Editors' Choice 2012: MSR WhisperLite Universal Stove
The ultimate stove: anywhere, anytime, any gas
Brand: Cascade Designs
Model: WhisperLite Universal
Finally. For years, we’ve been hunting for a multifuel stove that burns both liquid gas and canister fuel, burns them equally well, and easily converts from one mode to another. The Universal is that stove—and possibly the last one you’ll need to buy. We cooked it side-by-side with a half-dozen current and past multifuel stoves, and testers from BACKPACKER and CLIMBING reached this verdict: It burns as hot and efficiently in liquid-fuel mode as any; it performs better in subfreezing and high-altitude conditions; and its field-fixable and -cleanable construction gives it an advantage in a category notable for the importance of durability (a failed stove would have ended our trip in Chile, as we had to melt snow for drinking water).
Even better, it solves the two challenges historically plaguing multifuel stoves: lackluster performance in canister mode, and clunky conversion processes with too many steps or pieces. In controlled conditions, it beat every other multifuel stove in boil-time tests with canisters, and compared favorably with (and even beat some) dedicated canister stoves, especially in cold temps. That’s unprecedented, and it’s due to engineering that inverts the canister and burns the fuel evenly. The technology, called AirControl, adjusts the oxygen/fuel mix to prevent the steep tail-off commonly seen as fuel pressure drops. And switching modes only requires two steps: swapping jets on the head of the fuel line, and attaching the new nozzle to the fuel pump (liquid gas) or canister.
Testers had two gripes—priming can be futzy, and you must take care not to lose several small parts—but overall they agreed with an editor who called it “the new benchmark for stove versatility.” $140; 11.5 oz. (liquid-fuel mode); 9.5 oz. (canister-fuel mode); cascadedesigns.comThe legend continues with the WhisperLite Universal stove, the first MSR brand hybrid-fuel stove, combining canister and liquid fuel capabilities into one comprehensive package. Fuel-specific jets and fuel source couplers let it burn just about anything, anywhere. A trail-friendly, light, packable design and capacity to burn an inverted canister for improved performance make it unique in its class. Inverted canister stand included.