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.
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.
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!
- 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
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