The MSR Whisperlite multifuel stove has been a favourite for bicycle tourers, hikers and travellers alike, for both its simplicity and versatility. The major drawcard is the fact that this stove runs on petrol/gasoline. I can roll into petrol stations all over the world and typically fill my fuel bottle for a dollar. That gives me enough fuel for a few weeks use, but more importantly, I never find it stressful sourcing it.
I’ve now used the same MSR Whisperlite stove for 10 years, that includes two years where it was used twice per day. Oh, and I’m currently using the same stove for my current bike tour from Argentina to Alaska!
Using The MSR Whisperlite
The MSR Whisperlite needs to be pre-heated, and that takes time. You need to fill the lower cup with fuel, light it and wait until the metal is hot. It’s during this time that the stove gets really sooty and black. I’ve found that after you’ve finished using it, you can blow most of the soot off easily.
The stove’s performance with petrol is quite poor. It can take up to five minutes to boil a litre of water, depending on the quality of the fuel. Time has never really been a big concern – I do other things while water boils.
My only gripe with the product is that I can’t change the heat level while I’m cooking, but more on that below…
The MSR Whisperlite Fuel Pump
The plastic componentry and rubber seals of the fuel pump were a worry for the first few months of my original multi-year trip. Slowly but surely I built confidence in the materials and have now been burning some dirty, DIRTY petrol for a long time. Ultimately, the MSR Whisperlite pump ended up lasting 1500-2000 uses before it gave up the ghost, leaking even when it .
I ended up replacing it for my current trip CyclingAbout The Americas.
Why The MSR Whisperlite Rocks
– You can burn almost any fuel available all over the world (I always use petrol/gasoline).
– I’ve only JUST replaced the seals in the pump, after using the stove for four or five years. Due to the Whisperlite’s simplicity and sound construction, it seems like it will genuinely last a lifetime.
– It’s silent compared to other multifuel stoves with simmer control (eg. MSR Dragonfly).
– It’s super easy to clean and rebuild.
– It burns very cleanly and efficiently with high-quality fuels such as ‘Shellite’.
– It doesn’t require aluminium cans (like a gas canister stove) which can be a pain to find, and frankly, a waste of resources.
Why The Whisperlite Doesn’t Rock
– You have very little heat adjustment at the control valve when you’re cooking. If you know your Whisperlite well, it’s possible to pressurize it to a low level (for simmering a curry) or high level (for boiling water) when you start it up. But once it’s on, you can only increase the pressure and therefore the temperature. I have a solution for this problem though: the SIMMER RING!
– The stove’s performance (boil time) is quite average compared with other camping stoves out there.
– The most recent model has teeth on the top of the legs to keep your pot secure when cooking. The problem is that the legs are sharp and tend to cut through the stove bag (or whatever the stove is packed next to).
– When using petrol, the Whisperlite is dirty. I blow off most of the black grime after use and store my stove in a plastic ziplock bag to prevent it making everything else dirty. It’s also possible to use a clean fuel (eg. Shellite) to prime the stove (preheating the metal so that the fuel instantly vapourises) before turning the control valve to run the stove on petrol.
Would I Buy It Again?
The Whisperlite is a brilliant product for cycling around the world given its reliability and versatility with different fuel types. If it’s any consolation I’ve yet again taken my stove on a multiyear adventure through the Americas.
That said, the Whisperlite isn’t ideal for short tours through regions where you can pick up fuel canisters or burning alcohol. It’s possible to save weight, lighting time and dirtiness by using a smaller, lighter, faster and more adjustable canister stove.
– MSR Whisperlite Universal (multifuel + canister stove)
– MSR Dragonfly (heat adjustable but really, really noisy)
– Primus Omnifuel