Gear Review: MSR Simmerlite

Camping stoves are something of a personal choice, and to an extent; rely on what kind of food you tend to eat while hiking. When Liz and I hike, we carry two different stoves; I typically carry an MSR Simmerlite and she will carry a Trangia; there are multiple reasons we carry one each, and why we carry different style stoves. The most fundamental reason is that Trangia excell at slow cooking and low simmers, whereas contrary to the SimmerLites namesake, it is much better at fast boil and higher constant heat applications. The SimmerLite can burn any “whitegas”, (though shellite will ensure a longer life due to it being a cleaner fuel). Why do we carry one each? Its cross-packing logic, should  we be seperated, we both have the ability to cook.

MSR SimmerLite Stove and Bottle

MSR Stove rating table

Minimum Weight 8.5 oz / 240 g
Packaged Weight 12.2 oz / 346 g
Burn time (white gas) per 600ml / 20 oz. of fuel 122 minutes
Boil time (white gas), 1 liter 3.75 minutes
Water boiled (white gas) per 100 ml of fuel 5.2 liters
Country of Origin Made in Seattle, USA

(MSR SimmerLite Liquid-fuel backpacking stove, Feb 2011)

How it works

The Simmerlite is a jet based stove, therefore relies on vaporised fuel to work properly. The vaporisation of the fuel is achieved through a two part process, firstly you must pump the bottle to presurise the fuel, opening the tap now will allow fuel along the line. Priming a little fuel into the stove, by alowing it to leak down into the small resivoir in the base and a little around the rim, turning the tap off, you can then light the fuel in the resivoir, this heats the fixed fuel line. Once the fuel is starting to burn down to nothing, you simply turn the stove back on and wholia heated fuel is coming through the pipe, this will quickly become vaporised fuel and you have a stove working like a normal stovetop. I will add a video showing how this works in the future. For those with a bit of mechanical knowledge, it works using the same fundamental principles as a Jet engine, hence being a “Jet stove”.

SimmerLite and Me

Me cooking on the SimmerLite at Mt Feathertop

Weight

Weighing in at 240 grams, the MSR is pretty incredible in terms of stoves, but there is plenty more weight that has to be taken into consideration. When you add in the pump assembly, the fuel bottle (which is necessary for pressurisation) and pots to store it in, the total weight starts to climb significantly.  I have an MSR Alpine dual dish kit which I use to store the stove in, this has two titanium pots two plastic dishes and two aluminium cups; coupled with the stove, (795 grams) I would put the weight at around 1kg + Fuel bottle (79g) and Fuel weight (325g). I must say that coming in just over 1.4 kg for everything is still a great feat and I certainly dont think; with the efficiency of the stove, that anybody can complain about having to carry what is quite a small amount of fuel weight.

Size

The simmer lite comes in around the same size as most of its other backpacking and hiking siblings; the whiperlite and the Simmerlite are very close in size and easily fit into a small pot, when packed away into a kit like the Alpine trek kit, it packs away to be a similar size to a trangia style metholated spirits stove.

Fuel

The Simmerlite; unlike its whisperlite brother can only handle white spirits, While it might seem irrelevent in Australia it can be a very useful internationally where whitegas like Shellite are hard to come by. This considered, I typically use Shellite in my Simmerlite as it has a much higher energy release versus Metholated spirits. In fact; Shellite prduces 44.5 joules of heat energy for very gram of fuel versus metholated spirits, which puts out 29.9 joules for every gram.  (Fuel FAQ, Feb 2011 ) This is also not taking into account that trangias and other types of metho  stoves are usually quite passive in terms of heat transfer and a lot of heat goes up the sides of the pot.

Efficiency

The SimmerLite is extremely efficient in terms of Fuel consumption, The stove uses roughly 100ml every 20 minutes of burn time. taking into consideration that it takes around 4 minutes to boil a litre of water, I can comfortably say that two people can live off 150ml per day, assuming that you are cooking only to eat and have maybe one coffee / tea in the morning. In addition to the efficiency outlined above due to Shellite, because the SimmerLite vaporises the fuel before buring it, this kind of “Jet” stove versus a pooled resivoir like a Trangia is even more efficient again; avoiding evaporation of fuel and more complete combustion. Which also means less blackening on the base of the pot and less scrubbing off carbon residue when you get home.

Cost and Replacement Parts

MSR Trillium Stove base upgrade

MSR Trillium Stove base upgrade

The SimmerLite is on the mid-range in terms of MSR pricing, coming in at $209 from various Australian camping stores / websites.

It is slightly more expensive than the Whisperlite International, but this is mostly due to the weight difference and that its been on the market for less time. The expedition service kit, which constitues replacement parts for most components in the Simmerlite comes in at around $25 but dont expect to find one easily in-store, this is something that you will probably buy online. You can purchase a base plate stand which is much hardier than the standard aluminium folding sheet for the SimmerLite which also works with the Whiperlite, this is called the Trillium stove base, however that’s another $35.

Over-All

Over all, I have a few small gripes with the SimmerLite,  The stove base that comes with the SimmerLite is a piece of sheet Aluminium, which after a few trips starts to get a bit tatty and splits in the middle, as mentioned above, you can get some upgrades which have to an extent address this with small hop-ups or replacement parts, but you must almost unequivocally carry a second stove to cook anything that requires simmering. Once burnt in, the SimmerLite does give you a modicum of control, but its mostly an “on or off” stove. It would be fair to say that you wont be cooking a risotto on this stove; though you could easily re-hydrate one. This by no means is a deal breaker, as quite often two stoves allows for a more co-ordinated cooking process.

Cooking risotto

MSR SimmerLite re-hydrating and cooking risotto

The SimmerLite shines when you are boiling water, cooking beans, stew, porridge, cous cous, rice and other similar dishes; it takes less than four minutes to boil water to a roiling boil, and is extremely easy to prime whith very little practise. Its efficiency means that it outshines most if not all of the stoves in its price range, and at 240 grams its hardly a back breaker. It packs up like most MSR stoves, small and well and the style of stove means that should I ever run out of Shellite on a trip, I can dip into my metho reserves for emergency circumstances.The SimmerLite is built to last, its not wiry like the WhisperLite, but a solid gas burner very reminiscent of a stove-top burner. Thankyou Markus, for pointing out, Metho should be used in this stove only (shellite and associated clear petrols) Metho as an emergency would most likely damage the stove irreparably.

Would I recommend this stove? Well thats an interesting question; I certainly think that this stove is an incredible piece of equipment and has its place, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a first stove,  This is your second purchase after a Trangia or other similar more controllable flame stove. If I havent convinced you yet, you could easily use this as your only stove, but the scope of your meals would be limited to things that can be heated quickly with a high flame or re-hydrating foods.

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References:

MSR Simmerlite Liquid fuel backpacking stove, http://cascadedesigns.com/msr/stoves/fast-and-light-stoves/simmerlite/product : viewed 19th feb 2011

Fuel FAQ, http://www.optimusstoves.com/seen/technical-support/faq/fuel-faq/ ; viewed 23rd Feb 2011

5 Responses to Gear Review: MSR Simmerlite

  1. A good review. I wonder, do you by “metho” mean methylated spirits? Do you really use that with your msr stove? I thought you were only supposed to burn petroleum-based fuels like white gas/heptane, gasoline/petrol and for some stoves also kerosene/paraffin?

    • Hi Markus,
      I do mean Metholated spirits when I say “Metho”. I don’t use Mentholated spirits with my MSR SimmerLite stove, I have only ever used Shellite; as this is readily available to me. Some stoves like the Trangia or “soda can” stoves do use Metholated spirits, or other types of denatured alcohols, and I have used Metholated spirits in those kind of stoves regularly.

      Metho burns cooler than Shellite so I wouldn’t recommend it as it is likely to leave a residue, its definitely something that I would only be doing in an emergency. The SimmerLite is designed only for White Gas (Naptha; aka White petroleum) to burn anything else would most likely irreparably damage your burner.

  2. Enjoyed the read, just one thing: the units given in that FAQ on fuels were:

    “White gas: 10630 kcal/kg, 44,5 Mj/kg”

    “Spirits: 7130 kcal/kg, 29,9Mj/kg”

    ie MEGA joules per KILOgram, so what you wrote in the above is correct in the relative proportions, in the absolute sense, both numbers are too small by a factor of 1000.

    • Ha!

      Thanks for that Ben, Its been there for… ages; Ill have to address that!

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