Survival Gear Review: MSR Whisperlite Stove

The MSR Whisperlite stove is one of my favorite stoves – especially in cold weather.  It’s light weight and uses white Prepper Stove for Survivalgas stove fuel which you can get at any outdoor store or from Amazon.  The best part is that it is made in America.  The bottle you store the fuel in is pressurized by a pump handle and it sends the fuel to the stove.

During the summer it might not be able to keep up with a Jet Boil (although it might – I haven’t tested it yet.) But it will absolutely kick a Jet Boil’s ass in the winter.  Two years ago I went winter camping with a few good friends and my friend bought his Jet Boil along.  Great stove in the summer and warmer fall months, but in Maine in January it would barely start.

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By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author of Survival Cache  & SHTFBlog

Whisperlite vs. Jet Boil

My buddy kept the canister next to his body so it would stay warm, but as soon as it was exposed to the cold the flame SHTF survival stovedied right down.  It wasn’t what I would call exceptionally cold weather for camping in January, maybe 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but it was chilly. We were on the side of a mountain and the wind was blowing, which brought it down to about zero degrees.

While he was trying to nurse his Jet Boil along I got out my MSR Whisperlite and fired that little beauty up.  In five minutes I was drinking hot coffee. As a matter of principle he wanted to see if he could get his water hot using it.  I offered him the use of my stove and harassed him a little when he wouldn’t use it (for which he did show me a single digit on his right hand).  The rest of the guys were happy to use it though and very shortly most of us were drinking hot coffee, cocoa, and eating oat meal.

Whisperlite or Whisperlite International?

I think he finally did get it warm enough to drink, but he might have had to take it in the tent out of the wind.  Anyway, I don’t mean to trash the Jet Boil because it’s a hell of a piece of equipment in the right environment.  As a matter of fact if he’d been using the propane/isobutane 4 season mix it probably would have worked fine.  That’s one of the things about the Whisperlite I really like.  One stove fuel is all you need, although the MSR International Whisperlite Stove will run on 3 types of fuel (white gas, kerosene, and unleaded gasoline).  So if you are planning to bug out during SHTF, the International Whisperlite might be the way to go.  But that is not the model that I have, I have the regular Whisperlite.  Both models work relatively the same.

The coldest I’ve used this stove was around 22 below zero on top of a mountain here in the state of Maine about tenBest camping stove review whisperlite years ago.  I lit the stove and started heating some water, but was surprised when the flame started to die down!  The future Mrs. Jarhead wasn’t all the impressed as she really needed to get something warm into her as we were on an exposed peak.  (Luckily the wind wasn’t blowing at that time.)  I finally thought to give the handle a few pumps and voila!  The flame came back strong and blue and boiled the water for the soup very fast.  Make sure you pressurize the fuel bottle before trying to use it or you might run into the same trouble.

Specs

This lightweight stove weighs 11 oz, which includes the stove and pump – not the bottle.  One of the real cool features is that you can shake it to clean the nozzle. I do this before every operation just to make sure. You can never do too much maintenance on your gear as far as I’m concerned. 20 ounces of fuel will burn approximately 2 ¼ hours.

You can buy MSR Whisperlite maintenance kits and it is pretty easy to take apart and clean.

*Following are various pictures.*
Pump fits into the fuel bottle. This handle broke when I dropped it, but it still works.
backpack camping stove review

The fuel line fits into the pump.

backpack camping stove review

MSR Fuel Bottle, Cooking Pot, and Whisperlite Stove.

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As stated above, you can buy maintenance kits. This is the tool that came with my stove.

survival stove review

Lighting the Stove

First you need to pump the handle a bunch of times in order to get the pressure built up.  Once you feel it hard to push stop and then turn the fuel handle on and let a little bit of fuel flow into the cup.  This is probably the trickiest part of the whole operation because if you put in too much fuel and light it up it’ll look like a missile launch.  Either way this is not a stove you can get lazy with and try to light in your tent.  You will regret it if you do.  Not only will the fumes make you sick, it will burn your tent down.

There should be a good deal of flame coming up and preheating the stove getting it ready for use.  When the flames start to die down a little go ahead and turn the fuel switch on.  Slowly feed it fuel and you should be rewarded with an intense blue flame and a whooshing noise.  The stove itself will become red hot, so use extreme caution and give it time to cool down after using it.

The Bad

The Whisperlite Stove is not as easy to use as an alcohol stove and it can be a little intimidating at first.  The first time I used it I took it outside and started it up on the lawn well away from anything flammable.  Turns out it was pretty easy to use, but it’s a good idea to practice with it a little before taking it camping.  The fuel bottle filled with fuel is a little heavy sitting in your pack.  It requires a certain level of maintenance to keep it running well.

The Good

This is a rock solid stove.  It lights fast and heats water up very quick.  Fuel lasts a long time.  Since it can heat a cup of water in just minutes you’ll get a lot of use of just a few of these bottles.  In a base camp situation you could bring a couple gallons of stove fuel and be set for a month or more, depending on how much you use it.  This stove really excels in cold weather.  In the summer I tend to use alcohol stoves, but in winter I always throw this one in my Bug-Out Bag/hiking pack.  When I want a quick hot cup of coffee or hot water for noodles the Whisperlite has never disappointed.

Want To See The Stove in Action?  Check Out My Video.

Video by: Jarhead Survivor

Photos by:
Jarhead Survivor
jbdodane
Jaythom256

Questions?  Comments?
Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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8 thoughts on “Survival Gear Review: MSR Whisperlite Stove”

  1. I've been known to use chafing dish candles in the past. The gel versions can last for several hours and provide a lot of heat in a tent if properly used. Not to mention you can get them at the Dollar Tree.

    Reply
  2. I prefer my small single-burner propane stove, year round. No big flair-ups or need for pre-heating that waste fuel and very easy to use. I can (& have) used my propane stove in my tent to make morning coffee from the comfort of my sleeping bag; as a bonus, this warms up the tent interior which is very nice on COLD winter mornings. Also, keeping a metal pot half full of water to use is a good idea because that water will be frozen in the winter-time Colorado Rockies and pouring ice out of your canteen/water bottle isn't going to happen! A one-pound propane bottle lasts me about 4-5 days and they can be refilled; longer term camping and/or more campers brings out the two-burner stove and a 20lb. propane bottle (also refillable)! As a back-up, I carry a Esbit folding stove with fuel tabs in my survival vest that I wear anytime I'm out in the woods (people stare in town); wood can also be used as a fuel source with the Esbit. I don't like carrying liquid fuel (yes, technically LP is a liquid, but pressurized, with a added rank smell), I have had a liquid fuel container leak (white gas) in my backpack, a highly flammable mess, once bitten, twice shy! Good Luck!

    Reply
  3. Got both the WL International and the JB, and use both. Love the JB for quick action and have not found it lacking except in high altitude. Cold, like sub-zero makes it inefficient but not unacceptable. Used my JB in the Alaska snow, and with the right gas mix, it works miracles.

    The big diff between the two is that you can completely enclose the WL inside a windscreen. Do that to a JB and you've made a bomb! Noticed you don't use a WL windscreen. Why not? Make it 10x more efficient.

    However, you cannot pump the WL "a bunch of times." I've had friends blow lids off their fuel bottles with excessive pumping. You can pump proportional to the airspace in your bottle. No more or you're covered with fuel.

    I got a WL when my MSR Firefly was recalled and replaced. Liked the Firefly but love the WL. Also like the XGK. It's a bonus in the bugout kit, but still love the JB. Don't like the gas tank prices, however.

    Just technology evolving before our eyes.

    Thanks, and Carry On!

    Reply
  4. We call our Whisperlite "the Volcano" because it really only has two settings: off and volcano. It's tough to throttle. For boiling water it is quick. For any actual cooking, it's too hot.

    Reply
  5. for those that have access to fuel that is fine if your bugging out ? where in the wilds are you able to fill this ?

    I have a folding stove as well as I turn a #10 can into a stove and it both will use leaves sticks and create a lot of heat The #10 can will hold tinder and keep it dry with the plastic lid it comes with in prep food it acts like a venturi
    use a church key or old style can opener and put holes around the bottom on the side of the can so when it is setting the air draws through the sides same around the top edge so any pan put on it will not smother the fire.

    If your using hard wood like oak ash hickory pecan mesquite and others you can use any charcoal as filtering media the ash when water is seeped through makes weak lye water to make soap etc.

    I carry a 1 pound propane torch so there is infinite control of the flame also have a refill adapter as it is for starting a fire not using fuel to heat or cook with.

    Here is a site that will explain the altitude / barometric pressure and temperature effects on stoves and fuels.
    http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr/blog/canister-s

    Reply

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