Traded in my Jetboil and won't look back
I originally purchased the Jetboil Personal Cooking System and later added on a Jetboil 1.5L pot to carry along with it. After much debate, I decided to purchase the MSR Reactor and now will never look back. There are already many reviews on this product, so I'll focus on comparing/contrasting it with the Jetboil because that seems to be the next best product.
Things that concerned me most: weight, boil time, resistance to wind, compactness.
Weight: This whole setup (less fuel) weighs in at 18.2 oz. The Jetboil Personal Cooking System (PCS) is 15 oz. At first, it seems like the Jetboil wins in this, but not for me.
Consider these facts: The PCS can only boil 1/2 liter of water at a time, about half of the cup (that's the recommended amount based on the markings on the inside of the PCS). The MSR can boil 1 liter at a time, which is 2/3 of the canister (again, based on the max fill line inside the canister).
To boil as much water as you can with the MSR, you need the Jetboil 1.5L pot as well. This is an added 12 oz. You also need the extra stand and whatnot to go with the 1.5L pot, which is another 2.1 oz.
Thus, you can either go out on the trail with an 18.2 oz. MSR system that will cook either enough for you or for a group of a few people or you have to decide whether to bring just the Jetboil PCS or the entire Jetboil system with larger 1.5L pot (29.1 oz. total for everything, over 33% heavier!).
Boil Time: The PCS boils 1/2 liter of water in 2 minutes. That's 4 minutes per liter! The MSR can boil 1 liter in under 3 and without having to dump out the water and start again halfway through to get a full liter. Even if you use the Jetboil 1.5L pot to boil a liter of water, it still comes in at about 3.5 minutes.
Wind resistance: The MSR is golden here. While cooking, the flames never see the wind whatsoever. With the PCS, there is a lot of space for the wind to get through and I've had trouble keeping it lit in windy conditions. With the MSR, I have never had trouble for a second. It is completely isolated from the wind.
Compactness: Both systems allow all the pieces to fit into the pot. The MSR is a little bigger than the PCS because it holds more water, however. Technically the PCS wins because it's a little smaller, but if you're carrying around the PCS and the 1.5L pot, the Jetboil system takes up WAY more space.
Other Considerations: Jetboil has the neoprene cozy, which is nice as you can hold it in your hands and use it as a handwarmer when there is hot water in the Jetboil. It also lights with a built in igniter, but that is prone to breaking and you should carry around a spare regardless. The MSR requires a separate lighter (but who doesn't carry around a spare anyways?) and it has a built in handle.
I don't like the Jetboil's rubber-type top. It warped on my PCS and on the 1.5L pot, so now the tops are very hard to get on the Jetboil products and they don't sit evenly on the table. The MSR has a clear, hard plastic top that doesn't warp and doesn't require the same type of seal that Jetboil requires. This is very much in favor of the MSR.
One thing I really liked about the PCS is that the burner attaches to the bottom, so you can actually hold the Jetboil up in the air while it is cooking. If you knock it over, it all falls over as one piece and can be righted again with no issues. It can also hang if you buy the separate hanging kit. This doesn't apply to the 1.5L pot. I really wish the MSR had this feature. Also, given the design of the MSR, you can't really use separate cooking pots on it but, with the additional kit, you can set up the Jetboil to allow it to be used like a regular burner to use regular pots and pans on it.
Basically I ended up trading in my Jetboil PCS + 1.5L pot + necessary accessories for the cheaper (total price), smaller, and more compact MSR system. For me, I'll take the MSR every time unless I have an absolute need to use third party pots and pans to cook on it, and even in that case I just whip out my backup 1.9 oz. Snow Peak LiteMax Stove.
To bad "Jet Boil" is already used!!
I bought this stove based on some of the best review Ive seen to date.
Main purpose for getting this stove was to use while kayaking/camping. So "size" (+/- Few oz.) was not a major issues. What "was" the major factor was the majority of the spots that I pull off to camp or do meals are along shorelines. Hens seldom high winds.
First time using the stove I was immediately impressed with the resistance to wind. You are not dealing with a "True Flame". I was dealing with 40 knot winds and this thing had no issues at all boiling water in the times stated on reviews.
I didn't check compact for one reason only. This stove is a "System". You are pretty much forced to use the pot that comes with the stove. This I found very annoying. Yes, I know that this stove was designed to boil water fast, efficiently, and in high winds. However, I would also like to see MSR come out with some other pans/pots to work in conjunction with the "Pot"
Note: Jet Boil (Competitor to the Reactor) must have seen a need for this or had enough complaint because the are now designing pots, pans and kettles that work with the stoves that they make.
I did not check Good "Temp Control" because it takes a while to figure out how to do this. However, It can be done. Keep in mind, You are not able to see a "True Flame" because he Pot covers the burner. It is hard to tell how hot the stove is really getting unless you practice with the valve while the pot is off the stove for a while.
I did not check light weight because, again you are stuck with a large 1.7 liter pot. Until MSR comes out with other sizes, you are stuck with what you get.
Last but not least. I used this stove for something that some would think this stove was not intended for. However, some may be in the same boat as myself and I just want to put it out here. I used my stove to cook and I will continue to do so. With this said. The pot is NOT a "Non-Stick" surface. So some burning on the bottom of my pot has occurred. I have scrubbed it with the blue pad that comes with it and most has gone away.
As some folks have said in other reviews. No one has made the "perfect" stove yet. However, if MSR decides to follow and compete with Jet Boil for additional pots and pans. I think they may just come close to the "Perfect Stove"
Hope this helps!!
Very Fast...Excellent Stove
While some hardcore alcohol stove users may scoff at the approximately 8 oz overall cooking kit differential (stove + pot + fuel); I think it is well worth the extra few ounces to carry the Reactor. (Note that I assumed a 2 ounce per day alcohol fuel consumption, which I think is way low but that is what some claim they can get by on the ultralight web sites. I found the Reactor uses about 2 oz. of fuel per day also, but the base weight of the stove and integral pot make the whole unit about 8 oz. more. However....if you boil a full liter of water or more per meal like I do, then the fuel weight consumption ratios skews to the Reactor's favor...alcohol use jumps to around 4 oz per day...and you'll make up the 8 oz. differential in 4 days on the trail, ending up even.)
Here's why I prefer the Reactor: I can boil water in under 2 minutes for a full liter. Yes, it is better than the specs describe! That means I can have hot coffee, using boiling water...which is something I enjoy. My meals are ready faster too...no waiting for the little alcohol flame to do its thing. The nearly windproof nature of this stove makes it very efficient in high winds.
Really, this is an excellent stove for everything but simmering and cooking, as all you can do is boil water. Some claim they can simmer with it, but you can't use anything but the including pot so no way to use a frying pan or the like.
Finally, there are some criticisms out there about the Reactor emitting more CO than is safe when cooking inside a tent or vestibule. Folks, if you are dumb enough to be cooking in a tent, then just stay home! At least you will stay alive! I learned that lesson the hard way as a teenager when I burned down our tent on a long cross country ski trip when the stove flared. Fortunately we were not seriously burned, but this along with CO poisoning risks is why you should never cook in a tent. No stove is safe from CO emissions, but at least the Reactor does not flare up from what I've seen.
All in all, it is now my favorite stove.
Usual MSR Top Quality
Well this thing was a real surprise. I have two other MSR products and I've been impressed by both but I wasn't expecting this stove to be as good as it is.
It boils FAST and boils a lot (a full litre). The thing that surprised me the most is how quickly it can be prepared. The instructions say you shouldn't use it until the burner is red hot and that should take 5 - 30 seconds. I've never had it take more than 5 and it always lights very easily.
I hear people saying it's unstable and while the footing of the stove is the users' responsibility the connection between the burner and water container could be better. I was hiking with three others and each of them replaced the top part incorrectly as it's very easy to do. It actually takes a few seconds to place and ensure it's on correctly or even a stiff breeze would be able to blow the jug part off.
Talk of poor temperature control is lost on me as this thing is designed to boil water quickly. If you want temperature control buy a proper stove.
My next comment is about a mixed blessing. The stove looks and feels bomb-proof which is great but it makes it heavy (all up with a large gas canister and lighter it's 2lb 1oz). It's great to be strong but a little lighter would be nice. Of course a lot of that weight is lost as you use the gas but it's still quite heavy to hit the trail with. The handle also seems to twist ever so slightly which makes me more than a little nervous when pouring a full litre of boiling water.
All up, it's an excellent unit which will be used a great deal. Worth every cent.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful...
...Let it snow...
This thing is an oven. MSR's graphs that are provided on their box are certainly accurate as well. At 7500 feet this thing had no problem with melting snow and probably enjoyed the chance to show off. People like to worry about stoves that run off of isobutane/propane because performance decreases with the amount of fuel you use. In the case of the Reactor, it only requires 1.8psi in the can to be burning at full bore. Most cans are filled to 6psi. Jet Boil in comparison requires 3psi. Therefore this product takes an even farther leap in design than Jet Boil in terms of performance/function.
This stove works off of radiant heat and not convective so more of the energy goes to heating the water and less is diffused into the air by convection. It works in really high winds even. No need to use a screen to trap in heat...
This thing rocks.
One trick I want to share with people is that another way to get more out of your canisters is to make a neoprene 'sock' to envelope the bottom and sides of the cannister. After using the fuel and during use, put a hand warmer under the can and then slip on the sock. This helps at altitude and in colder temps.
Only two complaints. This is a combination setup where this stove and the pot are made for eachother. You cannot use another pot with this stove. Secondly, one thing that the Jet Boil has on the Reactor is the locking mechanism to keep the pot attached to the stove. From what I hear, this was intentionally left out by MSR for matters of safety. Too bad... Any tricks for keeping it on anyone? Maybe some low gauge wire...
I used this stove on a 4 night trip in the Sierra's. Elevation ranged from 9,000' to 11,100' and temps from 29 to 52 deg F. Most usage was in a 5-8 knot wind. I left the fuel outside the bivy sack at night. The stove boiled water in these conditions extremely fast.
I used one 8 oz fuel canister for all but the last liter of water averaging 2.5 liters per meal (8 total). Three of the dinners needed 25 minutes to cook at a simmer. Simmering with the stove was difficult (due to the stove's efficiency) but it can be done. The stove loses a little efficiency when the fuel canister is near empty.
The stove works for two people but some dinners I like won't fit in the pot (the MSR website says they are making a 2.5L pot now which will make this stove more versatile). This stove is great for "just add water" meals and hot drinks. The pot cleans easily and the stove and an 8 oz fuel canister fit inside the pot.
I used a flint and steel striker to light the stove which was easier than matches due to wind.
To improve stability I made a stove pad out of an old ensolite sleeping pad. Cut three pieces of the pad about 4" wider than the fuel canister. Cut circles in two pieces of ensolite the size of the fuel canister (you want a snug fit). Glue the three pieces together. This also insulates the fuel from the ground (or snow).
I also have used the stove in winter (20 degrees at 7000 feet) and it performed well. We cooked on this stove but melted snow with a Dragonfly.
MSR Reactor - WOW
If other similar products use the word JET the MSR Reactor could appropriately be called the ROCKET. It doesn't just boil water quickly it smokes it!!! I was looking for a windproof lightweight replacement to my other MSR stoves both liquid and gas fueled primarily for sea kayak weekend island hoping on Casco Bay. The reactor was absolutely the best choice I could have made. When I first set it up I had my doubts because it looked to me to be a mini catalytic tent/cabin heater but within seconds of putting the pot on the flame smoke (steam) started spewing out of the see thru lid. Several seconds, not minutes, later I had a steaming pot of hot water. As with backpacking space, weight and size are all primary consideration for a weekend camping trip in a relatively small kayak with a skeg box. Since virtually all of my trips end up on relatively windy beaches another primary consideration is the ability to set up fast and not be bothered with wind screens and fuel hassles. Since everything you need including a stable platform, even in the sand, is included in the package this stove really fits the bill. Since I use almost entirely dehydrated food boiling water quickly is what it's all about. The only down side I saw was the inability to use my occasional fry pan with the burner. I'm assuming that MSR is working on an adapter to allow the stove to be used with conventional cook gear as we speak and look forward to review it when it becomes available. For now I am one happy kayak camper...thank you MSR.
Great, powerful stove, but has issues...
Pros:1. It's extremely fast, I boil a lot of water so this is a huge win for me. Subjectively, it takes around 1/3 less time to boil water versus the JetBoil. This is due to the more powerful burner and larger surface area on the burner interface.2. It packs small, and as it's wider than a JetBoil, you can pack a 220g (7.8oz) gas cylinder inside it, whereas the JetBoil can only contain a 110g (3.9oz) cylinder internally (so I always packed an additional large 450g (15.9oz) cylinder).3. It comes with a small packing cloth which stops the insides getting scratched when the burner unit is packed inside (yes, you could easily make this yourself, but it's a nice thought to provide one).4. The whole unit it the typical good quality you'd expect from MSR.5. It's wider than the JetBoil, and that makes it easier to clean.Cons:1. It's more expensive than the JetBoil ([$]using REI prices in April 2010).2. Simmering is difficult, if not impossible. The burner is so powerful it seems to have only two settings, off and "supernova"!3. No piezo ignition! It's a pain to use matches or a lighter.4. Bigger burner means it goes through gas faster, though as you can pack a larger cylinder internally it may not be an issue.5. It is slightly larger than the JetBoil, the diameter is larger but it is shorter.6. It has a fold-out handle, the JetBoil is insulated so you can simply pick it up with your bare hands even when hot.7. As the diameter of the pot is wider than the JetBoil, it is slightly more difficult to pour into narrow containers.[@]
excellent, and try this technique
I waited for this unit to become available and held off on buying a Jetboil. It was worth it. I think it's hard to satisfy every single desire in one product, so know what you are trying to do rather than expecting unreasonable results. That being said, this thing kicks serious butt. You will save time boiling water but then you'll spend that time gawking over it, really. The other reviews say most of the pros 'n cons but one thing I didn't see anyone say was this: Use it in conjunction with a vacume bottle or thermos, don't let that extra heated water just get cold, save it. Often, there is extra hot water, such as when your friend decides they didn't want tea after all. Have the vacume bottle ready when you start to cook. I bring one on almost any trip because there is no replacement for water thats already heated, no matter how fast your stove is. A nissan bottle or something like it keeps things hot for many, many hours. Sometimes we use the pouches of food that are pre-hydrated, save the hot water used to heat them and do it again at the next meal with very little fuel use, or something along that line of thinking. This unit shows it's true colors when the user uses their brain. A methodical approach really helps in this case.
Upgraded to this from my Whisperlite Internationale, and probably one of the better purchases I've made. Recently took it on a short 3 day backpacking trip, the other two members brought a Jetboil and a MSR Windpro, respectively.
Boil times? It's stupid fast. We easily made full meals (3 entrees + plus 2 sides mountain house freeze dried) with the supplied pot in 1 boil. 1.5L of water easily boiled in 3 minutes or less after the burner was allowed to heat up.
No clean up, simply allow to cool (15 mins) and wipe the lid dry with the supplied towel, then pack it up.
I've yet to find a fault with the system. Follow common knowledge, i.e place on stable ground etc and the system will perform flawlessly.
**I did find, that if you turn the fuel control lever a quarter of the turn on, then use the supplied pack towel to wrap the burner from underneath, the corners will fold over the lip of the burner. You can then press your fuel canister (8oz) down until it lightly pops, and the entire system is secured for storage. When the lid is placed on, the rubber handle lightly presses down on the fuel cannister top, creating a snug fit that prevents rattling during transport.**