Cooking on camping stoves has never been a favourite of mine: the flame controls are often fiddly, the stoves ineffective in high winds and cold temperatures, the cookware burns or sticks. Over the past two decades I’ve used everything from ultra-compact backpacking stoves to expedition-grade multi-fuel monsters but more often than not have just resorted to boiling water and making some quick-cook pasta or rice with a simple sauce. Or just cooking over a campfire.
Sometimes, though, a campfire is not an option and as I’ve gotten older I’ve also grown tired of those simple sustenance-focused pasta meals. Enter the WindBurner Stove System from MSR — a canister-fuelled stove with an effective flame control, superb all-weather performance and excellent cookware.
Built using tech borrowed from MSR’s popular WindBurner canister-top stove, which itself is based off the phenomenal Reactor, the WindBurner stand-alone features a radiant burner and pressure regulator that allow the stove to maintain a constant simmer or a full boil no matter how windy or rainy, or how hot or cold, it is. We’ve been using the system for over six months on a near weekly basis, including a couple of two-week-plus road trips, and no matter if it’s -25C and snowing in Alberta or +30C and windy on the coast of California, the stove has performed flawlessly in all conditions. It lights when it’s windy, and it lights when it’s raining, and it’ll do the same when it’s windy and raining (or snowing). I’m totally impressed.
The Stove System Combo comes with a 2.5L pot and an 8″ skillet, both with a ceramic non-stick coating. We’ve cooked almost everything imaginable using the WindBurner and it hasn’t failed us once: crisping up bacon and toasting bread for breakfast, gently heating up soup for lunch, or searing steak or simmering mussels for dinner. I’ve cooked meals that I would never have previously thought possible on a camping stove: some, like paella, are notoriously difficult — yet our mountain-top version, cooked by headlamp, turned out delicious.
Quite possibly the best thing about radiant burner canister stoves is the lack of required maintenance: other than checking the O-seals for cracks and wear, there are no nozzles to clean or pumps to maintain. Just attach your IsoPro canister and cook away.
The WindBurner remote stove is designed for group use with the larger 4.0L and 2.5L pots and as such has an extremely stable base. The way the feet fold away into the body reminds me of spaceship landing gear, and I have yet to get tired of deploying them and searching for a surface on which the grippy, ridged, feet won’t find solid purchase.
Folded up, the stove nests inside the 2.5L pot, alongside an 8-oz / 227-gram canister. The pot’s lid has a neat retention system that keeps the whole thing from falling apart when stored. Unfortunately, the 8″ skillet doesn’t nest well with the 2.5L pot and the two are effectively two separate units. I’m also constantly worried about the pot moving around and scratching the skillet so I try to remember to put a cleaning cloth between the two for transportation.
Boil times and fuel usage have been in line with MSR’s documentation (approx. 6 minutes to boil a litre of water) and when used with the larger 16-oz / 454-gram canisters, the stove seems to burn forever.
At $260 USD / $300 CAD, the WindBurner Stove System Combo presents really good value when you consider that it includes a wind-proof stove and two pieces of cookware. As an example, a WindPro II goes for $120 CAD, a regular 2.5L pot is $85 and an 8″ skillet costs $55. That’s a total of $260, however the stove is not as efficient (70min vs 90min burn time for 227g IsoPro) and given the cost of canister gas ($7.25 CAD per 227g), the WindBurner would have made up the difference in price after just 25 227-gram canisters. But you’re also gaining a stove that’s much more impervious to wind and weather, and doesn’t require a windscreen or present an open flame.
With a total weight of 816 grams (MSR quote 830) the WindBurner System is also pretty much equal in weight to the above-listed independent items (800 grams for a WindPro II, 2.5L and 8″ skillet). Given that my Reactor and 1.7L pot weighs in at 488 grams — but all it can do is boil water, albeit very well — the WindBurner is a viable backcountry cooking system, even if only for two people, and even more so for groups of three or four.
Making self-cooked meals on road trips can be a pain, especially when there are campfire restrictions in place as has been the case for huge areas of Western North America in recent years, due to widespread wildfires. The WindBurner Stove System guarantees you can cook practically any kind of meal anytime and anywhere — whether it be on a bluff overlooking the Pacific or in a Wal-Mart parking lot — and that kind of freedom is something you can’t put a price on.
Very highly recommended. (I honestly don’t know how we managed to cook anything before the WindBurner — it’s almost like having a part of your kitchen with you wherever you go!)