Before setting off I decided to upgrade my stove from a super light-weight burner I use for mountain marathons to a more sturdy, versatile set-up. Having had issues with canister fuel availability before, I was keen to get something which would adapt to different fuel types. I discussed options with Gus at Gearpest and he suggested the MSR WhisperLite Universal. The WhisperLite comes with a range of adapters and jets so can burn almost any combustible fuel you can lay your hands on. Changing between adapters and nozzles is pretty simple, the instructions actually make it look more complicated than it is, they are very complete. I’ve been switching between the two over the last few weeks. This particular stove comes with a canister holder too as can be seen in the photo above. To be honest I only use it to get the last of the fuel out of a can, otherwise inverting the canister makes the stove sound like its about to take off and the flame is harder to control.
Having not used a liquid fuel stove before I was a little worried about the priming process in which you are essentially turning the liquid fuel from the bottle into gas using heat. It’s simple though, you just let a little fuel into the cup underneath the stove (as soon as you see fuel spurting out of the nozzle you can close it off again, it doesn’t take much) and set it alight. Just before the flame dies, when the stove is heated, you open up the fuel supply again and the stove will spring to life. If I haven’t explained that well or you don’t believe me I’m sure there’s a much more professional instructional video on youtube.
One of the only issues with cooking using liquid fuel is you often loose the simmering capabilities that canisters provide. I cycled with an American lad for a bit who said you can get around this by only putting 1 or 2 pumps of air into the fuel bottle.He went on to say that once you’ve got the pressure right you can even use the stove for baking, a low flame below the pan and a couple of hot rocks from a fire on top! A couple of pieces of advice from me would be; make sure you drain the fuel line after disconnecting the fuel bottle (pour out any liquid still in the line) and don’t use too much fuel in the priming process (unless your eyebrows are expendable). I didn’t drain the remaining fuel out of the stove the first time I used it then stored it in the same pannier as some chocolate biscuits. The biscuits tasted of fuel and it made me grumpy. Making sure you don’t cross thread canisters onto the adapter is also quite important as it would be quite easy to ruin the adapters thread.
MSR stoves are probably the most common type of stove I’ve seen amoungst cycletourers. Another couple of friends I cycled with used an alcohol burning Trangia stove which was a good alternative being lightweight, simple to use and considering that at least rubbing alcohol should be available almost everywhere in the world. The extra weight of the MSR stove is somewhat offset by its quicker boiling times and the ability to reduce/increase flame size easily. It also performs well in windy or extremely cold conditions where getting a hot meal or drink can be most important.