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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > MSR Whisperlite Internationale > Owner Review by David Wilkes

MSR WHISPERLITE INTERNATIONALE STOVE
BY DAVID WILKES
OWNER REVIEW
February 09, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: David Wilkes
EMAIL: amatbrewer@charterDOTnet
AGE: 42
LOCATION: Yakima, Washington USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)

I started backpacking about 13 years ago when I moved to Washington State. Since then I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I have usually only managed time for 1-3 trips a year ranging from 2-5 days and as many day hikes as I can. I am currently in training to start climbing some of the mountains in the area, starting with Mt Shasta. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain and consider inclement weather or poor conditions some of the things that make trips interesting and memorable.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: MSR
Year of Purchase: 1997
Manufacturer's Website: www.msrgear.com
MSRP: US$79.95
Listed Weight: Minimum 11.5 oz. (330 g)
Packaged 15.5 oz (460 g)
Measured Weight: [measured with digital Escali scale]
Stove 9.85 oz (279 g)
Pump Assembly 1.75 oz (49 g)
Stove/Pump/Heat Deflector & Wind Screen/Storage sack 15.60 oz (442 g)

Fuel:
Using standard jet: White Gas or Unleaded Auto Gas.
Using included replacement jet: Kerosene or Diesel

Features
* Stove legs and pot stand integrated into the burner and fold for storage.
* Shaker Jet" technology (weighted pin stored inside fuel jet) that makes the stove fuel jet self-cleaning.
* Lightweight design.
* Field strippable (can be easily broken down into basic components for cleaning and/or maintenance).

NOTE: In looking at the current version of this stove, it appears that they have changed the design of the fuel valve from a round metal knob to a flat plastic/metal tab, but otherwise the design remains the same.

DESCRIPTION & USE

Stove fully assembled
Image from MSR website


Description:
The stove consists of two main parts, the Pump/Valve assembly and the burner assembly. These are connected via a semi rigid fuel line that has a brass connector on the end that attaches to the pump/valve. The burner is a complicated looking (but deceptively simple) assembly of a main burner, gas jet, priming cup, and combined legs/pot stand. The pump assembly attaches directly to the fuel bottle (in place of the lid) and contains the fuel valve and the pump for pressurizing the fuel bottle.
The stove came with its own storage bag, aluminum windscreen & heat deflector, replacement gaskets and lubricating grease, as well as a "Jet and Cable Tool" and a second Jet (to be used when Kerosene or Diesel is used for fuel).
The fuel bottle is a separate item that does not come with the stove. These bottles are available in many sizes from many different manufacturers.
I personally have the 11 oz & 22 oz (325 & 650 ml) bottles manufactured by MSR.
Parts
Partially Assembled

Basic setup:
The basic set up for this stove is to start by removing the stove and windscreen from its storage sack. Then attach the pump/valve assembly to the fuel bottle (Note: bottle can be stored with the pump/valve in place of the cap). The burner is attached to the pump by inserting the brass end of the fuel line into a receptacle in the pump. The fuel line is secured in place by swinging a catch arm (attached to the fuel line) over the pump assembly.
The heat deflector is unfolded and slips over the fuel line and stove legs before the stove is attached (held in place by the stove legs after they are extended into place). Alternatively, the screen can be placed on the ground under the stove (this makes the setup a bit simpler but does not hold the outer part of the windscreen in place as well). The windscreen is then unfolded and wrapped in a circle around the stove. The windscreen has notches in two of the corners, providing an opening for the fuel line.
I found a paper clip to be a very useful in holding the wind screen in place while in use.

Before lighting the stove, it is necessary to pressurize the fuel bottle by giving 20-30 pumps (less when the bottle is full and more as there is more air space in the bottle).

When the fuel bottle is pressurized and the stove is placed on a flat (nonflammable surface) the stove is ready to be primed and lit.
For this type of stove to operate properly, the fuel must be preheated before exiting the jet. This is initially accomplished by priming, and then by the fuel line passing through the burner flame before reaching the jet.
To light the stove, it must first be primed in order to heat the fuel so it exits the jet as a gas rather than a liquid. At the bottom of the burner, there is a small priming cup. Opening the fuel valve a small amount will allow fuel to flow out of the jet and down into the priming cup. Once this cup is about full shut the fuel valve and light the fuel in the cup.
Note: it is important to watch that the fuel in the priming cup does not spill. If it does, the spilled fuel must be cleaned up or the stove moved to prevent it from igniting when the stove is lit. Not doing so can result in quite a bit of undesired flame as well as possibly igniting any flammable materials that might be under the stove. I learned this the hard way when camping in a pine forest where the ground is entirely covered with a thick layer of decaying pine needles and bark.

As the priming fuel burns, it heats the fuel line causing the fuel in it to expand and vaporize. By the time the priming fuel is mostly burned (about 2 min) there should be a blue flame in the burner and the stove should be making (jet engine) noises. When most of the priming fuel is gone, the fuel valve can be slowly opened and adjusted to obtain a low steady flame.

While the stove is in use, the temperature of the fuel and the pressure of the fuel bottle will change, requiring small adjustments to the fuel valve to maintain a steady flame height. Note: there is a slight delay between the adjustment of the valve and the pressure of the fuel at the stove jet. In addition, it may be necessary to add additional pressure to the fuel bottle during use. This should be avoided but if it must be done, it must be done with caution to avoid knocking over the stove.

To extinguish the flame simply turn the fuel valve fully off. The flame will gradually get smaller as the remaining fuel in the line is used up before going out completely.
After the stove has cooled (5 min or more), the setup procedure is repeated in reverse to disassemble. I have found it effective to wrap the fuel line around the stove and hook the end of the catch arm onto the stove to hold it in place.

FIELD USE


This stove has been my long time faithful companion on many hikes in the Washington Cascades. This stove has been on 2-5 night backpacking trips ranging between 2000-6000' (600-1800 m) in all 4 seasons, cooking for anywhere from 1-3 people.
I found that the 11 oz (325 ml) fuel bottle could be packed in the storage pouch that came with the stove. For my first couple of trips I removed the pump/valve assembly from the fuel bottle between uses. However I became concerned about the fuel filter becoming lost, damaged, or becoming dirty (and transferring the dirt to the fuel), so I started leaving the pump/valve assembly on the fuel bottle between uses. This has worked very well, even after months of storage.
While the stove is designed to use 4 different fuels I have only used it with White Gas as it is readily available in my area and should the fuel leak, I dread the idea of having to spend one or more nights in a tent or sleeping bag soaked in diesel, auto gas, or kerosene.

Performance:
I found the stove takes almost constant attention while it is in use, and can be unstable if not placed on firm flat (non-flammable surface). The stove produces quite a lot of heat, and does not perform well when the flame is turned down since the heat from the flame is what preheats the fuel. When the flame is lowered the temperature of the fuel arriving at the jet decreases further reducing the flame. This results in having to open the fuel valve a bit to compensate, resulting in more preheating of the fuel and therefore a higher flame that may need to be turned down. And so on and so on. I found that after some experience I was able to anticipate this and not over compensate resulting in a little more control. I also found that the cooking vessel contributed to the preheating of the fuel, so after starting the stove and getting the flame stable, the flame would tend to 'grow' after putting the pot on the stove, requiring me to lower the flame to compensate. The pressure of the fuel bottle also affects the flame height, so as the fuel is expended (more of a factor when cooking for multiple people) the fuel valve must be adjusted to compensate for the lower pressure.

By far most of the use of this stove has been during summer hikes in the Washington Cascades. Most of these have been on or near the Pacific Crest Trail. All of these have been in forested areas with minimal exposure to direct wind.
My primary considerations for a good backpacking stove are reliability and weight. In these areas this stoves performance has been exceptional.
Normal usage for me with this stove is to heat water in a small covered kettle for tea/coco/oatmeal and dehydrated meals.
At 5000' (1500 m) in the Cascades, even in summer, the mornings are chilly and damp, so I like to start the day off with a hot drink (tea or coco) and/or meal (such as instant oatmeal) when I can.
I have also used the stove to make espresso using a small portable ["backpacking"] espresso maker. This involves simply bringing the small volume of water (about 6 oz 177 ml) in the espreso maker to a low boil and holding it there for about 2 min. While the stove worked very well for this, the small size of the espresso maker did not fit well on the pot stands and as such was a bit unstable.
In addition to boiling water for dehydrated meals, I have also used the stove to simmer MRE's [US military issue prepared meals. I just heat the food package in a pot of boiling water].
When bringing water up to a boil, maintaining a constant flame height is not vital, but the stove still requires frequent adjustments to keep the stove from flaring up or going out. I found using the stove for simmering requires almost constant attention in order to maintain a stable flame height. I found that the smaller the flame the more frequently it was necessary to make adjustments.
In the spring and fall, since my bivisack does not have a vestibule, I have had to use it fully exposed to the weather; fog and even light rain during one of my solo trips. These conditions did not seem to have any noticeable effect on the performance of the stove.
I used this stove during a winter snow camping trip one winter, when two of us skied into Lake Kachess in the Washington Cascades at 2200' (671 m), where we spent 2 nights. It snowed the entire time and the temperature remained at or just below freezing (the weather could not have been better!). We set up a tent in a large tree bowl and used the stove (sitting on a shelf carved into a snow bank) to melt snow, and to boil water for tea, coffee, and dehydrated food for breakfasts & dinners.
I also used the stove 2-3 times while working on the top of Mission Ridge, West of Wenatchee Washington, at around 6750' (2332 m), to melt snow for tea and re-hydrating meals. The altitude did not seem to affect the performance of the stove, in fact one night I was a bit impatient while melting snow so I turned the flame up as high as I dared, and ended up partially melting the bottom of my (cheap stainless/copper) pot. It did not melt through the pot but it did deform and discolor the bottom and I had to dispose of the pot after returning from the trip.

Maintenance:
One of my favorite things about this stove is how little maintenance is required. When it does require some sort of maintenance, it can be completely dissembled (even in the field) using nothing more than the supplied tool. My one recommendation here would be to disassemble and reassemble it once or twice at home to get comfortable with doing it before taking it into the field.
stove with soot
Legs Folded & Soot

SUMMARY

After about 10 years of use in a wide range if conditions with little to no maintenance this stove has never let me down. In fact, I have referred to it as my most reliable hiking partner. My first year or so of using it, I made it a point to completely disassemble and clean it after every trip. However, I soon realized that the soot that builds up on the burner actually helps to maintain a steady flame. If I just leave it dirty, I find it takes less tending. In addition, despite at least one trip where I filled the fuel bottle with less than clean fuel (I noticed some rubbish floating in the fuel bottle after returning) and only cleaning it only every two years or so, I have not had any trouble with the pump/valve assembly.
Assembled
Ready for Use

THINGS I LIKE

This stove has been completely reliable despite some rough handling (like when I went head over heels while downhill skiing with it in my pack) and virtually no maintenance. I also appreciate its lightweight and ability to heat water quickly, especially after long unseasonably cold days on the trail.

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

It's almost constant need for attention when in use is sometimes an annoyance for me, especially when would prefer to be doing other tasks, such as sitting in a warm sleeping bag, while dinner is cooking. In addition, the difficulty in using the stove for simmering puts limits in what I am willing to cook. Finally, while leaving the soot on the stove helps make it easier to maintain a constant flame, especially when using a lower flame, I found it difficult to get the soot off my hands after setting the stove up.

SIGNATURE

David Wilkes

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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