The MSR WindBurner Stove System is an all-in-one cooking system for backpacking and camping. Choosing a stove for backpacking is always a challenge, because the lock-on cup makes for a very stable and secure cooking experience, and the radiant burner heats water quickly and efficiently.
A Quick Look at the MSR WindBurner
- Where to buy: Amazon, REI.
- Best for: Backpackers and through-hikers
- Pros: The MSR WindBurner truly is windproof and cold-proof, with an internal pressure regulator that allows for the isobutane fuel to be fed continuously no matter the weather. The integrated cup design makes the entire system stable and easy-to-use.
- Cons: Heavier and larger than some backpacking stoves, this might not be the best choice for ultralight backpackers. Additionally, the lack of incremental heat adjustment means this is a stove for boiling water, not for cooking.
- Alternatives: A similar backpacking stove in this class with an integrated locking cup is the JetBoil MiniMo. If you are looking for a cooking system with non-stick surfaces, try the Optimus Elektra Fe.
Why Trust Me
Camping and life outdoors are important parts of my life, and having top-quality gear is something that has always been an area where I am not willing to compromise. When I was younger, I was willing to buy things and hope that they would work out. Now that I am well into my third decade of making buying decisions, I have become a lot more selective about my gear. I quickly lose patience with gear that doesn’t hold up well or meet my needs. My research has shown me that while it is not perfect, the WindBurner has technology and features that set it apart from other backpacking stoves and make it worth looking at seriously.
Speed and Burn Time
Boiling a liter of water in just under five minutes is a decent but not outstandingly quick time. While there are some backpacking stoves that can boil a liter of water more quickly, the MSR WindBurner utilizes a Radiant burner to maximize fuel efficiently. MSR explains the science behind how this technology works, which is complex, but you don’t have to understand it to benefit from it.
For example, a traditional backpacking canister stove might have a total burn time of only 45 minutes for an entire canister of fuel, but the MSR WindBurner can make a canister of fuel last for up to 95 minutes. That is a lot more cooking time, which means fewer canisters to carry on long backpacking trips!
Cold and Wind Hardiness
One of the main issues that canister stoves have is functionality in very cold temperatures. Cold air temperatures affect how the isobutane pressurizes, so stoves without an internal pressure regulator do not ignite or stay lit when the temperature drops. The MSR WindBurner’s pressure regulator for the fuel canister does not suffer those issues, which makes it a good choice for winter camping. The enclosed design with primary air exchange means that the flame will not extinguish even in gusty winds, since all the air it needs is pulled in through ports on either side of the control knob.
Additionally, the locking cup design means that it is less likely to spill and slosh water to extinguish a flame – something that all of us who use portable stoves have experienced!
One thing that I have always appreciated about MSR products is that they are obviously designed by people who know what it is like to have to pack everything up and move out quickly every morning. The MSR WindBurner’s design of fitting all its components into itself is clever, since it also protects the items from being crushed inside a pack. I find that being able to pack up the entire stove, a cup that holds a liter of water, a bowl, and the fuel canister itself into one fairly compact item is really helpful organizationally as well, since all the items needed for cooking are always in the one place.
While weight should never be the primary reason for choosing a stove, it is always an important factor when thinking about adding heft to your pack. At just under one pound without the fuel canister, the MSR WindBurner does weigh a little more than some backpacking stoves.
However, the MSR WindBurner has some features that account for its weight, including the integrated locking cup system and the bowl with the strainer. Adding those items to your average backpacking stove increases the weight, too, so not having to worry about those additions is a plus for the MSR WindBurner.
Value and Cost
The MSR WindBurner is not an inexpensive backpacking stove, but when you factor in the added value of the fewer fuel canisters you will need to buy, other stoves become more expensive over the course of their use. The integrated cookware included with the MSR WindBurner are items that you do not need to buy, so including those items in the overall price of the stove helps you to see the value of it.
What I Like About the MSR WindBurner
There is a lot to like about the MSR WindBurner. The system integrated cup which locks on for stability is appreciated, since it makes the whole cooking system feel secure. True to the name, it handles the wind well. Thanks to the radiant burner, the long and efficient burn time for fuel means that getting more than an hour and half of cooking time out of a single 4-ounce canister is possible. The nesting design of the cooking system, which allows the packing of the fuel canister inside, means that all the cooking essentials are stored together – no more rifling through a pack to find the one piece that dropped to the bottom!
What I Don’t Like About the MSR WindBurner
An integrated piezo lighter would be a great addition to the design, since the lack of push button ignition means the stove’s operation is dependent on having a hand-held lighter, flint and steel, or match nearby. Like many backpacking stoves, this is a ‘boil-water-only’ stove, but having the ability to simmer and cook would be appreciated. That is easier to accomplish with the MSR WindBurner Ceramic Skillet or WindBurner Sauce Pot, but you must utilize the accessories that are made for this particular cooking system – additional after-market pots and pans won’t work.
One other issue that some users of this stove have had is that the cup can become too firmly wedged into the pot of the MSR WindBurner and become nearly impossible to remove without damaging it, so you must treat it with care.
- Similar in design to the MSR WindBurner is the Jetboil MiniMo cooking system. With push button ignition and a finely tuned simmer control, the Jetboil MiniMo does have some features that the WindBurner lacks.
- The Optimus Elektra Fe cooking system is another option for cooking while backpacking that has a piezo ignitor and includes a clip-on windshield. The nonstick cookware included in the set might be a draw for some, as is the simmer control for more precise cooking.
Q: Is the MSR WindBurner a good choice for winter camping?
A: Absolutely. Not all isobutane canister stoves can handle temperature extremes, but the pressure regulator on the MSR WindBurner will help keep the fuel flowing in very cold temperatures. If the mercury has plunged below zero, even the pressure regulator might not be enough to keep the fuel flowing, so the manufacturer does recommend keeping your fuel canister as warm as possible. You can place the fuel canister in a bowl of water while you are using it to help keep the canister’s pressure up. Alternatively, some people like to keep it at the foot of their sleeping bag or in an inside coat pocket to help maximize fuel flow.
Q: How does this stove burn fuel so efficiently?
A: To be honest, I am not sure I’m qualified to answer that. The radiant burner on the MSR WindBurner is a complex technological innovation, but to the best of my understanding, it is able to get very hot and then retain that heat, so the amount of fuel that is needed to boil water is reduced. What this means is that the amount of fuel you would need to carry is reduced, since this stove will burn for about twice as long as other canister stoves. This is a huge benefit for backpackers!
Q: Is the weight and size worth it for backpacking?
A: Only you can determine how much weight is too much for you, but don’t write off this stove on weight alone! The MSR WindBurner does pack a lot inside, so not needing to pack a cup or bowl in addition to your stove will likely more than make up for the weight that this stove has on ultralight backpacking stoves. Additionally, the radiant burner uses less fuel, so the fact that you need to pack only half as much fuel for the same amount of burn time is very backpacking-friendly.
The MSR WindBurner’s best features are its packability, stability, and ability to burn steadily in windy conditions. While it would be nice to have push button ignition, having several means of starting a fire while backpacking is absolutely necessary anyway, so the lack of integrated ignition is not a dealbreaker for me. That the MSR WindBurner is able to function well in cold temperatures with the pressure regulator means that it is a piece of equipment that can be depended on in a variety of situations. The fuel efficiency of the radiant burner means that it is likely to become my backpacking stove of choice for many years to come.