MSR WindBurner Group Stove System
$200, 1 lb. 5 oz.
When cooking for more than two hungry people in the backcountry—especially if that includes kids—having a large pot and powerful stove keeps the team from waiting so long that they threaten revolt. But the stove’s performance in wind matters, too. On family backpacking trips of three days in Hells Canyon, four days on Nevada’s Ruby Crest Trail, and six days in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness, plus a five-day hike with three friends in The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, MSR’s WindBurner Group Stove System not only staved off rebellion, it boiled and cooked quickly in a range of temps and even surprised with its fuel efficiency.
Internally pressure-regulated to produce consistent heat output, with an enclosed burner that blocks wind, as well as flame control that goes from boiling fast to a low simmer, the WindBurner Group System boils a liter of water in about three minutes (in a lab setting at room temperature). It puts out 7,000 BTUs—but more importantly, the protected burner means wind doesn’t blow heat away and more of those BTUs actually reach the pot.
Compared to simpler (and admittedly lighter) stoves that lack wind protection, the WindBurner—true to its name—shines in campsites where there’s no avoiding wind. According to MSR, the WindBurner stoves achieve fuel efficiency of 60 percent to 75 percent, depending on the cookware used—as do MSR’s Reactor stoves—compared to about 50 percent fuel efficiency for the brand’s PocketRocket (and other, simple canister stoves like it).
However, an 8 mph breeze will slash the fuel efficiency of simple burners like the PocketRocket roughly in half, to 25 to 35 percent, according to MSR’s research. But a stove operating off of 100 percent primary air—like the WindBurner or Reactor—that’s much less affected by wind, sees its fuel efficiency drop off by only about two percent. It basically performs in wind as if there was no wind.
MSR says the stove’s efficiency makes an eight-ounce fuel canister last 95 minutes. In the High Uintas, cooking at elevations up to 11,000 feet with wind at times and mornings down to around 40° F, four of us used less than two full, 16-oz. MSR IsoPro fuel canisters in six days (five breakfasts and dinners). The only time I saw diminished performance was in early March in The Maze District of Canyonlands, when we had mornings in the 20s Fahrenheit, which slowed the stove’s fuel vaporization.
The Windburner Group Stove System comes with just the stove, pot, and lid. Nearly eight inches wide and six inches deep, the 2.5-liter, ceramic-coasted, aluminum non-stick pot has the capacity to feed four people—although with two older teenagers, that often required a couple of rounds of boiling water. A ring on the pot’s bottom fits over the burner ring, centering and stabilizing the pot while trapping heat—just be careful to set the pot on the burner properly (it should lie flat, not tipped at an angle).
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It has a strainer lid with locking latch—meaning you don’t have to risk first-degree burns from steam when draining boiling water out after cooking pasta—and a folding Talon handle. As with any canister stove, setup is remarkably easy and it may never require maintenance or cleaning (short of spilling food onto the stove). Plus, the stove unit or an 8-ounce fuel canister (but not both) fits easily inside the pot, with room to fit small items like lighters or a little food. (Use a soft cleaning cloth under the stove or fuel canister to avoid scratching the non-stick surface.)
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With high fuel efficiency, an easy setup, excellent flame control, and user-friendly features in a system weighing just a few ounces north of a pound, the MSR WindBurner Group Stove System ranks among the very best backcountry stoves for cooking for up to four people, especially when you want do more than just boil water.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the MSR WindBurner Group Stove System at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, msrgear.com, or rei.com, or other WindBurner stoves and products at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or msrgear.com.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.