls out if there isn’t enough heat to drive everything.

      By contrast, the Windboiler is a ported burner. In that sense, it’s fairly conventional. As such, it will not suffer from the same inverted CO curve that plagues the Reactor. Indeed I speculate that is why MSR abandoned the more compact Venturi arrangement and did a major overhaul of the burner. I’m pretty sure that MSR has reduced the CO production in their new stove since they’ve gotten such a black eye over the Reactor’s CO. That said, I haven’t seen any independent testing.

      HJ

  6. Billy The Mountain

    It’s old, but you are seriously missing couple of points in this review. It’s good to compare apples with apples. This is no ordinary backpackers stove, it’s designed to be used in difficult, windy conditions and does that beautifully.
    TIP: “competition” in the MSR chart above is no other but JetBoil of course. Look up again: in some conditions JB will not boil at all. What do you do then? Eat snow for supper cause you wanted to save 20$?
    Lack of piezo is no design flaw at all. What do you do up in the mountains when the piezo breaks (they do) or does not work? Reliable is the word. Not to mention piezo does not work well with this kind of internal ignition burner anyway – get a separate piezo and try to light it – you will see…
    Nuff said – I love my WindBoiler :)

  7. Billy The Mountain

    One more thing: I can easily simmer on this stove – it’s only a matter of practice (and listening to it ;)
    Reactor is a bitch it this aspect, true.

  8. Is there any difference between the Windboiler and the Windburner? Or just a repackaging renaming for some reason. I’ve never been one to drink hot liquids from plastic, do you feel the cup that comes with is okay to drink hot liquids out of?

    • Looks like they just renamed it. I assume Jetboil sued them. The plastic cups packaged with these cups are pretty worthless and crack fairly quickly. I just eat and drink out of the pot, and use the markings etched inside them to measure liquid volumes.

  9. The ‘Real World Performance’ chart begs an obvious question: ‘was this test from a cold start to boil 0.5 liters of water?’ Conventional butane stoves are effective immediately but stoves like the Reactor require that that the catalytic surface warm up before the pot is placed into position. That takes time (5-30 seconds) and fuel (how much?). Does the graph take that into account or does it reflect a ‘hot start’ for all the stoves? This is an important point because stoves will frequently be used from a cold start and for only a small volume of water.

  10. For those who absolutely need it on occasion, a true simmer can be attained by using a conventional pot and a (horrors) Jet-Boil pot support (1 oz) The support fits perfectly on the Windboiler burner. You can quickly boil the water the conventional Windboiler way, shut the stove off, remove the pot, add the ‘JB’ pot support, re-lite with a firesteel, use pot/pan of choice, pour in the previously boiled water and get it up to a rolling boil again. Playing with the control you can get the water from a continuous true simmer (small fish-eye bubbles) to a true boil without the stove going out. I’ve tried it, it works extremely well. For me personally, I don’t use it this way as the stock Windboiler covers my cooking requirements perfectly as is. I just like ‘messing around’ with gear, great fun.
    I have been backpacking for over 40 years and for ‘my type of meals’ this is the best stove I’ve ever used. Thank you MSR.

  11. I used this stove everyday on my 2016 thru hike of the AT. It worked flawlessly. I boiled three cups of water in the morning and three in the evening. I am really surprised that no mention was made of the optional French coffee press which fits completely in the cook set and makes the best coffee that I have ever had on the trail. I have fifty years of backpack experience and this is the best system I have used. I also agree with the above comment about built-in igniters – they do not last long. I do not know of a single person whose Jetboil igniter lasted longer than a month or so.

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