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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > MSR Reactor Stove > Test Report by Stephanie Martin
Test Report: MSR Reactor Stove and Pot
INITIAL REPORT June 18, 2008
The Reactor arrived packed securely in a rather eye catching box
complete with a very nice product shot emblazoned on its front. Included
in the box is the Reactor cookset (lidded pot with special heat exchanger
attached), a small rectangle of packtowl, the Reactor burner, and instruction
manuals in a number of different languages. The product, packaging and
instruction manuals all bear large warnings regarding carbon monoxide and
explosion hazards, in addition to warnings and notifications that the product is
to be used outdoors only (and not inside a tent, vestibule, or any other number
of enclosed spaces such as your car, house or camper). Attached to the
burner with a thin wire cable was a rather large, flammable looking CE marking
Words on the Web
Product Features and Construction:
Unlike any of the other stoves I've used, the Reactor uses a radiant burner rather than jets or other flame producing heat mechanisms. The burner also has a domed top that fits nicely into the bottom of the heat exchanger on the 1.7 L ( 1.8 qt) pot. The burner does not have any sort of automatic or push-button ignition, and requires that the user carry matches, a lighter or some other spark source to get the stove going. Adjusting the flame or heat output is possible using the folding flame adjustor (the little red tab on the bottom of the stove in the image on the right). MSR has kindly included + and - indicators on the stove as a reminder as to which direction is on, and which is off.
The pot appears to be durable in construction, though I am not certain what type of metal it is made of. The lid is lightweight see-through smoke hued plastic - also of unknown material type. It has a small rubberized handle on the top that appears to be easy to grasp, and will hopefully not heat up much during the course of cooking.
Inside the pot are graduated markings in 0.5 L (0.5 qt) increments - rather surprising was the Max Fill designation at the 1.0 L mark, while this capacity limit is mentioned in the product owners manual (which, incidentally, can be downloaded from the MSR site), it is not clearly mentioned in the main product description anywhere. On the webpage, MSR indicates that the "high-efficiency 1.7 liter pot is great for everything from solo trips to cooking for groups up to three people."
Regarding the high-efficiency design, the reactor pot boasts a very nice robust looking heat exchanger on its bottom. When looking at it, it kind of reminds me of a jet turbine, what with its air-gap and various fins. The pot is designed to fit securely on the top of the Reactor burner - the two work in harmony together to provide wind protection and fast heat transfer to the pot, resulting in fast boil times.
Setting up the stove and getting it going is simple - first, clear away flammable materials from the area (MSR recommends a 4-ft (1.2 m) radius of cleared space (including above the stove)), then connect the stove and canister. The stove can then be lit by holding a flame source next to the edge of the burner screen while opening the flame adjuster. The burner will quietly make a small halo of lovely blue flames before swiftly (and silently) heating up, resembling a burning ember with the MSR logo emblazoned upon its red hot surface.
Based on how hot the air was above the burner when I took this photo (standing at my full height), I definitely can attest to making sure the appropriate clearance from combustibles is observed. I thought I might damage my camera what with all the heat pouring off the stove while I kept trying to get this photo. The only disappointment I have is the comment in the instructions to never exceed the Max Fill line. This line is located at the 1.0 L marking (just over half way up) inside the pot. This was surprising to me as I was fully expecting to be able boil up to 1.5 L (1.5 qts) of water at a time in this pot, especially as this stove/pot system is recommended in the product literature as suitable for groups up to 3 people.
While the stove came with a tag on it that said removing it
would void its CE certification or some such, I removed it anyhow, not wanting
to risk it catching fire. I personally think MSR should find a different
way to mark the stove, as the tag proved to be a bit challenging to remove.
I've brought the Reactor along with me on several overnight/weekend backpacking trips, most of which where boiling water was the main cooking task. In each case, the stove was used to prepare meals for two or more people. Unfortunately, due to the styles of the trips, I have not yet had an opportunity to see how well the Reactor can handle different styles of cooking, or how it does with meal preparations that require more simmering. I hope to have an opportunity to complete those evaluations during the long term test period.
I have to say, when time is of the essence, and hungry hikers abound, the Reactor did really well at boiling up pot after pot of water to get everyone's food rehydrating. Set up proved to be fast and easy, as was the breakdown and re-stowing of everything. As far as stability goes, with the pot "full*" with a liter (quart) of water, the system seemed stable and not prone to tipping - though I should note that I only have used the smaller sized fuel canisters for cooking.
Cleanup of the Fluxring pot has proven to be an easy affair so far, with the surface of the pot cleaning up readily - though again, I feel I should preface this with the statement that I haven't actually "cooked" in the pot yet to really determine if there are food sticking or burning issues. Cleaning up after using the pot to rehydrate a meal typically required just a couple of good rinses with a bit of water.
So far, all components show little to no wear, and everything remains in good working order.
*I have been following the manufacturer's max-fill line on the pot of 1 liter
(quart). It certainly would have been a little more convenient to be able
to fill the pot more fully (actual capacity is 1.7 liters (1.8 quarts))
especially when boiling water for group meals, though I fully understand that
the recommendation for a max fill of 1 liter (quart) is likely due to concerns
During the course of the long term test period, I took the reactor with me on several overnight trips, continuing to cook primarily boil and soak meals. While closer to home, I did make an attempt at a more complex boil and simmer meal, and found that the Reactor is really not suited for such cooking. While the stove has an adjustment knob, the heat output, even at the lowest setting, is still a full roiling boil that resulted in my having to constantly move the pot on and off the stove to prevent it from completely boiling over with my dinner inside. In addition to attempting more complex cooking during this test period, I also switched over to the taller, larger sized (8 oz / 227 g) fuel canisters. The canister stowed well inside the cook pot, along with the burner and packtowel. With a full pot on top of the setup, it seemed stable, and not prone to tipping at all.
To date, the whole cook-set looks pretty much brand new, though the pot lid was prone to getting greasy residue on it when used to actively cook in the pot - especially if the contents of the pot boiled up to touch the lid. Oil is typically hard to clean off plastic ware without soap and hot water - and since I don't bring soap on my backpacking trips, it generally meant that if I had the misfortune to get the lid dirty, I had to simply do my best to clean it off and then send it through the dishwasher when I got home. In addition to being prone to holding oil, the lid does pose one hazard - when set upon a closed pot of boiling contents, the little hole in the lid vents out a very strong stream of steam. In the dry Arizona air, the stream was completely invisible, and proved to be a very unpleasant surprise. Luckily, I learned fast, and now always remember to make sure I don't have to reach over the vent hole to lift up the lid.
Overall, the Reactor is a pleasure to use - it has fantastic heat output, and certainly boils water fast. While it won't do for all my cooking requirements, it will likely be my go-to pot for larger group trips where everyone brings boil and soak meals.[back to Table of Contents]
Summary: Woo Hoos and Boo Hoos
- Woo Hoo: Holy heat output! This baby burns hot hot hot!
My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and MSR for the opportunity to participate in this test.
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