QuietStove.com

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stove of the Week: MSR Whisperlite Universal

As previously announced and reported here on Adventures in Stoving, MSR is coming out with a new version of their Whisperlite stove, the Whisperlite Universal.
An MSR Whisperlite Universal running on canister gas in liquid feed mode
I've written a review of the new Whisperlite Universal, and that review is now available at Seattle Backpackers Magazine.  This blog post will answer questions that may not have been addressed in the review and also serve as a place to display additional photos not used in the review.

Update, 19 January 2012:  The MSR Whisperlite Universal has been awarded the Backpacking Magazine Editor's Choice award.


QUESTION:  Can the gas adapter from the Whisperlite Universal be used on a Simmerlite?
ANSWER:  The end of the Whisperlite Universal's fuel line is threaded, and it is onto these threads that the gas and liquid fuel adapters attach.  The end of the Simmerlite's fuel line is smooth.  So, no, unfortunately, the gas adapter from the Whisperlite Universal can not be used on a Simmerlite.
The end of a Whisperlite Universal fuel line
QUESTION: What tools are needed to assemble/disassemble the Whisperlite Universal?
ANSWER:  Generally, the only tool you will need is the wrench/tool that comes with the stove.  However, a safety pin or needle can be really handy for replacing "O" rings.  For heavier duty maintenance, you may need additional tools.  For example, the burner head now requires a hex tool (Allen wrench) for disassembly.  However, this type of maintenance is almost never needed in the field, and you should be fine when out on the trail with just the MSR wrench/tool.
The wrench/tool that comes with the Whisperlite Universal
QUESTION:  What is the retail price of the Whisperlite Universal?
ANSWER:  MSRP is $139.95.   
  Update 11 Nov 2011:  MEC, the Canadian Outdoors retailer, has the MSR Whisperlite Universal listed for $131.00 (CAD -- about $128 USD).  Let's hope that MSR has relented a little bit on the price.  $140 is a bit much for a Whisperlite, even a wonderfully improved Whisperlite like the Whisperlite Universal


DETAILED PHOTOS NOT USED IN THE REVIEW:
The UC jet is seen here in the mixing chamber. Note how the height of the jet restricts the air supply to the mixing chamber.
The legs have "stops" that precisely control the positioning of the legs/pot supports.  Gone are the notches that each leg slipped in to.

A photo of the underside of the MSR Whisperlite Universal's burner. A spring clip holds the legs in place.
The canister adapter of the MSR Whisperlite Universal, opposite side. Note the pictograph of a canister gas jet and the letters UC which correspond to the letters on the actual jet.
The baffles of the Whisperlite Universal's burner.  There are fewer baffles than earlier versions.
MSR Whisperlite Universal (top) with liquid fuel adapter on the end of the fuel line.  MSR Whisperlite "Classic" (bottom).
MSR Whisperlite Universal (top) with liquid fuel adapter on the end of the fuel line.  MSR Whisperlite "Classic" (bottom).
MSR Whisperlite "Classic" (left), MSR Whisperlite Universal (right).
MSR Whisperlite "Classic" (left), MSR Whisperlite Universal (right).
The MSR Whisperlite Universal rigged for canister gas
Flame shot, running on white gasoline (Coleman fuel).  Note how hot it gets under the generator (pre heat loop).  This apparent heat entrapment allows the stove to simmer far better than current Whisperlite stoves.
Flame shot, running on white gasoline -- MAXIMUM POWER.
Running on canister gas in liquid feed mode -- MAXIMUM POWER. That is a really big flame for a Whisperlite.
Running on canister gas in liquid feed mode -- MAXIMUM POWER.

Running on kerosene

Soot build up after running on kerosene

MSR Whisperlite Universal (left) and MSR Windpro (right).
 MSR Whisperlite Universal (left) and MSR Windpro (right).
 The fuel line of the Whisperlite Universal is fairly stiff. Here, you can see that the fuel line never touches the table top. The line is stiff enough to support its own weight without drooping.
 A Whisperlite Classic snapped into a Trillium base.
 The legs of a Whisperlite Universal do not fit onto the tabs of a Trillium base
The Whisperlite Universal canNOT plug into older versions of the standard pump. The aluminum block is too wide. Note how the red plastic of the pump has been chipped by the aluminum block.
 The aluminum block of the Whisperlite Internationale fits right in to an older MSR standard pump.
The aluminum blocks of the Whisperlite Universal (bottom) and the Whisperlite Internationale (top). Note that the aluminum block is asymmetric on the Internationale. This asymmetry allows the block to fit into older versions of the standard MSR pump.

The Whisperlite Internationale has four "baffle" rings.
 The Whisperlite Universal has only three "baffle" rings
 MSR Whisperlite Universal (left) and MSR Whisperlite Internationale (right).
A Primus Omnifuel
An MSR Whisperlite Universal connected to a Primus Omnifuel pump using the Whisperlite Universal's gas adapter
An MSR Whisperlite Universal connected to a Primus Omnifuel pump using the Whisperlite Universal's gas adapter
Running an MSR Whisperlite Universal with a Primus Omnifuel pump
 Running an MSR Whisperlite Universal with a Primus Omnifuel pump
 Passing the "tea test"
 Breakfast is served.  :) 


Stove testing at First Water on the Mount Wilson Trail

Simmer test on kerosene.  Note that the burner is NOT glowing red.  I was able to get a nice low flame.

Simmer test on kerosene. A nice, low boil

HJ

40 comments:

  1. Hi Jim,

    Any idea what the retail is on this ?

    Thanks, Russ

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  2. Thanks, Jim,

    A very thorough and informative review.

    Yonadav

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  3. Hi, Yonadav,

    Nice to see you get over to my blog. I'm glad you found the review helpful.

    HJ

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  4. Hi Jim,

    Introduction to thank
    I really need it,
    Where do I buy a burner?

    Thanks, Ikgoo

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, Bass,

    You can purchase a Whisperlite Universal at this link: http://www.backcountrygear.com/camping-and-hiking/kitchen/liquid-fuel-stoves/msr-whisperlite-universal-one-size.html

    HJ

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  6. Your information has been ordered.
    Thank you, Jim

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  7. Not going to get one! Your review was very helpful and I'm looking for a replacement to a white gas and canister stove but I don't think I'm spending $140 on this. I love MSR stoves and have used them for 20 years but this is a no go for me. I shared my thoughts on my own blogspot, Let me know what you think and thanks for the review. http://worldclimb.blogspot.com/
    Simon

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  8. Hi, Simon,

    I'll give it a look.

    HJ

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  9. Jim, Nice - and very detailed - review. I noticed that MSR's web site shows their latest Trillium stove base as having some extra, funny shaped, holes. I figure is is just possible they are there to support the new Whisperlite Universal. I'm not going to go out and buy either the stove or a new base to find out, but it might affect your report.

    Jack

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    Replies
    1. Jack,

      Good eye. Yes, the newer Trillium bases do fit the Whisperlite Universal. It's not quite the same arrangement, but they do fit.

      HJ

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  10. Well I ordered the Whisperlite Universal and a Primus Omnifuel Pump to have on- hand once the MSR pump fails which, by the reviews I have, is inevitable. I also have an original Brunton Optimus Nova. I wonder if the Whisperlit Universal 7/16 th fitting will mate with the Optimus Nova pump?

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  11. The whisperlite gas connector does not mate with original "Made in Sweden" Brunton Optimus pump as it does fir the Primus Omifuel pump

    . The pump has a bayonet reciever with male threads that thread iinto the pump female housing. The gas cannister adaptor of the Whisperlite is also female. So a male/male fitting would be needed to screw into the pump head on one side, and the Whisperlite gas adapto on the other side.

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  12. Phil,

    Actually the current MSR pump is pretty good. It's going to take some years for MSR to live down the bad reputation that they got from their old pumps, but the new pump, the Duraseal pump should stand you in good stead for some time.

    Having said that, I do consider the Omnifuel pump to be the better pump. If you don't mind shelling out the bucks (the Omnifuel pump is NOT cheap), then by all means get an Omnifuel pump.

    None of the versions of the pump for the Nova will work with an MSR Universal.

    HJ

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  13. Great review. You mentioned some changes made over the old WL (better simmering etc.) I winder if the NEW WL international has the same changes. I have no interest in burning canisters - just unleaded. Does the fuel line of the new international allow rotation for flip stops, and are the same changes made to improve simmering as those introduced in the universal?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the new Whisperlite *INTERNATIONALE* has the improvements. The Whisperlite Classic does not. The Whisperlite Internationale will accommodate a flip stop.

      A word of caution with unleaded gasoline for use as a stove fuel: You will cut down on the life of the stove and you will have more clogs if you use unleaded fuel. Just because a stove *can* use unleaded does not mean that it will work equally well as white gasoline. Always use white gasoline or kerosene unless you just have no other choice. Unleaded is not a particularly good stove fuel. Diesel #2 is even worse.

      HJ

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  14. Hello there Jim.

    Last year I read your review of the Whisperlite Universal, and it convinced me to buy the stove for a year-long transcontinental bicycle tour. I've since been using the stove for a few months, but recently it's developed the annoying habit of the pump cup falling off and being trapped at the bottom of the pump tube. It's getting pretty frustrating of wanting to cook a hot meal at the end of a day of cycling in subzero temperatures only to find out that I need to yet again grab a pen to fish the pump cup out of the bottom of the tube and stick it back on the pump. I've given the cup a thorough oiling with the included oil but to no avail.

    As you seem to have quite a bit of experience with these kinds of stoves, have you heard of this problem before? Have any tips on fixing it?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Adam,

      Yes, I have heard of that problem. Indeed, that's probably the #1 criticism (the pump cup coming off) of the new MSR pumps which have a synthetic rubber cup instead of the older and (in my opinion) better oiled leather cup that earlier MSR pumps had.

      I would buy a replacement cup. There should be one in the "annual" maintenance kit. If the problem continues even with a new pump cup, I would complain to MSR that you have a defective pump. MSR is usually pretty good about replacing such things.

      Please let me know how it goes.

      HJ

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  15. Sorry for taking so long to respond. I assumed I'd get an email notification of a reply, but it seems not.

    I unfortunately didn't buy the extra maintenance kit, so I don't have a spare pump cup. Right now we're on the road in Georgia (the country) where there are no MSR distributors and the postal system is supposed to be quite unreliable, so I guess that for now we'll just make do with intermittently fishing the cup out.

    Thanks,
    Adam

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Adam,

      Well, that's a bit of a bummer, but yes, I don't think you'll do better unless you can find a similarly sized pump cup from another stove -- which you may be able to find. The former Soviet Union was well known for using various white gas and kerosene type stoves. If you come across a mountaineering type supply store, it can't hurt to check.

      Whatever you do, don't throw out the pump that came with the stove!

      HJ

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    2. Thanks again.

      For that week or so it was falling out multiple times every time I wanted to use the stove, but then it magically fixed itself and hasn't fallen out in the weeks since. I didn't do anything differently, so I don't really know what happened, but whatever it is I'm happy it's working fine now.

      Delete
    3. Whoa. That's weird. Did the temperature change significantly?

      HJ

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    4. Another late reply, but no, the temperature didn't really change significantly. It's since started messing up again, and I've contacted MSR support.

      Delete
    5. You know, honestly, I wonder if you got a "lemon". Maybe they should swap it out for you.

      HJ

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  16. Why doesn't everyone contact MSR and ask them to make a Whisperlite International with all the features of the Universal (except the ISOPRO option) and add the second simmer control similar to what is provided on the Dragon Fly? Then we would have an excellent quiet hot burning stove that also simmers excellently rather than poorly when using white gas? Also, Has anyone tried using a leather pump gasket instead of the synthetic pump gasket in the new pumps?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A leather pump gasket will work fine instead of the synthetic ones.

      Ask for asking MSR to make a custom stove for you, good luck with that.

      HJ

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  17. I really like the idea of using the Primus pump on the Whisperlite. I have an old International. Where could I find the gas adapter (or something similar) to convert it?

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, you can't. The Primus pump will only work with the Universal (unless you're a machinist and want to make custom parts -- hardly worth doing).

      HJ

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    2. Couldn't I simply replace the end of the hose with a male fitting that screws into the adapter?

      Delete
    3. Well, yes, but that's not necessarily easy to do (replace the hose end with the proper fitting). If you're skilled and know how to do such things, by all means, but it's not something the average person would know how to do.

      HJ

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  18. I currently use a Windpro II for cold weather backpacking but only down to 20F...so far. While this stove can probably go lower, would the Whisperlite Universal be a better bet if temps dip to say 0F? The WU is certainly heavier; but I wouldn't want to mess around when the mercury drops.

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  19. The Windpro II should be good down to 0F. You will need to:
    a) Make sure you use appropriate fuel -- isobutane/propane mixes only, no butane/propane mixes.
    b) Warm the canister before you start. Put it inside your jacket before dinner or with you in your sleeping bag before breakfast.
    c) Keep the canister warm during use. Putting the canister in water works well in this regard and is very safe. Wamish water is OK, but not hot which could cause a flare up. As long as you can keep the water liquid, you'll have good gas pressure for cooking. If the water starts to freeze, the pressure in the canister will drop.

    In really cold temps, you may need to open up the windscreen a bit and allow the heat of the flame to directly hit the canister. THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS. If you let the canister get too hot, it could cause an explosion. So long as the canister is not hot to the touch, you're reasonably safe. You must check the canister consistently and frequently with your bare hand. This is an extreme measure for very cold weather. It will work, and it will work well, but as I say it is very dangerous. You have to be ultra-careful when doing this.

    That said, I think going down to 0F should be fine. If you start going below 0F, you may have to use the more dangerous technique I've outlined above (direct heat from the stove to the canister). Don't use the more dangerous technique unless you really have to.

    Bottom line: You probably don't need a Whisperlite Universal for the weather you're describing, but do see my post on stoves for extreme cold.

    HJ

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  20. Is the bottom line to heat the mix above the vaporization temperature so that it can burn? (ie. gas in is liquid form will not burn)

    In addition to the heating options you mentioned, could I burn alcohol, white gas or probably best kerosene in the cup beneath the burner on the Windpro to heat the generator/vaporization tube?

    This vaporization temperature thing has me thinking:

    1) Does the propane in the isobutane/propane canister rise to the top since its lighter? If so, could the stove theoretically light at say 30 below with the canister in the upright position since propane vaporizes at -44F? This assumes not disturbing the canister for a while to allow the gases to separate.

    2) I've read about alcohol being used to prime a stove (i.e preheat). How is this possible in cold weather if alcohol has a relatively high vaporization temperature? Similarly, how does a Bic lighter work when temps are really cold?

    Thanks again Jim. Your responses are very educational and always appreciated,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Lot's of questions. :)

      It's a bit more complicated than that, but essentially the bottom line is to keep the fuel mix about 10 F degress (or 5 C degrees) above the vaporization point so that you'll have enough pressure to run the stove well. If you run with the canister inverted (see my article at Seattle Backpackers Magazine), you need only keep the mix a few degrees above the vaporization point in order to have sufficient pressure to run the stove.

      An 80/20 isobutane/propane (not regular butane!) mix will vaporize down to about 0F. Keep in mind though that if you start the stove upright, more of the propane will burn off leaving you with progressively less propane in your mixture through the life of the canister. You may start with 80/20 but wind up with 95/5, depending on how many times you stop and start the stove. If you run all the time in the upright position, you'll be at 100/0 for the last third or so of the life of the canister. Isobutane alone (with no propane mixed in) has a vaporization point of 11F/-12C, hence you should run with the canister inverted as much as possible in temperatures below about 20F/-7C.

      HJ

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    2. Yes, you could burn something in the little cup below the burner column of a WindPro. The cup is a little shallow, but it will more or less work. I would not recommend kerosene. Kerosene is very dirty when burned as a priming fuel and will foul the stove. White gasoline is better but will still leave a lot of soot. Denatured alcohol or methanol is generally the best for priming. If you prime the stove with alcohol, you can then start the stove with the canister in the inverted position, a decided advantage in that when you run with the canister inverted, the mix of isobutane/propane stays constant. If you run with the canister upright, the propane burns off at a faster rate than the isobutane which is the opposite of what you want for cold weather performance.

      How can alcohol work in cold weather since it has poor vapor pressure in cold weather? The heat of the match with which you light the alcohol will typically supply enough heat to start the process. If you try to ignite alcohol in cold weather with a fire steel, it's quite a bit tougher. Once the match gets some of the alcohol lit, the resultant heat vaporizes more of the alcohol which in turn burns and vaporizes even more alcohol and so on and so on. The heat of the match starts the process. Excellent question.

      Note, in truly cold weather, it may take more than one match to get things started.

      HJ

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    3. As for separation of gasses by relative weight (propane vs. isobutane) resulting from letting the canister sit, this really isn't what's going on inside a canister of fuel. Recall that the fuel is primarily a liquid inside the canister. The two fuels commingle inside the canister and effectively form a new compound. Even if left to settle overnight, they don't separate. Of course a portion of the canister will have fuel in it's vaporous form. The amounts of each fuel are more dependent on the relative vapor pressures of the constituent fuels than on the weights (although of course molecular weight has a bearing on boiling point which directly correlates to vapor pressure). In other words, the gases in the vapor portion of the inside of the canister don't stratify by weight. Instead, the amount of each gas is determined by the vapor pressure of that gas. Propane has a higher vapor pressure and will be present in a higher concentration than the isobutane.

      So, indeed, you can light the stove in fairly low temperatures, but not as low as pure propane.

      Keep in mind though that there is a "penalty" for lighting the stove with the canister upright -- you're burning off a higher percentage of your propane when you do so. In order to keep the percentage of propane relatively constant, you need to invert the canister as often as possible.

      HJ

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  21. Regarding butane lighters, they are subject to the same laws of physics and chemistry that stoves are. Butane lighters really struggle in cold weather. The trick, same as with stoves, is to keep them warm. If you keep it next to your body, in a pocket, say, then the butane should be warm enough to vaporize and you should be able to use the lighter. Note that "flint and steel" ignitions tend to work better on lighters in cold weather than piezoelectric ignitions. Also piezo ignitions struggle somewhere above 8,000'/2400m and are utterly useless above 10,000'/3000m.

    HJ

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  22. hi, HJ

    I just brought one and running it with kerosene. It runs fine at full power (steady blue frame).
    But when I try to turn down output, the flame goes yellow and smells. I fail to shimmer it.
    Can you help to advise how to shimmer it ?
    Thanks.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Hello HJ

     One of the not so good of the whisperlite universal is the butane adapter , the thread is to soft mine got broke, my adapter thread now is loose i cant put any canister . Where can i buy replacement adapter? I cant find any in all internet stores. im from the philippines 

    cheers :-)

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