MSR Windburner reviewed as a stove, a flask and a water purifier.

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MagiKelly

Making memories since '67
MSR brought out their Windburned stove last year. It was originally called the Windboiler. It is their entry into the market pretty much started by the Jetboil. The idea is simple, a stove that is self contained and will boil water / heat up food, with ruthless efficiency. What the Windburner does that it’s competitors don’t is complete this task even strong winds without the need for any wind break.

However as well as discussing this stove I want to give my thoughts on how this class of stove can replace some existing items I carry. As you can guess from the title these are vacuum flasks and water filters but you can also add water to that, for me at least.

So the Windburner Stove.

The manufacturers page for the stove is here http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr/stoves/stove-systems/windburner/product All the specs are there and on the box so I won’t cover them in any detail. The stove arrives like this.









In the hand the complete set up including a 100g gas canister look like this.



The stove will also work with 220g gas cartridges, however, these will not fit inside the cup for storage. I keep the complete set up in a small bag which either holds the stove as above plus, sweetners, 2 in 1 coffee sachets, a spoon and some cup a soups. If I am using the 220g canister then the brew kit goes in the cup and the canister sits on top in the bag. Still a pretty compact set up.

The stove proudly markets itself as the 1.0l system and this is the capacity of the mug when filled, however be aware you can only boil 0.6l at a time as you need space at the top for safety. However, MSR are bringing out a bigger 1.8l pot for the stove to make it more suitable for more than one person and will also fit the 220g gas canister inside it along with the burner etc. There also plans for a skillet for the stove (frying pan to you and me). These should be available next year (2016).

Popping the lid off of the cup shows all the parts of the system crammed inside.



There is a lot in there.



Starting from the left we have a small towel, a stand that attaches to either size of gas canister, the 100g gas canister, the stove burner assembly, the cup / pot with built in heat exchanger on the bottom, the lid for the cup / pot, a plastic bowl that fits over the bottom of the cup / pot and in front of it all a firesteel and scraper.

The firesteel does not come with the stove. you need to provide your own or matches. I do not know why the stove does not have a piezo ignition system. It seems a glaring omission from this “complete” system but I assume there is some technical reason behind it. Once you add a firesteel to the set you are pretty much covered for lighting the stove in any conditions for the foreseeable future so not a big issue but a strange omission in my eyes anyway.

The underside of the cup shows the heat exchanger and the cowling that makes this stove so efficient even in the wind.



The efficiency is the main selling points of these stoves so lets talk about that. There are two parts of this efficiency. Time and fuel. So put water in the cup and light the stove.



And in an absurdly short time you are looking at this.



Of course the actual time will depend on the quantity of water the air temperature, altitude, wind speed etc etc. The packaging quotes times of between 2 minutes 30 seconds to 2 minutes 45 seconds for 0.5 litre of water using between 7 and 8 grammes of fuel. I tested on a number of occasions boiling 0.6 litre of water and the boil was consistently under the 3 minute mark and used about 8 grammes of fuel. Due to some sort of magic on MSR’s side there does not seem to be any drop in efficiency as the canister nears empty. In my experience the stove seemed to maintain its full power pretty much right up till the canister ran out.

Boiling enough water for a single brew was so quick as to be almost inconvenient. The water is boiling before you can sort out the coffee etc.

Allowing for waste and poor conditions the above equates to at least 6 litres of boiled (purified) water from the 100g canister and over 13 litres for the 220 gramme cartridge. Either is enough for a couple of nights use. Annoyingly the 100g carried costs about £4.00 at the moment and the 220g cartridge can be got for £5.00. Clearly the 220g is far better value. That said for the extra couple of quid the 100g cartridge does make for a very compact set up. The 220g still makes a compact package just not quite as neat.



So for boiling water the stove is really good. However this efficiency does come with some problems. I could not simmer with this stove. because the heat exchanger is so efficient and the cup well insulated the stove could not be turned down low enough to simmer without going out. There are three solutions to this that I came up with. Each has its own plus and minus points. First just get the food to the boil, turn the stove off, then relight it after 5 minutes, bring it back to the boil (will be seconds) then stir and turn the stove off again. Repeat until the food is cooked. Because the pot locks to the burner and you need to light using the firesteel or matches this is a bit of a pain.

The next two solutions are really variations on a theme. The one that suits you will depend on how weight conscious you are. My preferred solution is the heavyweight solution although still a big weight saver as I will discuss later. This solution is a food flask. So get the food to boiling then put it in the flask. Leave till ready and eat. Or wait longer till it suits you. It was a SotP member who suggested this and it is luxury. At night I boil enough water for a night time cuppa and the rest goes in a flask with two packets of Oats to Simple. Give it a shake and leave. then whenever I wake up in the morning I just need to open the flask to have hot oats ready on tap. After breakfast I wash out the flask and fill it with supernoodles or pasta or a rice dish and fill with boiling water and seal it all up. Whenever I decide to stop for lunch I have a hot meal ready.

Words really cannot describe the joy of waking in your bedroll at the side of the loch just as the sun is starting to come up. It’s been a clear night with a nip in the air. The stars fade as the sun brightens the sky. Without even getting out of your sleeping bag you open the flask and tuck into hot sweat porridge as you watch the world come to life. Works in hammocks too :D. In fairness the stove is so compact and easy to use you could cook porridge in it without getting out your sleeping bag but that’s still like work when you first wake ;)

The lightweight solution is to make a pot cosy for the windburner pot. This works much like the flask but is not transportable. The pot just sits in the cosy until the food is ready to eat. You might get the breakfast plan to work but you are not going to have the pot and cosy in your pack while you carry it from breakfast till lunch.

I promised to discuss how this stove could replace a flask but have just recommended a food flask to go with the stove. The vacuum flask this stove replaces is the one with hot water. In winter I almost always take a flask with hot water in it with me. This is to give me access to a hot drink quickly should I get chilled either just from the cold or from taking a swim. A full 1 litre flask is way heavier than the Windburner. Also the stove gives me at least 6 times as much boiling water on tap. The stove would provide some heat while boiling the water as well as hot water to drink.

Similarly anywhere I go, especially when paddling, there is a lot of water about. All it needs to be drinkable water is a quick boil. And as we have discussed the windburner excels at a quick boil. Because it will boil even when in a strong wind there is really very few circumstances where I could imagine it not working. And in none of these situations would any of my current options work for me either.

I have actually stopped carrying a water filter with me on paddling trips anyway, however I make a point of always having at least one litre of drinkable water, usually two. These are topped up from boiled water at every meal or brew stop. With the windburner I don’t feel the need to have as much or even any water with me. I can quickly boil water even while still in the canoe and on the water, although i feel sure MSR would tell me this is not recommended or condoned

So in summary I really like this stove. It ticks so many boxes for me I am actually annoyed that I have not had this type of stove before now. That said if you are a chef type this stove may not suit you due to the lack of easy simmering. If you want a stove for a bigger group then you may want to wait for the 1.8 litre pot or you can dive in now and buy the bigger pot when it becomes available.

So in a sentence. I highly recommend this stove.

 

Tiley

Full Member
Oct 19, 2006
1,967
110
56
Gloucestershire
Thank you very much for a detailed, clear and thoughtful review.

Looking at the picture, it is quite a tower when set up. How was its stability? If they are going to produce a version with a 1.8 litre pot, I would most definitely be interested but am a little concerned/wary of stability issues that might arise from having a larger - and when full, heavier pot balanced on top of the tower.
 

MagiKelly

Making memories since '67
I know what you mean about the look of the "tower". The pictures do exadurate this but there is no denying it is has a high centre of gravity. In use I have found the supplied stand really helps to make it steady. Also because the pot clips to the stove when stirring you can hold the pot and it steadies the whole thing. You can even lift the whole thing by the pot but you need to take real care if you do so as not to have a burning stove fall off the bottom.

i also posted this review on SotP, http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?49862-MSR-Windburner-reviewed-as-a-stove-a-flask-and-a-water-purifier and there a member posted about a Gas Saver device that lets you connect two gas canisters to top one up. So using this you could just keep topping up a 100g canister from a 220g or larger. I'm going to have a look into this as it would also save having to take two canisters when one is running low.
 

ged

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Thank you for this review, it's very useful and welcome.

... I do not know why the stove does not have a piezo ignition system. It seems a glaring omission from this “complete” system but I assume there is some technical reason behind it.
The reason will undoubtedly be reliability. Piezo ignition systems are a reliability nightmare. If I designed a stove, I'd never put one in it.
Having said that, I see no compelling reason not to include some sort of ignition method. Something like the Bic/Zippo flint system can work well and reliably.
There's one in my dad's old Miner's lamp, and it worked well enough for the colliery. I agree the lack of one is a definite omission.

...The efficiency is the main selling points of these stoves so lets talk about that. There are two parts of this efficiency. Time and fuel.
There's another angle to efficiency which you have really only touched on:

Annoyingly the 100g carried costs about £4.00 at the moment and the 220g cartridge can be got for £5.00. Clearly the 220g is far better value.
Four quid for 100g of fuel is daylight robbery! The comparison of that with typical liquid fuels is, to coin an over-used phrase, eye-watering.
I'd guess that 100g of the gas is about 1/8 litre of fuel. That makes the fuel around £32 per litre in the 100g canister and around £18.20 for the 220g canister.
That's compared with something like road fuel currently at most £1.10 per litre (about £0.75-£0.90 in France) and bulk 28 second burning oil (paraffin/kerosene) at maybe £0.33-£0.41 in the UK (http://www.fueltool.co.uk).
Granted when you factor in the energy densities of the fuels, and the heat transfer efficiencies, the numbers change a little bit - but they're still strongly against the small gas canisters.
In fact I'm a little surprised by the heating efficiency of the Windburner.
Taking the figures in the review of about 6 litres per 100g, that's actually less than I get from an Optimus and a kettle.
I reckon on boiling over two pints (910g) of water with 12g of fuel using a 1 litre aluminium kettle from Oxfam on an Optimus 8 burning Aspen 4.
That's about 7.5 litres of water boiled per 100g fuel, and I'm not even using any fancy heat exchanger on the kettle - although admittedly it does assume that the stove is well shielded from the wind, and it does take three or four times as long!

Agreed the idea of saving the weight of carrying water is attractive, but if you really want to boil drinking water you can usually do it for practically nothing and no weight penalty - with foraged fuel, a bit of forethought, a steel mug and complete reliability.

At fifty to a hundred times what it costs me to run an Optimus, my view is that the cost of using the little gas canisters is unbearable.
 

rik_uk3

Banned
Jun 10, 2006
13,320
20
65
south wales
Looks good but the boil time was slow, half a litre in less than a minute using a Primus ETA pot

[video=youtube;61rlrxcEX4M]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61rlrxcEX4M[/video]
 

petrochemicals

Full Member
Jul 30, 2012
3,480
193
westmidlands
Thank you for a thoroughly insightful review, looks like a good bit of kit, I have been looking at these for a while. Thanks for the honesty too, apparently the jetboil boils 12 litres from one 100g cartridge so I think i"ll go for that ;) .
 

MagiKelly

Making memories since '67
Lots to address. In reverse order.

Petrochemicals, in a 17mph wind, the jetboil never brings any water to the boil ;). In optimum conditions the Windburned will do about 7 or 8 litres. However without testing them side by side in the same conditions we really can't be sure of a comparison. I'd love to see the test done and have no "dog in this race" so happy whatever way it turns out.

Rik-UK3, Yup and I think the Dragonfly would perform about the same and be just as noisy, but we are comparing apples and oranges. Wide pot with shallow water gives a big area to absorb the heat. A frying pan would probably have boiled the water quicker still. Again put it in the wind and then take set up time, pack size etc and it is clear we are talking about different beasts. As I have said the WindBurner also does not simmer which many petrol stoves do.

Ged, yes fuel costs are very different, this is really because the cost of the fuel is a small part of what you are paying. A large part of the price is making the canister and this varies little with the size. Buying liquid fuel is like buying petrol at the forecourt. you are pretty much only pain for the fuel. The 220g canister is like buying a tanker full of fuel where you need to pay for the tanker too. And the 100g cartridge is like having to buy a car to get the fuel in the tank. That's why I have ordered the Gas Saver so I can use cheaper large canisters to fill one small one. However, there is a balance between cost and convenience. As you say wood stoves are essentially free to run so win on cost all the time. I'm making the case for the convenience of this stove but everyones line on the convenience / cost graph will be in a different place based on their needs and finances.

Again I was not trying to compare this stove and ones of the same ilk to petrol ones or fires. Most times round camp I use a firebox to cook food and boil water. This stove's appeal for me is for quick hassle free boiling water in minimal time and fuss. No gathering fuel messing with fuel lines or even to an extent finding a level base. This is why I see it as an alternative to carrying a vacuum flask and a water filter. I do not see it as a replacement for a JetBoil of the Alpkit stove of similar design.
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
35,218
1,454
S. Lanarkshire
Good, clear, and very thorough review :approve:
Thanks for writing it all out and posting with the photos too.

On the 'one stove to do it all' type question…..a long hike and an overnighter and a walk the next day back to where you started….in Scotland, with no shortage of water around. Would you take this instead of carrying water, the filters, the pots, etc.?
If so, Christmas is a-coming and I am in need of pressies for menfolks :D

M
 

rik_uk3

Banned
Jun 10, 2006
13,320
20
65
south wales
'Rik-UK3, Yup and I think the Dragonfly would perform about the same and be just as noisy, but we are comparing apples and oranges. Wide pot with shallow water gives a big area to absorb the heat. A frying pan would probably have boiled the water quicker still. Again put it in the wind and then take set up time, pack size etc and it is clear we are talking about different beasts. As I have said the WindBurner also does not simmer which many petrol stoves do.'

With the ETA pots and similar you can use them on any stove to hand loud and quiet. I honestly can't see a frying pan being quicker given the pots built in heat exchanger. If you want a truly windproof stove system then use a Trangia 25/27, they thrive in high winds and you can fit a pressure stove if you fancy :cool:
 

MagiKelly

Making memories since '67
On the 'one stove to do it all' type question…..a long hike and an overnighter and a walk the next day back to where you started….in Scotland, with no shortage of water around. Would you take this instead of carrying water, the filters, the pots, etc.?
It is absolutely without question a definite maybe ;)

This is the stove I would use in this scenario and I know Russ uses it the same. There are cheaper options that would do pretty much the same just needing to add a windbreak. There are also cheaper or more expensive options that are slightly more faff but will take up a bit more room.

With all that said this stove will do what you want. As long as it is within your budget and you don't need to simmer I don't think you will be disappointed. Or more accurately your menfolk won't be :)
 

Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,476
5
Europe
Reason for missing the piezo ignition on a stove is that over time, they eventually burn off, having the tip of the igniter always in the flame gives it a finite life span. This is why the MSR micro rocket has a separate piezo igniter that you use (also available separately, and worth getting).

J
 

Quixoticgeek

Full Member
Aug 4, 2013
2,476
5
Europe
Just having a think here, I have a challenge for you when next making a brew with this setup. Pretend you've got your hands far to cold and are on the verge of frost bite. You need to make a brew, and get things warmed up. Can you assemble the stove, light it, and get a boil of water in such a situation.

To simulate this, bend your fingers round towards your palm, so all you have the use of is effectively the first joint worth of finger. This came up in conversation today when testing out a prototype stove from another manufacturer.

A similar test. Can you assemble and light it with very wet hands (i.e. on a typical British summers day...)

J
 

MagiKelly

Making memories since '67
Assembly with wet hands would be easy. You only need to screw the gas canister on and job done. With extremely cold hands and very restricted movement I think I could assemble the stove without too much difficulty but lighting it with a firesteel may be the sticking point.

Edit: It would be interesting to test how well the stove lit and burned just in very cold conditions. I've not used Gas in really cold conditions so not sure how much it is effected. I know meths can get almost unusable.
 
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ged

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
... It would be interesting to test how well the stove lit and burned just in very cold conditions. I've not used Gas in really cold conditions so not sure how much it is effected. I know meths can get almost unusable.
It depends on the gas.

If it's pure butane then you're going to have problems below freezing point, as butane boils at -0.5C. So if it's well sub-zero, the liquid butane will refuse to come out of the tank.

A lot of heaters use various butane/propane mixtures for this reason, propane boils at a much lower temperature. But then if you're using the gas directly (as opposed to inverting the canister and using the liquid) you have to worry about the mixture getting richer in butane as the gas is used up, and the boiling point of the mixture gradually increasing.

You can always keep the canister in your sleeping bag overnight. :)
 

petrochemicals

Full Member
Jul 30, 2012
3,480
193
westmidlands
Petrochemicals, in a 17mph wind, the jetboil never brings any water to the boil ;). In optimum conditions the Windburned will do about 7 or 8 litres. However without testing them side by side in the same conditions we really can't be sure of a comparison. I'd love to see the test done and have no "dog in this race" so happy whatever way it turns out
Only pulling your leg. Don't believe everything you read as these claims of 90% efficiency are all very well until you factor in heating the pot, pot cosy lid and burner to temperature, the stover often come in at over 100% efficient, which is a remarkable achievement by the stove manufacturers. I also find that cannisters tend to loose weight the longer you leave them after use, I think it has something to do with water as condensation building up on the outside of the can.