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MSR Whisperlite Review

   
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Backpacking Stoves

  • Currently 4.1/5
Overall avg rating 4.1 of 5 based on 8 reviews. Most recent review: July 29, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $80 - $100 | Compare prices at 10 resellers
Pros:  Small, simple, durable, inexpensive, versatile
Cons:  Difficult to simmer
Best Uses:  Whether it’s backpacking, adventure cycling, or arctic expeditions, the Whisperlite can handle it all.
User Rating:     
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 (3.7 of 5) based on 7 reviews
Recommendations:  86% of reviewers (6/7) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   MSR
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ October 17, 2010  
Overview
Since its introduction in 1982, the Whisperlite has proven itself as the most versatile and dependable, lightweight, liquid fuel, portable stove on the market. If we were to have one stove this would be it.

Alternatively, the more stable and easier to simmer MSR Dragonfly may be better for commercial outfits or those less concerned with size and weight (it’s much louder, 3oz. heavier, .3L larger, and $40 more).

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
The Whisperlite’s design: simple and pure, yet unworthy of inclusion in the Times' Fashion section, provides a stable three-legged base for a large central burner. MSR’s Shaker Jet allows you to clean the jet with a simple vertical shaking motion. The stove is controlled by a valve on the fuel pump, which sits 6-8” from the burner unit. Weighing in at 11.5 ounces, and taking up a very reasonable 96 cubic inches(1.5L), the Whisperlite is small and light enough to accompany you just about anywhere. This is the smallest and lightest liquid fuel stove we tested.

The Whisperlite is completely field maintainable. You can disassemble, repair, and reassemble the stove anywhere in the world.

Simple, reliable, and affordable, you can’t go wrong with the Whisperlite.

Dislikes
The Whisperlite does not light as fast as other stoves. The priming process involves releasing a small amount of fuel into the fuel cup, lighting it, and letting it burn down. This heats the fuel line enough to vaporize the fuel. The entire process takes roughly two minutes. While this isn’t instantaneous, we don’t think you’ll be late to your next appointment. Regardless of the make and model, this process is roughly the same for all liquid fuel stoves.

Some complain that the Whisperlite is incapable of simmering. Fortunately this is not the case. The Whisperlite must be depressurized in order to achieve a constant simmer. Here’s how: prime, light, turn off, release fuel pressure, pump three times, and light again. We’ve made dozens of slowly simmered culinary delights with the Whisperlite. These include bread, pizza, calzones, and brownies.

Best Application
The Whisperlite can conquer it all.

Value
For $80 you cannot buy a better camp stove.

Other Versions
The Whisperlite Internationale ($10 more) is capable of operating on alternative fuels such as diesel, kerosene, gasoline, and jet fuel. The two stoves are mechanically identical with the exception of a wicking cup for lighting less flammable fuels and several interchangeable jets for different fuel types. This added versatility may seem appealing, but because white gas is widely available throughout the world we believe it’s necessary only for a small percentage of users.

MSR also sells an Expedition Maintenance Kit, which includes all necessary parts and instructions to disassemble and repair a damaged Whisperlite. With this, your stove is likely to last for decades.

Bombproof MSR fuel bottles come in 11, 22, and 33 ounce sizes.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 29, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (3.7)

86% of 7 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
8 Total Ratings
5 star: 38%  (3)
4 star: 38%  (3)
3 star: 13%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 13%  (1)
Sort 7 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jul 29, 2014 - 08:45am
cup4sale · Backpacker · CO
We have had this stove for about two years. I have to say, I don't care for it. Turning it on is tricky, it requires the right timing based on the height of the flame (which I find hard when I'm desperate for coffee). If you mess it up, you have wait five minutes to try and light it again (also painful when you really need a cup of coffee). The stove works great in dry and cold conditions, but we have had it completely fail in super humid spots, like in a thick mist. It also clogs easily with both dirt and water. It failed in a hike where it rain/snowed the whole time due to water in the pipe. It also failed last weekend due to a clog deep in the L connecter of the gas bottle. I suppose if we had treated it more carefully it might have done better, but I'm used to our old canister stove that could sit out side the tent in any weather and light up just fine. This stove is just not reliable and you have to bring the cleaning kit everywhere you go. I just don't have the patience to unclog it first thing in the morning when I just want some hot water….

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 24, 2014 - 10:59am
Blackwater · Camper · Miami, FL
I have a mixed review on this. My first whisperlight was bought probably 16 years ago. The thing NEVER failed me. I never cleaned it, I never replaced any part. It didn't matter if it was sea level for 10,000 feet. Rain, sleet, snow. I never could ask anymore out of it!!!!

Bad part. Last year I bought a new one… Why?? I have no idea. I figured why not. It is cheap and MSR deserves another sale on such a good product. Considering the ups and downs of the economy I am sure most people don't think that way, but I like to give credit and help were it is deserved. Took my son camping for the first time over this last weekend. I made one coffee for myself, went to fire it up again and nothing. I couldn't keep it lit. Messed with it for hours!!!!!!! I will try to see what happened in the next week and repost, but total fail! So, this trip no stove, I had to improvise and use fire which is ok, but I love a good quick cup of coffee!!!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 22, 2013 - 04:56am
headwerkn · Hunter · Tasmania, Australia
I've had my Whisperlite for over 3 years and it has been flawless on numerous hikes during that time as our primary stove (my partner takes a small gas canister stove as a backup and for cooking scrambled eggs).

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MSR Whisperlite with included windshield, 325ml (11oz) MSR Fuel Bottle and GSI Bugaboo pot and lid. Boiling water for tea in the Tasmanian Central Highlands.
Credit: headwerkn

The stove, fuel pump and ground/wind shields fit neatly within our small GSI pot/lid combo, which makes for a nicely compact (if not super lightweight) cooking system. I also stow a LMF FireStarter in there, which lights the stove effectively and safely, both when priming (igniting liquid) and restarting when hot (igniting gas).

Maybe not quite as idiot-proof as gas-canister stoves, but the Whisperlite is not at all complicated to use once you master the priming sequence. Similarly, simmering is easy enough with practice; once you get a feel for how much pressure is needed, a steady lowish temperature isn't difficult to attain.

That said, the MSR excels best at high heat, bringing a litre of water to the boil within a few mins. For melting snow and boiling water rehydrating hike food, hot drinks, etc. the Whisperlite is a no brainer and uses minimal fuel. A single 325mL bottle easily lasts us two-three days of cooked dinners, breakfasts and multiple cups of tea. Shellite (what Australians call white gas) is readily and cheaply available at most supermarkets, almost all hardware stores and any self-respecting outdoors/camping store.

At full tilt the stove's noise is comparable to typical gas canister stoves - a somewhat loud roar. Personally I don't find it an issue; from a safety perspective you're definitely aware when the stove is running!

Current generation Whisperlites use the "shaker jet" cleaning system to minimise the need to clean out blocked jets. In over three years of use, I have never had a blocked jet, nor actually had a need to clean the stove itself beyond a quick wipedown to remove soot. The only time I've ever disassembled the stove was simply for my own curiosity, and to familiarise myself just in case I ever need to do it. At this rate, I'm not expecting to any time soon. The stove itself is well made and feels more than durable enough for its intended purpose.

Downsides to the Whisperlite are few and minor:

Shellite does smell a bit (though not as bad as petrol, diesel or kerosene) and you have to be aware that when disconnecting the fuel line, you will get a small amount of fuel leak out. Likewise, expect a small amount to weep out when depressurising the fuel bottle.

Even with clean-burning Shellite, the stove does get sooty over time. The included stuff sack keeps the muck off your other gear though, so hardly a big issue. In practice your cook gear doesn't get sooty.

MSR branded bottles aren't cheap… you can use third-party alternatives, even though MSR advise otherwise.

Probably the main gripe one could have with the Whisperlite is weight. The stove itself isn't particularly heavy but add in an appropriately-sized bottle and fuel and you're talking 600-900gr or more. Ultralight hikers will prefer their alcohol stoves.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 14, 2012 - 02:28am
cheesemaster · Climber · Seattle, WA
Excellent stove. Have had this for 4 years of steady use. Not only is white gas ridiculously cheap, but 1 bottle of fuel lasts forever compared to isobutane in other stoves.

Downsides to whisperlite are required cleaning and maintenance, though I have known lucky few who have beat the piss out of their whisperlite and only clean it about once a year, though I'm not entirely sure how long they expect it to last.

Basically I've gotten my money's worth on this stove, bought the repair kit as well, has a replacement part for just about everything on the stove. It's not the lightest stove out there, but you can use it for boiling 1 gallon of water, or cooking a steak, or use the white gas to start a fire. Great durability, reliability, excellent fuel consumption, very multipurpose stove.

I expect this stove to outlast me.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 2, 2010 - 09:24pm
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Outstanding stove. Just like everyone is saying, you can't kill this thing and it is just bomber. While having the international version would be nice, when I have money to climb internationally, I may have the requisite funds to purchase the international version.

The noise to start it isn't that bad, honestly. Also the time to get it going isn't bad, and this thing is so damn fuel efficient it is unreal. Really allows you to cut down your amount of fuel you bring on an alpine climb.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 19, 2010 - 08:42pm
John Moosie · Climber · Beautiful California
I loved my whisperlite. It was stolen and so I bought a dragonfly. One thing they didn't say about it was how loud it is. I hate firing that thing up. I wish that you would include a noise level comparison chart, so that one could compare different models.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 7, 2010 - 11:35pm
Spider Savage · Climber · The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
A decent little stove for a gas stove. I've switched to a canister system with higher cooking speed due to my intense travel agendas. This is good when you have plenty of time to cook such as in preparing fresh food.

I've had this stove fail to boil water in heavy snow conditions. Be sure to practice with it in harsh environments before taking it on a committing trip.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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MSR Whisperlite
Credit: www.msrcorp.com
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