LIKE to pack light and compact whenever heading out on a solo overnight trip; a tent or swag, a six Ipack of beer, food and coffee, and I am sorted. I keep a bit of gear in the Disco all the time – first aid kit, tyre repair kit and air compressor – plus I always have a compact stove in there. For an overnighter or weekend – or even a family day trip – I just go super simple and use a canister stove, of which I have had a few over the years (yep, I am guilty as charged when it comes to being a gear head).
The latest compact stove to see a fair bit of use has been the WindBurner from Mountain Safety Research (MSR). This US-based company has been producing stoves for all purposes, everything from bushwalking/day touring to mountaineering expeditions, and the WindBurner is one of the latest models based on the company’s 2007 Reactor stove and its unique heating system.
This stove uses radiant heat and primary air combustion to ensure consistent, fuel-efficient heating, with fuel moving from the canister through a regulator (that controls gas pressure) to jets that push the fuel into a space under a disc. This disc is porous, and once the air and gas is “mixed” in the space below the disc it is ignited as it pushes through the disc’s pores and heats-up the meshcovered top of the burner, producing an evenly spread heat source.
The heat produced is super-consistent, and to ensure camp chefs get the full benefit of this consistency, there is a “heat exchanger” attached to all pots/skillets. This heat exchanger acts as a wind deflector that also directs the heat from the burner directly to the pot/ skillet’s base. The result is maximum efficiency in terms of both heating and fuel usage. Up until the Reactor hit the scene, with its enclosed and protected heat source, conventional canister stoves had relied on a naked flame to draw air and were subject to the influence of wind, inefficient burning, more fuel usage and the chance that too strong a gust would blow out the flame entirely.
The WindBurner utilises the same tech as the Reactor but in a more compact form; the whole unit – stove, gas canister (IsoPro), canister stand and small pack towel – packs neatly into the supplied one-litre pot. There is also a full-sized bowl that acts as a lid and snaps onto the top of the pot, with the stove setup (not including canister) weighing in at 432g. Yes, there are lighter stoves out there, but they lack the WindBurner’s efficiency. Not a biggie if you’re only doing an overnighter, but for longer journeys where fuel consumption is more of an issue the extra weight is a small price to pay for the economic advantage.
The WindBurner is quick to set up. The pot locks onto the stove with a simple twist (the stove, in turn, is screwed onto the fuel canister as per other canisterbased stoves), ensuring no frightening disconnects during cooking. An aside: the handle on the pot cozy actually supports the weight of the pot when it is full and being held in-hand. I’ve been close to being scalded or worse by other stoves’ slipping covers in the past, so this is a notable positive.
The WindBurner also comes with a canister stand that aids stability. The vertical design of these stoves means instability is one of their handicaps, but with the sturdy stand – and care by the chef – tip-overs are less likely and you can still stir the contents of the pot quite vigorously thanks to being able to hold the cozy as well.
Firing up the stove is as simple as turning it on via the valve wire-handle and using a flint, match or lighter to ignite the burner face – there’s even a small wire in the burner’s mesh that glows orange straight away when the stove is ignited, which is a great safety feature. The WindBurner’s pressure regulator and easy-to-use handle also makes simmering a lot easier than you’d expect; turning it right down low produces a subtle heat.
The claimed boil time for a half-litre of water is 2m30s and I have achieved around 4m30s for a full litre (not that I am ever ‘racing’ to cook or brew a coffee). I have owned the stove now for 12 months and in that time I have cooked everything from boil-in-bag meals to simple pastas and rice dishes in the pot. I have recently added two WindBurner accessories: the skillet and the coffee press (there’s also a larger 1.8L pot with its own oversized support stand), with good results from my efforts with these.
Some may view this slightly “limited” system as expensive, but it’s a compact, easy-to-use stove that is bombproof in construction and also fantastically fuelefficient, all of which are factors in stove choice. And it is still relatively versatile: swap the 1L pot for the 1.8L option (albeit at additional cost), and add in the skillet ($169.95) and coffee press, and you’ll be surprised (like I was) just what you can create for a small family. Plus, it’s super handy if your holidays are based around setting up camp and then exploring on foot, bike or watercraft; packing the compact WindBurner is a no-brainer for a day out in the bush in these circumstances.
AVAILABLE FROM: www.spelean.com.au