User Review: MSR Reactor
Like one of the other reviewers, I'm a longtime Dragonfly user. I bought this as a second stove for shorter/lighter trips and mountaineering. I have used the Jetboil solo and GCS configurations and both are good, but different. I find the Reactor to be a bit more efficient, but it's also more basic.
My stove routinely performs better than advertised. I get about 2 min, 45 sec boils (1L) most of the time unless the cannister is down to less than what I would estimate to be about 1/3 full. Then it's closer to the 3 min-3 min, 20 sec. That's mostly on Primus fuel cannisters because of availability (sorry MSR!).
It's also a very efficient snow melter, the fastest I have tried. I find that a 220g isobutane cartridge is good for roughly 18-22L of water boiled depending on how often the stove needs to be re-lit in between cooking (since the warm-up phase, while short, still uses up some gas).
There were a lot of warning labels to peel off regarding the dangers of cooking inside of shelters with it (I was familiar with the controversy surrounding this stove's emissions before I bought it). It took some time to remove them. Oh how I wish people would stop suing others for their own stupidity!!
As with all stoves, I would advise not using it in your tent unless you have to, and of course to use the appropriate cautionary steps when it is deemed absolutely necessary to do so. Take responsibility for your own actions when taking calculated risks.
I would back up the findings that this stove seems unaffected by wind. The pot fits nicely with the burner, and won't slide off. There is only one pot, so this unit is for fairly basic cooking tasks. The clear lid lets you see when things are rolling without letting any heat escape.
This is my first hard-anodized aluminum pot and I like it. It's similar to titanium in lightness and strength, reasonably easy to clean, and distributes heat really well. You don't have to take the cannister off the stove to pack it. It's actually more secure to leave it assembled and put it in upside down into the pot so that the lid holds the cartridge bottom preventing and rattles.
There aren't any of the cool accessory options like those available for the Jetboil stoves. Maybe in time there will be a group camping sytem. Although the included pot is 1.7L it cannot be filled without spilling over when it boils. It can sustain a rolling boil with 1L, and 1.5L if you are watching it to take the pot off the burner as it starts to roll. I guess I will have to rig up my own hanging kit for it too (see my comment on the warning labels above).
It's a suitable stove for short winter trips, you just need to understand the way cannister stoves perform in cold weather. On cannisters that still have their propane and isobutane content, the Reactor performs the same way in cold weather (the isobutane works down to about -15C and the propane works to -40C) as it does in warmer temps. Once you use all of the cold weather fuels up, you are left with regular butane which involves keeping the fuel warm enough (just above freezing) for it to burn.
I did some experimenting with a cannister that had only butane left in it. I had used up all of the propane/isobutane on a previous cold weather trip. For those who have not experienced this, it feels like the cartridge still has lots of fuel, but below freezing it won't work because all that is left is the butane. Warming the cannister in my jacket and hands worked fine.
My favourite trick is using a small reusable sodium acetate hand warmer pack (Toasterz, etc) under the cannister. They are recharged by boiling them in water for about 5 min which is handy. On pure butane in this manner, boil times were a bit longer (closer to 4-5 min per 1L). For longer winter trips I still use my white gas stove, but I use my Reactor for those quick winter overnighters.
Overall, I would recommend this to friends. It performs as or better than advertised. I held back 1/2 a star because it does not yet have any other pot options which limits its usefulness for groups larger than two campers, or 3 with very basic cooking needs such as climbers melting snow for water. For pure solo use, I would think about a Jetboil as it's a bit more compact and has more versatility built into the pot system.