Recently, I took the MSR Whisperlight Universal Stove apart. Theoretically and practically. This stove is my partner in crime when we’re doing our thing together in the outdoor kitchen.
And while I was doing so, I realised that there was a big difference between the genders when they packed up for a backcountry trip. It looked a lot like this:
- Bag of spices
- Heavy pans (good for crepes and a pot for soups)
- Cooking spoon, spoon, fork, knifes
- zucchini, salad, tomatoes, pasta, beans, meats
- MSR whisperlite universal stove
- And the question”Hon, do we have enough fuel for the trip?”
- MSR rocket lite stove
- A few trek n eat packets
I think you get the picture. Cliché , cliché, cliché ! But there’s some truth in it. Ladies love to pamper their sweethearts with gourmet menus. (and it’s mostly because they want to pamper themselves too)
And then I also found this sentence somewhere in the web:
“The MSR whisperlite universal is great for usage to cook in groups or cook up a gourmet meal”
No wonder, I have been feeling so comfortable with this stove for the last 2 decades. And yes, I totally agree on this point. This stove works. It works all the time. And if it stops working, then it takes a few hands down to repair and clean it to get it running again. But I prefer to leave that to my husband. I’m just too busy cutting those onions and way too lazy.
As the name implies, The MSR whisperlite universal works with different fuels. It’s great for travelling abroad when you’re not sure about your fuel supplies and if getting the right cartridge is a problem. With the language barrier, it’s sometimes impossible to try express yourself trying to tell them you need some fuel to make a big fire with your stove. They think you’re trying to burn the country down. White gas*, automobile gas , kerosene, petroleum and diesel are fuels you can usually get in every country. That solves a lot of problems when you are out on a longer field trip and run out of fuel. White gas has been our favourite until today. It doesn’t stink, nor does it stain much. The other clean alternative is to use the gas cartridge. But I need more and something that lasts, so it all comes back to white gas. These bottles come in 1 litre which makes it easy for storage in the trunk.
*Reinigungsbenzin (in german)
The stove weighs ~550 g. It is no light weight for a backpacker. The canister bottle comes in 750 ml or 1 litre. We prefer to use the 1 litre version as this is also optimal for usage calculations. Not much change in design when they brought out the new model. Just that the feet was flat (not anymore just a bended wire) and the area for the pot to stand is a little broader, which gives the stove overall a better, more solid standing.
1 litre of canister (white gas) supplies us with a week of cooking. That involves the morning tea, and dinner with a pasta water and a self-made sauce. 30 minute each day for a week. I try to avoid making meals that requires lots of simmering and cooking. But guys who are reading this post wouldn’t even think about it. They would go more for the quick and simple, but “for them not less tasty method” ;)
So you got me there. I never use my stop watch. Tea water (about 1.5 litre) boils after I put the pot on the stove, go back to get the tea leaves (out of the box) ready, look for those mugs (daang, where did they hide themselves) look for the sieve and a second pot to save up the sieved tea. All these takes about 3.5 mins. Too long? Mind you, it’s early in the morning.
After using the stove a couple of times, you will find that your stove will start to soot up. It also depends on what kind of fuel you are using. Say for example you’ve been using white gas all the time, and fuel ran out. So you have to get fuel in the next gasoline station (automobile gas) which is way off less purified (more particles in it) than the white gas version, you will find more soot in your stove too. Worse, if you use diesel or kerosene. Don’t forget that there’s a special jet for each kind of fuel you’re using. If you’re going to change fuel, don’t forget to change the jet BEFORE you let the fuel run through. Whichever way, once your stove soots up, you will get less aggressive flames. A small cleaning on the jet of the stove would help get it back in shape. The shaker needle, makes it easy to clear the soot out from the jet. You will need a few steps to get them done. Here’s a nice video showing you how to maintain and clean those parts properly.
What could be better:
- The Flame adjuster isn’t anymore like it was before. We have been using this for 6 weeks straight on our last road trip, and our strong little fingers were prone to breaking that wired flame adjuster real soon. Sometimes, it’s just plain difficult to know when the fuel stops running. I did wish it was one solid material, instead of just a wire with a rubber.
- The new fuel line is now a little stiffer than it was before. It is also formed in such a way, that the fuel bottle needs to be tilted a little (using the given legs/stands) especially when you’re using gas cartridges. Since I was using white gas most of the time, I didn’t have to switch, nor did I have to tilt. But I also couldn’t find those legs most of the time, which left me with a wobbly stove that needs to be tilted off with a little stone to get the stove standing right, even though I was not using the cartridge
- It takes some getting used to that those flames still burn after you have turn off the stove. This lead us in the beginning to believe that we were not turning the knob tight enough to stop further fuel from running out. I guess we need more fine feeling to use the stove. But I would’ve loved the idea when I know somehow that I have definitely switched off all resources, and no fuel is leaking out.
I love this stove. Don’t leave home without it. Seriously – it is one of the best stoves on the market if you’re looking for something that is stable, cooks well, simmers (missed that on the older model – it’s not a feature, but this stove now allows you to regulate the flames a little better than before) and the stove can be killed (unless you drive your truck over it). It took me some time to get used to the Flame adjuster, to regulate the flames. The extra twist or two to get some fuel out just didn’t get in the head. Within time, I got it. Whats cool, I don’t have to wait till the flame is out, it goes from the yellow flame into the blue flame once it is warm enough. You’ll only have to be watching close enough not to miss the point when the fuel you let run out just now, runs out. Also, it was a new getting used to when I switch off the flames, and the stove continues to burn off the rest of the leftover fuel in the tube completely. That leaves me a minute extra with a small, tiny flame. So my learnings was, switch it off earlier. It’s a great stove, when it comes to multiple fuel usage possibilities, especially while travelling in europe. The stove comes with a wind shield and an aluminium plate for difficult places (like grass, sand, leafy, wet spots) to put up the stove.
I have done some outdoor cooking over the past years with this stove. These recipes fit well if you’re in premises where water can be used in abundance and when you’re in the mood to pamper yourself with a different meal. I haven’t made crepe yet. But it’s on my to-do list ;) Guys, if you’re still fine with your trek n eat, go ahead. But don’t invite the girls. ;)
*Disclosure: Thanks to Bergfreunde.de for the sample for review purposes. My opinion and views are based on my experience.