Monday, January 31, 2011

Stove of the Week: MSR Simmerlite

Stove of the Week: MSR Simmerlite

Recently, I was asked by a mountaineering friend about ways to melt snow for drinking water that are light weight.  I'm therefore posting a series within the Stove of the Week series on light weight winter capable stoves.

In that vein, this week's stove is the MSR Simmerlite.  Let's start it off right with a flame shot:

Today's destination is Haines Canyon, site of much of my stove testing.  I see the recent wind storm has taken its toll.

The good news is that the creek is running well which means we'll have plenty of water for use with our Simmerlite.

Now, if you're talking about cold weather capable stoves, then no discussion is complete without discussing liquid fueled stoves.  Liquid fueled stoves will operate in the coldest of temperatures.  To this day, explorers and researchers in Antarctica use liquid fueled stoves.  The fuels used are typically "white" gasoline (Coleman type fuel) or kerosene.

Some time ago, MSR set out to create a light weight liquid fuel stove.  They came up with the Simmerlite.   It should be noted that the Simmerlite is a white gasoline stove only. The Simmerlite will not burn kerosene properly.

In the Simmerlite, MSR succeeded admirably in their quest for a light weight liquid fueled stove.  

Then MSR made a serious mistake.  They let the marketing department get a hold of it.  It went something like this:  "People want a stove that simmers," said the marketing department, "We'll emphasize this stove's ability to simmer by naming this stove, the Simmerlite.  We'll sell thousands!"  

"B-b-b-but it doesn't simmer" stammered the stove engineers.  "Not even close."

"Bosh!  Down with you nay-sayers!" cried the marketing department.  "We've got stoves to sell and bonuses to earn!  Out of our way!"

And so it was, and this engineering success became a marketing boondoggle.  Instead of focusing on the Simmerlite's most valuable attribute, it's light weight, MSR damaged its reputation and created customer ill will by marketing a simmering stove -- that doesn't simmer.  Well, OK, maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but surely it must have been something like that.  How else to explain the word "simmer" in a stove that doesn't?

Now, the vagaries of manufacturing being what they are, there is the odd exception out there.  I do know of one person whose Simmerlite actually simmers. Generally, though, the Simmerlite doesn't simmer.

So, that misconception dispelled, let's set our Simmerlite up.  Here's a photo of the Simmerlite ready to go.  Immediately behind the Simmerlite is her sister stove, the MSR Wind Pro which is essentially the same stove except that the Wind Pro has been modified to run on gas canisters.  
But enough about the Wind Pro; the Wind Pro is next week's stove.

Here's the Simmerlite, windscreen in place, chugging along, heating water for my morning tea.

Any stove worth it's salt must pass the "tea test" (boiling water), and judging by the steam coming out of the tea kettle in this photo, I'd say the Simmerlite has passed the tea test with flying colors.

Ah!  There we are.  Delicious.

Now, I realize that liquid fueled stoves are perceived as challenging by some.  In particular, priming seems to put people off.  Really, once you get the hang of it, liquid fueled stoves are no big deal, and they'll run in as cold a temperature as you can stand.  I'll talk about tips and tricks for priming liquid fueled stoves in the weeks to come.

Well, that's it for today.  Time to hit the road for home.

Thank you for joining me on another adventure in stoving.


Some summary information:

What's good about it?
It really is light.
It's fairly compact.
The hose is much more flexible than previous MSR stoves.
It's liquid fueled and will work in as cold a temperature as you can stand.
Liquid fuel is the least expensive fuel, and there aren't all those "dead" canisters that have to be landfilled or recycled.  Remember, while recycling is better than putting them in a land fill, recycling is still costly from an environmental standpoint.

What's bad about it?
Pumping and priming -- but really they're no big deal; they just take a little practice.
The pot supports are a little slidey.  They could be a little more grippy. 

It does not simmer.

Overall, the Simmerlite is a good light weight winter capable stove.


  1. Great info, anyway to make some kind of conversion kit to use a simmerlite or whisperlite off of a iso/butane canister like the windpro?? It would be nice to have the option to use one or the other.

  2. Mark, there are adaptors sold on eBay, but they're very expensive. If you're interested in a stove that can do either canisters or liquid fuel check out the Primus Omnifuel or the Coleman Fyrestorm.


  3. thanks for the information you are sharing here and truly the info you share on all topics Jim.

  4. If anyone can make something as arbitrary as a stove Blog worthy its Hikin Jim. Wonderful pictures, and a fine read. Well done!

  5. Hi all. I am currently living in Costa Rica and it's a huge pain trying to find "white gas" here. Do you think that Super grade gasoline would work just as well? Really appreciate the help!

  6. If you can't find white gasoline (gasolina blanca in Spanish), you can burn naptha (nafta in Spanish) from the hardware store.

    Definitely do not burn leaded automotive gasoline.

    You could burn unleaded regular (not super) automotive gasoline in an emergency, but the anti-knock additives will quickly clog the stove.

    Your best bet is gasolina blanca or nafta. If you can't find those, your next best bet is to get a different stove. There are stoves like the MSR XGK that will do OK -- just OK -- on unleaded regular. A Simmerlite, however, will generally not do will burning unleaded gasoline and will clog frequently.

    Note also that the fumes from burning unleaded gasoline can be toxic. Make sure you have good ventilation (i.e. cook outdoors) if you're going to burn unleaded gasoline.


  7. I have an MSR pocket Rocket I use for my solo hiking but in a couple of weeks I am taking the wife and my two kids on a short jaunt into Jasper, Alberta as an introductory hike so wanted to get something a little more powerful. I have not used a white gas back country stove before. I am the coordinator of a local Jr Forest Warden club and there happens to be an MSR Simmerlite in some of our gear so I am going to borrow it. Did some checks and lit it up no problem. Checked out the Internet and discovered they have been discontinued! I am also a fan of Coleman camping stoves (for car camping etc). I did a writeup on a couple I own if you wanted to have a look: http://davefromgp.ca/2011/09/28/at-peace-with-the-coleman-stove/

    1. The Simmerlite is a good one although as I've mentioned, it doesn't simmer. It's more of a snow melter and water boiler, but it's not a good cooking stove for meals that need a more subtle flame. Still, I like the fact that it's light, compact, is easily protected from wind, and is very stable.


  8. It should be noted that a workaround in getting the Simmerlite to simmer is too only pump the fuel pump 4 to 5 times. This will produce a simmer type flame, however, you can only start your cooking session this way and not go from a high output to low.

    1. Hi, Richie,

      Yes, that does help as does only filling the fuel bottle 1/2 full, but I still can only get a low(er) flame not a true simmer where a pot can be held at or just below a low boil.

      The Simmerlites vary a bit stove to stove. Some people I've talked to say that they can get their Simmerlite to simmer, but most people say they can't. Either way, I wouldn't call the Simmerlite a good simmering stove. It's a great lightweight white gas stove, but it's not a great simmerer.



My apologies to real people, but due to Spammers I have to moderate comments. I'll get to this as rapidly as possible but do understand that I like to hike and there's no internet in the wilderness. Take care and stove on!