WhisperLite Internationale Stove
By Raymond Estrella
April 21, 2008
Huntington Beach California USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research (MSR)
Web site: www.msrgear.com
Product: WhisperLite Internationale
Year manufactured: 1995ish
MSRP: 79.95 USD
Packaged weight listed: 15.5 oz (460 g)
Actual weight (this version): 13.5 oz (383 g)
Stuffed size: 4.5 x 3.25 x 6.5 in (140 x 140 x 41 mm)
Set-up size: 3.75 in (95 mm) high, 6 in (152 mm) diameter with pot supports open.
The MSR WhisperLite Internationale (hereafter called the WhisperLite or stove) is a multi-fuel liquid gas stove aimed at globetrotting backpackers. It is part of MSR's Extreme series of backpacking stoves. To achieve this worldly reputation the WhisperLite is engineered to burn white gas, kerosene and unleaded auto fuel.
The stove is made of mostly stainless steel material. The only place I could get a magnet to stick was on the flame rings.
At the bottom is the primer pan. The wick sits above it going around the manifold. The fuel line assembly runs into the side of the manifold and contains the fuel jet(s). By unscrewing the primer pan the fuel line assembly may be dropped to access the jet to change it out for alternate fuel use. It comes with a white gas jet installed and has another jet marked with a "K" to swap out for kerosene use.
Next heading upwards on our exploration of the WhisperLite is the steel flame reflector. Sitting in it is the flame ring package, a series of three wavy ferrous steel rings separated from each other by gaskets. This is all held on by the burner cap.
Surrounding the burner are three bent-wire legs which are also the pot-supports. One of them is stationary; the fuel line runs through it. The other two swivel around the stove and lock into protrusions at the one-third points around the flame reflector. The pot support section (top) has nothing to keep pots from sliding around.
The fuel line assembly consists of sections that are solid steel tubing and a braided section in the middle to allow some adjustment of the unit. A cut cable runs inside of it and out of a square block of aluminum. A steel keeper clip swings around from this block also. The fuel line sweeps up into the burner area, this is the generator where the fuel is vaporized by the heat of the burner to create gas for even, clean flame.
The plastic fuel pump is threaded to go into aluminum fuel bottles sold by MSR in three different sizes. The bottle(s) are not included with the stove. The part of the pump that goes in the bottle has a fuel pick-up tube with a porous brass filter on the end of it, and an air tube that sits against the top of the fuel bottle when it is laying on the proper side for use.
Sticking out of the bottle is the plunger used to pump air into the bottle. This forces the fuel out through the fuel line. Said fuel line goes into a hole under the pump and it kept in place by the steel keeper clip that snaps into a groove on the pump. On my model a round knurled aluminum knob controls the flame. On the new models this is a folding wire handle.
The stove comes with a manual that contains safety warnings, operating instructions, use information and troubleshooting tips.
The WhisperLite comes with a folding, multi-pocket sack. It also comes with a 5.75 in (14.6 cm) tall folded aluminum wind screen, and a folding round aluminum heat reflector that sits over the legs and just under the pot supports. Here is a picture of them both deployed.
I bought the WhisperLite well before I ever kept a hiking log as I do now. It was used for many years mostly in the Sierra Nevada range. It has seen use in Yosemite National Park (NP), Kings Canyon NP, Sequoia National Forest, San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness, and Domeland Wilderness to name a few. I have used it at camp sites as high as 11000 ft (3350 m) and as low as around 4000 ft (1220 m).
Temperatures ran from lows in the 20s F (-4 C) to near 100 F (38 C). I have used it in windy conditions and rain and freak snow storms, but most use was on great sunny California days.
I bought the WhisperLite Internationale to replace the big and heavy propane stove I had been using for the previous 7 years. I chose the International as I had a dream of hiking in Australia (I still do) and wanted something that would burn kerosene if need be.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
It was a bit of a learning curve to go from just turning the fuel on (like my kitchen stove at home) and lighting it to the process of starting a liquid fuel stove. Here is the sequence to do it.
After hooking the stove to the pump (which is already in the fuel bottle) the pluger is pumped about 20 times. Then the fuel control knob is turned on to allow just a little fuel to come out, where it will sit in the primer pan and soak into the wick. Please note that only a "little" fuel is needed to do this. I made torches a few times as I was learning, thankfully never in my tent vestibule.
The fuel is lit with a match, lighter or striker and allowed to burn itself almost out. As the yellow flame dies down the generator should start heating the fuel that was still inside the tube to gas and a hissing noise will emanate along with some blue jets of flame, this being a sign that the gas is going. Now turn the control knob back on and it will start the jet effect that I have come to know and love. Dinner, coming right up!
The WhisperLite has been a very durable and dependable stove for me. While it is darkened from use I have never had a malfunction from it. And when I used it I was a regular backpacking gourmet. I used to make omelets and coffee for breakfast, and three course meals for dinner. I even carried a BakePacker to allow me to bake on the trail. (Needless to say I was not putting on over 500 miles [800 km] a year back then either…) So my stove saw a lot of use.
I bought and carried a rebuild kit (it is sitting near the bottle in the top picture) on every hike, but never opened it. This is one tough stove.
I never used it for 4-season hiking but did see some cold conditions in spring and fall. It never hiccupped at the temps I did get down to.
I usually used it with the 11 oz (325 ml) bottle shown but also had bigger sizes for long trips. The larger bottle seems to work better but I like the compact size of the smaller one as it will fit along with everything else in the stuff sack as it is in the picture to the right.
If I had to pick one shortcoming of the WhisperLite it was in the simmering department. It just did not do it. And as I was using stainless steel pots back then and cooking in the pots, not freezer bags and cozies…well, I was down near the creek scrubbing quite a lot. No wonder I only averaged 12 miles (19 km) a day back then. MSR knew of this and added the SimmerLite to its product line-up to address it. I bought one of them too and 4 months later changed my entire meal philosophy that pretty much negated the need for either stove. (I still use the company's XGK for winter use.) I am going to sell my WhisperLite but had such fond memories of this sweet little flame-thrower that I thought I should share it here before I say "Goodbye, hot stuff…"
I am kind of sad doing so. The WhisperLite Internationale has very well earned its reputation as a classic backpacking stove. And I do not doubt that it will still be going (and selling) strong for another decade.
Read more reviews of MSR gear
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella