MSR’s Windburner ($150) is an integrated canister stove built to do one thing and pretty much one thing only: boil water. Boil it fast and boil it efficiently and do it even in a swirling wind. Okay, technically, it simmers too, but the boiling is the important part. At 15.3 ounces for the pot/stove combination, it’s heavier than many backpacking stoves and cooksets combined, so it had better do that boiling part very well.
And it does. Boy howdy.
I’ve been testing the one-liter personal stove system (MSR also makes remote canister Windburners with a variety of pot sizes). At sea level, I’ve boiled 0.75 liters of 60-degree water in less than three minutes (A full liter fills the pot and would boil over too easily). Two minutes and forty seconds was the quickest in a range of test boils—shattering the estimated four-and-a-half minutes suggested boil time for a full liter listed on the MSR website.
At elevation in colder temperatures, well, I haven’t timed it, because during recent uses in the Sierra it’s been frigidly cold and terribly windy and timing the boil was the furthest thing from my mind. But it boils fast enough to put it on, move on to something else, then have to run back to deal with your now boiling-over stove. Even in a driving wind. The wind truly does not seem to affect this little stove (except when lighting, more on that in a moment).
The lid is fitted with spouts for pouring, and the pot is covered in an insulated jacket and handle, so it’s easy to pick up the freshly-boiled water and fill your dehydrated meal packet or mug of cocoa powder without burning yourself. The heat is adjustable too, so I’ve found simmering to be no sweat, and have cooked a boil-in-bag meal in the pot itself just to see if I could without scorching my food—no problem. Plus, toss in the Windburner Coffee Press, and you’ve got a coffeemaker nesting in your cookset.
But, and this is a huge, massive but—MSR, why no piezo igniter on this puppy? The Windburner is basically windproof, EXCEPT when you’re trying to light it. There’s no way to ignite the burner without removing the pot, so, in lots of wind, you have to be like Indiana Jones swapping that bag of sand with the stone artifact in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in lighting the burner with one hand while quickly setting the pot over the ignited flame with the other. A way to light the stove with the pot already integrated would make this a perfect cooking system. Once nestled in though, don’t get comfy—it’ll be boiling in no time.
Having said that, compared with my trusty, beloved Snowpeak Gigapower ($40), an incredibly good 3-ounce stove I’ve used since my first days backpacking that would nevertheless get blown out like a candle in even a stiff breeze, the Windburner is good enough to ignore the occasional awkward lighting moment.
Plus, in windless conditions, and even in a decent little blow, I’ve easily ignited the Windburner with only a flint firestarter.
If you care only about weight savings, the Windburner isn’t for you. But if functionality, reliability, and ease of use are your bag? This is your stove.
$150 • BUY