User Review: MSR WhisperLite
Price Paid: unknown
The Whisperlite is the same stove as the MSR WhisperLite Internationale, without the option of burning alternative fuels like diesel. It is mechanically identical to the Internationale except for an alternate fuel nozzle and the absence of a wicking cup around the bottom for lighting less-flammable fuels. As a result, it only burns white gas. But I've taken mine around the world and NEVER had a problem finding white gas, so I really don't think the Internationale modification is at all necessary.
I've used my WhisperLite as my only camping stove for about fifteen years, and have never once had to do maintenance on it. It comes with a "shakerjet," which is a little pin inside the fuel line that cleans out the nozzle when the stove is shaken. Mine has never clogged.
It doesn't light as fast as some other stoves, because you have to let some fuel into the fuel cup, light it, let it burn down to heat the fuel line enough to vaporize the fuel, then relight it. This process takes about two minutes and takes a little practice to know just when to relight it, but is easy to learn and you can't really hurt your stove if you do it wrong. But once lit, the WhisperLite roars like a jet engine. It'll boil a liter of water in like two minutes. It's not as efficient as the new Jetboil stoves, but the fuel is cheaper and easier to come by.
The stove comes with two pieces of tin to use as windscreens, one to go around the outside of the stove and one to go around the middle of the stove to keep it from scorching the ground it sits on. You don't really need either one, though they do make it more fuel efficient.
The main drawback from a cook's perspective is that these stoves don't simmer very well. They're either on high, or off. If you need to simmer your dinner over low heat, you have to depressurize the fuel bottle a little bit, which isn't hard to do with the pump.
The stove uses the standard MSR red pump fuel canisters, which are a brilliant design that I don't expect will ever change. I replaced my original small can with a .75L one because I do a lot of extended mountain trips, cooking for four people for a week or more. The pump on the fuel canister has never required maintenance, either, despite the prevalence of those little MSR stove repair kits that you see everywhere. With that kit, the WhisperLite can be completely disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled in the field, no other tools required.
One primary advantage of liquid fuel stoves is that they always work, even in cold weather when compressed cannister fuels peter out. The WhisperLite Internationale is the stove used by the US Antarctic Research Program in all of their emergency snow survival kits, because you can fire it up even at 40 below, no problems whatsoever, and then run it on the fuel from your crashed airplane or whatever.
The stove does have one apparent flaw, which it took me all these years to discover. If you let it rust long enough, as mine did in a flooded basement for a few months, the solid metal part of the fuel line can crack. This is not a piece that can be replaced, since it's central to the stove mechanism, and it can't be easily repaired since it gets red hot when the stove is in use. I know, you shouldn't let your stove rust, I realize that. But if this one part hadn't rusted through, the rest of the stove would still be in perfect working order, though it looks pretty ugly. As a side note, the fuel line and the shakerjet mechanism were still perfectly fine after the flooding incident.
I'd recommend this stove to people looking for a lightweight camping stove. I've not used the newer Dragonfly or the Simmerlite, but they supposedly solve the problem of not being able to simmer, which has never bothered me much. They also cost more, and are more complicated. The WhisperLite is the classic, most simple, brilliantly designed camp stove. It works well, you'll never have it break on you, and you can rest easy knowing that the backpacking community has lived and died by it for years.