MSR SIMMERLITE STOVE
BY BRIAN HARTMAN
October 10, 2010
5' 9" (1.75 m)
145 lb (65.80 kg)
I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.msrgear.com
MSRP: $99.95 US (fuel bottle sold separately)
Listed Weight: 8.5 oz (241 g)
Measured Weight: 9.1 oz (257 g)
Listed Dimensions: 9 x 6.7 x 5.8 inches (23 x 17 x 15 cm)
Fuel: White Gas
Average boil time: 3 minutes 33 seconds (per manufacturer)
The SimmerLite is a lightweight liquid fuel stove designed for backpacking and other outdoor adventures where equipment weight is a consideration. It includes the burner head, pump, windscreen, heat reflector and maintenance kit.
The stainless steel burner head is approximately 5.75 inches (14 cm) in diameter and 4.5 inches (11 cm) tall. The burner is ported with three rows of holes extending completely around the burner. These holes help provide a consistent flame. The burner is supported by three stainless steel legs which fan out to form a stable 6 inch (15 cm) cooking surface. The assembly collapses to a very small size as two of the three legs pivot about the center axis of the stove and store flat against the fixed leg. A 6 inch (15 cm) fuel line extends from the burner head. The fitting on the end of the fuel line is designed to be plugged into an MSR fuel bottle, which is sold separately. The pump assembly consists of a plastic pump and a small metal control valve. The control valve is used to fine tune the flame while rapidly boiling water or slowly simmering food.
The aluminum wind screen and heat reflector are easy to setup and fold neatly into the stuff sack when not in use. The maintenance kit includes a small tube of lubricating oil, an o-ring for the pump and a tool for disassembling the stove.
I have used the SimmerLite stove for the past few years while backpacking and it is a good, lightweight performer. With patience, it works well in all kinds of weather including cold, wet, windy conditions. I have used it to cook many meals while backpacking in 0 F (-18 C) temperatures.
Setup: The SimmerLite stove is straightforward to setup although it can take a few minutes to do so. I always start by finding a flat area for cooking, preferably out of the wind. I then unfold the reflector plate and set it on the ground. Next I rotate the stove legs so that they are equidistant around the burner and then remove the cap from my fuel bottle and screw on the pump. There are two tubes extending from the pump, one is a breather tube while the other is the fuel tube. Before threading the pump onto the fuel bottle, it is necessary to gently squeeze the two tubes together so that they can slip thru the narrow bottle opening. MSR recommends oiling the rubber o-ring on the pump where it threads onto the bottle and they include a small tube of oil in the kit for this purpose. Once the pump is screwed tightly to the fuel bottle, I insert the fuel line from the stove into the pump. Once again MSR recommends oiling the end of the fuel line where it plugs into the pump as there is an o-ring on the pump side. A metal clip secures the fuel line to the pump and prevents it from coming loose. It sometimes takes a couple tries to position the clip correctly as there are no markings on the pump or fuel line for alignment. After doing this many times, it is fairly easy and I have become quite adept at setting up the stove in the dark.
Priming: Although priming the stove is easy enough to do in a controlled setting, it is certainly more difficult to do in the dark and on uneven ground. I found this out the first time I lit the stove and ended up with flames on the ground due to spilled fuel. The first step in priming is to make sure the control valve is closed and then pressurize the fuel bottle. MSR recommends stroking the plunger between 15-25 times if the fuel bottle is full and 40-55 times if the fuel bottle is half full. The next thing to do is open the control valve to wet the burner head and then close it. On uneven ground the fuel typically spills over the edge of the burner into the overflow pan or onto the reflector shield before wetting the entire burner head. After lighting the stove I typically have a 12 inch (30 cm) flame until the fuel burns off and begins to warm up the fuel line. When the flame starts to die down I open the control valve and usually end up with a strong, blue flame. Most of the problems I've had priming the stove have centered around spilled fuel and/or the flame going out before the stove lights. When the flame goes out, it is a pain because the stove cannot be relit until it cools down.
I have always found it necessary to remove my gloves in winter in order to setup and prime this stove and by the time I am done I usually end up with fuel on my hands. However, on the flip side I really like the fact that my fuel bottle is refillable and that I do not end up with lots of half empty canisters.
Cooking: The SimmerLite is fairly stable to cook on as the legs provide a wide surface for holding small pots and pans. I regularly use a 6 inch (15 cm) pot for cooking my meals and it works great. I can boil 16 ounces (473 ml) of water in about 3 minutes. I have the 22 ounce (650 ml) MSR fuel bottle and on a 3-4 day backpacking trip, I never worry about using all of the white fuel I bring.
I've found that the windscreen definitely helps maximize the stove's efficiency. I also found that it is necessary to give the pump a few extra strokes when cooking for more than a few minutes in order to keep the fuel flowing and the flame even.
My main issue with this stove is that it doesn't simmer very well so consequently I only cook meals that don't require low heat. My meals usually consist of soup, pasta and any other foods that can be made with boiling water. I also use the stove to boil water for tea. I have tried to cook pancakes and eggs on this stove but it is difficult to coax the SimmerLite to a gentle flame without having it go out.
Cleanup: I have yet to do any real maintenance on this stove thanks to MSR's Shaker Jet technology. This technology cleans the jet valve by simply shaking the stove for 15-30 seconds after each use. The only other thing I occasionally do is oil the o-rings. The stove cools down fairly quickly after it is turned off and I really like how compact it is once disassembled. One note is that once connected, I usually leave the pump screwed onto my fuel bottle for the duration of my trip. This is mainly for convenience but also because there is no easy way to depressurize the bottle before unscrewing the lid. As a result, gas sprays out whenever the pump is removed.
As with all white gas stoves, lighting and simmering take a bit of practice, but for me this was fairly easily accomplished after using the stove several times. With practice and simple maintenance, I've found the SimmerLite stove works well and is very reliable.
THINGS I LIKE
1. Lightweight and Compact
2. Durable - I have had no problems with the durability of this stove. Maintenance has been as simple as shaking the stove after use.
3. Green - No throw away gas canisters.
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
1. Setup - Can be a pain to setup in freezing conditions and it requires removing gloves to adjust control valve.
2. Difficult to simmer.
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