MSR Simmerlite White Gas Stove: Long Term Review

MSR Simmerlite Liquid Fuel Stove
MSR Simmerlite Liquid Fuel Stove

I’ve owned a MSR Simmerlite Liquid Gas Stove for 4 years. I’ve used it every winter since then for one and only one purpose: melting snow for drinking water and boiling it to store in insulated containers or rehydrate winter backpacking meals.

I originally bought Simmerlite because it was the lightest weight liquid fuel stove I could find (6.3 ounces) that threw off the same BTUs of other liquid fuel stoves. I didn’t buy it because it was easy to maintain or because it collapsed easily into a 1 liter pot. I didn’t even consider those important qualities at the time, although I do now.

But buying a piece of gear solely based on its weight blinded me to a few design flaws in this product that I happily ignored until the end of last winter when they started to finally piss me off. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a Skurka stupid-lite moment, but it sure feels that way.

Terrible Pot Stand

The last straw occurred on a backing trip last winter. We were sitting around a slab of snow in a dug out kitchen and the pot of snow I was melting/boiling fell off the stand built into the Simmerlite stove, spilling out onto our kitchen table. This wasn’t the first time the Simmerlite pot stand had collapsed on me, but it finally pushed me over the edge because I was running low on fuel. I ran out shortly afterwards and had to mooch hot water off my friends.

The Simmerlite pot stand is configured as a tripod with three legs that collapse flat (rotate) when the pot is not in use. The problem is that they don’t lock open when in use, like the MSR Whisperlite, and have a tendency to move together when you cook or fiddle with your pot. Further, it’s difficult to adjust the legs, particularly when the stove is red-hot after melting water for 30 minutes on full blast. I’ve melted more than one pair of glove liners fussing with those damn legs.

Simmerlite Fits in a 1.3L Pot
Simmerlite Fits in a 1.3L Pot

Priming

Priming is another area where the Simmerlite is deficient. Many other MSR stoves have a small priming cap underneath the burner that is used to capture and burn a small amount of fuel to warm the stove body so that it can vaporize fuel more efficiently. When you open the valve on the pressure bottle holding the fuel, a bit of liquid comes out and fills this cap, which can be lighted reasonably safely without causing a huge fireball.

Not so with the Simmerlite, despite the fact that it has a similar but shallower priming cup under the burner. Instead, you bleed fuel directly into the burner itself, where it creates a large fireball when lit. I never considered this unusual until last winter when I lit my stove inside a White Mountain Hut and freaked the other hikers out by the size of the flame. They had other MSR stoves like the Whisperlite where the two stage priming ignition – cap then burner – helps limit the size of the initial flame when lighting the stove.

Simmering

Contrary to its name, the MSR Simmerlite doesn’t simmer, at least not for most people. Roger Jenkins has an good writeup about this issue, including the technical definition of what simmering is, which I never understood before. The whole simmering issue was never an issue for me because the only thing I ever “cooked” was snow, except maybe that one time I burned my snow.

Not All Bad

Despite these deficiencies, there are a few things about the Simmerlite that I do miss, having switched to an MSR Whisperlite. First, the Simmerlite is a quite stove, far quieter than the Whisperlite which generates a throaty roar when turned up. The Simmerlite is also a much cleaner stove than the Whisperlite in my experience, generating far less soot on the bottom burner and the legs.

End of Lifed

It’s worth noting here that MSR has taken the Simmerlite Stove off the market this year and it is no longer being manufactured. Ironically, that will probably increase demand for it with camping stove collectors!

Manufacturer Specifications

  • Fuel Type: White Gas
  • Ignition Method: Manual
  • Priming Required: Yes
  • Boil Time: 3.75 min. / 1 L
  • Windscreen Included: yes
  • Weight (Stove only): 6.3 ounces in the SectionHiker.com scale
Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds. 
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16 comments

  1. Yeah, At least it is all stainless, and doesn’t rust out. I also bought one for the same reason as you. But I cannot carry it. It generally burns two to five times as much fuel as the svea and takes a LOT of fuel just to heat up properly, as you say. The typical fireball is about a foot tall. If you don’t prime it enough, it just goes out. It seems the fuel sits in the flame distribution chamber untill it is hot enough to boil off. Then it can heat the preheat tube. Otherwise it’s just heating the burner…wasted fuel. I get about12-15 liters boiled with 4oz WG fuel with the SVEA or ~1/3oz/liter. This works out to .75oz per day (breakfast 1L, supper 1.25L + cooking.)

    With the simmer lite, the same cook time typically takes 2-3oz. Most of the fuel is wasted because the stove burns too hot. Like you, I have melted a few gloves with the stove, but for a diferent reason: alternatly holding the pot over the flame and removing it.

    Simmer??? No, it does not. Unless you believe that a simmer is done by adjusting from blasting hot to ordinary hot. Medium is very difficult. Low goes out. I have tried turning it almost off, then gradually turning it up…doesn’t work. I have tried adjusting fuel levels, pumping pressure, and valve setting. I spent all my cook time fiddling with the [email protected] stove. Very frustrating…it will not maintain a 700-1000BTU output needed to simmer a 1.5L pot with a lid on it.

    Legs? I had that problem…the bolt on the bottom can come loose causing the legs to swing open freely. Take it out and put a drop of loc tite or nail polish on the threads. Then cram it down to a firm swing on the legs. You *might* need a small piece of paper if the legs/washers are badly worn. It won’t get enough oxygen to burn.

    Comparing to a SVEA 123r
    Brand SVEA Simmerlite
    Heat: Fair Very High
    Fuel: Excelent Poor (60 min/4oz vs 60 min/10oz)
    Water boiled/4oz:12-15L 6L
    Stabilty: Fair Good
    Wind: Good Fair
    Packing: Excelent Fair (Svea includes cup vs many individual parts)
    Weight: Poor Excelent
    Reliability: Excelent Fair
    Repairability: Good Good
    Maintenence: Excelent Fair (Simmerlite needs regular pump maintenence)
    Cost: Fair High
    Cost of operating: Low High
    Durability: Excellent Fair

    • Jim – I don’t think that table came out to well in my comment box. Do you have any objections to me formatting it and putting it into the post itself – with attribution to you.

      I’d always thought that the Simmerlite was a gas hog, but never had the discipline to measure it. A difficult thing to do when it comes to snow melt and cold temps. Those days are over and I’m looking to using my Whisperlite and it’s locking legs – inf fact this weekend will be its trail run.

  2. I’m curious, Philip. How did you burn snow?

    • Ah – before you try to melt snow it’s important to save some of your drinking water to use as a starter. I didn’t save enough and burnt the snow. Everyone does this at least once in winter!

  3. Good to know. I will remember not to do this, should I ever start winter backpacking.

  4. I checked out a lot of white gas backpacking stoves including those from MSR – we’re big MSR fans and your review is great because it confirms what we thought at the time.

    I finally settled on a rather unusual choice, the Coleman Exponent. It’s heavy and quite large, but the the darned thing just works, and keeps on working (if writing this doesn’t put a curse on it). It lights without priming, is very adjustable, and has a fairly effective built in wind screen. We have a MSR Pocket Rocket propane stove, but I invariably opt to take the heavier and bigger Exponent out with us.

    I can’t say that we go out backpacking when there’s snow on the ground, but we do go out all year round, including when the temps drop below freezing, and the unconventional Exponent has worked a treat for us.

  5. I know you use the Soto OD-1R canister stove. Did you look at the OD-1NP white gas stove? I have one and aside from the pumping to get the pressure up it’s a great stove. No priming and a huge amount of heat output (15K BTU). As for simmering, forget about it but it’s awesome for melting snow.

    • The Soto Muka is a nice stove, the only problem I have with it is that the fuel bottles are incompatible with MSRs, so I’d basically have to buy a new set. I just didn’t want to spend the money and I’m pretty sure that the Whisperlite will do a fine job for what I need. I’ve also read that the soto requires a lot of pumping to maintain fuel pressure in the line.

  6. I’m sorry they quit making the Simmerlite.
    It had a large enough flame circle to permit using Titanium pots.
    I too lost a dinner due to loose stove legs.
    The loose-leg problem was easily solved by putting a bent washer under the top leg swivel bolt.
    I used a SVEA for 50 years, but it needed a cook kit that they don’t make any more, and it burned the
    pot bottoms due to too small a flame circle.

    Gordon

    • It seems to me that the MSR Dragonfly is the answer to everyone’s complaints.
      It will maintain a flame on simmer.
      Primes as efficiently as the old SVEA 123.
      Has three folding legs that are spring-loaded so they stay put, and they provide broader support than the Wisperlight, both at the ground and for the pot.
      Once folded up the stove fits into a nested set of Sigg Tourister pots (the ones that fit with the SVEA, but are not made anymore although still obtainable on eBay last I looked) to make a nice compact package.
      I have been using this set-up for many years without a single stove failure, tipped pot, nor burned meal.
      One drawback is it is as loud as the SVEA was as the burner design is the same, but you can get an after-market alternate burner which is quieter. I tried it, but only once as it cuts down on heat output and is heavy.

  7. William armstrong

    Ah probably years later since these posts but I have used every msr stove since the mid 70s first xgk. In my advanced years ( 73!) I have become an ultra light convert in order to continue in my beloved mountains. Did vt Long Trail in 2017 and plan on Colorado Trail this summer.
    In winter I have my New England pack weight to 28 lbs with snow shoes crampons axe. I either use soto stove and msr superfly hanging kit in first light or i tent with canister fuel or simmer lite in mtn hardware spire or Tarptent Moment vestibules. Of all liquid fuel stoves the simmer light with care produces easiest and least flare priming, lightest weight, quiet, control tho I only boil water, and has never been a stability problem. I use a gsi teakettle and homemade aluminum windscreen and base. I am always interested in the different experience history with the same equipment!
    But I am a real fan of the simmerlite!

  8. I’ve been using my SimmerLite for many years and it never fails.
    The legs on mine never collapsed.
    You just have to pay attention to what you are doing.

  9. The Simmerlight stove priming issue is easily solved, I use a 1/2 oz nalgene dropper bottle (fuel tight cap), all it takes is 15 drops of fuel into the lower pan to heat up the jet in 32 degree weather, just as the priming fuel starts to fade open fuel knob on pump and stove lights up without a fireball. As for the legs, like the suggestions above, my solution was to take a piece of aluminum flashing and cut into a circle larger than the diameter made by the legs and smaller than the inside of my 2L pot (for storage inside pot) then I cut slots in it for the legs to lock into, super stable and shields stove from ground and ground from fuel. Naming it Simmerlight was a big mistake, should have called it Superlight!, cause it is. I use it to heat up my homemade freeze dried meals in a 2L pot, works great and is quiet compared to the Dragonfly, the only time I need low heat is when I pan fry a piece of rustic bread, solution is to hold fry pan an inch or two above the flame, only takes a minute to get crusty fried bead. Get great fuel economy with original shaker jet.

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