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MSR Whisperlite Review

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MSR Whisperlite

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The MSR Whisperlite International is the best liquid fuel stove on the market in 2022. I have used the stove all over the world for more than 20 years and think it is the best expedition stove available.

The MSR Whisperlite International burns almost any type of liquid fuel and can be easily maintained in the field. When compared to all the Best Backpacking Stoves it is one of the best after all these years. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this stove.

In-Depth Review of the MSR Whisperlite

MSR Whisperlite International Review

MSR Whisperlite Review

Weight: 11.2 oz / 320 grams
Pros:

> Can be repaired in the field
> Super-fast boil time.
> Reliable
> Lifetime Warranty
> Can burn almost any fuel
Cons:
> Heavy
> Takes a while to learn how to use it
> Can be smelly when not in use

If you are looking for an expedition stove that can burn almost any liquid fuel then the MSR Whisperlite International is the stove for you. I have been using this liquid fuel stove since the mid-1990s. There have been a couple of changes since then, including a lighter and more compact leg design and a different fuel switch. It is reliable, able to be repaired in the field, and produces a hot flame.

The MSR Whisperlite International takes a little bit of a learning curve needed to use this stove such as preheating the stove and changing the jets to suit whatever type of fuel is being used. You also need to pump the fuel bottle to make sure there is sufficient pressure in the bottle to ensure there is sufficient fuel supplied to the stove. Once mastered it is the best liquid fuel stove on the market.

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Read the full review of the Best Backpacking Stoves

Using a MSR Whisperlite International many years ago in the mountains of Peru
Using the MSR Whisperlite at high altitude in the Peruvian Andes on the Huayhuash Circuit circa 1997!

Ease of Use

The MSR Whisperlite International liquid fuel stove is not the easiest backpacking stove to use as there is a learning curve.

There are several steps you need to follow when using MSR Whisperlite International liquid fuel stoves.

  • First, you must fit the fuel pump to the liquid fuel bottle and pressurize it.
  • Connect the stove fuel line to the fuel pump.
  • Then turn on the liquid fuel to allow a small amount of fuel to go into the collection bowl and wick.
  • Light the fuel in the bowl to pre-heat the fuel pipes. Depending on the type of fuel you are using it can emit a little smoke but white gas and kerosene burn clean.
  • After a minute or when the fuel is almost all used up, turn on the fuel to get a hot blue flame.
  • If using the stove for a long time to boil or cook multiple meals you may need to pump the fuel pump to increase the pressure inside the liquid fuel bottle.
Pre heating the MSR Whisperlite International
Pre-heating the unit prior to use

Fuel Types

The MSR Whisperlite International can burn many types of liquid fuel including White Gas (best), kerosene (2nd best), and unleaded fuel (worst).

I have used all three fuels in the stove and whenever possible I use White Gas. In some countries, it might go by the name of Shellite, Coleman Fuel, or Bencina Blanca. Either way that should always be the first choice and best fuel to use. Usually, it can be found in outdoor stores, hardware stores, or paint shops.

Kerosene is widely available and burns clean but not quite as hot as White Gas.

Unleaded fuel can be used but is very smelly and often leaves black soot on the stove and pots, especially during the priming of the fuel. Other than that it burns hot.

The MSR Whisperlite Universal can also use a canister.

MSR Whisperlite stove bottle and pump
The liquid fuel bottle with the pump attached

Weight

The MSR Whisperlite liquid fuel stove weighs in at 11.2 oz / 320 grams. Although it is heavy by the standards of gas canister stoves or alcohol stoves it will work in almost any type of weather condition from hot desert to high altitude mountaineering to arctic expeditions and anything in between.

MSR whisperlite and pump

Performance

Once you have spent about a minute preheating and priming the stove it usually takes about 3.5 minutes to boil 1 liter of water when using White Gas. When using this stove with White Gas it is a truly magical experience of extreme heat, fast boil time, and the ability to use the stove at almost any temperature or altitude. I have used this stove at 18000 feet / 5500 meters to melt snow and cook food.

It takes about 4.4 minutes when using kerosene. This is quite good fuel efficiency compared with most other liquid fuel or canister stoves.

The MSR Whisperlite is very fuel-efficient and able to burn about 44 liters of water per liter of white gas. That is one reason why this stove is loved by expeditions and large groups all over the world. I doubt any alcohol or canister stove could have been more efficient.

One thing that sets this apart from many canister stoves is the cold weather performance which is exceptional. If you need to melt snow in winter or need a high-performance backpacking stove with a hot flame for cooking then the MSR Whisperlite International excels.

MSR Whisperlite using white gas

Wind Performace

The stove performs well in the wind once it has been primed and humming along with the strong blue flame. But it is best to use it with an aluminum windshield. They can be purchased separately or buy an aluminum oven tray and cut to size.


Simmer

The MSR Whisperlite Stove will simmer if needed but it is not very good. I like to hover the pot above the stove to regulate the amount of heat I need. Another method is to run the pump at a low pressure to reduce the amount of fuel being used and subsequently burn at a lower heat. The second method takes a bit of practice but works well.


MSR Whisperlite Fuel Bottle

The MSR Whisperlite needs a fuel bottle for the stove to be used. The fuel bottles come in three sizes:

  • 11 oz / 325 ml
  • 20 oz / 591 ml
  • 30 oz / 887 ml

Most people will want the biggest-sized bottle even though the smaller bottle is lighter.

MSR Whisperlite bottle

Maintenance in the Field

One of the great things about the MSR Whisperlite International stove is the ability to repair it in the field. Although there are many parts that make up the stove they can all be repaired and replaced when out in the field. It will require the purchase of a separate repair kit which includes spare wicks, silicone lube, o-rings, spare jets, all the tools you need, and more. I always carry this with me and the silicone lube is the commonly used item that keeps the o-rings in good condition.

As you can see the fact that they have a repair kit can tell you that this stove needs maintenance from time to time. It is not complicated but to keep the stove in great working order it will need to be done.


Whisperlite Vs The Rest

There are several other liquid fuel stoves on the market, the Primus Omnifuel and the MSR XGK are the two main rivals for the MSR Whisperlite. There is also the MSR Whisperlite Universal which also has the ability to use a gas canister when they are available.

Canister stoves have caught up to the MSR Whisperlite International in many regards but canister fuel and alcohol for alcohol stoves are not available everywhere in the world.

The MSR XGK liquid fuel stove burns almost anything and is very fast and efficient.

The Primus Omnifuel is also a good liquid fuel stove but a bit more expensive and not quite as good as the MSR Whisperlite.

Read the full review of the Best Backpacking Stoves


Value

The price of the MSR Whisperlite International stove is quite reasonable compared to the competition and when you look at what you get. This stove is able to be repaired and as a result, it will last a very long time. Just make sure you get the repair kit and windshield when you purchase the Whisperlite.


Conclusion

If you are planning on extended trips into the backcountry, high altitude, extreme cold environments, or remote areas then this could be the MSR Whisperlite International stove for you. There is little chance that you can’t find some sort of fuel to power up this stove in the middle of nowhere.

The MSR Whisperlite International is much loved by arctic explorers and cyclists traveling the world. Having used this stove since the mid-1990s I am not going to get rid of this stove anytime soon. I still use it when Bike Touring and Bikepacking in very remote areas. Overall, a good item to have on expeditions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better the MSR Whisperlite International or MSR Whisperlite Universal?

The MSR Whisperlite International is a multi-fuel stove able to burn either White Gas, Kerosene, or Unleaded Gasoline. The MSR Whisperlite Universal can use either a gas canister or liquid fuels such as White Gas, Unleaded Gasoline, or Kerosene. Both offer some of the best liquid fuel stoves available on the market.

Is the MSR Whisperlite worth it?

The MSR Whisperlite is one of the best liquid fuel stoves on the market. It is best suited for high-altitude backpacking or mountaineering, extreme cold, expedition-style travel, or larger group travel. It is very strong, easy to repair, and will last many years.


MSR Whisperlite Multi-fuel stove Review

BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs BikeHikeSafari.com.

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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