MSR WindBurner Personal Stove System Review
The MSR WindBurner is a canister stove system built around the wind-proof and super fuel-efficient radiant burner technology that MSR originally developed for its snow-melting powerhouse Reactor Stove. Unlike conventional backpacking stoves, radiant burners don’t have flames, which makes them impervious to windy weather so that they burn hotter and longer on the same amount of canister fuel. Even the slightest breeze can cause a big loss in the performance of other stoves and stove systems.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 15.5 oz
- Liquid capacity: 1 Liter (33.8 fluid oz)
- Average Boil Time (1L): 4:30 min
- Regulator: Yes
- BTU: 7000/hour
- Fuel: Isobutane-propane
- Burn Time 8 oz. canister: 1 hr. 35 min.
The WindBurner radiant burner has a rounded concave surface, covered by a wire screen, that looks like the surface of the sun when it’s been lit and burning gas. The burner pulls in air through side ports to enable combustion but is completely enclosed when covered by the unit’s cook pot. This makes the WindBurner an excellent stove for cooking in windy and unprotected campsites, especially in mountainous or desert terrain.
The MSR WindBurner is packaged as a complete personal stove system with everything you need to boil water, cook, and eat your food except a spoon. 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 includes a radiant burner, an anodized aluminum cook pot, a pot cozy with an integrated handle, a canister stand, a locking lid w/ strainer holes, a combination measuring and drinking cup, and an absorbent cleaning cloth, that also helps dampen any rattling sounds when the unit is carried in a backpack. The stove is also regulated so that it will provide consistent heat output for the life of the canister and not weaken in intensity as the amount of fuel and pressure inside the canister drops.
When packed, all of the WindBurner’s stove components fit together inside the cooking 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 to boil water, you need to light the burner manually using a match, lighter, or fire steel, since there’s no built-in igniter. The absence of an igniter is no great loss since they have a tendency to break or fail quickly. Your best bet is to use a fire steel to create sparks to light the MSR WindBurner, because it can be used to light the stove in windy conditions, at any temperature, or elevation. A match or a Bic lighter can also work, but they are far less wind resistant.
Once lit, operating the WindBurner is simple. There’s a thin wire running across the front grill of the burner that will begin to glow (see photo above), so you can tell that the stove is lit and burning fuel. Cover the burner with the cook pot, locking it to the burner with a twist. Cover the pot with its lid and turn the wire fuel valve that controls the gas flow counterclockwise. When your water boils, turn the fuel valve clockwise to turn it off. Add dehydrated food to the cook pot to rehydrate it. It will continue to cook even when the stove is off because the pot cozy and the pot’s heat exchange fins hold onto the heat. Of course, you can also just pour the hot water into a meal pouch if you don’t feel like cleaning the pot.
Simmering with the WindBurner is possible, although it depends on your definition of a simmer. The WindBurner can be dialed down from roiling boil to a low boil, but not a true simmer like the one you can get on your gas range at home. If you turn down the gas too low, the WindBurner will go out. You can’t see the radiant burner head when it’s covered by the cook pot, but you can tell if the gas is turned too low by the coughing or gasping sound that the burner makes when it’s not getting enough fuel. If the stove accidentally goes out. Let it cool before relighting it.
With a capacity of 1.0 liters, the WindBurner 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. It also fits over the top of the plastic cup so you can carry liquids in it without spilling.
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. Ask me how I know. I always carry mine now.
When separating the pot from the stove, grip the black plastic collar under the burner head, which gets very hot and may burn you.
How does the WindBurner compare to the MSR Reactor Stove?
The WindBurner stove scales down from The MSR Reactor in both heat output and form factor. The Reactor is optimized for melting snow for drinking water and blasts out 9,000 BTU/hr, while the WindBurner throttles that back to 7,000 BTU/hr and sips fuel more slowly. The WindBurner is also a lot more user-friendly for general purpose cooking. It has pot cozy for warmth retention, and a drinking and straining lid, allowing it to double as a mug and eating vessel. The WindBurner Personal pot locks onto its stove burner for improved stability, and it features a black heat-resistant grip on the burner that makes it easy to hold while you’re removing the pot. See the SectionHiker MSR Reactor Review.
How does the WindBurner Personal Stove System differ from the WindBurner Group Stove System?
The WindBurner Group Stove System is designed for group use and larger cookpots. It has a satellite stove that connects to the canister using a hose, for greater clearance and stability. The higher capacity MSR WindBurners pots designed for the Group System are also not compatible with the WindBurner Personal Stove System. See the SectionHiker WindBurner Group System Review.
Comparable Canister Stove Cooking Systems
|Pot Capacity||Canister Storage||Weight (oz)||Price|
|MSR Reactor 1.0L||1L||100g||16.7||$220|
|MSR Reactor 1.7L||1.7L||230g||19||$240|
|MSR Reactor 2.5L||2.5L||230g||20.7||$260|
|MSR WindBurner Duo||1.8L||230g||21.1||$180|
|MSR WindBurner Group||2.5L||230g||20.8||$200|
The MSR WindBurner Personal Cook System is a highly efficient canister stove for boiling water and rehydrating meals on backpacking trips. While it weighs a few more ounces than a Jetboil, it is completely windproof, making it ideal for mountainous routes or locales with an absence of protective trees or vegetation. The WindBurner radiant burner is also a super durable stove that doesn’t have a lot of moving parts that can fail in the field. If you’re hard on your gear like me, this is one stove system that can take a licking and keep on ticking. Highly recommended!
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