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MSR Whisperlite Review

MSR Whisperlite
Best Buy Award
Price:   $100 List | $89.95 at Backcountry
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Pros:  Small, simple, durable, inexpensive, versatile, easy to repair
Cons:  Heavy, difficult to simmer
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   http://www.cascadedesigns.com/MSR

Our Verdict

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 REVIEW: The Best Backpacking Stove Review

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Category Weight (ounces) Dimensions (inches)
Editors' Choice Award
Integrated Canister 14.8 oz. 4.24x6.75 in.
Integrated Canister 14.5 oz. IL: 4.5x4.5x5.5 in., 1.7L: 6x6x7.5 in.
Liquid Fuel/Canister 11.5 oz. 6x4x4.75 in.
Top Pick Award
Liquid Fuel 14 oz. 6.3x5x3.5 in.
Liquid Fuel 11.5 oz. 6x4x4 in.
Integrated Canister 13.1 oz. 5x6 in.
Best Buy Award
Integrated Canister 13.2 oz. 4.1x7.1 in.
Best Buy Award
Liquid Fuel 11.5 oz. 6x4x4 in.
Top Pick Award
Small canister 2.5 oz. 3x2x2 in.
Small Canister 3 oz. 4.1x2.1x2 in.
Small Canister 2.6 oz. 3.3x2.2x1.2 in.
Liquid Fuel 13.8 oz. 5x3.9x3.5 in.
Liquid Fuel 15.3 oz. 6x5.5x2.8 in.
Wood/Esbit 9.2 oz. 5x4x.2 in.

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
OutdoorGearLab Review Staff

Last Updated:
December 3, 2014

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.

A guided group sits down to enjoy their meal prepared on the MSR WhisperLite in the High Sierra.
A guided group sits down to enjoy their meal prepared on the MSR WhisperLite in the High Sierra.

Performance Comparison

Check out the chart below to see where the MSR Whisperlight ranked compared to its competition in Overall Performance score.


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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

The standard MSR Whisperlite with the original leg design where the fuel line threads through one of the legs.
The standard MSR Whisperlite with the original leg design where the fuel line threads through one of the legs.

As you can see in the chart shown here, the Whisperlite was about middle of the road in the Stability metric.

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.

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.
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.


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.

Making pancakes on the WhisperLite at a remote basecamp.
Making pancakes on the WhisperLite at a remote basecamp.

Other Versions and Accessories

MSR Whisperlite International
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)

MSR Whisperlite Universal
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
OutdoorGearLab Review Staff

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: February 23, 2016
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   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.
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