MSR WindBurner Stove System

The MSR WindBurner. A WindProof Stove System
The MSR WindBurner – An Amazingly Windproof Stove System!

Greetings Adventurers!

The MSR WindBurner is quickly becoming one of my favorite stoves systems. In a market that is continuing to get more and more myopic by companies flooding the market with nearly identical products, it has been a refreshing change to see MSR actually try to solve some problems and not just put to market something that is the same’ol’same’ol that everybody else is spewing out.

I remember when the MSR WindBurner was first announced and the internet was being flooded by hikers complaining about the weight of the system – comparing it to xyz-other brands, without even stopping to consider some of the advantages of that extra bit of weight – but, that is just typical hiker hyperbull and ignorant attacking that seems to be all too common these days by hikers, I suppose. It was a shame that those folks focused so much on the weight, yet utterly failed to stop and really take a look at the design.

Yes, when it comes to talking about gear, the purpose of the website has always been to focus on some of the lightest of the lightest weight gear out there. But as my readers well know, I have on many occasions been a hiker that is willing to stand up and say that sometimes adding weight in order to get a better performance, experience, durability, and quality of life while out on the long trail, is a perfectly acceptable decision.

Over the course of this article, and future articles on the MSR WindBurner, I am going to be clear and honest about exactly how I think the MSR WindBurner is when it comes to that statement.

While the MSR WindBurner is a tad bit heavier than most other all-in-one systems on the market – and this really is key to understanding why the MSR WindBurner deserves some serious consideration — MSR put some serious thinking into solving problems.

Stove Features:

There is not a lot to be said about these all-in-one stove systems, they are typically a pot, a stove unit, a lid, and a cup/bowl on the bottom – pretty much standard across the industry.

So let us look at each of these components:

MSR WindBurner Pot
MSR WindBurner Pot

The Pot:

The pot is designated as a “1.0 L” cup (that is 33.8 ounces).

The pot has line markers inside, both in ounces and liters.

The top-most liters mark is at the 0.9 L level (27.05 oz)

The top-most ounces mark is at the 28 oz level (0.828 liters)

The pot does hold a full one liter of water.

In typical fashion of these all-in-one units, filling it all the way up is NOT recommended.

In fact, MSR specifically as a “Max Fill” mark on the inside of the pot, which is located at the 0.6 liter / 20 oz level.

They do this because once the water starts boiling, if you leave the stove turned on, and have more water in it, the water starts to boil out of the pot, through the holes in the lid.

This can obviously be dangerous, as it can cause you to get your hand burned with boiling hot water when you go to try to turn it off.

If you are boiling water for sanitation purposes, and fuel is limited, this can obviously be one of those situations where you have to make a call on your own as to what to do.

If  you are just heating up already filtered water for tea, coffee, or a meal, well, you do not really need to boil a full one liter of water – even if you need that much water – as you can just boil the 0.6 liters, and mix together the hot water with water out of your water container.

I assure you, unless it is snow melt (which should be purified, so, no using that excuse, eh) 0.4 liters of cold water mixed with 0.6 waters of near boiling water, is still going to offer you some really hot water.

The pot, without the cozy, is 158.0 grams (5.57 oz).

I do want to give MSR praise for having a LOT of attachment inserts on the very bottom of the pot. This makes securing it to the stove unit very easy. I have, for a long time, been critical of the entire all-in-one stove industry for not doing this. It is nice to see MSR not make me have to sit there and twist and twist the pot to find the exact location of those dang security holes.

MSR WindBurner Cozy
MSR WindBurner Cozy

The Cozy:

MSR also went with a much different cozy than what the rest of the all-in-one industry uses. It is a plastic ribbed cozy that snaps and slides. Most everybody else in the industry that makes all-in-ones uses some fabric that just slides onto the pot.  Check out this photograph, courtesy of adventures in stoving, of an utter failure on the part of one MSR WindBurner competitor when it comes to making a cozy that works (well, not in their case lol.)

The weight of the MSR WindBurner cozy is 43.9 grams, which makes it about 8-15 grams heavier than other all-in-one cozies by competition.

Do you want a usable cozy that will not get all wanked out of shape in exchange for an additional few grams of weight – I would surely hope you would.

One additional nice thing about the cozy is that it is significantly nicer to keep clean and dry. With other cozies that are being used by the competition, they are usually soft fabric… they get wet and they get heavy. They get food and dirt stuck into the fabric if you use them every day for days on end and do not clean them. They can also start to stink pretty bad. I have thrown away at least two JB cozies because they just got to a point where I could not stand smelling them anymore.

The cozy of the WindBurner is plastic… so it is never going to soak up water – which means less weight and no water leaching getting other gear wet – and it is probably never going to get smelly. I can clean it with just a bit of water, swing it a couple of times, and it is pretty much clean and dry.

So yes, a bit heavier than other cozies out there. But in exchange, I have a cozy that has solved problems.

MSR WindBurner Lid
MSR WindBurner Lid

The Lid:

Ok, if you have one of those other all-in-one stove systems, you have probably thought to yourself “I really hate this lid“.

If you have not thought that at some point, you probably have not used it enough, lol.

I remember Hikin Jim sharing, when he first got his MSR WindBurner, that the lid on the WindBurner was pretty dang exceptional. And, well, if you know him, you know he has used just about every stove every brought to market. When he says something, I listen. But, I gotta be honest, I laughed and pretty much thought he was joking around with me. Trying to pull one over on me. I mean, come on… a stove system that uses a plastic lid that does not fall off after boiling water? Blahhahahaha… Never going to happen. Plastic gets hot. Plastic softens up. Water caused lid to fall off. We all know the story.

Well shiver me timbers if MSR did not figure out how to make a lid that actually works! I cannot count the times I have sent Hikin Jim a message “man, this lid rocks!!”… at least a dozen times.

The lid has a main pour/sip hole, plus one in the very middle for the coffee press (don’t own, so have not tried it) and a strainer set of holes (used these a LOT).

The lid also fits rather snug onto the bottom plastic cup.

The lid weighs 15.4 grams (0.54 oz).

To compare: JB Sol Ti Lid: 19.8 g / JB MiniMo Lid: 31.1 g

So it not only works, but it is lighter than JB lids

MSR WindBurner Cup
MSR WindBurner Bowl

The Bowl:

Ok, nothing special about the plastic bowl.

To be honest, I have not even used it out on the trail. I do not like these bottom cups that are included with all-in-one stove systems.

If I am going to pour really hot water into something and drink from it, I want some handles on it – just me, YMMV.

Until a company can make a bottom-bowl/cup that will not burn my poor little fingers, I am just not going to use them.

I know they are suppose to also serve the purpose of protecting the bottom of the pot… but what kind of doofus do you have to be to damage the bottom of one of these things while it is inside of  your backpack.

The weight of the plastic bottom cup is 32.1 grams.

I suppose this is one area where MSR has not solved a problem – but really, no big deal. The last thing I would want them to do is go the route of GSI and put a stupid neoprene sleeve on it. That would just be all the more cause for it to stay at home – reference all my comments in the above cozy section for why.

MSR WindBurner, Stove & Pot
MSR WindBurner, Stove & Pot

The Stove:

Obviously the most important part of the stove unit is the last part of the stove system to talk about.

The stove unit really is the defining reason for buying the MSR WindBurner over ANY other all-in-one stove system on the market.

The stove is not about being the most fuel efficient stove out there – it is not, as will be discussed below – nor was it designed to be the lightest – it is not – but it does perform, brilliantly, at what it was designed to do: perform in windy conditions.

Jacob, over at hikeitlikeit, who has put together an amazing review of the MSR WindBurner — but what really stands out in his efforts is the truly great video showing what makes the WindBurner, well… the “Wind“Burner. I could not even begin to try to make a video this fun to watch, so yeah, be sure to watch this!! (ps: thanks to Jacob for allowing me to include this video)

I want to share a trail story briefly (wow, this is rare for me to do)

In November of 2014, while out in the Mojave Desert, hanging out with Hikin Jim. He had his MSR WindBurner, and his MSR Reactor. I had my JetBoil Sol Ti and my JetBoil MiniMo. On the very first night we were out there, after getting camp all set up, we had a fire going and decided it was time for some dinner. A rare storm came in. We were camped out at the Mid Hills Campground, which is the highest campground in the MNP.

In the course of about 15 minutes it went from kind of hot, to raining and crazy wind blowing through the beautiful juniper pinyon pine trees. We had to scramble to get things tied down – thankfully we have the foresight to tighten up the tarps. We figured we would wait out the storm before dinner. Eventually, we gave up waiting… food demanded to be consumed.

So Jim meanders over and grabs his new MSR WindBurner, looks at me and smirks. I reach down and grab my JBSolTi and smirk back. He fills his WindBurner up with water and fires it up. I fill up my SolTi and fire it up. About 3 seconds later my SolTi blows out. I look down – shrug at the stupid thing, and light it back up… a fluke, eh. It fires back up, and I look over at Jim hoping he isn’t looking. lol.

Then bam, the wind blows out my SolTi again. At that point I can hear Jim over there giggling to himself (ok, he wasn’t audibly, but you just know he was giggling). I look down at the stupid thing, again, think to myself, “I shall not be defeated!”, and relight the stove, and hug it against my body, that’ll work, eh!

Well, I did mention it was crazy windy, right. It lasted about 20 seconds.

By this time, I can see steam coming out of the MSR WindBurner sitting over next to Jim. I might have mumbled some inappropriate words to myself…

Then, I remembered something I did a few years ago… I reach over and dump the remaining gear in my cuben fiber backpack out, fired the SolTi back up, stand the bag up, and every so carefully put the SolTi down into the cuben fiber backpack… yeah, no joke… and yeah… I know… trust me… I know.

Well, let me just say that was the last time the JB SolTi has gone on a trip of any importance. Do it once to me … but do it twice to me… yeah, you know that saying too, right.

So, I came back home, bought an entirely new stove setup (stand alone pot, stand alone stove, stand alone windscreen) but I just did not find myself liking that setup. It worked. But I was just not a happy hiker.

I eventually was able to acquire one of these MSR WindBurner stoves, and so far, it has been working flawless.

I wanted to share this story with everybody so you could get an understanding of why I decided to give the MSR WindBurner a try. I know, there are a lot of other options out there, and ways I could prevent these kind of issues, yet regardless of that, I am so far very happy I made the decision to give the MSR WindBurner a serious try.

The iconic MSR Logo embedded into the stove unit of the MSR Reactor
The iconic MSR Logo embedded into the stove unit of the MSR Reactor

MSR Burner Head Logo:

The very first things I did when I first saw a MSR WindBurner start up was to look down onto the stove head and look for that hypnotic and mesmerizing glowing “MSR” logo that quickly became an iconic aspect of the MSR Reactor.

Sadly, it was not there. I am pretty sure I audibly said “Awe, dang”.

I asked a MSR engineer about why it was not included on the MSR WindBurner. Here is the reason why:

The reason it is not there is that WindBurner uses a different burner head technology than the Reactor.  Both stoves we have the thick, protective mesh that sits above the burner. Underneath that mesh, the Reactor burner is formed from a porous disk made from Fecralloy.  Because of the manufacturing process we are able to form the logo into the disk so that you see it glow when you light it. The WindBurner uses the same air mixing technology as the Reactor so that we achieve 100% primary air combustion, but the burning surface is different.  The Reactor burner is flat and has space under the protective mesh.  The WindBurner does not have this space and instead has fine, arched mesh that sits right up against the heavy mesh.  Since we are using the fine mesh to create the porous burning surface, we are not able to form in the glowing logo.

So, that explains that sad story.

Fuel Consumption:

Let us just all be honest with ourselves – at least those of us who have bought, or are planning to buy, an “all in one stove system”… we buy these stove systems for pretty much only two reasons: crazy fast boil times and/or convenience. Sometimes, if a person has just the right amount of time spent-on-trail and uses the right system, they can make “weight sense”, but those calculations are something that have almost always been difficult to accurately calculate.

Over the years, myself and a lot of others, have done extensive research on the “fuel consumption vs weight” of these all-in-on stove systems, in an attempt to determine at what point the extra weight of them, based on the (typically better) fuel consumption, tends to start making sence. Typically it has been around 7-10 days of being on-trail without fuel resupply, for the math to start making sense to justify lugging around the extra weight of an AiO setup.

Now, it needs to be made clear here that MSR does not market the WindBurner as an “ultra efficient stove” – though they do use the terminology “Ultra-Efficient Radiant Burner”.

MSR claims is that the MSR WindBurner is “more fuel efficiency than conventional stoves that use convective heat only” – they offer no clarification on what they are basing that on.

So let us just remember this as we progress through this analysis. MSR is not saying the WindBurner is more fuel efficient than “xyz other stove system” – just keep that in mind.

The MSR WindBurner, after my initial ~90 boils of use (eight 110g canisters) is performing about 25% less fuel efficient than other all-in-one stove systems I have owned.

I have consistently averaged eleven (11) pots of water brought to boil using the 110g MSR fuel canisters.

On the very first canister I got 14 boils and almost every canister since that first one has been 11 or 12 boils per canister.

I found this to be very strange, knowing that with other all-in-one stoves I have owned I averaged around 21 boils per canister on 100g canisters.

After a number of canisters consistently getting  around 11 boils per 110g canister,  I posted on facebook asking for other WindBurner owners if they could verify this, to see if I had a defective stove unit.

The very fine folks over at MSR contacted me about my post on facebook and they sent me one to try out.

Since the new stove unit arrived, I have pushed through another four 110g canisters of fuel through it.

The results on all four canisters on the new stove: an average of eleven boils per 110g canisters.

After these four canister tests, on the second stove, I contacted the MSR engineer I had been working with about this.

His response:

The boils per canister that we quote are for an 8 oz {227g} canister.  We also quote our boils per ounce of fuel, which for the WindBurner is quoted, at 2.3L/oz.  Using a 3.9 oz {110g} canister you should get about 9 liters of water boiled and it looks like you are exceeding that.

So, the stoves (both of them) are performing beyond what they tend to expect them to perform at.

I emailed him back with the following question:

So, I suppose this leads to the question (I’d call it a major issue) of why in the hehe a total-boils-per-canister number is being used and based on a canister that won’t even fit into the WindBurner.

I totally understand the fuel consumption per use – but it seems kind of wrong (shrugs). 

It makes a massive difference if a canister is only going to last 5.5 days versus 11 days.

At that point it really starts to screw with the “how many days of use before the efficiency equates to the weight” factor of these all-in-one stove systems.

And he was kind enough to respond back… but first, let me remind you what I stated above… “So let us just remember this as we progress through this analysis. MSR is not saying the WindBurner is more fuel efficient than “xyz other stove system” – just keep that in mind.

You are right, the 8oz can won’t fit in the 1.0L Wind Burner System, but it will fit in the 1.8L system that we are launching this fall.  We quote all of our burn times on an 8 oz canister to be consistent between all of our stoves.  Maybe not the best choice when talking specifically about the Windburner 1.0L, but it’s what we have done to be consistent.

I’ll rough out the math.  Using your numbers from {your other all-in-one-stove} you have been getting 20 boils per 100 grams.  I happen to have one that I just went and measured with the thing filled with 0.65L of water.  With that volume of water, you are boiling about 13 liters of water per 100 gram canister which is a bit more efficient than {that company} quotes at 12L.

Starting with the larger Windburner pot, and filling it up to a similar level you put in about 0.85L of water.  The two pots have almost identical diameter so this is leaving the same amount of space to the rim.  Using your data {for the WindBurner} at 12 boils means that you are getting 10.2L per 110 gram canister, which is slightly better than the 9L that we quote.  If you boiled the exact same amount of water (0.65L), you would get approximately 16 boils.

So, head to head, yes you can get more water boiled from a {competitor} than Windburner….  {some competitors} are about 25% more efficient, as long as the wind is not blowing at all.

So, I cannot not say this:

One of the truly amazing aspects of these all-in-one stove systems has been the ability to take them on long stretches of trail and not have to worry about taking extra fuel or deal with resupplying fuel.

With my most efficient all-in-one stove system (a product no longer made) I can get over three weeks of use from a single 110g canister (or eleven days, if I have two hot meals per day) yet with the MSR WindBurner, using the same 110g canister, I am going to get less than two weeks of use from a single 110g canister (or five days, if I have two hot meals per day)… so, not even a week of use from a single 110g canister.

If you are a thru-hiker, and you eat two warm meals a day, the MSR WindBurner should work out for you very well – so long as you can keep your resupplies at under six days. If you are going to have a section of six-plus days, plan on carrying two fuel canisters… regardless of whether you eat one or two hot meals a day. And, if you have to boil multiple pots of water per meal (once for food, once for tea/coffee/cocoa), you should just plan on having two of the 11g canisters with you at all times, or, go with one of the larger 227g canisters.

If you are a weekender that never get’s out on the trail for 5+ days, the MSR WindBurner should be totally good-to-go for you, using the 110g canister (the size that fits into the WindBurner pot), unless you just plan on boiling a ton of water for whatever random purpose.

I do also want to remind everybody: if you plan on boiling water to sterilize(purify) your water, plan on getting closer to the 10 total boils per 110g canister, due to the need of making sure you always get a hard rolling boil.

Cooking Food In It:

This I have not done.

I doubt I ever will.

In Closing:

It is my plan to write multiple articles on the MSR WindBurner over the months ahead. Please read this facebook page on why I will be doing this. In these future articles I will address many of the issues I have not addressed within this first article. At some point an article/review just becomes too long. I wanted to address the main features of the MSR WindBurner in this initial article, and focus future articles on some of the more in-depth issues of this stove system. Any feedback from comments that bring up good points/questions/issues, I will try to incorporate into these additional articles.

The point I tried to make within the opening of this article that MSR engineers put a lot of effort into trying to solve problems that a lot of the other all-in-one stove systems currently on the market have. They have accomplished this to a great extent. There are still issues I think they need to try to address, and I will talk about them within additional articles, however at this point I am willing to say that, with the exception of fuel consumption (or rather, total boils per canister of fuel that fits into the MSR WindBurner pot), almost every issue I have ever had with every other all-in-one stove system, MSR has found a way to solve, with the MSR WindBurner. So yep, keep an eye out for future updates on this pretty amazing all-in-one stove system!

Thanks for reading,
+John Abela

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that at the time this article is published that I am a sponsored hiker of Black Rock Gear, Montbell US, Suluk46, Sun Precautions.

Changed the wording “cup” to “bowl” as that is the term MSR uses.

9 thoughts on “MSR WindBurner Stove System

  1. Thanks for the great analysis. Ten boils per cannister is interesting and I have been wondering how to calculate my fuel needs for my Caldera Tri setup vs an MSR Pocket Rocket. I am not sure how many boils per liter of Alcohol/Meths I get. Now I also have a BioLite which is awesome but only used for canoe trips. A bushbuddy is great but I still favour the Caldera overall with carrying the pocket rocket as a backup. The Windburner sounds like a great option for the TGO Scotland Challenge given the liklihood of howling winds.

  2. As a combo light hiker/climber I see great value in a stove that won’t blow out for use on alpine and rock big walls where it is often windy.

    1. Hey Joslyn,

      The MSR WindBurner, like the MSR Reactor, is made from aluminium.

      Based on this comment: “there are no plans at this time for a titanium stove“.

      The well documented failures of using Titanium pots within the all-in-one stove systems have been well documented, and at this point in time I think 100% of the all-in-one systems that had a Ti pot have been discontinued by all manufacturers.

  3. Hi John, great write up as always. My problems with gas stoves are the windshields and gas canisters (not being able to know exactly how much I need) are just some of the reasons I only use Alcohol stoves these days. Anyway, thanks for the write up

  4. Finally had a chance to read this. Looks awesome. My question is how effective is the cozy and I’m not quite sure I understand how it’s constructed or what it’s made of. If it were just plastic I can’t see it working very well.

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