Since its birth in 1982, the MSR Whisperlite has been the staple backcountry stove in the outdoor adventure industry. Many of the leading outdoor education schools, like NOLS, swear by this trusty little stove. It isn’t necessarily the most lightweight, the fastest boiler, or the cheapest, but it is one the most solid pieces of tech you can take into the backcountry with you.
Weighing in at 11.5 ounces, it cannot compete with stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket or the Tato Element Wood Stove, but some of the fully integrated stove systems like the MSR Reactor are heavier. It is, however, one of the lightest liquid stoves out on the market. The beautiful thing about the MSR Whisperlite International (unlike its brother the MSR Whisperlite) is that it can handle a variety of liquid fuel types from white gas to unleaded gasoline. Although I would not recommend burning gasoline with great frequency, it is nice to know that you can should a situation present itself that necessitated such measures. At some point, I will go into the pros and cons of liquid stoves vs. gas stoves vs. chemical/wood burning stoves. For the purpose of this review, it makes sense to mention that the Whisperlite has to aerosolize the liquid gas before it can be burned, which is why the Whisperlite needs to be primed. Doesn’t make it any better or worse, just something to note.
One of the greatest aspects of the MSR Whisperlite is its durability and simplicity. Once you’ve spent 5 minutes taking apart this stove, you are an expert. O-rings, fuel line threading, pump seal, etc. All can be maintained or replaced while in the field. To me, that gives me enough peace of mind to take this stove into just about any environment.
When it comes to cooking, the Whisperlite is a workhorse, not a five-star chef. The loudest complaint I have heard about any of the stoves in the Whisperlite line is that they are unable to simmer. This makes cooking certain foods more difficult, albeit not impossible. Besides the patience that a chef must muster when trying to achieve a simmer, the Whisperlite is a do-all in the kitchen. You can put them above and below a dutch oven to bake bread. You can boil water in just under 3 minutes (some of that time is part of the priming process, which is unique to liquid fuel stoves.
All in all, the Whisperlite is the quintessential backpacking stove. Most people have used them in one form or another. Most outdoor enthusiasts know how to break them down, put them back together, and clean them. They can do just about anything and cook just about anything. And they cost just around $100.00. Not too shabby.
The Bare Bones
Name: MSR Whisperlite International
Fuel Types: White gas, kerosene, unleaded fuel
Boil Time: 2 minutes 45 seconds
Weight: 11.5 oz