Hands-on Gear Review

MSR XGK-EX Review

MSR XGK-EX
Price:  $160 List | $119.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Boils water and melts snow fast, durable, reliable, easy to fix, multi-fuel capability
Cons:  Heavy and bulky, no temperature control
Editors' Rating:   
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Category:  Liquid Fuel
Weight (ounces):  13.8 oz.
Dimensions (inches):  5x3.9x3.5 in.
Manufacturer:   MSR

Our Verdict

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.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jessica Haist

Last Updated:
Tuesday
February 10, 2015

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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.
Jessica Haist

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Most recent review: February 10, 2015
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