MSR WindBurner Group Stove System Review

The MSR WindBurner range has been extended for 2018 to include a new regulated, windproof remote canister stove and various sizes of pans. These are designed as group-use stoves that are still compact and light enough to backpack with. Richard Prideaux has been testing the Group Stove Cooking System and the 4.5L Stockpot.


Group Stove System (left) and Stock Pot (right) - sold separately  © Richard Prideaux
Group Stove System (left) and Stock Pot (right) - sold separately
© Richard Prideaux

MSR WindBurner Group Stove System £175

The major stove manufacturers all offer a stove system of some type now – a burner that is designed primarily to be used with a pan or pans, normally sold together and with a bit of a weird shape underneath. MSR's previous offering in this sector was the WindBurner Personal Stove System, a tall, interlocked stack of gas cartridge, burner and insulated pot. The Group Stove System offers that sort of boiling efficiency, but with a lot more cooking control too.

The WindBurner is a great system for winter and group use  © Richard Prideaux
The WindBurner is a great system for winter and group use
© Richard Prideaux

Like all similar stoves the Personal Stove System is excellent at boiling water and also rather good at welding any solid or semi-liquid food to the inside of the pan. My previous experience with these stove systems, regardless of manufacturer, is that they are good for boiling water for one or two people but lack any kind of subtlety when it comes to cooking anything else.

When I received the MSR WindBurner Group Stove System I assumed that it was just going to be another water-boiling-food-burning mountaineering gas stove.

Well, it isn't.

The MSR WindBurner Group Stove System is quite a different beast. For a start it's a remote-canister stove, with the canister and control valve on the end of a braided hose rather than directly underneath the burner. The bit that actually does the heating is atop a tripod of folding legs, looking like a lunar lander (albeit something more from the Kerbal end of the design spectrum). It uses the same radiant burner technology as the Personal Stove System, but with a slightly different mounting arrangement for the pan.

The power is respectable rather than mind blowing - which for general cooking is probably an advantage  © Richard Prideaux
The power is respectable rather than mind blowing - which for general cooking is probably an advantage
© Richard Prideaux

The standard Group Stove System comes with a 2.5L sauce pot, a ceramic-coated pan with folding handle, locking lid and a self-centring ring underneath. The burner nests neatly inside the pan alongside a 227g gas canister and is virtually rattle-free in transit – certainly quiet enough that I couldn't hear it when walking with it stashed in my bag.

The constant message with this stove system is windproof... When the pan and stove are mated together it's easy to see how this has been achieved – there's virtually nothing exposed to the wind itself. A thin strip of glowing element is visible if you lie down next to the stove, but otherwise it's all quite well sealed from the wind.

Burner and gas canister nesting in the 2.5l pan  © Richard Prideaux
Burner and gas canister nesting in the 2.5l pan
© Richard Prideaux

First impressions

The obvious place to start is the burner. I like remote canister stoves - I like the stability and lower centre of gravity, I like being able to move the canister around in tight spaces and I don't spend much time in hanging bivvies on the side of El Capitan. The non-fiddly control valve is at the canister end of the hose for easier access, and it also has a regulated valve to get the most out of the gas canister in wintry weather. The tripod legs fold easily and smoothly and don't seem to mind being used in sand or gritty places. The burner does look a bit odd, almost like a pre-production prototype, but it is more substantial than first appearances would suggest. There's no piezo igniter but a flick with a lighter, match or ferro rod is enough to kick it into life every time.

The 2.5L pan is pretty solid, and the ceramic-coated aluminium withstands scratches and scrapes and shows no battle scars after several trips transporting the burner and gas canister inside.

Strainer holes in the pan lid  © Richard Prideaux
Strainer holes in the pan lid
© Richard Prideaux

It sits snugly on top of the burner section, and surprised me with how stable it all is. A folding, detachable handle sits on one side, and a nifty roller-clip-thingy keeps the lid secure. The lid itself has a strainer on one edge so the whole pan can be inverted and drained without losing that precious fresh homemade artisanal pasta (OK, I'll admit it's actually just dried noodles from the petrol station...).

With the 2.5l pot the boil times are respectable, but not outstanding (6-7 minutes for 1 litre of tap water in various conditions). It is worth noting that with the 2.5L pot and the ceramic frying pan (an optional extra), MSR have de-tuned the heat exchanger a bit so that you don't end up burning the sauce or torching your sausages.

In Use

I'm more than a little late in submitting this review – a combination of a very busy winter and the fact that I keep choosing to take this stove out with me instead of writing about it. That should probably tell you a little about my feelings on it.

Heat exchanger on pan base  © Richard Prideaux
Heat exchanger on pan base
© Richard Prideaux

The first thing is that it has somehow managed to hit that sweet-spot between being a windproof, high-powered camping gas stove whilst also allowing for some nuance and control of the cooking temperature. I have used it to slowly melt snow on various work and personal trips all winter, to cook soups/stews and even scramble eggs (without them becoming my famous Blackened Eggs with Extra Crispy Bits).

It's not the fastest stove on the market (or even within the MSR range) but it does perform well in strong winds and with the 2.5l Sauce Pot that comes with the set it has the capacity required for cooking for a group (probably 2-3 people maximum if you want to eat at the same time).

The burner is low and stable   © Richard Prideaux
The burner is low and stable
© Richard Prideaux

And the legs fold up neatly  © Richard Prideaux
And the legs fold up neatly
© Richard Prideaux

Initially I found the burner had trouble in very cold weather (below -2°C), until I tried putting the canister in a small bowl of water. This solved the slightly sluggish performance I had been experiencing - not surprisingly as the regulated valve is optimised for temperatures just above freezing. Maybe I should have checked that in advance...

The pan is straightforward and does what you would expect, and I really like the roller-clip-thingy that secures the lid for transit, and when straining cooked food out via the holes in the lid. The folding handle is quite robust and not as fiddly as you would expect.

Final Thoughts

I have a bit of a stove problem - I've got seven (at the last count). I expected that the WindBurner Group Stove System was only going to come out of my gear cupboard for group trips and work expeditions with clients. It's quite bulky and not the lightest of systems (590g without gas), but I've found that I've chosen it over the others I own just because it is so friendly to use. It packs away neatly, it's quiet and I don't have to keep an eye on it too much when cooking.

The stability of the whole system has really impressed me, and I will happily use it alongside my bivvy bag or in an (open) tent porch without fear of it tipping and drowning me in nearly-boiled noodles.

I like the neat lid closure system, and robust folding handle   © Richard Prideaux
I like the neat lid closure system, and robust folding handle
© Richard Prideaux

I also like the simplicity – you unfold it, attach a gas canister and light the thing. There isn't much more to it than that, and I don't mind the lack of piezo igniter (they have a tendency to fail on me anyway).

One downside however is the limitation of the pan mounting system. You can only use MSR WindBurner Group-compatible pans with this burner, and there currently is no way to use it with generic pans or even older MSR models. That's something I can live with, but most users will still find it a disadvantage, in that we'd all prefer to use existing gear and buy something to use with it than have to invest in an entirely new system just because we want a bigger/smaller pan.

Coming in at £175, it's not a budget option - but you do get quality. And this probably won't be the stove for fast-moving mountaineering or lightweight backpacking. That said, if you want to carry one reliable and sturdy stove system within a group AND maybe heat something other than water then you will want to take a good look at this WindBurner set.

MSR say:

For backpacking adventurers and group campers dreaming of more than freeze dried meals, the WindBurner® Group Stove System delivers a quality cooking experience in the backcountry—maintaining its performance even in windy and cold conditions. The windproof and pressure-regulated stove system features a 2.5 L sauce pot for 2-4 people to share a simmered feast, and the pot's ceramic-coated surface offers nonstick performance and easy cleanup. The stove is optimized for all WindBurner cookware, allowing for a range of cooking styles. The compact system nests perfectly inside its pot without rattling, to keep packs quiet on the trail.

  • Ceramic-coated 2.5 L Sauce Pot serves 2-4 people
  • Features enclosed, heat-capturing ring for cooking versatility
  • Nests stove and a 226g fuel canister for rattle-free packing efficiency
  • Anti-topple remote canister design and self-centering pot
  • Weight: 599 g
  • Price: £175

For more info see msrgear.com


MSR WindBurner Stock Pot £90

Your MSR WindBurner set can be expanded with the addition of extra pans – like the 4.5L Stock Pot that I was sent to review here. This is a huge beastie (I can't quite fit my head in there, but I do have a substantial noggin) and its purpose is quite obviously to cook large amounts of something, all at once.

Group Stove System (left) and Stock Pot (right) - sold separately  © Richard Prideaux
Group Stove System (left) and Stock Pot (right) - sold separately
© Richard Prideaux

It mates securely with the WindBurner remote canister stove (as does the rest of the range, which also includes 1.0L and 1.8L pots and a frying pan/skillet) but unfortunately won't work with the older WindBurner Personal Stove System. A heat-exchanger underneath completely hides the flame from view, and in my experience is actually more wind-proof than the 2.5L sauce pot that comes with the Group Stove System. It also has a faster boil time – most probably as a result of having a true heat-exchanger rather than the open 'cage' style of the 2.5L Sauce Pot.

It also features the same roller-clips and strainer in the lid that feature on the 2.5L pot, and silicon-covered handles either side. There's no folding handle but the fixed handles are robust and unlikely to be dislodged in normal use.

The 2.5L Sauce Pot (and the rest of the system) nests neatly inside the 4.5L Stock Pot, although there is a little room for it to rattle and move around. It weighs in at just under 600g with the lid (568g to be precise). That isn't light for a camping pan, but it is robust, and bear in mind this includes the weight of the heat exchanger too.

Group Stove System nesting inside the spacious Stock Pot  © Richard Prideaux
Group Stove System nesting inside the spacious Stock Pot
© Richard Prideaux

I've not really had much of an opportunity to use this in remote areas yet, most of the use so far has been melting snow for water in valley basecamps. I also cooked a beef and venison stew from scratch in it, albeit with it sat on the kitchen counter at home. In both cases it did the job well and I would have full confidence in taking it much further afield – but maybe if someone else carried it...

Bearing in mind its capacity and weight, I can see two likely uses for a pot of this size for me – one person carrying the cooking gear for a large group (it's going to see service on my coastal foraging courses later this year), or as part of a reasonably compact and nesting cooking system for basecamp and car-camping use.

For either of those uses it seems fit for purpose – it's solidly built and fits the burner unit well, is stable and spreads the heat efficiently. However, at £90, for a saucepan, you'd have to anticipate doing a lot of mass catering in the outdoors to justify the outlay. At least it should last for years.

MSR say:

Not only is the WindBurner Stock Pot perfect for large volume cooking, it features an integrated heat exchanger that delivers ultra-efficient boil times, to cook meals quick for hungry groups at camp. The perfect accessory pot for WindBurner Stove Systems, the 4.5 L hard-anodized aluminum pot features fixed handles for easy lifting and a strainer lid with locking latches. Compatible exclusively with WindBurner Stove Systems. Not for use with the WindBurner Personal Stove System.

  • Our largest capacity pot for groups & large volume cooking
  • Features high-performance heat exchanger for our fastest boil times
  • Self-centering pot fits WindBurner stoves' deep lip for increased stability
  • Weight: 568g
  • Price: £90

For more see msrgear.com


Richard Prideaux head shot  © Richard Prideaux

About Richard Prideaux

Richard Prideaux is the owner of established North Wales outdoor skills training and activity business Original Outdoors. He spends on average one night per week sleeping in a forest, up a mountain or on a beach somewhere in the UK and further afield and the rest of the time teaching navigation, foraging, tracking and other wilderness skills.

For more info see originaloutdoors.co.uk

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20 Apr, 2018

Can you not invert the canister in cold weather? I had a feeling that MSR has stoves with that function...

20 Apr, 2018

MSR don't actively encourage it anywhere as far as I can see. My sample didn't have any packaging or notes with it so I went off the MSR website for guidance.

I did try inverting the canister but it wasn't that successful. There is a pre-burner air gap at the bottom of the stove assembly (similar to other stoves) and the liquified fuel just sputtered out there. I don't think the regulator works well with a liquid feed either.

21 Apr, 2018

Anyone used this and the Jetboil Helios and able to compare? Does this have any advantages? I like the Helios for snow melting duties, and for more group use, and the inverted canister holder is great for snow use.

21 Apr, 2018

Interesting. I must have mixed MSR up with another brand. They are a real engineering firm so if they don't offer that option I'm sure they have a reason. But on the Optimus I reviewed a couple of years ago it worked so well  https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/reviews/camping-trekking_gear/optimus_polaris_optifuel_stove-8791 so I wonder why MSR don't do it...

21 Apr, 2018

Maybe Primus? They do more in the way of multi-fuel stoves and my Omnifuel actually runs better on an inverted gas canister than it does on 'white gas' petrol. I suspect it's partly to do with the regulator (maintaining pressure delivered despite variable pressure supply) and the burner type - it looks a bit like a patio heater (or the element on a gas soldering iron) as there's no visible flame, just a glowing mesh. I struggled a bit with low temps at first until I tried putting the canister in a bowl of water or puddle - it was fine after that, it just needed the canister temperature raising to just above freezing.

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