< Go to Backpacking Stoves

Hands-on Gear Review

MSR XGK-EX Review


Backpacking Stove

MSR XGK-EX
Price:   Varies from $120 - $160 online  —  Compare at 6 sellers
Pros:  Boils water and melts snow fast, durable, reliable, easy to fix, multi-fuel capability
Cons:  Heavy and bulky, no temperature control
Editors' Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   MSR

Overview

The XGK-EX is a workhorse snow-melting machine. You will find it in high altitude base camps around the world, working 24-7 to melt snow and provide nourishment to tired mountaineers. Harsh, cold conditions and constant use is where the XGK-EX excels. You can cook the most basic of meals like pasta and minute rice on it, but it does not have very good temperature control, going full roar or not at all. It is also a conversation killer because it is so loud. If you want some space from your tent mates, just crank this baby up and you won't hear anything else.

If you are looking for something quieter and more versatile, try one of the Whisperlite models such as the MSR Whisperlite or MSR Whisperlite Universal.

RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking stoves

Compare Side-by-Side

Compare all Backpacking Stoves >

Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Jessica Haist
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
February 10, 2015
Look for this workhorse of a stove in remote, high altitude basecamps like Everest and Denali. The XGK-EX won't let you down when its time to fire up and melt snow in harsh conditions.

Performance Comparison


We took our XGK-EX backpacking on the Sierra High Route  it was slower to boil water than most liquid fuel stoves. It is not a very practical backpacking stove.
We took our XGK-EX backpacking on the Sierra High Route, it was slower to boil water than most liquid fuel stoves. It is not a very practical backpacking stove.

Versatility


You can take this stove anywhere around the world and be able to find fuel for it; diesel, kerosene and white gas no problem. The XGK-EX is extremely easy to maintain, repair, and troubleshoot. Where this stove is not very versatile is in the cooking department. There is no temperature control valve and therefore simmering or baking anything more that noodles becomes quite an ordeal. If you are looking for a stove to cook gourmet meals for groups in the backcountry, check out the MSR Dragonfly.

Fuel Efficiency


In our boil tests we found the XGK-EX was on par with the Whisperlite series of stoves for fuel efficiency. However the XGK-EX is actually slightly more fuel efficient at a higher BTU output than most (or nearly all) white gas stoves.

The XGK-EX needs to be primed in order to work properly. As with all the liquid fuel stoves the XGK-EX takes some knowledge to operate properly.
The XGK-EX needs to be primed in order to work properly. As with all the liquid fuel stoves the XGK-EX takes some knowledge to operate properly.

Boil Time


We were surprised to find that the XGK-EX boiled slightly slower than the other white gas stoves we tested. The XGK-EX boiled half a liter of water in 2 minutes 54 seconds. Again, these stoves are meant to be used in harsh conditions where a few seconds don't matter one of our testers has used this stove in -42F weather!

Weight


The XGK-EX is on the heavier end of the spectrum for liquid fuel stoves in this review, at 13.8 oz. Another good reason why this stove is suited expedition style trips with a basecamp is that it is a bit heavy to carry in a backpack. The Dragonfly is only slightly heavier at 14 oz. The lightest liquid fuel stoves in this review are the Whisperlite, MSR Whisperlite International, and the Whisperlite Universal, all weighing in at 11.5 oz.

The XGK-EX with Red Slate mountain in the background.
The XGK-EX with Red Slate mountain in the background.

Stability


All of the liquid fuel stoves we tested had approximately the same platform width and were equally as stable except for the MSR Dragonfly, which has a wider base and is more stable. People going on expeditions will often bring two XGK-EX's to stick under one large pot to speed up the snow melting process.

Packed Size


The XGK-EX is just as bulky as its Whisperlite cousins, and we measured its packed size to be 5 x 3.9 x 3.5 inches. It will fit into a 2 liter pot easily.

Best Application


Clearly this stove excels at being in cold, high altitude situations. We take this with us on international expeditions and use it in base camp situations where we need a reliable stove to make water and cook simple meals. If you want to cook more nuanced meals, choose a different stove like the MSR Dragonfly or even the MSR Whisperlite Universal.

We stuck to simple  one pot  dehydrated meals with the XGK-EX  a liquid fuel stove. It is pretty average in the cooking department.
We stuck to simple, one pot, dehydrated meals with the XGK-EX, a liquid fuel stove. It is pretty average in the cooking department.

Value


The XGK-EX is a stove that does one thing very well, and that is melt snow. It is very durable and easy to maintain. If you are in an expedition situation it is worth every penny at $159.95, otherwise it is not a great value. If you want a great, simple backpacking stove that is easy to maintain and easier to cook on than the XGK-EX, choose the MSR Whisperlite a great value at $89.95.

From left to right  the all around-er MSR WhisperLite International  the gourmet cooking MSR Dragonfly and the Burly snow melting machine the MSR XGK-EX.
From left to right, the all around-er MSR WhisperLite International, the gourmet cooking MSR Dragonfly and the Burly snow melting machine the MSR XGK-EX.

Conclusion


Going to Aconcagua? Choose this stove. Going backpacking on the John Muir trail? Choose something lighter and quieter. We think the XGK-EX is a great snow melting machine, but not very versatile when it comes to cooking. You can burn many types of fuel on it and it is great at what it is designed to do, but it is also very loud and will burn your pancakes unless you're very careful.

Other Versions and Accessories


MSR Whisperlite International
MSR Whisperlite International or MSR Whisperlite
  • White gas and 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
  • Self cleaning shaker jet

Whisperlite Expedition Service Kit
  • Includes all replaceable parts and instruction manual
  • Allows for dissasembly 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
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 10, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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

Write a Review on this Gear
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Amazon $119.70  -  25% off!
REI $159.95
Eastern Mountain Sports $159.95
Compare prices at 6 sellers >

*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Helpful Buying Tips

Unbiased.