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MSR Windburner Review

Great fuel efficiency and wind performance in a not-so-user-friendly package
MSR WindBurner
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Price:  $150 List | $149.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Windproof, fast, fuel efficient
Cons:  Heavy, poor stove/pot connection, no Piezo ignitor
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Ian McEleney & Jessica Haist  ⋅  Apr 29, 2020
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 17
  • Fuel Efficiency - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 5
  • Simmering Ability - 20% 5
  • Ease Of Use - 20% 7
  • Boil Time - 10% 7

Our Verdict

With the creation of the WindBurner, MSR took some of the best pieces of other 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 it is a distinct step up from the Reactor in most ways, it falls short on some of the basic conveniences of other integrated canister stoves while still weighing more.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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 but lacks some of the basic features found on less expensive, lighter integrated canister stoves.

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 six fuel-efficient integrated canister stoves, the WindBurner is in the middle of the pack. 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. The only time this stove 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 add a working piezo igniter to this stove, it 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 excel in this category. It has the heaviest trail weight in our review at 15 ounces, even heavier than the liquid fuel stoves. We are disappointed that MSR could not make this product lighter than the Reactor. It seems like there is a lot of unnecessary metal, as well as plastic parts that could be trimmed. 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 Ability


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. If you want supreme simmering capability, look to a small canister design instead.

Ease Of Use


This isn't a stellar category for the WindBurner wither, but it does have features we like. The lid on the pot snaps nicely onto the sturdy, BPA-free cup. The koozie does not absorb water, and the handle does not droop over time. The control valve wire is the largest in our test, reducing the likelihood that you'll burn our fingers when trying to turn off a stove that's gone into volcano mode. A 4-ounce 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. 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 also the tallest and tippiest of the integrated canister stoves we tested. There is a canister stand included that is meant to help with this problem, but that does little to change the fundamental problem — a 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 heading out — so they will be able to continue to use the 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.

We ate a lot of Ramen noodles while testing the WindBurner. It is not great at cooking elaborate meals  being better suited to 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, being better suited to meals that just require boiling water.

Boil Time


At 5 minutes and 17 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, most of the competition will be handicapped. The WindBurner — as its name may suggest — is very wind resistant and reliable even in inclement weather. 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.

Value


The WindBurner is a decent value if you're sure you'll have no choice but to cook in inclement weather. Most of the other canister stoves cost less and are equal or better in most ways except for gusty winds.

Conclusion


We think that the MSR WindBurner is a good stove that 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, this stove would be unstoppable! Regardless, it does well 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!

Ian McEleney & Jessica Haist