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Sunday, May 7, 2017

The MSR Windburner – New 1.8 Liter Size

The MSR Windburner is basically your best friend in really windy conditions.  Hungry?  Windburner.  Done.

Recently, I pulled into camp late, exhausted.  I didn't want to screw around with building a rock wall or crawling behind some boulders to cook.  With the Windburner, it basically doesn't matter.  There's no screwing around with trying to get your stove to work in wind.  It just works.  Boy, was I glad I had brought a Windburner that trip.

UPDATE 12 May 2017:  I have now created a Comparison of the 1.8 L MSR Windburner with the 1.8 L Jetboil Sumo.

For a more comprehensive look at Integrated canister stoves, please see:
For a look at the entire realm of Canister Stoves, please see:
The MSR Windburner with 1.8 L pot.
I think many people look at the Windburner as only a "personal" cooking system (i.e. for just one person), which it is – in its original form.  But no more.

When I wrote my initial review of the MSR Windburner, that's all that was available, a "personal" system with a one liter pot.  Yes, the Windburner is fast enough that you could just take turns, but if you had a meal that required a bit more capacity or you wanted to eat together, the Windburner, back then, really wasn't your set up.  Then MSR introduced their new 1.8 liter pot for the Windburner.
NOTE:  The burner is the same size for all versions of the Windburner.  All Windburner pots and pans fit with all Windburner burners.  The 1.8 L pot will, for example, work with the burner from a 1.0 L set.  Likewise the pan will fit the burner from either a 1.8 L set or a 1.0 L set.
The 1.8 L pot for the MSR Windburner
Now, I could just make this a slam-dunk review.  I mean, the 1.0 L size is a really great stove, so I could just say "same stove, bigger size, works great, the end," and be done with it, but I thought I'd say just a bit more – and there are a few changes as well that I thought I'd point out.

The bulk of the system is in fact the same, so by all means you should read my original review:  The New MSR Windburner.

Let me just say here that since the publication of my original review just over three years ago, the Windburner has become my absolute favorite desert backpacking stove.  Why?  Because it's always freaking windy in the desert.  Really windy.  And, no, sticking it behind a rock just doesn't cut it in high gusty winds.
The Whitewater River flowing into the California desert from the San Bernardino Mountains
When the desert winds come wailing down those desert canyons, there's no better stove than the MSR Windburner (well, maybe the MSR Reactor, but that's the same technology).  Trip after trip, the Windburner has earned my trust and confidence.  Whether desert canyons, open plains, or windswept ridges, this is the stove to have if you're going out into windy conditions.  If you're interested in my real world testing of the Windburner, please see my latest trip report:
The Road to Hell is Paved with... Weather Balloons?

Canister Stand
One of the things that's different here are the new, and I think improved, canister stand (sometimes also called a "canister legs" or "canister feet").
The new 1.8 L version of the Windburner comes with improved canister legs.
There were some complaints that the original canister stand that came with the Windburner took too much room and was too fragile.  MSR quickly put out an improved version 2.  This current version is the third version that I'm aware of, and it's a good one as far as I'm concerned.

The new Windburner canister stand folds
What's new and improved?  It stretchy and it folds.  There's nothing brittle or fragile about it.  You can easily find a place to pack it inside the capacious 1.8 L pot.
There's plenty of room inside the 1.8 L pot for a spoon, lighter, and the canister stand.
The new canister stand fits any size of canister.  One never knows what you may find in a small town.  All that may be available is some other brand of canister, a canister that does not have the same diameter as an MSR canister.  Coleman 220 g canisters for example are a little bit bigger than MSR 227 g canisters.  Likewise, the old Primus 220 g canisters are a little smaller than MSR 227 g canisters. If you've only got two settings on your canister stand (the width of an MSR 110 g or 227 g sized canister), good luck with other brands, especially if you're traveling in Asia where who knows what you'll find.  The new Windburner canister stand stretches and will fit just about any canister diameter from about 8 cm to about 12 cm.

What Fits Inside?

First, I wrap everything in a bandana, see above, so that I don't scratch up the pot.  With that in mind, the following will fit:
  • A 110 g sized canister fits easily with room to spare the burner, the 110 g canister, a spoon, the canister stand, and a large windproof torch type lighter.
  • A 227 g sized canister fits the burner, the 227 g canister, the canister stand, and a small lighter.  The canister stand is a bit of a trick, but if you fiddle with it a bit, it all fits.  I couldn't fit my particular spoon into the pot with the 227 g canister, but different spoons may fit.
  • A 450 g sized canister will fit, but not much else will fit.  You cannot fit in the burner if you put a 450 g sized canister inside.  The canister stand and a lighter will fit even with a 450 g size canister.  NOTE:  MSR does not recommend the 450 g size for use with the Windburner since the resultant assembly would be so tall.
The pot is fairly deep, so a 8.5"/21 cm spoon is a good fit.
Recommended Utensils
The 1.8 L pot is about 7 inches/17.5 cm deep.  I think a spoon (or other untensil) of about 8.5 inches/21.5 cm is about right.  In order to fit your spoon in the pot, you'll want a collapsing or folding spoon.  I recommend plastic so that you don't scratch up the nice anodized pot.  

The 1.8 L Windburner's bowl is a very functional 850 ml size.
The pot lid snaps to the bowl in addition to the pot.

The Bowl
The bowl has a nice improvement over the original:  It doesn't get jammed onto the pot.  On the original, sometimes the bowl would ride up too far on the pot, and it was all you could do to get it off again.  MSR, thankfully, has corrected the problem, and the bowl pops on and off the pot easily.

As with the original, the pot lid fits the bowl equally well as it fits the pot.  The bowl is a full 850 ml (about 29 fluid ounces) in size, which is great for mixing things in – or eating out of.  The bowl is well marked with volume increments.
The bowl has English units up through 24 oz/3 cups or metric units to 600 ml
For travel with two, one person can eat out of the bowl and the other out of the pot. No measuring cup is needed since both the bowl and the pot have volumetric markings.

Functional Pot Size
The pot has volume markings up to 44 oz and 1.4 L.
Maximum recommended fill is 1.0 L.
Maximum recommended fill is 1.0 liter for safety, however, I think that if a person were careful and the pot were on firm ground, 1.5 liters would be practical.  There's a lot of power in this stove, and a boil over is a real possibility.  Your best bet is to keep the stove on a relatively low setting if you're going to put more in it than the recommended maximum amount.  DO NOT let the stove boil over.  If the stove boils over, 212 Fahrenheit/100 C water will be spilling onto the canister beneath.  What's the maximum temperature specification of the canister per the EN 417 standard?  50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).  Boiling water is twice as hot as the specification.  That could get ugly.  Do not let the stove boil over.

The vents on the Windburner are on three sides of the pot.
Turn the side without the vents into the wind.
Wind Tips and Tricks
I haven't seen this documented anywhere on MSR's site, but I always turn the portion of the pot without vents into the wind.  This gives the best results in my experience.

Sometimes getting the stove lit can be a bit of a trick in high winds.  Regular matches and regular lighters don't work very well.  Personally, I like using a torch style lighter like the Soto Pocket Torch.  Note however any lighter with a piezoelectric ignition will become unreliable somewhere around elevations of 8000'/2400m or higher.  Fire steels also work well in windy conditions and are not affected by elevation.

In addition to the new 1.8 L pot (seen at left in blue), MSR has also introduced a Windburner skillet.
What Else Is New?
MSR has also introduced a hard anodized frying pan/skillet for use with the Windburner.  In my testing, I found the skillet to be a very capable cooking implement.
A very nice, moist omelette prepared in a Windburner skillet.

Problems
There is one minor problem with the 1.8 L MSR Windburner pot, and I'm a little disappointed here.  This same problem existed in the original version of the Windburner, and I really would have expected MSR to have corrected this by now.  The problem is simply this:  MSR hasn't really figured out a good way to secure the pot cozy in place.  Why does that matter?  Well, if the pot cozy slides up, as it sometimes does, then the lid will not seal fully.  You'll get a little dribble under the pour spot which will go down inside the cozy.
Using the pour spout on the the lid of the MSR Windburner.
Nice feature, but you have to make sure the pot cozy is moved down a few mm or it won't seal.
A little dribble isn't too big of a problem if you're just using water, but soups etc can be a big mess if they go down inside the honey comb plastic under the surface of the cozy.
You don't want food spills to go down inside the plastic honeycomb of the pot cozy.
The "fix" is fairly simple:  Just manually slide down the cozy a couple of mm and then seal the pot lid.  This isn't too big of a deal, but you do have to remember to do it.  My preference would be for MSR to have corrected the issue.  The pot cozy should, in my opinion, be designed such that it just can't slide up past a certain point and cause a leak, no matter how minor that leak may be.
Slide the pot cozy down a couple of mm in order to get the lid to seal properly.
The MSR Windburner is such a nice, well-thought out system that it's a shame to have this one minor flaw, and, yes, in the greater scheme of things, this is a pretty nit-picky complaint.  Hey, I'm a stove nerd; what can I say?  :)  Overall, it's a great system.  This little flaw certainly doesn't keep it out of my pack.

Summary – The MSR Windburner, 1.8 L Size

What's Good About It?
  • Utterly bombproof in wind
  • Good fuel efficiency and good speed
  • Nice bowl (with volume markings)
  • Nice pot capacity for two (and can accommodate spoon, lighter, etc.)
  • Robust and durable
  • Good heat control (It can do a lot more than just boil water)
  • Twelve attachment openings (so that it doesn't matter which way you turn the pot)
  • A handle that actually works

What's Not So Good About It?
  • If the pot cozy slides up, the lid may not seal properly for pouring.
  • It would be nice if they could make it an ounce or two lighter.  Note that the Windburner is about the same as other stoves in this class; this is just a "wish list" kind of a thing.
The MSR Windburner, 1.8 L Size:  Highly Recommended

Please see also all weights and technical data in Appendices I and II, below.

Thanks for joining me on another Adventure In Stoving,

HJ


Appendix I – Component Weights

Windburner stove system with 1.8 L  pot
Item Grams Ounces
Burner 200 7.0
Pot 227 8.0
Cozy 71 2.5
Lid 20 0.7
Bowl 54 1.9
Stand 20 0.7
TOTAL 592 20.8
Manufacturer's stated weight is 19.25 oz whereas my measured weight is 20.8 oz, about a 1.5 oz difference.  They may not be including the canister stand in their weight or perhaps the bowl.  My weights include everything that comes with the set.

Windburner skillet
Item Grams Ounces
Pan 234 8.3
Note:  All weight were measured in grams.  There may be minor inconsistencies in weights stated in ounces due to rounding or cumulative errors.

Appendix II – Manufacturer and Technical Data

Date Available:  January 2016.  Currently available as of this writing
Manufacturer:  Mountain Safety Research (MSR), a subsidiary of Cascade Designs.
Manufacturer's Website:  http://www.cascadedesigns.com/MSR
MSRP:  $160 for the Windburner system with 1.8 L pot.  $140 for the Windburner system with 1.0 L pot.  $90 for just the 1.8 L pot.  $70 for just the skillet.
Weight (measured):  See Appendix I
Materials:  Aluminum pot.  Plastic and nylon cozy.  Polypropylene bowl and lid.  Burner is primarily steel with brass threads.  The regulator valve assembly is brass.  The burner grip is plastic.
Packed dimensions:  8" x 5" (20.5 cm x 12.5 cm).
Size/Model tested:  1.8 L pot.
Colors available:  Blue or black.
Requirements:   A standard threaded canister of gas, sold separately.
Warranty Information:  Contact Cascade Designs through their website (see above).

The author, climbing a wind-swept desert ridge near Desert Hot Springs, California.
The MSR Windburner is the ultimate desert cooking machine.


6 comments:

  1. Great review! For a single person - would you recommend the 1L or 1.8L? I am biking around the world and have greatly missed my cooking. I'll gladly buy whichever you think would be best :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Sounds like a heck of a trip. Do you have a blog?

      For a single person, just get the one liter version.

      HJ

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    2. Thanks man, I appreciate it! Yeah, you can check it out at: FinalFrontier.bike

      I make videos and blog :)

      Delete
    3. Cool. I'll check it out when I get a chance.

      Thanks,

      HJ

      Delete
  2. The 1.0 liter pot will nest fully inside the 1.8, making for a nice two-pot system for a little more flexibility when cooking for two. My wife and I did this on a 10 day hike in the Wind Rivers last summer. This precludes nesting a 227 g canister inside, and we didn't use the little guys, so the fuel canister took up a little extra room in the pack. We also had the coffee press add-on for the 1.0, which will fit inside the 1.0 along with the burner head, lighter, and old stand -- but I think the new stand was a little too long to fit in the 1.0. Anyway, having both pots makes for a flexible, reliable, and highly efficient system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had seen photos of that very thing. It seems a bit heavy, but if one were preparing multiple dishes, it could be handy, particularly if traveling with multiple people.

      HJ

      Delete