MSR Reactor Stove

The Reactor in use  © Charlie Boscoe
The Reactor in use
© Charlie Boscoe

It doesn't seem long ago that canister stoves seemed to be on the way out of the mountaineering world, as liquid fuel offered vastly better cold weather performance, albeit at the cost of carrying more weight. MSR led this change with some brilliant stoves (one of which I used virtually to destruction – quite an achievement I thought, given that it was made of metal), and now they seem to be at the forefront of the canister stove comeback.

Their main canister system is the Reactor, which can be used with a variety of pots - 1 litre, 1.7 and 2.5 (I used the 1 litre for this test). I've used a few different canister stoves, and whilst they are good, there's no doubt that they have their issues, and are simply not as fast as liquid fuel systems. The Reactor looks pretty impressive though, and the amount of thought that has gone in to the design is immediately obvious. (MSR are claiming on their website that the Reactor will boil 0.5 litres of water from cold in 90 seconds, so the stove needs to be well thought out and efficient!) The finishing is excellent, and the attention to detail makes a good first impression when you take it out of the box.

One immediately obvious element of the stove is just how simple it is. There is the burner, with a simple foldaway handle, the pot (plus lid) and that is about it. No working out how things go together, and no silly self-ignition system (which never work for more than a couple of uses), just a simple burner and a pot. A good start.

Lighting the stove is easy too, and whilst there is always a bit of a “whoomph” when lighting a gas stove, the fact that the burner is wide rather than concentrated in a tiny area means that it doesn't feel violent or dangerous. From there, the pot just sits on the burner, and there is no system to bolt it in place - it just sits on top snugly and securely. I'm still in two minds about whether I think it would be better to have something to hold the pot in place, but a few years back I knocked over a canister stove and couldn't get to the flame or the regulator because the pot (still firmly attached) was red hot and had boiling water coming out of it, so on balance I think I'd prefer to knock over the odd pan of water in return for always being able to quickly get to the burner. To each, his own.


Neat, tidy finishing around the handle  © Charlie Boscoe
Neat, tidy finishing around the handle
© Charlie Boscoe
The impressive looking base of the burner  © Charlie Boscoe
The impressive looking base of the burner
© Charlie Boscoe

A nice touch  © Charlie Boscoe
A nice touch
© Charlie Boscoe

Once lit, the Reactor boils water incredibly fast (you'll have to watch the video to see if it was quite as fast as advertised!), and isn't too loud. The pot and burner fit together perfectly, and MSR have designed the stove so that there in superb inbuilt wind protection to the point that it would be pretty tough to blow the burner out even if you tried. The heat exchanger is massive too, and the general impression is that the stove is about as efficient as it could ever be. It is inevitably affected by the cold but you know it will be, so you just need to sit it on a sleeping mat or just about anything other than snow and try and keep the canister as warm as possible.

As far as quibbles go, I'm struggling to find anything to be too negative to say. One slight issue is that the lid can catch on the pot slightly as you close it (see my fumble early on in the video), but once you've used it for a while you remember to do it properly. And....that's about it!


Overall this is a brilliant stove, and whilst canister stoves are always going to be slower than liquid fuel, they are massively lighter, smaller and have less opportunity for disastrous spillage (rucksack full of meths anyone?). This stove is so light and efficient that I've taken it on routes instead of a second water bottle, and boiled water from snow instead of setting out with enough water to last me all day. If you want a quick, light and functional stove for camping or alpine adventures, this is what you need.

For more info and to see the stove in action in an Alpine hut in France - check out Charlie's thoughts in this short video:


MSR Reactor Stove System Family  © MSR (Mountain Safety Research)
MSR Reactor Stove:
RRP: £140
Weight: 434gm (1 Litre)

What MSR Say:

Not only is the Reactor Stove System the fastest and most fuel efficient stove ever made, it’s the only one that delivers that level of performance in the cold and wind of the real world. While that might sound like hype, take a look at these test results and see exactly what that means to you in the field. Simply put, you’ll burn less fuel, carry less fuel, and move faster than with any other stove available. And with MSR’s proven quality and durability, you can be assured of that performance to pull you through when you need it most.

  • Integrated System: State-of-the-art stove and high-efficiency cookware are combined into a compact, self-contained and easy-to-use system.
  • Unrivaled Boil Time: Outperforms the competition in head-to-head lab tests—boiling .5 liter of water in just 1.5 minutes—with an even greater advantage out in the real world.
  • Unmatched Wind Protection: Heat exchanger completely encloses radiant burner head, virtually eliminating the effects of wind to maintain outstanding boil times and save fuel.
  • Maximum Efficiency: Patent-pending radiant burner, heat exchanger and internal pressure regulator produce best-in-class, fuel-sipping efficiency in all conditions.
  • Compact: All systems are self-contained, fitting the stove and fuel inside the pot. (1.0L Reactor System nests optimally with our new, smaller-diameter 4 oz. canisters.)
You can read more on the Reactor and accessories here: UKC Product News 2013
More details are on the MSR section of the Cascade Designs website.

Mountain World  © Charlie Boscoe

About Charlie Boscoe

Charlie Boscoe is a skier and climber based in Chamonix. His popular blog on Chamonix climbing conditions is: He and his partner, Sharon Wray create and run expeditions to the Himalayas, Andes, Alps and Atlas Mountains, and offer bespoke expedition planning. See his website:

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28 Aug, 2013
Interesting review, thanks. What works better in cold weather, the Jet Boil or this Reactor?
28 Aug, 2013
I heard someone say the CO production by one of these is greater than the Jetboil. Not sure what they were basing it on, but I suspect they had read it somewhere.
28 Aug, 2013
The theory about these new stoves with heat exchangers being a higher CO risk was due to the heat exchangers being so efficient that they strip the energy out of the flame leaving incomplete combustion products, CO. If therefore the reactor is more efficient at scavenging heat from the flame then, if the theory is correct, you would expect it to be a higher risk of producing CO.
28 Aug, 2013
Or this one ? I was actually using the ETA solo again for the first time in ages a couple of weeks ago and immediately burnt my finger tips trying to take the pot off the stove once again, so I stand by what I said in the original review!
28 Aug, 2013
I have a Primus Omnifuel with an eta powerpot and it boils a litre of water in 3 mins (and I mean properly boiling like an electric kettle). I never could see the advantage of the jetboil over it, and can't with this reactor stove either to be honest. These "fastest ever" times are dubious at best as they always seem equivalent to my old omnifuel with the eta pot (which did make a big difference in boiling times over a standard pot). The bonus with the omnifuel or similar (apart from stability, larger pots, liquid fuel when needed, etc) is if it is cold or your gas is low you can invert the canister to get every last drop out. If you have a gas stove already, I recommend upgrading it by just buying one of these to cut your boiling times by 25%:
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