Reviews You Can Rely On

MSR Whisperlite Review

This legendary liquid fuel stove is the choice of expeditions and institutions
MSR Whisperlite
MSR Whisperlite
Credit: MSR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $120 List | $119.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Small, durable, inexpensive, versatile, easy to repair
Cons:  Heavy, difficult to simmer, more complicated than a canister stove
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Ian McEleney & Jessica Haist  ⋅  Apr 29, 2020
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
34
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#19 of 20
  • Fuel Efficiency - 25% 5.0
  • Weight - 25% 2.0
  • Simmering Ability - 20% 4.0
  • Ease Of Use - 20% 2.0
  • Boil Time - 10% 4.0

Our Verdict

Since its introduction in 1982, the MSR Whisperlite has proven itself as the most dependable lightweight liquid fuel portable stove on the market. In those years, competition has gotten its act together, and other stoves perform as well or better in some areas. Nevertheless, the Whisperlite has been the choice of institutions and expeditions for decades and is the least expensive white gas stove in this review. It is versatile, durable, and easily field repairable.

Compare to Similar Products

 
MSR Whisperlite
This Product
MSR Whisperlite
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $120 List
$119.95 at Amazon
$64.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$45 List
$44.73 at Amazon
$18.98 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$17.00 List
$16.95 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
34
77
75
63
57
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Small, durable, inexpensive, versatile, easy to repairLightweight, works in the wind, great piezo igniter, fuel efficient, very stable for a small canister stoveUltralight, fuel efficient, affordable, quick to boil even in windGood at simmering, simple operationTiny, light, cheap
Cons Heavy, difficult to simmer, more complicated than a canister stovePot supports pack up separately from stoveA bit loud, possibly less durable pot stabilizersNo piezoelectric igniter, slow to boil, bulky, somewhat heavySmall burner head, poor wind performance, not great fuel efficiency
Bottom Line This legendary liquid fuel stove is the choice of expeditions and institutionsOur favorite small canister stove, providing the best performance for most backpackersThis affordable and fuel-efficient canister stove is also tiny and ultralight, perfect for your next backcountry adventureThis standard small canister stove is good for simmering but bulky and a bit heavy in your packA shockingly small, ultra lightweight, and straightforward backpacking stove at an impressively low price
Rating Categories MSR Whisperlite Soto Windmaster Soto Amicus Primus Essential Trail BRS-3000T
Fuel Efficiency (25%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
2.0
Weight (25%)
2.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
10.0
Simmering Ability (20%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Ease Of Use (20%)
2.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Boil Time (10%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
3.0
Specs MSR Whisperlite Soto Windmaster Soto Amicus Primus Essential Trail BRS-3000T
Category Liquid Fuel Small Canister Small Canister Small Canister Small Canister
Essential Weight (stove or stove + integrated pot only) 11.5 oz 3.0 oz 2.79 oz 4.5 oz 0.9 oz
Trail Weight (stove, fuel, pot) 23.23 oz 15.63 oz 14.92 oz 16.63 oz 12.63 oz
Wind Boil Time (1 liter, 2-4mph) 8:09 min:sec 5:46 min:sec 6:30 min:sec 10:10 min 14:45 min:sec
Boil Time (1 liter) 7:54 min:sec 4 min:sec 3:52 min: sec 5:30 min:sec 5:13 min:sec
Packed Weight (stove + all accessories) 15.2 oz 3.5 oz 3.5 oz 4.5 oz 1 oz
Dimensions 4" x 4" x 4" 4.7" x 3.9" x 3.6" 3.9" × 0.7" × 6.5" 4.3" x 2.4" 2" x 1.2" x 1.3"
Fuel Type White Gas Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane Isobutane
Additional Included Items Windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, and stuff sack Stuff sack, pot support Stuff sack None Stuff sack
Piezo Igniter? No Yes Yes No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Backpackers and mountaineers have depended on the original Whisperlite stove for all of their cooking and snow melting needs for decades. While it is still a great stove, indeed, the best liquid fuel stove in our review, newer stove technology has more to offer modern backpackers. That said, for expeditions and varsity level snow melting, this is still the stove of choice.

Performance Comparison


MSR Whisperlite backpacking stove - the guys watch and learn as their guide, jessica haist prepares...
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

Fuel Efficiency


As with all liquid fuel stoves, some knowledge and skill are 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 more fuel-efficient than most other liquid fuel stoves. 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!

Getting the included windscreen wrapped tightly around the pot is important for the operation of any liquid fuel stove. Not only will this more effectively screen the stove from the wind, but it also boosts fuel efficiency in calm conditions.

Weight


The trail weight of the Whisperlite is 11.5 ounces. Though it is the lightest of the liquid fuel stoves, it's heavier than all of the canister stoves in our review.

Simmering Ability


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. Most of these tricks begin with depressurizing the fuel bottle: prime, light, turn off, release fuel pressure, pump three times, and light again.

MSR Whisperlite backpacking stove - making pancakes on the whisperlite at a remote basecamp.
Making pancakes on the WhisperLite at a remote basecamp.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

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 and using the windscreen 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.

Backpackers who want to introduce some finer cuisine to their wilderness experience without having to become a stove whisperer should look into one of the small canister options, though be aware that these generally don't work well with big pots and pans.

Ease Of Use


All liquid fuel stoves require more set up and care when operating than any canister stove, but the Whisperlite is the most straightforward of the bunch. Readers new to cooking their own meals in the backcountry should be aware that any liquid fuel stove presents much more open flame during normal operation than a canister gas stove. While using a canister gas stove in a tent or vestibule is definitely frowned upon by stove manufacturers (and tent manufacturers), using a liquid fuel stove in a tent or vestibule is much more of a risk.

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. This stove is a great choice for any extended backpacking trip, especially when cooking for large groups. Many outdoor schools, including Outward Bound and NOLS, use it for all of their expeditions. It 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. Almost any liquid fuel stove will be more stable than a canister stove, and this one has average stability for its sector.

MSR Whisperlite backpacking stove - the standard msr whisperlite with the original leg design where the...
The standard MSR Whisperlite with the original leg design where the fuel line threads through one of the legs.
Credit: Max Neale

Boil Time


In our tests, the Whisperlite brought 1 liter of water to a rolling boil in 7 minutes and 54 seconds. This is the middle of the pack compared to the other liquid fuel stoves. It took about 1 minute and 30 seconds to prime; this was not included in the boil time.

In our 2 - 4 mph wind test of the stoves, all of them boiled a little more slowly, though the Whisperlite only took 14 seconds longer to bring 1 liter of water to a rolling boil.

MSR Whisperlite backpacking stove - jason gets down to the arduous task of melting snow on mount shasta...
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

Value


The Whisperlite presents 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 lasts a very long time and is also the least expensive liquid fuel stove in this review.

Conclusion


If your backcountry travel involves large groups on extended trips or melted snow as your only source of liquid for more than a few days, then this is the stove for you. It is versatile, inexpensive, and relatively lightweight and simple. For shorter trips, groups less than four, or any time when weight and space are at a premium, a canister stove is probably a better call. However, while it requires more learning and maintenance than a canister stove, in certain environments, the MSR Whisperlite is hard to beat.

Ian McEleney & Jessica Haist
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More