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February 2012 Issue
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Backcountry stoves

MSR Reactor Stove $399.99


Ever since some bright spark discovered how to control fire about two million years ago, there hasn’t been much improvement on the whole exothermic oxidisation concept… and I have to say, the MSR Reactor hasn’t really changed that situation.

MSR proudly says on its promotional blurb that this impressive looking stove boils half a litre of water in just over 90 seconds and that ‘head-to-head boil tests show the pressure-regulated Reactor Stove consistently out-performs the competition’.

It goes on, that the Reactor isn’t so much a cooker in the conventional sense but an ‘all-conditions stove system’; an integrated set of ultra-lightweight pots with built-in windshields, heat exchangers, integrated handles and see-through BPA-free plastic lids that work together to form ‘the ultimate solutions for travelling fast and cooking fast on high adventure journeys’.

If you’re going ultra-light and only eating dehy meals then you’ll appreciate the Reactor’s 532g packed weight. Likewise if you’re above the snow line spending a lot of time melting snow for water then you’ll love its 80-minute burn time from a standard eight-ounce canister.

But if your horizons are a little broader; if you plan to simmer your meals, you’ll find the finicky temperature control (basically either off or volcanic) annoying, the plastic lids are no use as an impromptu frying pan and the Reactor’s curved heating surface, which will only work with MSR Reactor cookware, can be frustrating.

The Reactor is great for cooking quickly, but less so if your needs are more general.

– Mark Banham

Primus Express Spider $149.95


This little cooker is designed for simplicity and ease of use and at 190g is also lightweight. It folds away into a neat little carry sac and can be set up in seconds by folding out the three legs and screwing on the gas cartridge.

A simple gas flow valve, immediately above the cartridge, controls burn speed and burn time. As the Spider has a flexible fuel hose this control knob is sited well away from the burner.

It will take a little adjustment to level the stove as the feet are small and tend to shift if you have large pots on the burner, however in most circumstances they work well and for all that weight saving and simplicity I found it an excellent unit to use. Most importantly it performs well and manages to suck the gas from the cartridge with remarkable efficiency in a range of environments.

I used this stove on a canoeing trip to Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour one winter morning and managed to secure a cuppa in just a few minutes. I also used it on weekend tramps and day walks, to boil the billy or cook dinner for two, both in and out of huts. Although the Spider is supplied with a heat reflector which is placed under the feet (when the surface is level enough to accommodate this) it does suffer from heat loss in windy conditions as there is no windshield, so it will need to be adequately sheltered if camping in these conditions. This is a drawback if the cooker is to be used on the tops or in the snow, so be prepared.

– Pat Barrett

Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System $199.95



I am not a lightweight tramper. My pack is always bulging with all kinds of clothing and kit with afterthoughts squeezed in on top.

Nevertheless, I’m always on the lookout for nifty tools to save space and weight. The Flash cooking unit – a 1-litre pot inside of which is packed a cooking unit – fits this bill. On stopping for the night it is quick to assemble and quickly produces a couple of cups of hot water.

This is a good idea for those who travel solo, and make extensive use of dehy food as it is a capable unit for boiling water, and you can then eat out of the container which has a wide opening at the top. However, more complicated meals would end up requiring a separate billy negating the value of this all-in-one design.

Jetboil have clearly put a lot of thought into it though, and excellent features that I noted included the no-stick, easy to clean inner of the container, and the insulated outer (good for both the hot and cold). There is also a useful tripod which stabilizes the gas canister when using it outside.

I found the Flash simple to put together and use, and for cooking in a hut it was a very functional device. However, outside I found it was hard to stop the burner from being blown out by the wind.

Overall this would be a nifty addition to your kit for lightweight trips with small groups (two people or less) as you could quickly boil up water for de-hy meals, and the unit won’t take up much space in your pack. If you have a larger group and intend to cook more complicated meals, then you will need to take another billy anyway, and I would still take my larger cooker.

– Richard Davies