Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Great simmer control, stable base for large pots, multi-fuel capability
Cons: Heavy and bulky, noisy
Best Uses: Base camping, cooking for large groups, cooking complicated meals, paddling trips
Bringing excellent control and stability to your backcountry kitchen, the MSR Dragonfly excels at handling low simmers and large pots. Its large packed size and heavier frame make it a better choice for a base camp than for backpacking. We cooked all kinds of things on our Dragonfly in the backcountry, from stews to pizzas, and when you're on long expeditions with groups, having a variety of good meals can make or break your trip. The Dragonfly is one of the loudest stoves we tested and is a definite conversation killer in the kitchen.
Its stability and ease of use win the Dragonfly our Top Pick Award for group and base camp cooking. Unfortunately, a large and heavy frame makes it cumbersome for those who are primarily concerned with size and weight. On a backpacking trip where we carried both the MSR Whisperlite and the Dragonfly, we found ourselves reaching for the smaller, lighter, quieter, cheaper, and slightly faster Whisperlite more often than not, and think it is a better choice for backpacking. Even though the Optimus Nova+ is more durable, we believe the Dragonfly is a better buy because it is lighter, easier to use, and less expensive.
To see how the Dragonfly rated against the other stoves we tested, check out our Best Backpacking Stove Review. If you are more of a car camper gourmet, check out our Best Camping Stoves Review.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
If you want to impress your camping partners with your mad cooking skills, grab a Dragonfly for your next gourmet backpacking adventure. The MSR Dragonfly is great for expedition style camping, but too heavy and bulky for lightweight backpacking.
The Dragonfly is one of the most versatile stoves we tested. You can burn all of the same fuels as the MSR Whisperlite International, including diesel and kerosene. The Dragonfly's main advantage in versatility over the Whisperlite is the ability to control the temperature, enabling you to simmer and cook more delicate items. This elegant powerhouse adjusts from a low simmer to a violent roar with a quick turn of the fuel valve.This feature, which is not included on the Whisperlite, leaves the fuel pump valve open and moves the control to a valve mounted on the burner unit. You can now simmer quickly and easily. We cooked pancakes, pizzas, sauces, and stews on this stove. We like that you can take this stove on international expeditions and are able to cook meals for large groups that entail more than boiling water, unlike with an integrated canister stove like the MSR Windboiler.
Some of our testers find the Dragonfly overall more finicky and less reliable on longer expeditions than other white gas stoves, especially when snow camping and melting a lot of water day after day. The Dragonfly's fuel pump is different than any other MSR liquid fuel stove, including any Whisperlite or the XGK, which all share the same fuel pump design. This is unfortunate if you are familiar with repairing and trouble shooting these other stoves, and you cannot use these pumps interchangeably with the Dragonfly. You can distinguish Dragonfly's pump from other models by its completely red color. Otherwise, the Dragonfly is still easier than any integrated canister stove to troubleshoot or repair in the field.
All liquid gas stoves are relatively fuel efficient in the long run, but they require extra gas to prime. These stoves are not as efficient as integrated canister stoves because they do not have integrated, insulated pots with heat exchanging bottoms. They are, however, more fuel efficient than small canister stoves because you are able to utilize a windscreen that protects the flame from wind and also concentrates and reflects the heat back to the pot.
Because of its increased ability to control the flame height and temperature, we believe the Dragonfly has the ability to be more fuel efficient than the Whisperlite models or the XGK-EX because it doesn't have to be on full roar the whole time. In our boil tests at full throttle, it used the same amount of fuel as the Whisperlite models to boil half a liter of water. The Optimus Nova + was slightly less fuel efficient.
We tested all of our liquid gas stoves head-to-head in our garage, and we were as scientific as possible. In our boil tests we found the Dragonfly to be just as quick at boiling half a liter of water as its Whisperlite cousins. After priming, it boiled water in 2 minutes, 38 seconds. The Dragonfly primes slightly faster than a Whisperlite. The average priming time for liquid gas stoves is 1 minute 23 seconds, and the Dragonfly's priming time is 1 minute 15 seconds. The Optimus Nova+ had the quickest priming time at an impressive 36 seconds.
After the Optimus Nova+, the Dragonfly is the heaviest white gas stove in this review at 14 oz. If you are out for an extended expedition or with a large group, the weight can be justified by a better cooking experience. If you are on an expedition that does not require you to carry your gear, like a horse pack supported trip or a paddling trip, we would recommend bringing this along. Otherwise we recommend going with the lighter, cheaper original MSR WhisperLite, or for a smaller group choose the Jetboil Flash. The lightest stove we tested in this review is the MSR Micro Rocket.
The Dragonfly is the most stable stove in this review. Its unique arm design creates a wide and stable platform that is low to the ground to place large pots on for group cooking. The MSR Pocket Rocket is the least stable stove we tested.
Unfortunately the Dragonfly is the bulkiest of white gas stoves at 6.3 x 5 x 3.5 inches. We find this stove annoying to pack away because its legs always want to spring back open, and it is awkward to stuff into its little sack. The stove, when packed up, will barely fit into a 2 liter pot, and only if you're strategic about getting its legs closed. This stove is best for expeditions where space is less of a concern, like big mountain base camp expeditions or front country camping. If you're thinking about gourmet cooking while car camping, check out our Best Camping Stove Review.
The Dragonfly excels at simmering and baking. If you are looking for a stove that you can cook anything on, from pancakes to gado-gado, this is the right choice. It is great for cooking for groups, especially in a base camp scenario, or on paddling trips when you don't have to carry it. We brought it with us on the John Muir Trail when we were with a large group, but often reached for the Whisperlite instead. The Dragonfly is so loud, it can spoil the wilderness experience.
Retailing at around $140, the Dragonfly is one of the priciest liquid fuel stoves in this review. We think the Whisperlite stove is a great value and works just as well in most backpacking situations. If you really want to impress your companions with gourmet meals, the Dragonfly may be worth the few extra bucks.
There is no comparison with the Dragonfly when it comes to backcountry cooking ability. This stove is a luxury item that enables gourmet cooking. Choose this stove when you are cooking for multiple people or need a stable platform and extra temperature control. Do not choose this stove if you want to have deep and meaningful conversations while cooking, or if you want to travel fast and light.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Dragonfly is one of a kind, but if you want something similar with different features, MSR makes a whole line of liquid fuel burning stoves. For long expeditions where you are melting a lot of snow, the MSR XGK-EX is a burly workhorse of a stove. The MSR Whisperlite International burns the same types of fuel as the Dragonfly but is simpler and lighter. The MSR WhisperLite Universal has a fuel canister adapter that allows for greater temperature control than other Whisperlites and gives the Dragonfly a run for its money in the simmering department.
You will need a pot set of some type to cook on this stove. We like the MSR Quick Solo Pot and the Quick 2 Pot Set. Fuel bottles are not included. You can purchase fuel bottles in 11, 20 and 30 oz sizes from MSR.
The MSR Strike Igniter is a great alternative to a lighter in the backcountry, and is much more reliable in inclement weather.
If you're going gourmet with the Dragonfly, you might as well get yourself a gourmet set of dishes. MSR's Flex 4 System includes two large pots, plates, and mugs for 4 people.
— Jessica Haist
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Most recent review: February 10, 2015
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