User Review: MSR WhisperLite
Price Paid: I don't remember
I've used this stove for about 20 years for backpacking and campsite camping. I use it only a few times a year and had it put away without using it for seven years (see below). MSR might have changed the stove slightly in all that time, but my stove looks exactly like the current photos. The only other backpacking stove I've used was a Coleman Peak 1 -- also a white gas stove.
The WhisperLite is very light and compact. I carry it in a 2 quart pot. Since it folds, it is able to have a wide stance and good span to support larger pots and pans and is extremely stable. The windscreen and reflector are flexible pieces of aluminum that you just fold up when not in use. Mine have many creases, but work fine and you can buy replacements of just those pieces.
The folding aspect also causes the only real disadvantage I can think of: Since you have to fold it up to put it away, your hands can get dirty when cleaning off the soot that comes from the flames that occur during priming. I just use some TP to wipe it off carefully before putting it away.
The detachable fuel bottle gives you the ability to use just the right sized bottle for your trip. I use a 1-liter Sig bottle and just vary the amount of white gas I carry since I don't worry about a couple extra ounces if it's a short trip. I think I only used about 2/3 of the liter on a 7-day trip for two people. In contrast, for the Peak 1, you'd have to carry an extra bottle in addition to the built-in tank for a long trip, which is almost certainly heavier and requires pouring fuel from the spare bottle into the tank.
The WhisperLite boils a liter of water in less than the four minutes it claimed to. It is tricky to get a decent simmer, but with careful adjustment we can cook pancakes without burning them.
My stove got clogged up only once, but that was after a 7-year gap in use (because I waited for my younger child to be out of diapers to return to camping). I bought the maintenance kit, but found that I only needed to poke the little wire jet cleaner into the jet hole to get the stove to work again (I could have done that without the kit) Even the original pump seal still works after 20 years, so I have a spare from the kit.
The stove has worked fine for me in below-freezing temperatures during mornings in the high Sierras where puddles would be frozen over when we woke up. Just to be safe, I kept the fuel bottle warm overnight by putting it in the foot of my sleeping bag (I'm short and use a full-sized bag since I also like to keep my clothes for the next day warm that way). But for all I know, it probably isn't necessary. I just didn't want to risk facing a chilly morning without a hot drink.