Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stove of the Week: Optimus Nova

The Optimus Nova is a crummy piece of junk -- or is it?  The answer:  It depends.  Buy the right version, and you might get a really good deal on a high quality expedition class stove.  Buy the wrong one, and you might just go hungry.

New post 18 Oct 2011:  Running an Optimus Nova on Canister Gas
What am I blathering about?  Optimus was bought out by Katadyn in 2007.  Katadyn has sought to reduce production costs.  Katadyn started cutting corners on the Nova.  Component quality and quality control suffered.  Indeed, the problems are so bad that Katadyn has been forced to issue a recall of the Nova.  Word of the recall and of the quality problems has gotten around.  Now, there is very little demand for the Nova.  It looks like Katadyn, in trying to milk the Nova cash cow has strangled her instead.  It's a shame.  Optimus had a very fine stove in the Nova, and now Katadyn has dealt the Nova what may very well be a death blow.  Shame on you, Katadyn!

But herein lies opportunity.  The Nova now has a bad reputation.  A stove with a bad reputation can't command much of a price.  But if you know what to look for, you can pick up a pre-Katadyn Nova, which is a very fine stove indeed, possibly for a very good price.  How will you know the difference?  I will get to that, but for now I will review a "real" Optimus Nova, a Nova from before the redesign.

First, the nova comes packaged in this padded pouch.
Frankly, when everything is in the pouch, it's a bit of a tight fit.
With care, everything can be fitted in.  However, if one carries the pump in the fuel bottle rather than in the pouch (which is the best approach anyway), then the pouch is more than adequate.

The pump on a Nova is made of very nice solid aluminum.
One of the ways we can tell a good Nova from a bad Nova is by means of the pump.  A good Nova has a connector made by AB CEJN of Sweden.  The red cover for the  connector should say CEJN on it.
If it doesn't say CEJN on it, that's a bad sign.  Likewise the male connector on the fuel hose should say CEJN.

If if doesn't say CEJN, it's not a Nova you want.  Similarly, the female connector on the pump should say CEJN.
It is not critical that the red, plastic protector on the pump be made by CEJN, but it is definitely critical that the connector on the pump and the connector on the fuel hose be made by CEJN.  If it doesn't say CEJN, don't buy it.

While we're on the subject of pumps, it's important to note that the pump rotates around the connector.  When you want to run the stove, rotate the fuel bottle (and therefore the pump as well) around the connector until you see the word "ON".

When you want to shut the stove down, flip the bottle over such that the word "OFF" is visible.

When the pump is rotated to the "OFF" position, the pump will draw air instead of fuel.  The air will proceed down the fuel hose just as fuel would.  Running air down the hose, clears the hose and helps prevent dried fuel deposits from building up.  Running air down the hose also helps to depressurize the fuel bottle so that fuel doesn't spray everywhere when you open the bottle.

Now, let's take a look at the stove itself.  Here it is removed from the pouch but still all folded up in transport mode.

Unfolded, the stove looks like this.
Now let's take a closer look at the valve control handle.
The valve control handle should say "made in Sweden."  It shouldn't say something else, including just the word "Sweden" alone.

Very good then, let's attach the stove to the fuel bottle and pump.  Note (if you have good eyesight) that the word "ON" can be seen on the collar of the fuel pump.  The fuel bottle is in the operating position.
Now, take a look at that bottle.  Notice that it is an MSR bottle but that this is an Optimus stove.  This is worth noting:  Sigg, MSR, Optimus, Primus, Snow Peak, and Brunton fuel bottles all have the same thread and generally are interchangeable.  I say "generally" because I have not been able to get an MSR pump to fit onto a Primus bottle.  The threads are the same, but the place where the threads start on a Primus bottle doesn't seem to work with an MSR pump.  So, good news:  if you can find one of the above brands of fuel bottles for cheap, go for it, and you can use it with stoves from that brand or any of the other brands.  But, lest there be bad news, always double check that your pump fits in a particular bottle before you head out into the field.

What's that you say?  MSR says "use MSR bottles only?"  Well, they do, don't they?  Hmm.  Isn't interesting that when MSR first started producing stoves that they didn't even make their own bottles.  What did they use?  Sigg fuel bottles (note:  fuel bottles, not drink bottles).  Has Sigg somehow declined in quality since then?  Hardly.  Now in all fairness to MSR, there were some problems in the past with people using cheap imported bottles.  However, saying "use MSR bottle only" is going a bit too far.  Any quality fuel bottle from an established manufacturer should be fine so long as the bottle has compatible threads.

Now, let's get to the meat of the matter:  actual use. The Nova is a winner.  It's got a very nice, powerful flame.
But at the same time it simmers well.
Now, that's a very nice low flame.  The Nova (pre-Katadyn) also has an excellent reputation for being able to handle cold weather and indeed is said to be better than the Primus Omnifuel in this regard.

Of course, just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of  a stove is in the cooking.  I assure you, the Optimus Nova really cooks.

That's it for this week's stove, the Optimus Nova.  I hope you're able to tell a good one from a bad one and that perhaps you'll find yourself a really good deal on a really good stove.

Thanks for joining me on another Adventure in Stoving.


The Pre-Katadyn Optimus Nova
What's good about it?
Highly adjustable flame
Pump can be rotated to purge the stove
Excellent extreme cold weather reputation
High quality CEJN connector

What's bad about it?
A bit loud
The pouch is a bit small (minor issue)
Katadyn has now ruined the stove

Pre-Katadyn Optimus Nova:  Overall, highly recommended.
Katadyn Optimus Nova:  Unreliable, not recommended.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stove of the Week: Primus Omnifuel

If you want a stove that runs like a Swiss watch, then the Primus Omnifuel is your stove. It's precision engineering at it's best.  I mean this thing is a stovie's dream. Just look at that beautiful blue flame. 

The pump's action is a smooth as silk.  Everything fits together just so.  This is one high end stove.  But enough praise, let's take a look.  First, the burner.
It's a roarer style burner.  I expected it to be loud, as most roarers are, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It's really quite quiet for its type. However, one would hardly refer to the Omnifuel as quiet when the flame is on high.  The Omnifuel's three legs make it quite stable, and the pot supports are well engineered to accommodate a wide (and narrow!) assortment of pots.

The pump is sturdy aluminum, a far more robust pump than, say, a plastic MSR pump.  One interesting feature to the Omnifuel is it's rotating attachment to the fuel pump.  In order to run the stove, one rotates the fuel tank around the axis formed by the valve to the "ON" position (as seen in the below photograph).  The black grooved piece of plastic that you see immediately to the left of the pump rotates freely.
To turn the stove off, one again rotates the fuel tank around the axis formed by the valve into the "OFF" position.  In the "OFF" position, the dip tube, which would normally be in the lowest portion of the tank, submerged in fuel, now points upward and just draws air.  This air now flows out through the valve, clearing the fuel line and depressurizing the fuel tank.

It's worth noting that the threads on the Omnifuel's pump will fit Primus, Snow Peak, Sigg, MSR, Optimus, and Brunton fuel bottles.  Here, the Omnifuel is shown with an MSR fuel bottle.

The Omnifuel, as the name implies, will run on both of the standard petroleum liquid stove fuels, "white" gasoline (Coleman type fuel) and kerosene.  The Omnifuel is not designed to work on alcohol.  In a pinch, the Omnifuel can be run on unleaded automotive gasoline or diesel.  Of course it will not run as cleanly on unleaded or diesel and will require more frequent cleaning.  Use non-standard fuels like unleaded or diesel only when absolutely necessary.  The Omnifuel's manual states that leaded automotive gasoline should not be used "for health reasons."  As much as I like stoves and as much as I'd like to do a thorough review, I'm not about to personally test that health warning!  I imagine that you could run the Omnifuel on aviation gasoline or jet fuel as well, but again do so only when absolutely necessary.

Now, all the preceding regarding fuel is pretty standard fare for a multi-fuel expedition type stove like the Omnifuel, but there's another standard fuel out there that I haven't yet mentioned:  canister gas.   
The Omnifuel can run on the same gas canisters that power such popular stoves as the MSR Pocket Rocket and the Jetboil PCS.  It's really quite ingenious how Primus managed to allow not only liquid but gas fuel to be used.  The connection between the pump and the fuel line is a 7/16ths UNEF threaded male connector -- the exact same connector as on a gas stove.  If one wishes to use gas, one screws the connector into a canister of gas.  If one wishes to use liquid fuel, one screws the connector -- the very same connector -- into the pump.  Quite clever.  Indeed, other stove manufacturers, such as Brunton with the Vapor AF and Coleman with the Fyrestorm, are copying this idea.  I don't know for a fact that Primus originated the idea, but if Primus was not the first, they were among the first, and certainly the Omnifuel is a fine implementation of the idea..
For cold weather, the Omnifuel can operate with the canister inverted, that is it can operate in liquid feed gas mode.  Normally, one would invert the canister only if a stove has a pre-heat loop (aka generator) which the Omnifuel does not  However, since the Omnifuel can burn liquid fuel, which must be vaporized at the burner, it can therefore vaporize liquefied gas.  In liquid feed mode, the Omnifuel should easily operate in temperatures down to 0F/-18C, provided that you use canisters that contain some blend of either isobutane or regular butane with propane.  Canisters of 100% regular butane will not work in cold weather.  If one employs various means to keep the gas canister relatively warm and uses a winter grade fuel (a propane blend with no regular butane), one can operate the stove in far lower temperatures. The ability to run on canister gas, which requires no priming, is a big plus if the weather is really horrible and you want to cook inside your tent.  I personally do not find the idea of priming a stove inside a tent to be appealing.

The Omnifuel comes with jets with three different sized apertures, one jet for each of the three general classes of fuel:  gas (0.45mm), gasoline (0.37mm), and kerosene (0.28mm).  Each jet aperture size is optimized to burn efficiently the fuel for which it is intended.  The lighter the fuel, the larger the aperture size.  The heavier the fuel, the smaller the aperture.  While it is best to run the stove with the correct jet for a given fuel, my experience is that the stove will work reasonably well with mid-sized aperture jet on both gas and gasoline.  I have not, as of this writing, tried all possible combinations of jets and fuels.

Let's take another look at the burner.
Note the wire handle attached to the rigid portion of the fuel line.  This handle controls an "at the burner" valve.  A valve that close to the burner allows one to very precisely adjust the fuel and therefore the flame.  The Omnifuel has excellent simmering capabilities, no matter the fuel.

Now, a mild word of caution.  Stoves with a valve at the burner generally require a bit more maintenance than those that do not.  I am not saying that the Omnifuel is in any way unreliable.  It is a well designed, wonderful stove.  However, generally speaking, stoves with a simpler design, i.e. without the valve at the burner, require less maintenance.  With good quality fuels, there should be little problem.  However, were I going to some remote third-world location where the kerosene is likely to be quite unreliable as to its purity, I might be tempted to take a simpler stove, perhaps something like the MSR XGK.

At this juncture, let me make mention of a worthwhile aftermarket modification to the Omnifuel:  the Omnidawg silent cap.  The Omnidawg silent cap replaces the roarer plate in the Omnifuel's burner.  The Omnidawg greatly reduces the roaring noise of the burner.  I did a video review of the Omnidawg cap which I will link to below.  You will see me running the Omnidawg cap on an MSR Dragonfly stove because I didn't have an Omnifuel at the time I made the videos.  In actual field use, the Omnidawg cap works every bit as well on an Omnifuel as it does on the Dragonfly in the videos.  I haven't got the means to run the number of controlled trials necessary to establish this, but my gut feel is that the Omnidawg cap puts out more power than the roarer plate.  This perceived increase in power may be due to improved air gas mixing inside the cap, leading to increased efficiency in the flame.  Again, this is my gut feel only; I have no hard data on this.  Whether it increases efficiency or not, the cap runs extremely well and is very quiet.  People have asked in connection with the videos, so in hopes of heading off a lot of questions, let me publish the following information:  Omnidawg caps are available on eBay through seller "hugecanine."  The caps are hand made and are not always available.

Note:  I was approached by the producer of the Omnidawg cap and asked to do a review.  As a part of the review process I received an Omnidawg cap.  Other than the cap itself, I received no remuneration for my review.  The receipt of the Omnidawg cap was not contingent on the nature of my review (in other words I didn't have to promise to do a positive review in return for the cap).  Further, I receive no part of the proceeds from the sales of Omnidawg caps.  All comments regarding the Omnidawg cap on this page and in the linked videos are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the producer of the Omnidawg cap.

Well, there you have it, a brief look at the Primus Omnifuel, a truly wonderful stove and a personal favorite.


The Primus Omnifuel
What's good about it?
Truly multifuel, burns all standard petroleum based fuels, including canister gas.
Precise, easy simmering
Precision engineering.
Relatively quiet for a roarer type burner
Extremely quiet with an Omnidawg cap

What's bad about it?
Relatively heavy compared to typical canister gas stoves
A bit bulky compared to typical canister gas stoves
May require more maintenance than simpler designs

Overall, highly recommended.

Other Primus Omnifuel Related Posts
Primus Omnifuel vs. MSR Whisperlite Universal -- A comparison

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stove of the Week: MSR Rapidfire

OK, so this week's stove is a bit of a "sleeper" in the sense that it's not a stove that you would expect a lot from -- unless you knew better.  But you'll have to read on to find out what's so interesting about this week's stove, the MSR Rapidfire.

First, let's go through our usual run down of the stove, and then we'll get into some of it's unusual qualities.  So, what's with this thing called a Rapidfire?  Isn't it just a Whisperlite?  I mean seriously, just look at it.  It's a freakin' Whisperlite for crying out loud.

Or is it?  Take a look at the bottom of the burner column.  Hmm.  No priming cup.  OK, so what the Dickens is this thing?  Well, it is a close relative of the Whisperlite all right, but made to run on canister gas.
The Rapidfire was MSR's first entry into the gas stove market.  Prior to the Rapidfire, MSR was a liquid fuel only stove manufacturer.  When MSR saw how gas stoves were really catching on, they needed an entrant into the market.  How better to get there than to simply modify their existing "workhorse" stove, the Whisperlite?  Enter the Rapidfire.  Apparently, MSR was pretty paranoid about the volatility of gas as compared to liquid fuel; they really lengthened the fuel line which is odd when you consider that now the majority of MSR gas stoves mount directly on to the canister.

The stove itself is identical to the Whisperltie except for the aforementioned lack of a priming cup.
Instead of a priming cup, there's a threaded, knurled ring that holds the fuel line and legs in place.
At the end of the fuel line, there's a gas connector and valve rather than the open ended tube with aluminum block and catch-arm of the Whisperlite.
Now take a careful look at that connector.
Note the central pin.  It is this pin that depresses the Lindal valve inside the canister of gas.  I've seen these pins go missing.  No pin, and essentially you've got no gas.  Second, note the black rubber "O" ring.  This "O" ring must be in place for you to operate the stove safely.  Without the "O" ring, gas may leak which could be quite dangerous.

Speaking of gas, it's worth mentioning here that the MSR Rapidfire stove can use any standard threaded backpacking gas canister.  Originally, the Rapidfire used a cylindrical gas canister, but that canister had the same 7/16" UNEF standard thread as used on today's dome shaped canisters, so there's no problem with respect to finding fuel even though the Rapidfire is an older stove.  MSR discontinued production, to the best of my ability to discern, in 2001.

OK, so MSR needed a gas stove, so they pressed a modified Whisperlite into service, so what?  I mean does this Rapidfire have any redeeming features or is it just some kludgey attempt to not let all the other stove manufacturers run away with the gas stove part of the stove market?  Actually, the Rapidfire has several features that distinguish it from typical gas stoves, one of which actually makes the Rapidfire potentially pretty worth owning.  I'll get to that in a moment.
First, the Rapidfire, like its progenitor the Whisperlite, is a remote fueled stove.  In other words, the fuel is not directly attached to the burner but rather fuel is brought in via a fuel line from a remote source.  This does several things for us:  1) since there's no fuel tank under the burner, the burner is lower which brings us out of the wind.  2)  Also since the burner is lower, the stove is more stable.  3) Lastly and most importantly, since the fuel isn't local to the burner, we do not have to worry about heat radiating from the burner and overheating the fuel -- which means we can use a windscreen with complete impunity.  Use a windscreen the wrong way on a typical canister stove, and you could turn your stove from a domestic servant into a domestic terrorist.  Overheated canisters can and do explode.

Speaking of windscreens, here's a Rapidfire all set up with a heat reflector and windscreen, a very efficient cooking set up.

Now, I keep blathering about something special about the Rapidfire.  Let's take a closer look at the burner itself shall we?
Do you see that loop in the burner?  That's the fuel line.  That loop is referred to as a pre-heat loop (or generator).  The loop is exposed directly to the flame when the stove is in operation.  Fuel flows into that loop before it enters the burner, which greatly heats the fuel.  In a liquid fueled stove, that heat is what turns the liquid into a vapor so that it can be burned.

Well, that's just great, Jim, but we're working with gas here, so who really cares?

Are you?  Really?  Pick up a full canister of gas and shake it.  Hear that sloshing sound?  That's a liquid in there.

OK, great, it's a liquid in the can but it's a gas when it comes out of the burner, so I still don't care about that pre-heat loop; can we just move on?

Well, not so fast there.  Yes, you're right, it is a gas when it comes out of the burner.  Usually.  But what about cold weather?  Gotcha.  That's the problem with gas stoves.  They lose power when the weather gets below freezing because the liquefied gas in the canister won't vaporize properly.  Remember that pre-heat loop?  There's our answer.  In cold weather, we let the liquefied gas stay liquid, and we let the pre-heat loop vaporize it for us.  In that way, we don't care if it's cold or not.  We don't use the air temperature to vaporize our gas, we use the heat of the flame.

Uh, great Jim, but the connector attaches to the top of the canister, and all it's going to draw is gas off the top.  If there's no gas, we've got no fuel.

This is not a problem.  Just turn the canister over.  Note:  Do not invert the canister on a gas stove that does not have a pre-heat loop.  A serious flare up might result. 
The top of the canister is now the bottom.  That portion of the fuel that is in vapor form now acts to pressurize the canister, pushing liquid down, out of the canister, and down the fuel line.  The fuel stays in liquid form until it hits the pre-heat loop where the high heat causes it to change from liquid to gas.  The resultant gas comes rushing out of the burner, and baby you've got flame.  Note that the stove is in operation in the above photo.  When gas is fed in liquid form to the burner, the stove is said to be in liquid feed mode.  Note that I said liquid feed not liquid fuel.  The fuel will still be a gas at room temperature and pressure.  We haven't changed fuel; we've merely changed the form that the fuel is fed in.
Using a gas stove in liquid feed mode is an important capability for a couple of reasons:
1.  Normal gas stoves operate in vapor feed mode, that is the fuel is fed in as a vapor, and you have to rely on the ambient temperature to vaporize your fuel.  In liquid feed mode, you rely not on the outside temperature but on the heat of the flame.  Stoves in liquid feed mode will operate in colder weather than normal gas stoves.
2.  In normal gas stoves, the fuel is typically a propane-butane or propane-isobutane blend.  Propane, the gas that works best in cold, has a higher vapor pressure and burns off faster leaving you, toward the end of the life of the tank, with a tank full of your worst performing cold weather fuel. In fact, you may wind up with a canister that is still 30% full that you can't coax any gas out of because all the good propane has burned off and nothing is left but the lesser performing fuels.  In liquid feed mode, all the fuels are burned at a constant rate.  The fuel towards the end of the life of the canister is the same mix as at the start of the canister.  In liquid feed mode, you don't get such horrible "canister fade" like you do in vapor feed mode.

I normally recommend a cut off of about 20F/-7C for normal gas stoves -- and that's with using "tricks," having to put up with less-than-stellar performance, and potentially having fuel that you can't get to vaporize.  With a gas stove in liquid feed mode, you can easily go down to 0F/-18C without having to use a lot of tricks, with full performance, and without having a portion of your fuel being unusable.

In other words, with a gas stove in liquid mode, you get all of the convenience of gas without all the low performance and hassles associated with gas in cold weather.  Uh, couldn't I just use a regular liquid fueled stove?  Sure.  If you're comfortable with liquid fuel, go for it.  But consider this:  If it's really snowing hard and you need to cook inside your tent do you really want to use liquid fuel?  What happens if your priming gets a little out of hand?  With a gas stove in liquid feed mode, you get liquid fuel performance but without the danger of priming.  And of course you get all of the usual convenience of a gas stove.  One of those conveniences is simmering.  It's pretty tough to get the typical Whisperlite to simmer like this:
And that's without monkeying around with only filling the fuel bottle half full and only pumping a few strokes.  Easy, just about automatic simmering in other words.

Now, in all fairness, other remote canister gas stoves have pre-heat loops. Other remote canister stoves can operate in liquid feed mode.  What makes the Rapidfire a "sleeper" -- a stove you wouldn't expect much from but turns out to be a pretty good stove?  Well, take a look at the price tags on some of those stoves out there that are remote canister stoves and have pre-heat loops.  They're expensive.  The Rapidfire is an older, discontinued stove, most people haven't heard of it, and you can pick one up for a much more reasonable price than you can some of the current production stoves.  All the performance at a fraction of the price.  You heard it here on Adventures in Stoving.  :)  Also, the Rapidfire's fuel line rotates easily at the connector which makes it easy to invert the canister to put the stove into liquid feed mode.  The Rapidfire's more modern cousin, the Windpro, does not rotate easily at the connector.

Yep, the Rapidfire is a "sleeper," but don't underestimate this stove.  It's a lot of stove for the money.

Well, looks like the kettle's boiling.  I'd best get to that cup of hot chocolate before it gets cold.

Thanks for joining me on another Adventure in Stoving.


The MSR Rapidfire
What's good about it?
Able to operate in liquid feed mode
Can use a full windscreen with impunity even though it's a gas stove
Simmers well
Connector rotates easily for liquid feed mode
Fairly compact
Reasonably powerful

What's bad about it?
The wire pot supports are difficult to get back into "true" if they get bent.  (so don't bend them!)
The fuel line is a little stiff particularly when compared to newer stoves like the WindPro.
A tad heavy when compared to newer stoves like the WindPro.

Overall, recommended.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stove of the Week: MSR Whisperlite (Pre-Shaker Jet)

In 1980 Mountain Safety Research (MSR) was bought out by Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI).  Prior to the buy out, MSR was mainly a fairly specialized equipment manufacturer catering mostly to mountaineers. REI wanted to change that and turn MSR into a company that would cater to a wider audience.  One of the first big projects undertaken during the REI years was the MSR Whisperlite.

Prior to the Whisperlite, MSR stoves all had roarer type burners.  As the name "roarer" implies, such burners tend to be rather noisy.  MSR therefore decided to go with a different type of burner, a baffled burner, which is a far quieter type of burner.  To herald this change, MSR named the stove the Whisperlite. Indeed, I've had friends remark on just how quiet the Whisperlite is compared to other stoves. The "lite" portion of the stove's name, as one might expect, reflects the fact that the Whisperlite was at that time MSR's lightest stove.  MSR had another goal:  to produce an economical stove that would have broader appeal than the higher end stoves that they had theretofore been producing.  In this regard, MSR hit a home run, launching one of the most successful of modern white gasoline type stoves.  Introduced in 1984, the Whisperlite is still sold today.  Backpackers quickly adopted the Whisperlite despite its occasional clogs.  In a survey of through hikers on the Appalachian Trail in 1989, the number one most commonly carried stove was the Whisperlite, and this only five years after its introduction.  In about 1996, the Whisperlite's jet was redesigned.  MSR made the jet larger and inserted a weighted cleaning needle.  When the stove was shaken up and down, the weighted needle would move in and out of the jet's orifice, clearing the jet.  MSR named this redesigned jet after its method of use:  the shaker jet.  Unfortunately, MSR stoves with the shaker jet generally do not simmer as well as pre-shaker jet models. Now why the average person couldn't simply use the wire pricker to clean the jet I am not sure, but MSR apparently felt that they needed to do something to allay customer's fears about clogs.

Well, let's have a look shall we?  This week's stove is the pre-shaker jet version of the MSR Whisperlite.    The early Whisperlites came with this red stuff sack, marked with the MSR "Matterhorn" logo:

These older stuff sacks are in my opinion nicer than the newer black stuff sacks.  The old red stuff sacks included small pockets which were handy for holding spares, matches, a lighter, etc.

The Whisperlite is a fairly compact stove, certainly more compact than its predecessors, the XGK line of stoves or the Firefly. 
I should mention that this particular stove is special to me:  This is my very first pack stove.  I bought it from Sport Chalet in La Canada in about 1987.  It has served me faithfully for now almost a quarter of a century with very few problems.
The early Whisperlites came with a fabric covered rubber fuel hose that was crimped at both ends.

Later versions came with a woven metal sheath with brass fittings on either end.  The later fuel lines are generally superior to the earlier ones.

Well let's assemble her and get ready to fire her up.  Here are the basic components (clockwise from top, left):  The burner, the fuel bottle with windscreen wrapped around it and fuel pump in place, and the heat reflector.  Tip: Note that I have wrapped the windscreen around the fuel bottle.  This helps prevent the windscreen from getting all bent up when packed and avoids having to fold the windscreen for storage.  The points at which windscreens are folded often become points of failure.  Believe it or not the windscreen shown in the photo is the original windscreen that came with this stove that I purchased in about 1987.  I keep the windscreen wrapped as shown, and then I put the whole ensemble in a plastic bag before I put the fuel bottle in my pack.  This technique protects not only the windscreen but also the contents of the pack from damage.  I also put my burner in a small plastic bag before placing it in the stuff sack.  This keeps the inside of the stuff sack clean.  Tip:  Note also that I keep the pump in the bottle when in the field.  I leave the bottle's cap at home.  Do be sure to release the pressure when the stove is not in use.  Do not release the pressure near the stove when the stove is hot.  Release the pressure away from flame or heat sources.

Here's a photo of the heat reflector unfolded.  Note the hole in the center.
The legs of the stove, while still folded, are inserted through the hole...
...then the heat reflector is moved up around the mid section of the burner...
...and then the legs are rotated into position.  The "hourglass" shape of the legs holds the heat reflector in position above the fuel line and below the burner.
This is a good design and when combined with the windscreen makes for efficient cooking.  In later models of the heat reflector, MSR removed the center hole.  This is most likely a cost cutting measure.  The heat reflector, instead of sitting just below the burner now sits underneath the whole stove.  This is a bad idea for two reasons:  1.  Now the reflector is farther away from the burner which is less efficient and 2. the aluminum reflector is slick.  Putting a stove on a slick surface on uneven ground invites the disaster of the spilled supper.  The original design was better.  One can improve the newer heat reflectors by cutting the hole oneself or one can simply omit the heat reflector.  The heat reflector does make the stove more efficient, but the reflector is not essential on newer stoves.  On older stoves that have the fabric covered fuel line, I recommend that you always use the heat reflector lest heat damage the fuel line in some way.

After the reflector is in place, emplace the windscreen.  Early MSR windscreens had a diagonal cut on the lower corners of the windscreen.  When the ends were joined, a small "V" shaped opening remained.  One is supposed to thread the fuel line through the "V" as shown.

The only problem with this is that if one has a smaller pot, then a substantial gap will exist between the edge of the pot and the windscreen.  Wind can enter via this excessively large gap, reducing the effectiveness of your stove.
What I prefer to do is to wrap the windscreen more tightly and hold it in place with a paper clip.
Note that in the second photo, the gap is reduced but not eliminated.  Because of the reflector, it's difficult to reduce the gap further than shown, but the reduced gap that we do have should buy us some increased efficiency.  If one were having trouble in higher winds, one could curl the edges of the heat reflector upwards so that the windscreen could be drawn more tightly around the pot.

Now, in drawing the windscreen more tightly around the pot, we've closed the little "V" shaped opening, but this is no big deal.  Simply place the windscreen on top of the fuel line.

Yes, there is now a bit of a gap between the ground and the lower edge of the windscreen, but in practice I have not found this gap to cause any trouble.  In really windy conditions if wind were sweeping in through this small gap, one could pile up dirt to close the gap.

Now, let's get some water from the creek.  By the way, boiling water is the most effective treatment for killing water borne pathogens and is more effective than filtering, ultraviolet treatment, or chemical treatment.

Now, we'll need to prime the stove.  You can prime the stove with the stove's own fuel, white gasoline, but I prefer to bring a small squeeze bottle of denatured alcohol.
Why alcohol?  First, it's hard to control the amount of fuel dispensed when using the stove's own fuel.  Too much fuel, and you can get a very large "soccer ball sized" fireball (MSR's words).  It's easy to control how much alcohol is dispensed from a squeeze bottle.  Second, alcohol burns more cleanly and leaves less soot on your stove.  Third, alcohol is less volatile which further reduces the chance of a fireball.  To prime, squirt in some alcohol, fire it up, let it burn down a bit, and then just as the priming flame is about to go out, open the stove's valve a bit to add fuel.  I typically open the valve just a crack and then immediately close it, allowing the flame to burn down a bit before opening the valve again.  I go through a couple of iterations of opening the valve a crack, closing the valve, letting the flame burn down a bit, and then opening the valve again before I leave the valve open.  This sounds complicated, but after a few times of doing it, it becomes second nature.

When your stove is fully warmed up, your flame should be a nice steady blue and should look something like this.

As I mentioned, with pre-shaker jet Whisperlites, it is possible to get them to a relatively low flame.  Compare this flame.
With this flame.
Yes, a Whisperlite can simmer.  It's not automatic, but it can be done fairly easily on a consistent basis.

Well, it looks like my water is boiling,

so it's time I had a cup of cocoa...

...here in this little nook that I call "Stove Test Area 2.".

I thank you for joining me on another adventure in stoving.


The MSR Whisperlite
What's good about it?
Fairly compact
Reasonably powerful (not as powerful as an XGK)
Reasonably Reliable (not as reliable as an XGK)

What's bad about it?
Difficult to simmer (although pre-shaker jet models simmer pretty well)
The wire pot supports are difficult to get back into "true" if they get bent.  (so don't bend them!)
The fuel line is a little stiff particularly when compared to newer stoves like the Simmerlite.
A tad heavy when compared to newer stoves like the Simmerlite.

Overall, recommended.  This is a good, economical basic stove for those who want a liquid fueled stove.