Liquid fuel stoves bring the versatility of your home kitchen to the basecamp, and even on the trail. They allow you to no longer opt for freeze-dried meals or ramen for dinner every single night. After a few days out, instant oatmeal gets old and all you can think about is a breakfast burrito from your favorite place.
Since 1969, Mountain Safety Research has been finding ways to make gear better, safer, and more reliable. The MSR DragonFly and the WhisperLite are two of their leading models for liquid fuel stoves. They are indeed reliable and they give you a lot of cooking power in the outdoors.
The DragonFly is one of the larger liquid fuel stoves on the market but is also one of the most versatile. It brings a strong and rigid frame to the game while allowing to use of kerosene, diesel, or white gas fuel sources. It brings everything you need for a successful simmer in the basecamp kitchen.
Outdoor professionals have chosen the WhisperLite as their go-to stove for decades. It is incredibly easy to maintain in the field and brings a diverse range of foods that you can cook with it. Combine this with its easy-to-use and durable design, and you get an incredible option for those that love to eat well in the backcountry.
|MSR DragonFly||MSR WhisperLite|
|Size and Weight||14 ounces|
6 in x 4 in x 4 in
6 in x 4 in x 4 in
|Fuel Efficiency||5.3 L water boiled per 100 ml white gas||5.1 L water boiled per 100 ml white gas|
|Flame Control||Dual Valve design for precision control||Great control with high ability to simmer|
|Ease of Use||ShakerJet tech makes it easy to clean and maintain in the field||Straightforward design and ShakerJet technology makes it incredibly easy to use|
|Value||Not really worth the price unless you want gourmet meals||Incredible value for getting better food in the backcountry|
A lot goes into making a quality liquid fuel stove for us to use with reliable confidence while in the field. MSR has been doing years and years of research to provide us with the best possible gear. Now, we’re faced with two of their own products and need to make the decision between the two. To help find out what best fits you, we’ll dive deeper into each specification here.
Weight and Packability
The MSR DragonFly is much larger on the scale of all liquid fuel stoves available on the market today. It weighs in at 14 ounces but folds down to ⅓ of its working size. When it’s folded down, it can fit into a 2-liter pot for easy storage. The biggest weight and size occupation comes from the fuel itself, like with all liquid fuel stoves. The size and weight of the DragonFly make it a much better option for car camping or bringing to cook breakfast and dinner at the basecamp.
The WhisperLite ends up being just slightly lighter than the DragonFly. At 11.5 ounces, this stove is still heavier than any other style of stove you can get for the outdoors, but is on the lighter side of liquid fuel stoves. It’s hard to commit to such a heavy stove, but for long boat trips or any form of trip where you aren’t carrying the weight, this is definitely worth it.
Winner: The MSR WhisperLite is much lighter than the DragonFly and the flexible fuel line makes it easy to pack up. It still isn’t necessarily lightweight or small, but it does a great job for the size. If weight is the highest on your priority list, liquid fuel stoves shouldn’t be the first place you look.
One of the big draws of the MSR DragonFly is its ability to burn with three different fuels. Whatever you have access to, or prefer, you can run with kerosene, diesel, or white gas. The diesel and kerosene sources will both boil 5.7 liters of water with 100 ml of fuel while white gas will boil 5.3. So, the fuel efficiency varies in this way, but the three fuel system makes this an incredibly efficient stove.
The WhisperLite, on the other hand, only functions with white gas. The stove boils 5.1 liters of water with 100 ml of white gas, which puts it slightly under the DragonFly. In 3.9 minutes, the stove can have a liter of water boiled and ready to go. It’s not as quick as Jetboil type stoves, but still is quick.
Winner: The DragonFly both uses less fuel and boils water faster (3.5 minutes for a liter of water with diesel or white gas, 3.9 with kerosene) than the WhisperLite. This is rather impressive for a liquid fuel stove and really shows the quality of the MSR products.
Liquid fuel stoves are the go-to choice for those that want the ability to simmer and cook on a low, controlled flame rather than the jetstream fire that most other stoves offer. The MSR DragonFly uses a dual valve system in order to provide users with the best possible flame control. This was engineered by MSR for exactly this purpose, and it really does its job well.
The WhisperLite is not as well known for flame control. In order to get the best control, people have developed a variety of experimental methods like depressurizing the fuel bottle, utilizing a specific number of pumps, or creating towers from the windscreen. Basically, all things that noone wants to have to do just to get the control they want.
Winner: With the dual valve design, the DragonFly takes this category with ease. It offers some of the best ability to simmer in the entire stove market. It was made for exactly this and does so well at it that it’s impossible to not award the ultimate flame control award to the DragonFly.
Ease of Use
Liquid fuel stoves simply aren’t that easy to use. There are a lot of different parts going on and setup usually involves a lot more than just screwing the stove onto a fuel canister. You need to pressurize the system, connect everything correctly, and let it burn down to the proper flame. It takes time. The DragonFly uses the Shaker Jet technology to help make maintenance easy, but it just isn’t enough.
The WhisperLite also requires a huge amount of setup and maintenance to get the best, or really any, performance. The design is straight-forward, but you need to have a pretty comprehensive understanding of liquid fuel stoves to do so without making matters worse. However, the WhisperLite is a whole lot easier to use than most of its competitors also utilizing liquid fuel.
Winner: There really is no winner of easy use in liquid fuel stoves, but since the WhisperLite really does start to make this a bit easier, it wins this category. Field maintenance is pretty easy to understand and once you learn the basics, operating the stove is simple, just takes a longer time than most.
The MSR DragonFly comes in at a pretty high price point as far as stoves go. It is really only worth the price if you are unable to go without the most extravagant meals in the backcountry. If you want to have a solid kitchen inside of your basecamp and feed the masses with great good, then it may end up being worth the price, but there are still better options.
The WhisperLite on the other hand gives us a great value. It’s smaller, lightweight, and easier to use than the DragonFly, for a lower price. It is the choice of professionals in every field for every reason. Bringing this out in the backcountry of the harshest environments has never gone wrong for me personally, and it will continue to be the stove of choice for cooking good food where everything else is difficult.
Winner: The WhisperLite easily provides the best value in the entire liquid fuel stove market. It will last forever and is one of the more inexpensive options. There isn’t much to say here, other than that the WhisperLite is worth the purchase.
Outdoor professionals have been making this decision for us for years on end. The WhisperLite isn’t only the choice between these two, it is the choice. It is a great little stove that doesn’t present too many complications or difficulties with setup or operation. The WhisperLite helps you bring a little bit of extra comfort food out into the backcountry where you may be used to never feeling fully satisfied with a belly half-ful of ramen and Pop-tarts.