< Go to Backpacking Stoves

Hands-on Gear Review

MSR Whisperlite Review

Best Buy Award

Backpacking Stove

  • Currently 5.0/5
Overall avg rating 5.0 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: February 23, 2016
Price:   $90 List | Varies from $65 - $90 online
Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Small, simple, durable, inexpensive, versatile, easy to repair
Cons:  Heavy, difficult to simmer
Manufacturer:   MSR
Review by: Jessica Haist ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ February 10, 2015  
Since its introduction in 1982, the Whisperlite has proven itself as the most dependable lightweight liquid fuel portable stove on the market. If we were to have one stove, this would be it. The Whisperlite wins our Best Buy Award because it has been the choice of institutions and adventurers for decades, and is the least expensive white gas stove in this review. It is light, small, and easily field repairable.

However, if you need more versatility, look to the similar siblings of the Whisperlite.The MSR Whisperlite International is a multi-fuel version of the original version and only costs $10 more. Featuring self-cleaning Shaker Jet technology, it burns white gas, kerosene, and unleaded auto fuel.

The MSR Whisperlite Universal, can burn all the fuel types that the International version can, but can also use isobutane canister fuel. It costs $50 more than the standard version.

Generally we just recommend the standard Whisperlite unless you really think you will be needing to burn alternative fuels. Ultimately we think that the original Whisperlite is the best deal, which is why it wins our Best Buy award for best value liquid fuel stove.

View our complete Best Backpacking Stove Review to see how this model stacks up against the others.

RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking stoves

  • Photos
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Backpackers and mountaineers have depended on the original Whisperlite stove for all of their cooking and snow melting needs for decades. As its name suggests, it is quiet and lightweight. There is a reason this model has not changed much since its inception it is a great stove.

Performance Comparison

Click to enlarge
A guided group sits down to enjoy their meal prepared on the MSR WhisperLite in the High Sierra.
Credit: Kris Lieckens


Although the Whisperlite is not known for its excellent simmer control, we have experimented with cooking all kinds of things on this stove. Because it has been around for so long, people have developed lots of different tricks to cook more intricate meals. One system that works very well for baking things like pizzas and brownies on a Whisperlite is what we like to call the "tower of power". This involves depressurizing the fuel bottle (prime, light, turn off, release fuel pressure, pump three times, and light again) and using the wind screen to create a tower around the burner to place the pot or pan on thus removing the pan from the direct, intense heat of the burner. With some monitoring, this produces great baking results in the backcountry.

Click to enlarge
The guys watch and learn as their guide, Jessica Haist prepares brownies on the WhisperLite using the "tower of power" on the Sierra High Route.
Credit: Kris Lieckens

The Whisperlite is very easy to troubleshoot, clean, and repair in the field. Those of us who have used this stove for a long time can take it apart, clean it, and put it back together with our eyes closed. The MSR Whisperlite International is slightly easier to take apart than the original because MSR has redesigned the International's legs. The fuel line no longer threads through one of the legs, making it much simpler. This stove is a great choice for any extended backpacking trip, especially when cooking for groups. Many outdoor schools including Outward Bound and NOLS use it for all of their expeditions.

If you are planning an international expedition, you may want to consider upgrading to the International model, which can burn kerosene and unleaded fuels, or the MSR Whisperlite Universal which burns kerosene and unleaded fuels as as well as isobutane canisters. The standard Whisperlite only burns white gas. If you are traveling abroad white gas may not be as readily available.

Fuel Efficiency

As with all liquid fuel stoves, some knowledge and skill is required to be able to light this stove properly. You must prime the stove first, which involves burning a bit of liquid gas to heat up the fuel line so that the white gas turns to a vapor. This allows the stove to burn a hot blue flame. This priming process uses up a tiny bit of extra fuel (if done correctly). We found the Whisperlite to be equally as fuel efficient as its family members the International and Universal. MSR says that 20 ounces of white gas burned at max flame will burn for 1 hour and 50 minutes that's a lot of Ramen noodles!

Boil Time

In our tests, the Whisperlite boiled half a liter of water in 2 minutes and 52 seconds and primed in 1 minute, 30 seconds. This may not be as fast as the MSR Pocket Rocket or the MSR Windburner, but it is much more versatile than these products.


The Whisperlite weighs 11.5 ounces, the same as the other Whisperlite models in this review, and is the lightest of the liquid fuel stoves. The Optimus Nova + is the heaviest and burliest stove we tested, followed by the MSR XGK -EX and MSR Dragonfly.


The Whisperlite has a wide and stable base for larger pots and group cooking. We have noticed that the legs tend to warp over time, especially if it is jammed into a pack haphazardly. This can create a less stable platform that may wobble slightly if not set up carefully. We think the International's leg design is slightly more stable and durable over time because the legs are more streamlined.

Click to enlarge
The standard MSR Whisperlite with the original leg design where the fuel line threads through one of the legs.
Credit: Max Neale

Packed Size

The Whisperlite, along with the International and Universal, are the smallest liquid gas stoves in this review, taking up a very reasonable 6 x 4 x 4 inches (1.5L) of space. They can easily fit into a 2L pot although the stove legs can get warped if not stashed properly (as we mentioned above) and become more difficult to fit into the little bag. If you are looking for a very tiny stove to carry with you on shorter missions, consider the smallest stove we tested, the MSR Micro Rocket.

Best Application

This stove is great for extended backcountry trips like expeditions to Denali where you are cooking for groups and melting lots of snow. We also like to take this on long backpacking trips if we plan to cook for 3 or more people our testers who are backpacking guides love the Whisperlite and always choose it over other liquid gas stoves. Any type of institutional or guided trip would be the perfect time to reach for this original gangster. It is much quieter than most of the conversation killing liquid stoves we tested, like the roaring loud Dragonfly. For fast and light trips with 1-2 people, we would be more inclined to bring along the MSR Reactor or a Pocket Rocket.

Click to enlarge
Jason gets down to the arduous task of melting snow on Mount Shasta with the MSR Whisperlite. This is a situation where a heavier but more fuel efficient stove is helpful.
Credit: Jessica Haist


The Whisperlite presents an excellent value and is the simplest, lightest, and smallest stove in the liquid gas stove category. It is very easily repairable, and with a little practice you can cook a variety of items on it, making it fairly versatile. It wins our Best Buy Award because it is also the least expensive liquid fuel stove in this review at $90.


If you are only going to buy one stove for all of your backpacking needs this should be the one you choose. It is versatile, inexpensive, lightweight, and simple. We would recommend going with the International model if you are considering doing any international expeditions where white gas may not be readily available. We take the original model with us any time we will be cooking for a group of 3 or more and want a reliable, stable stove that we can repair in a pinch. Even with the stove cranked we can participate in kitchen conversations and preserve the serenity of the wilderness with this whisper-quiet stove.

Click to enlarge
Making pancakes on the WhisperLite at a remote basecamp.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Other Versions and Accessories

Click to enlarge
MSR Whisperlite International
  • Multi-fuel version of the Whisperlite stove that can burn diesel, kerosene, gasoline, jet fuel and white gas
  • Minor differences compared to standard whisperlite to accommodate multiple fuel types
  • Wicking cup for less flammable fuels
  • Interchangeable jets for different fuel types
  • Only necessary for some users in remote areas where white gas is not available
  • $99.95 (only $10 more)

Click to enlarge
Whisperlite Universal
  • Also has an adapter for Isobutane canisters
  • Greater control of simmer when used with Isobutane canisters
  • $140

Whisperlite Expedition Service Kit
  • Includes all replaceable parts and instruction manual
  • Allows for disassembly and repair of a damaged Whisperlite stove
  • Mandatory for any trip where the stove is an essential safety kit (when melting snow or ice for water)
  • $30

MSR Fuel Bottle - 30oz, Fuel Bottle - 20oz or Fuel Bottle - 11oz.
  • Mandatory part for using the stove that is not included with the stove itself
  • Recommend medium or large size
  • Strong, airtight seal with cap
  • $22, $20, and $18

MSR Fuel Pump and windscreen
  • Both come with Whisperlite stove.
  • Replacements available for purchase
  • A second Fuel Pump is recommended for any long term or remote camping
  • A second windscreen is recommended for cold or windy weather

MSR Quick 2 Pot Set
  • A recommended pot set made from hard anodized aluminum
  • Includes a non-stick1.5L pot, hard anodized 2.5L pot, Aluminum Strainer Lid and Handle
  • Lightweight, durable, efficient boiling time
  • $70

Jessica Haist

Where to Buy?

Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: February 23, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 1 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Feb 23, 2016 - 08:23pm
Arkansmay · Backpacker · Mountain Home, AR
I bought an MSR whisperlight way back in 1994 and that very same stove is STILL my one and only go-to backpacking stove. That says it all.

I've replaced O-rings (available for pennies at an auto parts store) but it just keeps working.

Nowadays with everyone going ultralight with mini alcohol stoves, it may not seem so attractive since you do have to lug the fuel, but they still have a place for those of us that want a true gas jet stove.

To me it's the standard by which all other backpacking stoves are measured against, and few compare.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 

Have you used the MSR Whisperlite?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Click to enlarge
MSR Whisperlite
Credit: MSR
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Backcountry $64.95  -  28% off!
Amazon $64.95  -  28% off!
Eastern Mountain Sports $71.96  -  20% off!
Compare prices at 5 sellers >

*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Related Review
The Best Backpacking Stove Review

The Best Backpacking Stove Review

We tested a comprehensive selection of backpacking stoves in the cold and windy High Sierra, along the rainy coast of the Pacific Northwest, and in the high desert of central Oregon to find the best.
Helpful Buying Tips