MSR Reactor Review
A long term use review of the MSR Reactor stove system. An excellent gas stove for Alpine use, Wild Camping and Bivouacs.
Food and drink preparation in an outdoor environment is a vital element of both our performance and enjoyment. We need fuel to stay warm, keep moving and feed our brains. For an overnight under the stars either tent wild camping or on a bivouac a stove is an essential item of equipment.
Over the years I’ve used a variety of different stove designs and fuel types. My first stove was a meths burning Trangia and then I flirted with a Svea Climber which burned petrol with a satisfying ferocity. Now most of the time I’ll pick a gas stove; they are quick to light, clean and efficient. I started off with a remote canister design similar to the excellent Kovea Spider. Then for a while I was happy with a MSR Pocket Rocket. Then I started using a Jetboil which seemed fairly revolutionary at the time; a dedicated pot with a heat exchanger that attaches directly to the burner on top of the gas canister. The fast boiling times and the compact design with an integrated pot was ideal for a lot of what I used a stove for.
I used the Jetboil to destruction and then in early 2021 I got hold of a MSR Reactor. A quick glance at a Reactor might lead one to believe that it is just a variation of the Jetboil design but there are some key differences that make this my new favourite stove.
The MSR Reactor burner screws onto the canister. It is a wide chunky unit made of plastic with a metal top with a mesh lattice like top. When lit with matches, a lighter or a spark from a ferro rod, the mesh quickly glows orange. Unlike other gas stoves (including the Jetboil) there isn’t a visible gas flame.
The water filled pot sits on top of the burner. Unlike the Jetboil it doesn’t clip into place but rests securely in place. The wide spread of the heat and the heat exchanger on the bottom of the pot mean that the water boils incredibly quickly. In fact MSR claims that the Reactor is the fastest boiling stove on the market. I’m never too bothered about stated boil times as there are so many variables, but the first few times I used this stove I was staggered by the speed it boiled water. This is a huge advantage as the stoves efficiency allows less gas to be carried.
The design really helps with speeding up the process of preparing water. The pot has a fold out handle and a plastic lid. When the water boils you can easily and quickly remove the lid and lift off the pot straight away with the handle. No need to unclip or worry about how hot the pot is. It’s a really efficient system.The handle feels very sturdy and it folds and clips over the lid very securely. The burner unit fits in the pot and there is also room for a small gas cannister. I keep and carry the Reactor in a small dry bag with tea bags and a lighter.
Another key feature of the MSR Reactor is it’s wind resistance. This stove will keep on working in a gale and it’s almost impossible to blow it out. This feature is particularly reassuring on a bivouac.
One disadvantage of this type of canister top stove is that it is designed just to boil water incredibly quickly. You can’t really prepare food in it. It’s great for making a brew or for adding water to dehydrated meals. If I want a bit more flame control or to cook a meal myself I’ll take my Kovea Spider.
I’ve been using the smallest 1.0L version which is ideal for one or two people. MSR also offer 1.7L and 2.5L versions. You can also buy a hanging kit and a nifty coffee press.
A well made durable stove that is possibly the fastest boiling stove currently availible. I’ve used this stove extensively for two years throughout the UK and in the Alps and its been consistantly reliable in a variety of weather conditions and temperatures.