MSR Windburner review

Go gourmet in the backcountry with the WindBurner Stove System Combo

The MSR Windburner Stove System Combo manages to improve on an already stellar camp stove.
The MSR Windburner Stove System Combo manages to improve on an already stellar camp stove.
The MSR Windburner Stove System Combo manages to improve on an already stellar camp stove.

Highs

  • Lightweight
  • Efficient and convenient
  • Versatile cooking experience
  • All-in-one package

Lows

  • Fuel canister doesn’t work in single digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures

When you’re traveling through the backcountry, you’re always faced with the difficult decision of what kind of stove to bring along. You could pack a heavy stove system to cook gourmet meals, or perhaps you prefer sticking to boiling water and eating freeze-dried food. Thankfully, the brand Mountain Safety Research may finally end this decision-making altogether.

When it first invented the original WindBurner, MSR made boiling water more efficient than ever. Now, the company recently introduced its WindBurner Stove System Combo, which provides a simpler way to go gourmet without weighing you down. All told, the Stove System Combo features a remote-canister stove design, a ceramic-coated 2.5-liter sauce pot, and an 8-inch skillet. We toted it around on a recent trip through the backcountry to see if its claims of gourmet food without the heavy weight were all they’re cracked up to be.

The new and improved Windburner

The MSR WindBurner is one of the most efficient stoves currently on the market and ranked as our top pick in a recent round-up of the best backpacking stoves. It utilizes canister fuel, which burns clean, is easy to transport, and is extremely compact. Unlike screw-on canister models, the WindBurner is an all-in-one package which comes standard with the burner, the heat exchanger, and the pot. The WindBurner even includes an insulated handle for eating directly out of the pot.

The stove also features MSR’s Reactor technology, a radiant burner, and an enclosed, wind-proof design. Its built-in heat exchanger efficiently transfers heat to the lock-on pot and the lock-on design makes for a quick, warm meal whether you’ve summited a mountain or paddled through white water rapids. The radiant burner provides for simmer to boil temperature control as well as a pressure regulator for consistent performance, even in cold conditions.

Aside from what it does well, the stove does lack the ability to utilize separate cookware for cooking meals for large groups of people. MSR responded to this need with an expanded stove line featuring a remote canister stove designed for use with larger pots, highlighted by the WindBurner Stove System Combo.

Don’t fix what’s not broken

MSR didn’t redesign the WindBurner system — when you have something that works, you stick with it. The new stove system functions remotely but maintains a pressure-regulated, radiant burner and a windproof design. This provides for a high level of performance even in cold and windy condition – i.e. Elements you’ll see nearly every time you go outside.

The entire system weighs in at just one pound, 13 ounces.

The Windburner Stove System Combo comes with a 2.5-liter hard-anodized aluminum sauce pot with a strainer lid and talon pot handle, and an 8-inch ceramic-coated skillet. However, MSR also made additional products available for purchase, including a stock pot. The idea behind the modular system is that when you’re traveling with a group, you can split up portions of the cooking system between group members so everyone carries a small amount of weight. MSR specifically designed the Combo system to be packable, too as the pot comfortably fits the remote burner system and a standard eight-ounce fuel canister.

Efficiency is key

What makes the system so different from other options on the market lies with its efficiency. The pot and skillet are designed with heat-capturing rings (known as built-in heat exchangers) that serve windproof purposes and ensure fast boiling times. Additionally, you can use the original WindBurner pot with the remote burner to easily alternate between freeze-dried meals when traveling solo or full-fledged feasts when you’re with a group.

MSR Windburner review
Amanda Ellis/Digital Trends
Amanda Ellis/Digital Trends

The remote stove system is designed with three sturdy legs so you don’t have to worry about any meals toppling over. Its design is complimented by self-centering pots, which add another element of efficiency to an extremely functional system. MSR takes the approach of “include what’s needed, and nothing more.” Every element of the system is incorporated for a specific purpose and the entire system weighs in at just one pound, 13 ounces.

Putting it to the test

We tested the WindBurner Stove System Combo on a winter camping and ski trip in Canaan Valley, West Virginia. As avid owners and users of the original WindBurner, we were excited to evaluate the performance of the new model. On first glance, the remote burner is built tough but still extremely lightweight. The three legs provide for excellent stability and easily attaches to a standard MSR Isopro fuel canister. With its easy lighting system, we had the stove operating and heated in a matter of minutes. The included skillet and pot are extremely lightweight for their large size and easily packable, including convenient removable handles.

MSR didn’t redesign the WindBurner system — when you have something that works, you stick with it.

As we woke up to a dusting of fresh snowfall the first morning of our trip, we realized preparing to cook breakfast in five-degree weather was going to be tricky. While these temperatures won’t directly impact the stove’s performance, they do impact the efficiency of its fuel canister. Backpacking fuel canisters are comprised of a mix of propane and butane under pressure. Vapors rise from the liquid to the top of the canister when attached to a stove and this is what is burned off — which is why the canister must remain in an upright position.

When temperature drops, the volatility of the pressurized fuel also drops, resulting in less gaseous vapors for burning. Isopro canisters feature isobutane, a variation of butane that performs in colder temperatures below the twenty-degree Fahrenheit range – not in the single digit temperatures we were experiencing. The solution? We put the canister in a cup of water, which warmed it up enough to function effectively and started cooking.

MSR Windburner review
Amanda Ellis/Digital Trends
Amanda Ellis/Digital Trends

The simple submersion trick allowed the stove to perform perfectly, evenly cooking scrambled eggs on its lowest setting. We quickly adjusted the stove to a medium setting for cooking potatoes in the pot then finished with a veggie mixture in the skillet. Throughout the entire process a soft orange glow emanated from the base of the stove, serving as a symbol of its combined power and efficiency. The three-legged stove proved its stability as both the skillet and the pot stayed in place throughout the entire cooking session. Though the food quickly went cold after its removal from the stove due to the frigid temperatures, everything cooked evenly, allowing us to treat ourselves to a well-deserved gourmet meal before hitting the slopes.

Throughout our trip, we experienced similar experiences prepping and cooking our meals. Of course, as we became more familiar with the system, the entire process became even easier. We’ve been a fan of MSR’s Windburner in the past but its Stove System Combo managed to improve on an already stellar product – and we don’t ever want to leave home without it.

Warranty information

MSR’s Seattle Repair Shop will work with you to find a solution to any problem with the stove. The majority of the time, stove systems can be repaired. MSR also offers a limited three-year warranty on all of its products – including the Windburner Stove Sysem Combo. This warranty states that if you’re the original owner and you use the stove for its intended purpose, MSR warrants the product to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for three years. This warranty does not cover wear and tear, however.

Our Take

The MSR Windburner Stove System Combo is the perfect way to go gourmet with a group without adding an abundance of extra weight in your pack. Efficient, lightweight, and powerful, this is one camping stove we never want to take to the backcountry without.

Is there a better alternative?

MSR’s main competitors include products from Snow Peak and JetBoil, but there isn’t an exact comparable product which includes the all elements of the Windburner Stove System Combo. Snow Peak sells its canister fuel stoves separately from its cookware, while JetBoil’s milliJoule Cooking System includes one pot with its stove, but not an additional skillet. There’s no better alternative in terms of convenience, as MSR sells a truly comprehensive system for backcountry groups. In our experience, MSR stoves also perform more efficiently than any alternative.

How long will it last?

MSR stove systems are warrantied for three years, but if taken care of, this product can last a lifetime. Additionally, most problems with stove systems like this can be repaired.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re a serious backpacker who often travels with a group, you can’t do better than MSR’s Windburner Stove System Combo.

Smart Home

Instant Pot has another winner with its Accu Slim sous vide

We all know that Instant Pots are the bomb, but did you know that Instant Pot has a sous vide immersion circulator too? The Accu Slim lets you cook sous vide recipes at home. How does it perform? We tested the device to find out.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Smart Home

Postmates now offers a way to get free delivery on meal orders

Postmates is offering customers the chance to order meals with free delivery. But you'll have to be cool with the idea of waiting a little longer, as the delivery driver will be carrying other meals for different customers.
Smart Home

Our favorite coffee makers make flavorful cups of joe from the comforts of home

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Home Theater

Get loud with the best outdoor speakers to rock your party in any weather

From rugged, solar-powered backwoods listening companions to floating pool party jam boxes, the best outdoor speakers partner with your lifestyle to let you listen to your favorite tunes wherever you go.
Mobile

App schools fishing fans on the best time and place to hook that dream catch

Fishbrain, a fishing social network and forecasting app, has introduced BiteTime, a new feature that takes the guesswork out of when and where you are most likely to catch a certain species of fish.
Outdoors

Hyperlite’s new 2-person tent weighs slightly more than two bags of marshmallows

Hyperlite Mountain Gear took the wraps off its new ultralight Dirigo 2 tent. Weighing only 28 ounces, the Dirigo 2 is the company's first self-contained, three-season, two-person shelter.
Deals

REI cuts prices on Osprey, Patagonia, and The North Face backpacks

Whether you're hiking, camping, or traveling, you're always going to need a decent bag to carry your things in. And with REI's Outlet sale going on right now, it's is a perfect time to pick one up for cheap.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Outdoors

Yamaha’s Wabash ebike takes on gravel, single track, and more

The Wabash gravel ebike from Yamaha gives riders a versatile and powerful option for riding trails, pavement, mud, sand, dirt, and more, with plenty of range and power for all-day adventures.
Health & Fitness

Under Armour HOVR is more than a running shoe, it’s a fitness tracker

Under Armour HOVR running shoes bring more to the table than just a comfortable fit. With UA's Record Sensor technology, you can track distance, duration, and even the path you take as you run.
Outdoors

Trek’s new bike helmet is 48 times safer than the one you’re wearing

Trek and Bontrager have taken the wraps off of a new cycling helmet that uses WaveCel technology to dramatically reduce head injuries by dispersing the impact in a way that is 48 times safer than current helmets.
Deals

Under Armour cuts prices on waterproof backpacks with this outlet sale

Under Armour built its name on athletic clothing, but this maker also offers great bags and backpacks for everyday use. If you're looking for a waterproof backpack to keep your stuff out of the rain, Under Armour’s ongoing sale might have…
Deals

A $20 lifetime REI Membership gets you exclusive deals, money back, and more

REI is a great one-stop shop for everything related to the great outdoors, but REI member rewards can give you even more. For just $20 for a lifetime membership, you can get access to exclusive sales, members-only deals, REI Adventure…