QuietStove.com

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: The New MSR Windburner

MSR (Mountain Safety Research, Seattle, WA, USA, a division of Cascade Designs) has come out with a new stove system:  The Windburner.
The new Windburner from MSR
The Windburner is a high efficiency integrated canister gas stove which borrows the windproof burner concept from the MSR Reactor.  With the Windburner, you're not just buying a stove, you're buying an entire system, with pot with lid, cup/bowl, burner, and canister stand.   It's very nearly a complete backcountry kitchen.  You need only bring a spoon and an ignition source.

Note:  When first introduced, the Windburner was named the Windboiler.  Apparently Jetboil took exception to this name and threatened legal action.  MSR renamed the stove from Windboiler to Windburner.  In my review, I tried to change over to the new name, but if you see Windboiler instead of Windburner, rest assured that it's one and the same stove.

Features That Actually Work
My overall impression is one of attention to detail.  The main player in the field is Jetboil, and in some ways, Jetboil has gotten a little sloppy.  For example, have you ever tried to use the handle on the Jetboil?  It just doesn't work.
The handle on the Jetboil.  Not so good.
By contrast, the Windburner's handle is functional and rock steady – while still folding away when you pack it up.
The handle on a Windburner can be used as, well, a handle.  Fancy that.
And that tiny thing on the bottom of a Jetboil that they call a cup?  I don't even know where my Jetboil cup is; I mean that thing is so useless that I just don't use it.  The cup on the Windburner holds half a liter and the lid fits equally well on both the pot and the cup.

Not only does the lid fit, it's water tight.  I can even lift the entire stove by the lid, canister still attached.
The lid on a Windburner is so good that it's actually water tight.
Do NOT try that with boiling water with a Jetboil!
The lid on a Jetboil always comes off in my pack, so I wind up fishing for the contents, contents that should all be together.

Yes, these are all minor annoyances, but in this regard, MSR hasn't missed a thing.  All of the features on the new Windburner are well thought out, well executed, and, bottom line, they work.

Add to that "bombproof" wind resistance, and you've got one heck of a stove system.

I've been blogging the past month about this new stove, so I won't belabor all of what I've said previously.  For more detailed information, I'll refer you to what has already been posted.  Please see the below sections.

Wind Resistance and Consistent Fuel Efficiency
The most dramatic results (and the most impressive to me personally) relate to the name of the stove, the "Wind" boiler.  By the very name, MSR is laying claim to a stove that can stand up to the elements.  I did a variety of wind tests, and I have to say that the Windburner is head and shoulders above the competition in this regard.  I couldn't even get the Windburner to acknowledge that it was windy.  During heavy winds, it went on as though nothing unusual were happening.  The stove I was comparing it to could not even bring water to a boil, let alone have normal function.  The two videos I took of the Windburner basically shutting the competition down are worth seeing in my opinion.  Please see:
Snow Creek in the windy San Gorgonio Pass area, site of some of the wind testing
Overview and Basic Features
For an overview of the system and the basic features of the stove, please see:
Mount Williamson (8248'/2514m),site of some of the on trail testing
Optional Extras
The Windburner has a couple of optional items that you can add to the system if you so desire.  They include a coffee press and a hanging kit.  You can also buy a stand alone second pot so that you and a partner can each have a pot and share a single burner.  Given how fast the Windburner is, this is a perfectly reasonable arrangement.

In terms of the optional extras, I was particularly impressed that the hanging kit did NOT need to be assembled each and every time and that one could just wrap it around the burner and store the entire assembly in the pot, ready to go.  For more on the individual items, please see:
The hanging kit can be stowed, fully assembled, by simply wrapping the cables around the burner.
Can This Thing Actually Cook?
It's a stove after all, so naturally you'll want to know what it's capabilities are in the cooking department.  The Windburner has markedly better flame adjustability than it's predecessor, the Reactor.  However, I found that it couldn't simmer, at least not if you used a strict definition of the word "simmer", but that there were some good cooking options for typical trail fare.  Please see:
A hot lunch, courtesy of the MSR Windburner.  Yum!  
Three Things to Note
Here are three things that you should note about the Windburner.

1.  Loose Cozy:  With the Windburner, the cozy may not always lock quite right to the pot.  This is a known issue with some of the first run cozies that has now been corrected.  It's a minor annoyance, but MSR will replace your cozy for free if you request it.  It's not hard to replace the cozy. Details at the link, below.
2.  Resetting the Burner:  If the burner gets too hot, it will automatically shut off so you don't fry your stove.  You will need to reset the burner if it overheats.  Details at the link, below.

3.  Underburn:  You could get "underburn" where the flame goes beneath the surface of the burner.  It's rare, but it could happen.  The corrective action is simple – if you know how to do it.  Details at the link, below.
Middle Fork, Lytle Creek, site of some of the on trail and wind testing.
Advantages of the Windburner
You can read through all of the detailed posts, but I thought I'd put together a list of some of the advantages of the Windburner.

  1. Nearly foolproof in wind.  Now, I realize that not everyone cooks in exposed, windy places, but even if you cook in relatively sheltered spots, you're always losing something to the wind in terms of time and fuel with conventional stoves.  Not so with the Windburner.  And for those occasions where it really is windy, you'll be able to cook almost as if there were no wind at all while those around you will be eating uncooked food.  I would think windproofness would be of particular advantage to alpinists, mountaineers, "big wall" climbers, desert travellers, those who camp above tree line, travellers at high latitudes, and anyone who camps or cooks in areas where sheltered spots are difficult to come by.  Of course anyone who camps or cooks in areas prone to heavy winds would benefit most of all.
  2. Predictability.  The longer the trip, the harder it is to predict your fuel needs, particularly if wind and weather play hob with your fuel consumption.  The Windburner takes very little notice of the vicissitudes of wind, making it's fuel consumption relatively consistent and therefore far easier to predict.
  3. Efficiency.  An efficient stove gets the maximum number of boils out of a canister of gas.  Use a less efficient stove, and you'll be giving up boils you might have otherwise had.  Efficiency is particularly important on longer trips, particularly in areas where you can't always count on the availability of resupply.
  4. Speed and Convenience.  The Windburner is a consistently fast stove and an all in one solution.  Buy one and you're done with stove shopping for your trip.  You'll need to do very little else besides buying fuel.  Not only that, but you'll be eating while everyone else is still waiting.  After a long day on the trail, hot food in a hurry with minimum hassle is one of the chief arguing points in favor of an integrated canister stove.
  5. Features that actually work.  There's been a tremendous amount of thought and attention to detail that has gone into the Windburner, and it shows.  The features are all eminently practical, and they work.
  6. Packability.  Everything packs together marvelously.  I was particularly impressed with how the coffee press takes up essentially no additional room in one's pack, but all of the other components are equally well thought out in terms of how things pack up and fit together.
An exposed, wind swept ridge, low elevation test site for the Windburner

Disadvantages of the Windburner
  1. Price.  Actually this is a two edged sword.  On the one hand at MSRP of $130, the Windburner is well situated among other regulator valved integrated canister stoves like the Aluminum Jetboil Sol at $120, the Jetboil MiniMo at $130, and the titanium Jetboil Sol at $150.  Also, the Windburner at $130 makes Reactor technology available for a good deal less – the least expensive Reactor is $190.  On the other hand, no one can argue that $130 is cheap even if the unit does include a pot and cup/bowl.  Moreover, there are lower end non-regulator valved stoves like the Jetboil Flash at $100 and the Jetboil Zip at $80.  It will be interesting to see if the Windburner's features overcome the price advantage of the lower end integrated canister stoves.  See also the price and weight comparison chart in the appendix.
  2. Weight.  While a highly efficient stove will save on fuel weight, the MSR Windburner is a bit heavy at 432 g/15.2 oz stated weight.  See the weight of all components and my comments in the appendix.  However, when compared to other 1.0 L sized integrated canister stoves, the Windburner is within about an ounce of their weights.  If one wants the advantages of an integrated canister stove like the Windburner, then at this juncture it will be necessary to tolerate the weight.  See also the price and weight comparison chart in the appendix.  My recommendations to MSR are to a) keep a close eye on manufacturing to insure that Windburners do not exceed their stated weight and b) for future generations of the system, to reduce the overall weight.  I've placed additional recommendations in Appendix IV.
    UPDATE, 7 January 2015:  I've received a note from MSR stating that production units are coming in heavier than the prototype units that the weights were originally calculated from.  MSR gave me a range.  Basically the unit I received is about in the middle of that range.  A weight just over 16 ounces should be about the weight of a unit that you would receive should you purchase one.  I might add that MSR was a bit chagrined about the miscalculation of the weights since they try to be transparent about such things.  I don't yet have an exact number for the revised stated weight, but it should be about 460 grams/16.2 ounces.  I think both MSR and the public would be well served by reducing the weight of the unit.
  3. Only One Pot.  Yes, there's only one pot that can be used with a Windburner.  I tried a Jetboil pot.  It didn't work (didn't fit).  I tried a Reactor pot.  It didn't work (ridiculously unstable).  Even if another pot did work, it wouldn't necessarily be safe.  The carbon monoxide output of the stove might climb to dangerous levels, the stove could overheat, or the stove set up might be unstable.  MSR says that they're working on additional pots, but for now the 1.0 L pot is all that there is.  There is no frying pan option or group sized option.  That said, the Windburner is so fast that cooking for more than one person is completely within reason, particularly if a second 1.0 L pot is purchased.  The tall pot is a little hard to reach into with a standard length spoon, so make sure you get a long handled spoon.
The MSR Windburner:  Highly Recommended.


That's my review of the MSR Windburner.  If you want more details, there are plenty here on my blog.  I encourage you to browse to your heart's content.  If you have any questions or need clarification, please leave a comment in the comments section, below.

I thank you for joining me,

HJ

MSR Windburner Posts
Heat exchanger detail, MSR Windburner
Appendix I  – Technical Details

Manufacturer:     MSR, a division of Cascade Designs.
Date available:     Currently available.
Manufacturer’s Website:     http://www.cascadedesigns.com/MSR
MSRP:     $130.00 (USD)
Stated Weight:   432 g/15.2 ounces
Measured Weight:   457 g/16.1 ounces
Materials:   Aluminum (pot and heat exchanger)
Packed Dimensions:   171 mm/6.7" tall, 102 mm/4.0" wide.  See First Look for further info.
Size/Model tested:   Max capacity, 1000ml/34 fl. oz.  Practical capacity, 600ml/20 fl oz. (per MSR; I think you could get away with 750 ml/25 fl oz, if you were careful).
Requirements:   A standard threaded canister of gas (sold separately).
Warranty info:   Contact the MSR/Cascade Designs Customer Service Center (see website, above)
Colors Available:   Red or Gray

Appendix II – Component Weights

MSR Windburner Weights
ComponentGramsOunces
Pot (bare)1475.19
Cozy & Handle491.73
Bowl321.13
Pack Cloth10.04
Canister Legs160.56
Lid130.46
Burner1997.02
Total45716.12

Stated vs. Measured Weights
GramsOunces
Measured45716.12
Stated43215.24
Difference250.88

Note:  "Stated" weights are the weights listed on the MSR website.  "Measured" weights are those weights I measured with my gram scale at home.  All measurements were made in grams.  Weights in ounces are a calculated figure.  Some rounding error may occur.  In the case of any apparent discrepancy, use the weight in grams.

UPDATE, 7 January 2015:  I've received a note from MSR stating that production units are coming in heavier than the prototype units that the weights were originally calculated from.  MSR gave me a range.  Basically the unit I received is about in the middle of that range.  A weight just over 16 ounces should be about the weight of a unit that you would receive should you purchase one.  I might add that MSR was a bit chagrined about the miscalculation of the weights since they try to be transparent about such things.  I don't yet have an exact number for the revised stated weight, but it should be about 460 grams/16.2 ounces.
The MSR Windburner
Appendix III – Comparative Table of Weights and Prices
Integrated Canister Stove Capacity (liters)Weight (g)Weight (oz)Retail Price
Jetboil Sol (Ti)0.82799.8$150.00
Jetboil Sol (Al)0.831211.0$120.00
Jetboil Zip 0.834512.2$80.00
Jetboil Flash1.040014.1$100.00
Jetboil MiniMo1.041514.6$130.00
MSR Reactor 1.041714.7$190.00
MSR Windburner1.043215.2$130.00

Weights are generally the manufacturer's stated weights in grams.  The notable exception is the weight of the titanium version of the Jetboil Sol.  The Jetboil website has "spin doctored" the numbers to make the titanium version appear lighter.  My number is based on an "apples to apples" comparison.   The weight of individual stoves will vary.  Ounces are a calculated figure based on a conversion factor of 28.3495.  Stoves are sorted in order of weight with the lightest stove first.  Note that all of the 1.0 L capacity stoves are within about an ounce of each other in terms of weight.  The spread is 32 grams from the lightest 1.0 L stove to the heaviest.

UPDATE, 7 January 2015:  I've received a note from MSR stating that production units are coming in heavier than the prototype units that the weights were originally calculated from.  MSR gave me a range.  Basically the unit I received is about in the middle of that range.  A weight just over 16 ounces should be about the weight of a unit that you would receive should you purchase one.  I might add that MSR was a bit chagrined about the miscalculation of the weights since they try to be transparent about such things.  I don't yet have an exact number for the revised stated weight, but it should be about 460 grams/16.2 ounces.

Note:  My information is that Jetboil is discontinuing their Sol line of stoves (both types).
Size comparisons.
L to R:  MSR Reactor (1.0 L), MSR Windburner (1.0 L), Original Jetboil PCS (1.0 L), Jetboil Al Sol (0.8 L).
Appendix IV – Recommendations for Improvement
1.  Canister Stand.  The gray canister stand is a little easy to lose, particularly in areas with gray granite, such as the Sierra Nevada Mountains (and many others).  A brighter color, one easily seen in low light conditions would be preferable.
2.  Coffee Press.  The lower section of the rod rolls away far too easily.  Making it cross sectionally elliptical or adding a small plastic piece just above the threaded end would better prevent rolling.  Yes, I did notice the spot where the lower section can be slid into the handle of the upper section.  I still believe the lower section would benefit from modification.
3.  Weight.  Obviously some reduction in weight would make the unit more more palatable.  The chief complaint I've heard from my readership concerns weight.
4.  Capacity.  Obviously, there will be people that want a larger capacity pot.  I know MSR is working on it.
5.  Auto ignition.  A lot of people are quite surprised to find that the Windburner does not have an ignition of some kind.  It is nice with a locking pot to have an integrated ignition.  I realize that there may be constraints (like reliability), but piezoelectric ignitions have improved tremendously.  The Soto Microregulator and Soto Windmaster have particularly good ignition systems.  The design of the Windburner's burner surface may make this quite challenging, but still I think it ought to be considered.
6.  Height.  Particularly as new pots are developed, I would think the height ought to be reduced and the width increased. I tested the current 1.0 L pot, and the stability is good with the canister stand, but a lot of people may not read that far in my review(s) and may write the Windburner off as unstable based on appearances alone.  A wider pot is easier to reach into and would should be stable as well.
A Jetboil MiniMo (left) and an MSR Windburner (right), both 1.0 L in capacity.
The Windburner is a wonderful unit but might benefit from shorter, wider pots in the future.
Note also how the non-MSR canister stand on the left stands out better with its bright color.
Disclosures
The item reviewed here was provided to me at no charge for the purposes of this review.  I am under no obligation to review this or any other item.  I am not compensated for my reviews in any fashion other than in some cases I am permitted to keep the item reviewed.  Given that I have well over a 100 backpacking stoves, a free stove frankly isn't going to buy anyone a good review.  Stove companies must measure up if they want a decent review here.  I am an amatuer stove blogger; I make my living elsewhere, in the IT field.  I fit blogging in as time permits.  Inasmuch as my income is derived elsewhere, monetary issues do not influence the reviews on this blog.  Yes, I do have advertisements on the blog.  I typically derive about $1.00 USD per day from the advertisements (last I checked).  This is a mere pittance and does not influence my reviews in the slightest.  Revenue from the advertisements goes toward hosting fees, stove fuel, and the like.  The blog is self supporting in that sense, and my wife is quite happy that I'm not using the family's income to run the blog, particularly given how tough the economy is these days.

Field Testing on Mount San Antonio.  Jetboil Sol, left.  MSR Windburner, right.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

MSR Windboiler – Cooking Ability

OK, so the new MSR Windboiler is uber windproof.  And we know it can boil water.  OK, great, but how's the flame control?  Can it do more than boil?  I talked a little about this in Trail Report #1, but let me expand on things here.

In my first report, I noted some problems on low flame.  I would turn it down, it would burn for a while, and then it would go out.  I thought that was kind of odd.  After talking with MSR, apparently there was something wrong with my burner.  They replaced my burner.

Flame Characteristics
Now, when I turn it down, it stays on.  Consistently.  That's a far more satisfying low flame to say the least.  Now, as with all burners, there's a certain point where if you turn it down too far, it's going to go off.  I mean that is the function of the valve right?  We do want to be able to turn off a stove, but still we need to know how low can the flame go.   Here's a quick video showing low flame, flame out, and high flame.  The video also discusses lighting a Windboiler with a fire steel and how to avoid the condition known as underburn.  I'm obviously not a professional videographer, but you should be able to understand what the Windboiler's flame characteristics are from the video.  If you want "pretty" videos, I'm sure you can find them out there, but if you want to dig into the details, I think you'll find them here at Adventures In Stoving.  If you're not finding what you need, leave a comment in the comments section, below, and I'll see what I can do.

Can it Simmer?
OK, great, you can turn it down, and it will stay on at whatever setting you put it on.  But can it simmer?  Well, if we use a strict definition of simmer, no.  Even the replacement burner I received, which is quite stable at low flame, cannot be turned down enough to get a true simmer.  By simmer, I mean that I should be able to turn the flame down such that I get a very low boil, one where the water is just barely bubbling.  I found that I could not turn the stove down that low without it going out.  Now, most people who buy an integrated canister stove (like the Windboiler) aren't looking to cook gourmet meals, the kind that need a lot of delicate simmering.  Most people buy integrated canister stoves because they want speed and convenience.  So, the lack of simmering ability isn't necessarily a real drawback to the Windboiler.  And besides there are other cooking options...

Cooking Options
In order to understand the Windboiler better, I compared it to other integrated canister stoves, chiefly my Jetboil PCS and Jetboil Sol.  As I ran side by side tests, I noticed something:  The Reactor retained heat far better than the Jetboils did.  Here's a video demonstrating just what I found out.

Did you see what happened in the video?  After I turned off the two stoves, the Windboiler kept boiling, far longer than the Jetboil.  This ability to retain heat gives the Windboiler the ability to cook very efficiently using a technique called cozy cooking.  With cozy cooking, you bring the water to a boil, quickly put in your food, put the lid back on, and then cover the pot with something to insulate it (typically a fleece hat or something similar).  The food is sitting in relatively high heat while the stove is off.  I guarantee that no stove uses less fuel than a stove that is off.
Cozy cooking with an MSR Windboiler and a fleece hat.
You want your food cooked thoroughly.  If you've ever eaten freeze dried food that's still a little "crunchy", you'll know exactly what I mean.  The problem of under cooked food grows worse as we climb higher.  Cozy cooking is sort of the "secret" way to get better food without having to eat through a lot of fuel.  The Windboiler's ability to retain heat makes it ideal for cozy cooking.  Note:  At higher elevations and on cold days, if you need to, you can let everything sit under the "cozy" for a few minutes, turn the stove back on, add some heat, re-cover with the cozy, and let it sit for a few more minutes.

The Jetboil, with its open burner loses heat far more quickly.  It's just not as good of a choice for cozy cooking.
The open burner of a Jetboil, so open that I can put my fingers through it, does not retain heat well.
So, while the Windboiler isn't exactly a gourmet cook's stove, it's not a "one trick pony" that can only boil water.  You can turn the heat down significantly, and with cozy cooking, you've got nearly the equivalent of simmering, but with far less fuel consumption.

That's my report on the cooking ability of the MSR Windboiler.  I thank you for joining me,

HJ

MSR Windboiler Posts
Disclosures
The item reviewed here was provided to me at no charge for the purposes of this review.  I am under no obligation to review this or any other item.  I am not compensated for my reviews in any fashion other than in some cases I am permitted to keep the item reviewed.  Given that I have well over a 100 backpacking stoves, a free stove frankly isn't going to buy anyone a good review.  Stove companies must measure up if they want a decent review here.  I am an amatuer stove blogger; I make my living elsewhere, in the IT field.  I fit blogging in as time permits.  Inasmuch as my income is derived elsewhere, monetary issues do not influence the reviews on this blog.  Yes, I do have advertisements on the blog.  I typically derive about $1.00 USD per day from the advertisements (last I checked).  This is a mere pittance and does not influence my reviews in the slightest.  Revenue from the advertisements goes toward hosting fees, stove fuel, and the like.  The blog is self supporting in that sense, and my wife is quite happy that I'm not using the family's income to run the blog, particularly given how tough the economy is these days.

MSR Windboiler – Three Things to Note

Here are three things that you should know about with the Windboiler.

1.  Thermal Trip Mechanism.  This is a safety feature – and an improved one at that.

If your stove overheats, a very dangerous situation could ensue.  Recall that there is a canister of highly flammable gas directly attached to the stove.  To prevent overheating, there is a Thermal Trip Mechanism that shuts down the stove if it gets too hot.  Once the stove cools down, the Thermal Trip Mechanism can be reset in the field, and the stove returned to operation.  Overheating is not a common occurrence, but you should familiarize yourself with the reset procedure just in case. The ability to reset the burner in the field (instead of sending it back to the manufacturer) is a major improvement in this type of mechanism.
An MSR Windboiler
The procedure is outlined in the instructions that come with the stove.  I will summarize the instructions here.  If you need to reset your stove, follow the instructions that came with the stove exactly; do not follow my instructions over those that came with the stove.
  • Wait five minutes for the stove to cool (with the valve closed of course).  
  • Detach the canister
  • Open the valve two full turns
  • Insert the tip of one leg of the canister stand into the air inlet in the burner column until it stops.  The little plastic flange on the leg will stop the leg at the proper place (see photo below).
  • Rotate the leg clockwise until you hear a click.  Rotating the leg will depress the brass jet inside the burner column.  
  • Close the valve.
  • Reattach the canister
  • Restart the stove
The little flange on the tip of the leg is sticking up above the rest of the canister stand in the photo above.
If you have to reset your stove repeatedly, there's something wrong, something potentially quite serious.  You'd best contact MSR as soon as possible.  NEVER use any stove if you hear the hiss of gas and the valve is closed.

2.  "Loose" pot cozy.  Now, by loose, I don't mean it's going to fall of and dash you dinner to the ground.  Nothing like that.

The pot cozy of an MSR Windboiler, shown on the pot.
But if the pot cozy doesn't firmly affix to the bracket, it can slide up too far.
The pot cozy affixes to this bracket on the side of the pot.
If the cozy slides up too far, then the cup/bowl also slides up too far and becomes a royal pain in the neck to get off again.  I mean it is really a nuisance.  If your cozy has a problem, contact the MSR/Cascade Designs Customer Service Center for a free replacement.

UPDATE 7 January 2015:  MSR says that replacement cozies are in stock.  Contact the MSR/Cascade Designs Customer Service Center and request a replacement if yours is faulty.  There should be no charge.  For contact information, see:  http://www.cascadedesigns.com/MSR
If your cozy doesn't secure properly to the pot, MSR will replace it for free.
To replace, simply lift up the tab as shown, slide off the old cozy, and slide on the new one.
3.  Underburn. This is not an issue with the MSR Windboiler per se but rather a situation that has long existed with any stove with a cavity beneath the burner surface.  Underburn occurs when there is burning underneath the surface of the burner.

Underburn is rare, and you may never encounter it, but you need to know how to correct it:  Turn off the stove.  That's it.  That's the corrective action.  Turn off the stove, let it cool a bit, and then restart the stove.

How can I identify underburn?  The below video shows you what under burn looks and sounds like.  Underburn occurs at 0:35 in the video.  Note that I shut off the stove immediately.  Underburn does NOT mean your stove is defective.  It just happens sometimes, and it's nothing to get worried about.

If you do experience under burn, simply shut the stove off and wait a minute or so.  After a minute has transpired, restart the stove.  The stove should now burn normally.  I can't imagine that it would, but if the stove for some reason goes into underburn again, shut it off, but this time wait longer before restarting.  Underburn most frequently occurs when restarting a hot stove.  Generally, you can prevent underburn if you wait a minute or so before relighting the stove.  You should NOT allow the stove to continue to burn if it goes into underburn.  The stove is not designed to operate with the flame inside the burner.
UPDATE 6 Feb 2015:  Regarding underburn, I consider the possibility of this occurring to be extremely low.  I did a test recently where I deliberately set up conditions that would be conducive to underburn.  In fifty attempts to deliberately induce underburn, I got just one occurrence.  It's worth knowing what to do (turn off the stove), but, bottom line, it'll probably never happen to you.  The chances of encountering underburn may be further reduced by using a match or lighter instead of a firesteel.

I hope you found this post useful.

HJ

MSR Windboiler Posts
Disclosures
The item reviewed here was provided to me at no charge for the purposes of this review.  I am under no obligation to review this or any other item.  I am not compensated for my reviews in any fashion other than in some cases I am permitted to keep the item reviewed.  Given that I have well over a 100 backpacking stoves, a free stove frankly isn't going to buy anyone a good review.  Stove companies must measure up if they want a decent review here.  I am an amatuer stove blogger; I make my living elsewhere, in the IT field.  I fit blogging in as time permits.  Inasmuch as my income is derived elsewhere, monetary issues do not influence the reviews on this blog.  Yes, I do have advertisements on the blog.  I typically derive about $1.00 USD per day from the advertisements (last I checked).  This is a mere pittance and does not influence my reviews in the slightest.  Revenue from the advertisements goes toward hosting fees, stove fuel, and the like.  The blog is self supporting in that sense, and my wife is quite happy that I'm not using the family's income to run the blog, particularly given how tough the economy is these days.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

MSR Windboiler – Hanging Kit II

Finally, I've been able to procure the hanging kit for my Windboiler.  Apparently they're in short supply.  If you will remember my previous post, MSR Windboiler – Hanging Kit I, I pressed the Reactor's hanging kit into service.  It worked, but MSR doesn't recommend this inasmuch as the Windboiler may invert due to its higher center of gravity.

MSR Windboiler Posts

Now, I've got the proper kit.

To me, the outstanding feature of this kit is that does NOT have to be disassembled each time you put away the stove.  Now, that's nice.  When you pack up the stove, you simply wind the cables around the burner...
The hanging kit, wound around the Windboiler's burner.
...and put the whole of it into the pot.
The Windboiler's burner and hanging kit, stored in the pot.
And yes the canister stand fits in there too if you'll be doing a "mixed" trip where sometimes you'll be using the hanging kit and sometimes you'll be doing the more standard arrangement of cooking on the ground.
The MSR Windboiler's burner, hanging kit, and canister stand all fit into the pot along with a 110g canister.
The hanging kit attaches to the burner by means of spring clips that are inserted into the large air inlets on the windscreen.
The spring clip attachment of the Windboiler's hanging kit.
Simply squeeze and insert.  Best to do it at home or base camp I think.  Fiddling with it while wearing mittens isn't going to be fun.  But remember that you can simply leave the hanging kit attached at all times, so you shouldn't have to be assembling it with mittens on in the field.
Squeeze the spring clip and insert it into the air inlet on the windscreen
Now, it's important to position the clip properly otherwise the pot and stove might shift suddenly.  With boiling water, sudden shifts are just not what you want.  The clip should lie flat against the windscreen when properly positioned.  Take a look at the below photo.  The clip on the left is incorrectly positioned.  Note how it does NOT lie flat against the windscreen.  It must be rotated 180° so that it will properly align.  The clip on the right is properly positioned.  Note that it lies flat.
The Windboiler hanging kit's clips should lie flat against the windscreen.
The clip on the left is incorrectly aligned.  Rotate it 180°.
The clip on the right is properly aligned.  Note that it lies flat.
Once you've got the clips properly inserted and aligned, hang it, put on the pot, and move the slider down the cables until it is snug.
The slider on an MSR Windboiler hanging kit.
The slider is the double angled metal tube that you see the cables going through in the above photo.
When everything is properly set up, it should look about like the the photo below.  Note that the slider has been moved down towards the pot until it is reasonably snug.  The kit is very well designed, and I don't think you'll have any trouble with things suddenly inverting.
The Windboiler all set up in its hanging kit
The entire kit weighs about an ounce (29 g), including the case although why you'd bring the case is beyond me.  I'd just leave it assembled and not have to hassle with it each and every time I set up the stove.  As usual, I'll list the individual component weights in the appendix.

That's it.  The MSR Windboiler's hanging kit.  Very nice.

HJ

Appendix – Component Weights

Hanging Kit
Component Grams Ounces
Case 16 0.6
Cables 13 0.5
Total 29 1.0
The above weights are the weights I measured in grams on my scale.  The ounces column is a derived figure.  Some rounding error may occur.

Disclosures
The item reviewed here was provided to me at no charge for the purposes of this review.  I am under no obligation to review this or any other item.  I am not compensated for my reviews in any fashion other than in some cases I am permitted to keep the item reviewed.  Given that I have well over a 100 backpacking stoves, a free stove frankly isn't going to buy anyone a good review.  Stove companies must measure up if they want a decent review here.  I am an amatuer stove blogger; I make my living elsewhere, in the IT field.  I fit blogging in as time permits.  Inasmuch as my income is derived elsewhere, monetary issues do not influence the reviews on this blog.  Yes, I do have advertisements on the blog.  I typically derive about $1.00 USD per day from the advertisements (last I checked).  This is a mere pittance and does not influence my reviews in the slightest.  Revenue from the advertisements goes toward hosting fees, stove fuel, and the like.  The blog is self supporting in that sense, and my wife is quite happy that I'm not using the family's income to run the blog, particularly given how tough the economy is these days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MSR Windboiler – Coffee Press

A coffee press is available as an optional extra for the new MSR Windboiler.  The coffee press is fairly simple, consisting of a filter and plunger.  The entire assembly weighs just a bit over an ounce (36 g).  I'll list the individual component weights in the Appendix, below.

The plunger fits through the standard hole in the center of the Windboiler's lid.
The Windboiler's coffee press consists of a filter (held in my mitten) and a plunger which fits through the hole in the lid.
The plunger disassembles into two pieces for easy packing.
To pack, simply unscrew the two components of the plunger, and stow inside the pot next to the burner.
I notice that the lower section of the plunger tends to roll away easily.  We wouldn't want that in the backcountry, now would we?  A simple rubber band prevents roll away.
Banding together the two sections of the plunger prevents the lower section from rolling away.
Interestingly, MSR has put a little slot in the handle of the upper section of the plunger.  The lower section fits conveniently into the slot.  This may be enough to secure the lower section, but I've lost too many small bits in tall grass, so I'll go with the greater security of a rubber band.
The tip of the lower section of the plunger fits into the slot in the handle of the upper section.
Once you've threaded the plunger through the hole in the lid and attached the filter, simply place the filter into the pot (as shown below) and affix the lid to the pot.
Fit the filter into the pot as shown and close the lid.
In a few minutes, depress the plunger, and you'll have your favorite warm beverage.  The filter holds the coffee grounds or tea leaves in place.  The pot holds heat well, and the beverage comes out piping hot.  Note that the cup is a bit hot on the hand.  A simple bandana wrap or similar takes care of that.  Speaking of hot, recall that the pot lid fits equally well on the cup.  For those who tend to sip more slowly, the lid will help retain heat.
The cup gets rather hot on the bare hand.  A bandana serves as an insulator.
There's always going to be a few stray bits that escape the filter, but I found that the filter worked quite well.
Inevitably, a few small particles will get past the filter.  The amount isn't bad with the Windboiler's coffee press.
When you're done and ready to pack up, simply place the stove components inside the pot, just as you normally would, and slide the disassembled plunger in next to the burner.  I stress "next to" here because the plunger will fit inside the upside down burner.  It's just that it's a pain to get it back out again.
The MSR Windboiler, packed normally, with the coffee press' plunger stowed next to the burner.  Everything fits nicely.
Then, slide the filter over the bottom of the pot; it's a perfect fit.
The filter fits tightly over the heat exchanger assembly on the bottom of the pot.
Lastly, simply slide the cup over the bottom of the pot just as you normally would.  The coffee press essentially takes up no extra room in your pack.  Brilliant!
The cup fits neatly over the coffee filter.  What a wonderful design!
One comment here:  MSR has done an outstanding job on the product design.  Everything fits together just so.  Everything is well thought out.  Everything works well for its intended purpose.  MSR has obviously paid great attention to detail with the Windboiler, not just with the coffee press but with the entire system, and it shows.  Bravo, MSR.

I thank you for joining me,

HJ

MSR Windboiler Posts

Disclosures
The item reviewed here was provided to me at no charge for the purposes of this review.  I am under no obligation to review this or any other item.  I am not compensated for my reviews in any fashion other than in some cases I am permitted to keep the item reviewed.  Given that I have well over a 100 backpacking stoves, a free stove frankly isn't going to buy anyone a good review.  Stove companies must measure up if they want a decent review here.  I am an amatuer stove blogger; I make my living elsewhere, in the IT field.  I fit blogging in as time permits.  Inasmuch as my income is derived elsewhere, monetary issues do not influence the reviews on this blog.  Yes, I do have advertisements on the blog.  I typically derive about $1.00 USD per day from the advertisements (last I checked).  This is a mere pittance and does not influence my reviews in the slightest.  Revenue from the advertisements goes toward hosting fees, stove fuel, and the like.  The blog is self supporting in that sense, and my wife is quite happy that I'm not using the family's income to run the blog, particularly given how tough the economy is these days.
Appendix – Component Weights

Coffee Press
Component Grams Ounces
Plunger 8 0.3
Filter 28 1.0
Total 36 1.3

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

MSR Windburner – Wind Testing

What is the big advantage that the Windburner claims over other stoves?  Well, wind proofness.  I mean, if the Windburner can't handle wind, then why would you buy one, right?  Either the Windburner does well in wind or there isn't an overriding reason to buy one.

I thought I'd put it to the test.
Wind swept Snow Creek Canyon near San Gorgonio Pass, the perfect spot for wind testing.
UPDATE 26 Nov 2014:  I've added a table of comparative weights and prices among the current Jetboil and MSR 1.0 liter (or less) capacity integrated canister stove offerings.  See Appendix II.
I've also added a more in depth discussion of how many boils you'd lose out on using a Jetboil vs. a Windburner.  See Appendix I.  There's also a discussion of when and why fuel efficiency matters in the main body of the post.

UPDATE 27 Nov 2014:  I've added some videos in Appendix III that show the lighting of the stove in windy conditions.  Definitely more difficult than in still air, but doable.  I had far more trouble lighting the Jetboil even though the Jetboil has a built in lighter.

I tried a series of four types of tests:
  • Still Air
  • Light wind
  • Moderate wind
  • Heavy wind
  • Testing the MSR Windburner near San Gorgonio Pass.  Note that you cannot actually see the flame, only an orange glow.
    The enclosed burner of the Windburner is the secret to its windproof success.
A summary of my test results by test type is below.  The basic result of the testing was that the Windburner handled wind better, sometimes dramatically, than a Jetboil Sol.  See the comparative videos, below.

Test Results by Type
Still Air.  In still or nearly still air, the Jetboil Sol was clearly faster than the Windburner, sometimes by as much as 30 seconds faster.

Light wind.  In light wind, the Jetboil was still faster, but by a narrower margin.  The Jetboil's fuel usage went up slightly.  The Windburner's fuel consumption did not noticeably change.

Moderate wind.  In moderate wind, the Jetboil and the Windburner were more equal in terms of time to boil, but the Windburner typically would boil first.  The Jetboil's fuel consumption went up even more.  The Windburner's fuel consumption went up slightly but the change was small.

Heavy wind.  Here's where I was shocked.  I expected that the Jetboil would be markedly slower than the Windburner, but instead the Jetboil would not boil at all.  In heavier winds, the Jetboil would just blow out, and I never got the water to boil.  On the other hand, the wind had no discernible effect on the effectiveness of the Windburner.  Let me repeat that:  No discernible effect.  Needless to say, I was impressed.  I discontinued the comparison tests since I could get no meaningful boil times or fuel consumption figures from the Jetboil.

The day I did my testing , there were 35 mph/56 kph gusts predicted by the US National Weather Service.  Below are two videos, showing how the two stoves did.

Jetboil Sol in heavy winds.


MSR Windburner in heavy winds.


Now, of course you're not always going to be out in such dramatic conditions.  But no matter what, you're always losing heat with a Jetboil.  It's just a matter of degree.  Yes, you can shield it some, but you'll always be wasting some fuel just because of the burner's open design.  The Windburner is fundamentally more windproof.  The Windburner is fundamentally more fuel efficient in wind.

I'll put some numbers below in Appendix I that try to estimate just how much you'd be giving up using a Jetboil vs. a Windburner in terms of number of boils lost.
Wind farms dot the slopes above San Gorgonio Pass

Wind Resistance – Does It Matter?
Well, it depends.  If you're a low altitude backpacker, you probably can shelter your stove behind a log or rock, and wind resistance will matter less.  Note that I say, "less," not, "it won't matter at all".  You're always going to be saving fuel with a Windburner even in still air.  See also the next section on fuel efficiency.  I do note however that a Jetboil Flash has an MSRP of $100 USD whereas an MSR Windburner has an MSRP of $130.  If all you do is low elevation trips and you avoid high winds, the Jetboil Flash might be a good choice.  There is also a Jetboil Zip available for an MSRP of $80 USD.  The Zip is only 0.8 L (whereas the Windburner and the Flash are 1.0 L each), so it's not completely comparable to the Windburner, but it's worth mentioning.  See also Appendix II which contains a comparative table of weights and prices.

Now if you're an alpinist/mountaineer, a "big wall" climber, a backpacker given to spending the night at high elevation, or anyone who may find a sheltered spot difficult to come by, wind resistance might mean the difference between a nice hot meal – and eating uncooked freeze dried food, straight out of the bag.  If you rely on your stove for snow melting, you could wind up a whole lot worse.  If you can't get drinking water, you greatly increase your chance of getting hypothermia, and hypothermia leads quickly to death.  Hypothermia is simply not worth risking, period.

In high winds, even behind a rock or log, it's difficult to truly shelter a stove.  Anyone potentially facing high winds would be well advised to pick a Windburner over a Jetboil.

There's another way that windproofness matters – predictability.  Got fuel?  Are you sure you've planned your week long trip correctly?  I mean you don't want to be eating uncooked freeze dried food at the end of the trip just because you didn't bring enough fuel, right?  Well, hopefully, you've planned with a margin for error, but if you run into inclement weather, particularly high winds, your fuel estimates may be way off.  The Windburner is almost unaffected by wind.  You can make fuel estimates well in advance and rely on them.  With the Windburner, fluctuations in weather will not have you eating cold meals on your last couple of days out on the trail.
Commercial wind turbines in the San Gorgonio Pass area

Fuel Efficiency – Does It Matter?
Well, it depends.  If you're only going out for a few days, no high winds are predicted, and you always bring a fresh canister, then perhaps not.  While I like getting as much as I can out of my canisters, for a short trip with a fresh canister, it's not going to make much difference whether you use a Jetboil or a Windburner in terms of fuel used.  Only if high winds are predicted would I get worried about which stove would be the right one to bring.

Well, then, when does it matter?  When you have to bring an extra canister (or move up to a bigger canister).  An extra canister, even the smallest size, weighs about 7.4 oz/211 g.  That's nearly ½ pound.  In terms of saving weight, always avoid taking an extra canister or moving up to the next sized canister.  Look at the chart in Appendix I on how many boils you'd be giving up by using a Jetboil.  If losing those boils forces you to carry another canister (or carry a bigger canister), then it would probably be lighter overall to carry a Windburner (see examples, below).  Efficiency alone usually will not make up the difference for a heavier stove.  Only when you can avoid stepping up to the next sized canister or bringing an additional canister can a more efficient stove save you weight.

Efficiency vs. Weight – Examples
1. You normally will not save weight by being more fuel efficient alone. You just can't save enough weight that way to make up for a heavier stove. For example an aluminum Jetboil Sol weighs about 11 oz and the MSR Windburner weighs about 15 oz, a 4 oz difference. Now say that you save 1 g of fuel per 500 ml boiled, you boil twice a day, and you take a week long trip. Saving 1g twice per day for seven days is 14g.  In other words, you would need 14 g less fuel with the more efficient set up. 14 g is about 1/2 oz. Recall that in this example, the more efficient set up is 4 oz heavier.  Saving 1/2 oz in fuel will never make up for a stove that is 4 oz heavier.

2. You will save weight if you can avoid carrying the next largest size canister or carrying a second canister. The difference in gross weight between a 110g canister and a 225g canister is roughly 6 oz (4 oz of fuel + ~2 oz of steel container). If your 4 oz heavier stove is efficient enough to prevent you from having to carry a larger canister you've just saved 6 oz - 4 oz = 2 oz. Generally this type of weight savings will occur on trips of 7 to 10 days. The Jetboil Sol retails for $120. The Windburner retails for $130. Would I spend $10 to save 2 oz?  Well considering how many people there are willing to pay $150 for the titanium version of the Jetboil Sol which is only 1 oz lighter than the aluminum version (if you do a real comparison, not the spin doctored comparison on Jetboil's website), I'd say that a lot of people in fact would spend $10 more for the more efficient stove.

So there's my take on the wind resistance of the Windburner.

I thank you for joining me,

HJ

MSR Windburner Posts

Disclosures
The item reviewed here was provided to me at no charge for the purposes of this review.  I am under no obligation to review this or any other item.  I am not compensated for my reviews in any fashion other than in some cases I am permitted to keep the item reviewed.  Given that I have well over a 100 backpacking stoves, a free stove frankly isn't going to buy anyone a good review.  Stove companies must measure up if they want a decent review here.  I am an amatuer stove blogger; I make my living elsewhere, in the IT field.  I fit blogging in as time permits.  Inasmuch as my income is derived elsewhere, monetary issues do not influence the reviews on this blog.  Yes, I do have advertisements on the blog.  I typically derive about $1.00 USD per day from the advertisements (last I checked).  This is a mere pittance and does not influence my reviews in the slightest.  Revenue from the advertisements goes toward hosting fees, stove fuel, and the like.  The blog is self supporting in that sense, and my wife is quite happy that I'm not using the family's income to run the blog, particularly given how tough the economy is these days.
Appendix I – Boils Lost with a Jetboil (vs. a Windburner)

OK, so if you use a Jetboil instead of a Windburner, how many boils are you losing out on?  In other words, how many additional boils can you get out of a Windburner than a Jetboil for the same amount of gas?

Let's try to put some numbers to it.  Assume, for example, that you get a difference of 1 gram of fuel per 500 ml boil and that you boil water twice a day.  Over a week long trip, the Jetboil would require 14g more fuel than a Windburner.  An integrated canister stove can normally boil 500 ml with something around 6g of fuel.  Thus, if over a week you use 14g more with a Jetboil, then you'd be "losing" a bit more than two boils as compared to a Windburner.

I've mapped out a chart below, showing how much more fuel a Jetboil would use depending on how much difference there is in terms of fuel consumption per 500 ml boil.
Difference per boil (grams) 0.25 0.50 0.75 1.00 1.25 1.50 1.75 2.00 2.25 2.50 2.75 3.00 3.25 3.50 3.75 4.00
Boils per day (500 ml each) 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
# of days 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Total difference (grams) 3.5 7.0 10.5 14.0 17.5 21.0 24.5 28.0 31.5 35.0 38.5 42.0 45.5 49.0 52.5 56.0
Fuel grams per boil 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6
Boils "lost"  1 1 2 2 3 4 4 5 5 6 6 7 8 8 9 9

So, how much difference per boil can I expect?  My numbers should not be considered exhaustive, but in still air, the Jetboil required something on the order of 0.25 to 0.5 g more fuel per boil.  In light winds, the Jetboil required something on the order 0.5  to 0.75 g more fuel per boil.  In moderate winds, the Jetboil's fuel consumption rose considerably, requiring about 1.0 to 1.25 g more per boil; I noticed in particular that gusts really affected the Jetboil's flame.  I don't have an estimate for heavy winds because the Jetboil would not bring water to a boil.  Clearly though, the stronger the winds, the more fuel the Windburner will save as compared to a Jetboil.

Now, do my figures make sense for you?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Maybe you boil more water per boil.  Maybe you boil more often per day.  Maybe you're taking a shorter trip.  If you'd like a copy of my Excel spreadsheet so you can try your own numbers, you're welcome to it.  Just write me at Hikin [dot] Jim [at] gmail [dot] com and ask me for one.  Please be specific as to what you're asking for; I get a lot of requests.

Disclaimer:  My numbers should not be considered authoritative.  These are ballpark estimates only.  The only way to get exhaustive numbers would be to take multiple Jetboils and multiple Windburners, burn through multiple canisters per stove in carefully controlled conditions, and average the numbers after all tests were complete.  I simply have not got the resources to do such testing, and I fully acknowledge that fact.
Wind turbines, San Gorgonio Pass

Appendix II – Comparative Table of Weights and Prices
Integrated Canister Stove  Capacity (liters) Weight (g) Weight (oz) Retail Price
Jetboil Sol (Ti) 0.8 279 9.8 $150.00
Jetboil Sol (Al) 0.8 312 11.0 $120.00
Jetboil Zip  0.8 345 12.2 $80.00
Jetboil Flash 1.0 400 14.1 $100.00
Jetboil MiniMo 1.0 415 14.6 $130.00
MSR Reactor  1.0 417 14.7 $190.00
MSR Windburner 1.0 432 15.2 $130.00

Weights are generally the manufacturer's stated weights in grams.  The notable exception is the weight of the titanium version of the Jetboil Sol.  The Jetboil website has "spin doctored" the numbers to make the titanium version appear lighter.  My number is based on an "apples to apples" comparison.   The weight of individual stoves will vary.  Ounces are a calculated figure based on a conversion factor of 28.3495.  Stoves are sorted in order of weight with the lightest stove first.  Note that all of the 1.0 L capacity stoves are within about an ounce of each other in terms of weight.  The spread is 32 grams from the lightest 1.0 L stove to the heaviest.

UPDATE, 7 January 2015:  I've received a note from MSR stating that production units are coming in heavier than the prototype units that the weights were originally calculated from.  MSR gave me a range.  Basically the unit I received is about in the middle of that range.  A weight just over 16 ounces should be about the weight of a unit that you would receive should you purchase one.  I might add that MSR was a bit chagrined about the miscalculation of the weights since they try to be transparent about such things.  I don't yet have an exact number for the revised stated weight, but it should be about 460 grams/16.2 ounces.  A bit disappointing actually.

Note:  My information is that Jetboil is discontinuing their Sol line of stoves (both types).
Size comparisons.
L to R:  MSR Reactor (1.0 L), MSR Windburner (1.0 L), Original Jetboil PCS (1.0 L), Jetboil Al Sol (0.8 L).

Appendix III  – Lighting the Stove in Windy Conditions
I've gotten a lot of questions about how easy (or not) the Windburner is to light in windy conditions.  Here are two videos of me lighting the stove with a fire steel in the same spot as the videos in the main part off this post were made.  These two videos were shot just before the other videos. It was definitely more difficult to light than in still air, but I had no trouble lighting the stove or keeping it lit long enough to get the pot on.  In still air, I can light the stove typically on the first strike.  In windy conditions, I found that it might take several strikes.  The type of fire steel that you're using may affect your results.  In these videos, I am using a Scout firesteel from Light My Fire.