Whats the learning curve to the (Msr) Wisperlite backpacking stove?

10:47 a.m. on January 10, 2017 (EST)
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I have canister stoves and alchohol stoves and been thinking of getting a wisperlite for winter backpacking...Plus shorter fall trips where I can change up menu options..What do you think? I am open to advise and suggestions...

11:56 a.m. on January 10, 2017 (EST)
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It is something you want to practice a few times at home, but it is a simple enough process. MSR has lots of videos on how to use and maintain the Whisperlite so if their well written instructions fail you there are other ways to learn.

From my personal experience, I prefer to bring a tube of alcohol to use in the priming cup rather than burning white gas from the bottle. The alcohol burns much cleaner and doesn't leave scaly soot all over the stove. It can be harder to light in sub zero weather though so I will skip that step if it is super cold.

Boiled water on my last trip but didn't have to melt snow this time. The Whisperlite is my hydration system in the Winter, though it is nice for making soup too. Definitely a good investment that should last you a lifetime or two.

12:04 p.m. on January 10, 2017 (EST)
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Get a good fuel bottle that doesn't leak.

Get a repair kit and figure out which parts sometimes fail.

Practice lighting the stove in your back yard in the winter.

12:55 p.m. on January 10, 2017 (EST)
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Priming it isn't that hard and is easy to learn.  Expect it to flare up when first lit even when you know what you are doing. 

If you want to be able to simmer, it can be done by managing the amount of pumping to limit the pressure in the bottle.  That skill takes longer to develop. 

1:24 p.m. on January 10, 2017 (EST)
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I have an MSR Whisperlite Universal, and haven't found any difficulty lighting/operating to date. The only learning curve I can think of is when changing the guts from liquid to gaseous mode, and servicing it. 

I have also successfully used the stove burning iso-butane with the included can inverter down to 10°F or so. Pretty awesome.

3:30 a.m. on January 11, 2017 (EST)
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If changing menu options up means real cooking, versus boiling and rehydrating, there are much better suited stoves for this purpose.  Getting a whisperlite to simmer is a skill requiring patience to learn, enough such that many give up, declaring it impossible or too much work.  And even when "mastered" simmering a whisperlite entails astute babysitting and adjusting.

If you intend to do real cooking, stoves like the MSR Dragonfly are easier to control.  The one feature that identifies white gas (WG) water boiler stoves from real cooking stoves is boilers have a single fuel control valve located on the pump, while real cookers have an additional second control valve located on the stove body.  It seems the valve located on the pump is mainly an on/off control that provides only a crude control over fuel flow, while the design of the second valve located on the stove body is intended to provide a more nuanced control.   One more reason to consider real cooking type stoves is they are much hotter than the whisperlite. 

Other options better than the whisperlite, as far a flame control is concerned are the traditional Primus - Optimus - Svea over tank stoves (e.g Svea 123) and their cousins the suit case backpacker stoves (e.g. Optimus 8R).  The lack of pump makes these models a bit harder to master, but they are easier to simmer than the whisperlite.  Another option is the Optimus 00 series stoves.  The double zero stove, a kerosene stove, is the burner common in third world kitchens and once the standard small craft marine time stove.  It is still a go-to choice among global trekkers.  The double zero is easy to use, but requires regular maintenance to obtain optimal performance.

My favorite WG stove is the MSR Firefly, a distant ancestor of the Dragonfly, which MSR sold in the 1980s.  It burned hot as the MSR XKG, but unlike the XKG the Firefly was a good at simmering, and had an excellent pot stand.  Alas this stove had serious design flaws (leaking fuel line couplings and a bulky wind screen).  I modified mine to rid of these shortcomings.  I still use it on cold trips.

The "nice" thing about liquid fuel stoves is they can be field repaired, should they misbehave.  The downside is they require seasonal inspection to minimize the likelihood of a field repair.

Ed   

 

10:58 a.m. on January 11, 2017 (EST)
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To simmer add a lid from a tin can under your pot.

11:11 a.m. on January 11, 2017 (EST)
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Ed your persuaded me to look into the dragonfly...Yeah it would be to cook, not rehydrate foods..I have been thinking of those trips I can justify weight and go shorter distance and just look around more...Ls hit on priming the stove...I take it you fill the dragonfly's pan with fuel also? Can you use fore paste to ignite and warm the fuel tube?

1:40 p.m. on January 13, 2017 (EST)
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Everyone has you well covered. All I will add is that in deep winter cold it can at times be frustrating to light these types of stoves with a lighter. Since the temp is low the gas in the priming cup isn't offgasing as much fumes so its already harder to light. Now your trying to use a bic etc that might be cold also, and the flame just isn't getting big enough so that you can get it close enough to ignite.

Solution? Matches. you can stick a match in much closer than you can get with a lighter. I always carry matches in the winter for lighting my xgk stove.

7:00 a.m. on January 20, 2017 (EST)
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With any new stove, I recommend you fire it up on the porch or in the backyard several times for your morning coffee or tea.  Do it in the dark too.  That way you'll quickly learn its intricacies prior to needing it afield.  Some stoves (even of the same models) just have their own personalities.

I had a Whiperlite Internationale for nearly 20 years.  It's practically bomb proof and simple to operate.  It's now my son's white gas stove as I replaced it with a Svea 123 and gave him the Whisperlite.  First thing he did when I gave it to him was fire it up on the porch and play with it.

11:31 p.m. on January 20, 2017 (EST)
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I own a Whisperlite Universal. It has 3 jets for:

1. inverted canister (stand & hose included)

2. white gas (Fuel line included, you provide fuel bottle.)

3. kerosene (  "      "       "           "         "       "      "    )

This is THE most  versatile stove I know of besides my titanium Caldera Cone Sidewinder  for alky, ESBIT and wood fuels stove.

And being MSR it's bombproof.

Eric B.

P.S. Sometimes I'm sorry I sold my MSR Dragonfly. Could use it during the zombie apocalypse for simmering "human stew".

4:53 a.m. on January 21, 2017 (EST)
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Bill Hudson said:

With any new stove, I recommend you fire it up on the porch or in the backyard several times for your morning coffee or tea.  Do it in the dark too.  That way you'll quickly learn its intricacies prior to needing it afield.  Some stoves (even of the same models) just have their own personalities.

I had a Whiperlite Internationale for nearly 20 years.  It's practically bomb proof and simple to operate.  It's now my son's white gas stove as I replaced it with a Svea 123 and gave him the Whisperlite.  First thing he did when I gave it to him was fire it up on the porch and play with it.

Also hose it down, and learn how to get your stove operational from that status.  (Don't laugh, I've lost count at the number of times I seen this dilemma present itself.)  And if you are snow camping, bring a second stove in case you have to unfreeze your primary, among other justifications.

So Bill, I was quite intrigued by your swapping a Whisperlite for a 123.  What were the considerations?

Ed

1:59 p.m. on January 22, 2017 (EST)
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I prefer the MSR XGK for winter - burns hotter, melts snow faster.  It has similar challenges to the Whisperlite for cooking - modulating the flame requires a combination of being careful about how many times you pump up the pressure and being delicate with the fuel valve.  

for all around use, I have an Optimus Nova plus - it has a small lever dedicated to modulating the flame, so it is far easier to get a low or medium flame for cooking.  caveat -  mine is several years old, works flawlessly, but newer models had some issues for a period of time.  I have read they worked those issues out.  

August 19, 2019
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