Over the winter I purchased the MRS Simmerlite camp stove as a companion on my mountaineering adventures. It had received rave reviews from some of my climbing friends who reported that the stove boiled snow quickly and reliably, had good control of the heat for simmering, and was relatively efficient with the white gas fuel. Unfortunately circumstances kept me away from the mountains this winter but I’ve recently come to appreciate the Simmerlite for its utility as a compact, kayak-camping stove too! Here’s the low-down:
The MSR Simmerlite is a compact, backpacking stove that runs on white gas fuel. The stove weighs in at a mere 8.5oz (12.2oz packed) and nests nicely within the MSR Base 2 pot set (1 liter pot inside a 1.5 liter pot). The specs on the stove say that it will boil a liter of water in 3.5 minutes but I can report that it’s usually much less time(2-2.5mins) than that. At maximum power the stove burns through a 20oz fuel bottle in about 2 hours give or take. You’ll never have the stove burning at full-bore in the summer and 20oz of white gas usually lasts me at least a full weekend of cooking (4-5 meals) with fuel to spare. Note that all of these observations were made during the spring and summer months in New England at sea level.
Overall, I really like this stove but it’s not without its nuances. Like all of MSR’s white gas stoves (even the fabled Whisperlite International) it takes some practice to get used to. I guarantee that the first time you prime this stove you’ll either spill gas everywhere, create a campfire-sized fireball, or both. You’ll get better with the start-up procedure over time but I’d advise some practice before going off on an adventure with any white gas stove. Also play around with the included windshield as this can really make a difference in the stove’s performance on those blustery days.
The thing that bothers me most about the Simmerlite is that it really doesn’t have the fine-tuned heat control that’s advertised and that its namesake implies. White gas burns hot and it’s tricky to keep your pot from boiling over with this stove. Yes, you can get the stove to simmer but this occurs within the first 1/8th turn of the control knob with the stove just barely operating. I’ve found that it will go out if the bottle pressure drops so stay close by the pump. If you turn it to ¼ turn then you’ll be heating things up!
With regard to maintenance; I’ve yet to clean my Simmerlite or replace any parts. However, I’ve noticed after 12 uses that quite a bit of black soot has built up under the burner so this routine maintenance is probably just around the corner. It’s always wise to make sure your white gas stove is in working order before you go off on an adventure because they can be challenging to fix without the repair kit handy.
MSR discontinued the Simmerlite in February of 2012 in order to make room for their new stove: the Whisperlite Universal. Truth-be-told this is probably a good thing for a few reasons. First, this means that you’ll probably be able to find a Simmerlite on sale and get a good buy for this good stove. Second, I’m wicked psyched about the Whisperlite Universal because it can use basically anything for fuel from canisters to white gas to kerosene. If it’s anything like the Whisperlite International then the Whisperlite Universal is bound to be a home run of a camping stove! I’ll be sure to write a review as soon as I can get my hands on one…
Pros: Lightweight, packable, boils water quickly, fuel efficient
Cons: Difficult to control heat. Steep learning curve for start-up procedure. Discontinued model
Kayak Dave Rating: