PRODUCT REVIEW: MSR Whisperlite Internationale™ Multi-Fuel Backpacking Stove

All Rights Reserved © 2007 Thomas W. Day

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Whisperlite Internationale & fuel bottle. Photo courtesy of MSR.

If you’ve followed any of my search for the Ultimate Motorcycle, you’ll know that I think everything ought to serve several purposes. The perfect motorcycle would excel everywhere from the freeway to the motocross track, at least. So, when I began to plan for my exodus across the northwestern portion of this continent, I wanted a stove that could serve some other multiple purposes. Propane stoves are light, fuel is reasonably available, and the stoves are easy to use, but what else can you do with propane? (Apologies to Hank Hill) White gas stoves are messier than propane, fuel is equally easy to find, and you’re still stuck with the problem of the single purpose white gas.

I wanted a stove that would run on the same fuel my motorcycle used. I found the MSR Whisperlite Internationale Backpacking Stove. What makes this stove Internationale is the fuel possibilities, white gas, naphtha, kerosene, and unleaded auto gas. Couple the fact that you can carry unleaded gas in the aluminum MSR fuel bottles and you have a flexible, practical motorcycle touring stove. Carrying extra fuel on the motorcycle always makes me nervous, but MSR makes an aluminum 33oz fuel container that is as durable and secure as anything I’ve found. So, I have a super-portable camp stove and extra fuel storage in secure containers. The only thing left is to see if the stove works well enough to be practical on the road.

I don’t think there is any way to handle gas without spreading the pungent smell of fuel over everything. That was my first concern, finding a way to handle and store the stove and fuel without spreading unleaded joy all over my camping gear. The stove comes in a nylon stuff sack, which includes a pair of folded aluminum wind shields and radiant heat reflectors. The aluminum base shield provides a little protection from spilling fuel on your campsite and starting a forest fire. Still, you have to be very careful in handling the fuel and starting the fire to keep from having a fuel spill that turns into a runaway fire.

The first time I tried the stove was in my backyard, as my grandson and I were shaking out my camping gear and trying out equipment to see how it would work in the field. We fired up the stove on a small wooden picnic table and it, immediately, got out of hand. I missed some bits of the ignition instructions, printed in at least a half-dozen languages and spread over several confusing pages, and managed to spill fuel on the table and start a fire that spread to the table-top. We hosed it down and tried again, after struggling through the somewhat disorganized owner’s manual. The second time, I started a very hot, very concentrated fire that boiled a small pot of water in a few moments and we cooked up a batch of re-hydrated soup. I used the stove a few more times before adding it to the Alaska camping gear and it always started fairly easily and without hazard. It worked well camping, too. I cooked up several meals on the stove and it is a quick, efficient multi-fuel stove that is easy to use and packs small and light.

The MSR fuel bottles are a good buy and a practical way to carry extra fuel, too. I can fit three of the largest size bottle, 33oz, into my Chase Harper 1150 tank bag and that amounts to a little more than 3/4 gallons of extra fuel. That’s not exactly an Iron Butt “fuel cell,” but it’s enough to add 30-45 miles to my bike’s range and that could be the difference between walking or riding to the next fuel stop. These heavy duty aluminum bottles are built almost like air bottles, have a secure, leak-proof screw-top, and add very little (dry) weight  to your camping gear.

I found the Internationale stove, locally, for about $55 and the fuel bottles sold for $10 each, on sale. That’s about as cheap as the best price I found on the Internet, too.

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