The MSR WindBurner is a 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 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:
- A radiant burner head
- Anodized aluminum cook pot with heat exchange fins
- Pot cozy with integrated handle
- Canister stand for better stability
- Locking top lid with strainer and sip lid
- Combination measuring and drinking cup
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- 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
- 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)
The MSR WindBurner is a highly efficient 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. Still, if you need a wind proof stove or like the fact that this stove does not have flames, it is a really impressive piece of technology packaged in a quite usable form for backpackers and campers.
Disclosure: MSR provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample MSR WindBurner for this review.
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.
Written 2016. Updated 2017.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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