Hands-on Gear Review

MSR Windburner Review

MSR WindBurner
Price:  $150 List | $149.95 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Windproof, fast, fuel efficient
Cons:  Heavy, poor stove/pot connection, no Piezo ignitor
Bottom line:  Great fuel efficiency and wind performance in a not-so-user-friendly package.
Editors' Rating:   
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Boil Time (1 liter):  5:36 min:sec
Trail Weight:  15.0 oz
Packed Weight:  16.8 oz
Manufacturer:   MSR

Our Verdict

With the creation of the Windburner, MSR took some of the best pieces of the Reactor and Jetboil's designs and put them together. It has superior wind resistance, a sturdy design, and great fuel efficiency using MSR's Radiant Burner Technology. We tested this stove in extremely windy and cold conditions and it proved itself worthy. While this stove is a distinct step up from the Reactor in most ways, it falls short on some of the basic conveniences of either Jetboil stove while still weighing more.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jessica Haist & Ian McEleney

Last Updated:
Wednesday
May 24, 2017

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The Windburner is one of MSR's new generation integrated canister stoves. It is very wind resistant, boils fast, and is fuel-efficient. This model incorporates significant improvements over the MSR Reactor but lacks some of the basic features found on the Jetboil Flash and Jetboil MiniMo models.

Performance Comparison


The Windburner performed well at altitude and cold temperatures. Here Ian makes a hot drink to start his day up Mount Whitney.
The Windburner performed well at altitude and cold temperatures. Here Ian makes a hot drink to start his day up Mount Whitney.

Fuel Efficiency


In a field of four fuel efficient integrated canister stoves, the Windburner is the most fuel efficient - but the others are right on its heels. It's better than the Reactor in calm conditions, and burned off the MiniMo and Flash in our 8 - 10 mph wind test. Its insulated pot and radiant burner/pot interface make it extremely fast and efficient at boiling water.

If MSR could find a way to integrate a piezo ignitor into the unit, it would make the Windburner completely windproof. As with the Reactor, the only time the Windburner blew out during our review was between the time we were lighting it and when we put the pot on the burner. There are tricks to make this less likely to happen, like half sheltering the burner with the pot, but it feels like you need three hands to do this. If MSR could integrate a piezo similar to the Jetboil, or if there was a way to light it while the pot was on the burner, this stove would be invincible and extremely fuel efficient!

In breezy conditions lighting the Windburner can be a challenge.
In breezy conditions lighting the Windburner can be a challenge.

Weight


Unfortunately, the Windburner does not exceed in this category. It had the heaviest trail weight in the review, 15 oz, even heavier than the liquid fuel stoves. We were disappointed that MSR could not make this product lighter than the Reactor. It seems like there is a lot of unnecessary metal and plastic parts that could be trimmed. The Reactor weighs 14.6 oz and the Jetboil MiniMo weighs 12.2 oz. We think there are ways that this stove could be lightened up, and hope that MSR will count their ounces more carefully in the future.

Simmering


As with other stoves in the integrated canister stove class, the Windburner is solely for boiling water. Any attempt at cooking something more than Ramen Noodles or boiling water for freeze dried food will leave a burnt, half-cooked mess. The MSR Pocket Rocket, Primus Classic Trail, Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0 take the cake for their supreme simmering capabilities.

Boil Time


At 5 minutes and 36 seconds, the Windburner is in the middle of the pack of integrated canister stoves when it comes to boil time. However, remember that if any wind is added to the equation, the Flash and Whisper Litemay simply blow out and never boil at all. The MiniMo is also significantly handicapped in the wind. The Windburner — as its name may suggest - is very wind resistant and reliable even in inclement weather, and therefore its boil times will be much faster than other canister stoves in all conditions other than perfectly still.

Integrated canister stoves being put to the test. The Jetboil Flash can keep up with the integrated canister pack when boiling water  except when the winds pick up. The MSR Windburner and Reactor are much more wind resistant than either Jetboil.
Integrated canister stoves being put to the test. The Jetboil Flash can keep up with the integrated canister pack when boiling water, except when the winds pick up. The MSR Windburner and Reactor are much more wind resistant than either Jetboil.

Ease Of Use


Though this was the Windburner's weakest category, it does have features we like. The lid on the pot snaps nicely onto the sturdy, BPA-free cup. The coozy does not absorb water and the handle does not droop over time — unlike the coozy on the Flash. The control valve wire is the largest in the test, reducing the likelihood that we'll burn our fingers when trying to turn off a stove that's gone into volcano mode. A 4 oz fuel can nestle nicely in the pot with room to spare for a lighter.

One of our testers had a problem with the included accessory cup getting jammed onto the bottom of the stove when packing his pack. We eventually used a multi-tool to pry it off. We read at least one online review where this also happened. While our testing team often leaves this cup behind (either eating out of the pot or bringing a collapsible bowl), backpackers who use the cup should be aware of this potential issue.

It can be hard to tell by sound alone if the Windburner is lit. When the indicator wire (seen here) is glowing the burner is hot.
It can be hard to tell by sound alone if the Windburner is lit. When the indicator wire (seen here) is glowing the burner is hot.

One of the things our testers like most about integrated canister stoves (even more than fuel efficiency) is the coupling of the burner and pot. This makes all stoves use easier and more convenient and is especially helpful in alpine and big wall climbing situations. We are disappointed that the Windburner pot does not mate more reassuringly with the burner, like the Jetboil stoves do. Our testers voted this burner "Most Likely To Fall Off When You Least Expect It".

The lid to the Windburner pot is great at first but we found that over many heating and cooling cycles it seemed to warp and not snap on as well. Though the handle stands the test of time it is small and tricky to hold onto with gloves. The Windburner is the tallest and tippiest of the integrated canister stoves we tested. There is a canister stand included with the Windburner that is meant to help with this problem, but that does little to change the fundamental problem - high center of gravity.

Integrated canister stoves are basically impossible to repair in the field. One feature that users should be aware of with this stove is the Thermal Trip Mechanism that MSR has installed in case of dangerous overheating that could result in a nasty explosion of the canister. This mechanism will shut down the stove if it gets too hot. Users should know how to reset this mechanism in the field - before you go out — so you will be able to continue to use your stove if this does happen. This is not a common occurrence, but the mechanism can only be reset once before it must be returned to the manufacturer. This feature is an improvement over the Reactor. Once the Reactor's Thermal Trip Mechanism is deployed, the stove is simply rendered inoperable — leaving you without a functioning stove.

Best Application


Cold adventure missions and quick excursions are what the Windburner is meant for. We take the Windburner along with us on overnight mountaineering trips and backpacking trips where we are only eating freeze dried food that just requires adding water. Longer backpacking trips or extended mountaineering expeditions are better served by a more versatile stove. We also bring it along with us on cold days at the crag, ice climbing, bouldering, or rock climbing when we know we'll want a quick hot drink or cup of soup. Looking to melt a lot of snow at your base camp in Alaska? Click on over to the MSR Whisperlite. Those in need the lightest of the light for their fastpacking project should check out the MSR Pocket Rocket 2.

We ate a lot of Ramen noodles while testing the Windburner. It is not great at cooking elaborate meals  and is best for meals that just require boiling water.
We ate a lot of Ramen noodles while testing the Windburner. It is not great at cooking elaborate meals, and is best for meals that just require boiling water.

Value


At $149.95, the Windburner is a decent value. However, the Jetboil MiniMo is $15 less and is equal or better in most ways except for gusty winds.

Conclusion


We think that the Windburner could render the Reactor obsolete because it has a few more desirable features, such as its ability to attach the pot and burner, the great cozy and lid, and it performs virtually the same function: boiling water fast and efficiently. This new product still has a few features that could be tweaked, like the lid and the pot/burner coupling. If MSR could find a way to add a Piezo ignitor and lighten it up a few ounces, the Windburner would be unstoppable! Regardless, the Windburner still outperforms the other integrated canister stoves in wind resistance and fuel efficiency.

The Windburner is a great snow melter and boils fast!
The Windburner is a great snow melter and boils fast!

Jessica Haist & Ian McEleney

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