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Hands-on Gear Review
MSR Dragonfly Review
Cons: Heavy and bulky, incredibly noisy, not simple
Bottom line: This gourmet cooker is not the most ideal choice for backpacking.
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 the loudest stove we tested and is a definite conversation killer in the kitchen.
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.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
If you want to impress your camping partners with your cooking skills, grab a Dragonfly for your next gourmet backpacking adventure. This stove is great for expedition style camping but too heavy and bulky for lightweight backpacking.
The chart below shows where the MSR Dragonfly ranked overall amongst its competition in the backpacking stove category.
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 when properly used the windscreen 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 because it doesn't have to be on full roar the whole time. In our boil tests at full throttle, it used slightly less fuel than the Whisperlite models to boil 1 liter of water with no wind, but 30% more fuel to boil 1 liter in an 8 - 10 mph wind. The Primus Omnilite Ti is about as fuel efficient.
The Dragonfly is the heaviest 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 WhisperLite, or for a smaller group choose the Jetboil Flash. The lightest stove we tested in this review is the Pocket Rocket 2.
Unfortunately the Dragonfly is the bulkiest of the 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.
The Dragonfly's main advantage 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 Jetboil MiniMo.
We tested all of our liquid gas stoves head-to-head in our garage, and we were as scientific as possible (you can read more about our methods in the How We Test). In our boil tests, we found the Dragonfly to be 50 seconds faster at bringing 1 liter of water to a rolling boil as the Whisperlite. After priming, it boiled water in 6 minutes, and 5 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.
Ease Of Use
Liquid fuel stoves are inherently more complicated to use than their canister powered brethren. Some of our testers find the Dragonfly overall more finicky and less reliable on longer expeditions than other liquid fuel stoves, especially when snow camping and melting a lot of water day after day. Its fuel pump is different than any other MSR liquid fuel stove, which all share the same fuel pump design. This is unfortunate if you are familiar with repairing and troubleshooting these other stoves, and you cannot use these pumps interchangeably with the Dragonfly.
Our testers found this stove to be incredibly loud. One even likened the low sounds in its timbre to the distinctive low rumble of a Harley-Davidson. Choose this stove to bring on a trip with someone you don't want to speak with. Though the Dragonfly works best with white gas, it can burn other fuels in a pinch, including diesel and kerosene. It's control valve, which lives on the burner, is long and a good distance away from the flame, so there's low risk of burning your fingertips. 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 2 is the least stable stove we tested.
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. For a light, compact stove that can still cook pretty well check out the Editors Choice MSR Pocket Rocket 2 If you are more of a car camper gourmet, check out our Best Camping Stoves.
Retailing at around $140, the Dragonfly is the second priciest liquid fuel stove 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.
— Jessica Haist & Ian McEleney
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