Often times when backpacking, one of the first things to get sacrificed in the name of weight savings is good cooking gear and food. I don’t think I can count how many times I’ve suffered through a weekend of peak bagging eating only PROBARs, jerky, and energy goo. However, you don’t have to be a masochist when backpacking – especially when it comes to nutrition. If you’re looking for a lightweight, fast boiling stove, it seems you have to always make a compromise on efficiency (meaning bring more, heavy fuel) or weight. We’ve been hauling the MSR WindBurner ($129.95) system on backcountry trips the last couple of months, and have finally found a solution to the stove problem.
Like the Reactor stove, the WindBurner features MSR’s radiant heating system. Simply put, the multiple fins of the heat exchanger on the pot allow for more surface area to be heated, and more efficient heat transfer from the stove to the pot. The WindBurner takes the burner and corresponding pot one step further than the Reactor and similar competitors though. A more enclosed design is combined with an internal pressure regulator, making the WindBurner function in high wind and at colder temperatures than other fuel canister stoves.
If you’ve ever tried to fire up a Jetboil or Reactor on a windy ridgeline, you know what a big development this is. The WindBurner is able to provide consistent heat in the wind due to the solid body around the burner and the screen that covers it. While it does sacrifice some power versus the Reactor, the WindBurner will boil 0.5 L of water in two and a half minutes (the Reactor can handle a full liter in three and a half) and we found the ease of use more than make up for that.
How easy is it to use? The all-in-one WindBurner system and a four-ounce fuel canister quickly unpack out of the one liter pot. It’s also pretty foolproof to get hooked up and fired up. I’ve handed it off to a few different friends who had never handled a WindBurner before, and without fail, we’ve had hot water for dehydrated backpacking food, hot chocolate, or coffee in under five minutes from pulling the stove out of the pack. Nesting the whole system back together when you’re done using it is just as easy. This helps simplify packing, and more importantly, keeps your backcountry kitchen completely organized.
We’ve lately been using the WindBurner on cold fall mornings to brew coffee at our favorite bouldering spots. The French press kit ($20) has been an absolute godsend when you’re trying to muster up the courage to take off your warm down jacket and get on a climbing route that is surrounded by snow. Convenience and weight are king when it comes to bringing extra gear on any trip, whether it’s a day at the crag or a week out on the trail. The MSR WindBurner stove has more than earned its place as a backcountry travel essential, and we don’t pack up with out it.