Billed as the fastest, most fuel-efficient system available, the MSR Reactor promised a revolution in stove design when it appeared in 2007. The stove consists of a very unusual burner, and you also get a 1.7 litre pot and lid. The stove and a full-size gas canister can be stored in the pot, with a handle folding over the lid to lock it down. It’s heftier than the Jetboil but is still a beautifully compact design with big shelf appeal.
The Reactor burner is unique, as the flame is housed inside a metal casing with a Metflame metal foam layer sitting beneath a protective metal grille. This Metflame layer allows lots of tiny pockets of gas to burn within the structure, so there is no naked flame. The result is that the stove can output radiant heat as well as the usual convected heat without being affected by wind. To make the stove even more efficient the pan is shaped to slot over the burner, once again locking out the wind. And the base of the pan has fins that funnel the heat around the base and up the sides. The combination of the burner and the pot means a maximum amount of heat is directed onto the pan base and up to 3cm around the sides.
On the hill
Packing the kit for the hill is a dream as the pot holds the burner and a gas canister. Setting up is easy too, but as there is no piezo ignition a match or firesteel is needed. The gas control knob is well-protected with rubber and the burner soon gives out a bright red glow. The burner kicks out plenty of heat, but as soon as the dedicated pan is slotted on top all that heat is directed onto the pan and you can easily put your hands close to the burner. The pot has a fold-out handle and the clear pot lid has a rubber grip for easy removal without burning. Like all these stoves the tall design is a little wobbly. This is the widest pan in our test, though, so it can be used for a little more than just boiled water and one person could just about cook something in this. It is also the heaviest stove here at 568g, with the biggest packed size and highest price tag.
In the lab
The MSR Reactor’s boil times are superb and the best in our test at 0 deg C and although not specifically tested, this stove will also give great results in the wind. On the downside the Reactor is not as efficient as the others as it uses more gas per boil, and others burn for longer on one gas cylinder.
Fuel type gas
Also included dedicated pot
Packed size 14x18cm
Pan internal diameter 13cm
Pan internal depth 12cm
Weight 178g stove+390g pan set (+gas)
Made in USA
Stockist details (01629) 580484; www.firstascent.co.uk
Verdict: The MSR Reactor offers the best boil time at 0 deg C and 18 deg C; best performance in wind; widest pan makes this best in our test for real cooking; more stable than some others. But it has the shortest burn time; most gas used at 0 deg C; only works with dedicated pot; lower-profile stoves would be even more stable; high price tag; weight. In conclusion it is the best stove we looked at for rapid boil times, particularly in cold and windy conditions, making it best for winter and Alpine users, and winning our ‘Best in Test winter award.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2009