A Tale of Two Stoves


Well-Known Member
Sifting through my camping gear got me thinking about the two stoves I have. Thought I would compare the two I have here and ask a question at the end.


First off the Primus Himalaya. I bought this around 1995 when I started canoe-camping and fly fishing. I didn't have a lot of cash back then after just graduating University so I would have to save up for each piece of gear. This one I remember buying at the Canadian Tire in Corner Brook. Seems like it was around $120 for the stove and another $25 for the bottle. It has served me very well over the years and works great for cooking. It claims to be able to burn a variety of fuels if you change out the supplied jet which is easy to do with the supplied tool. It is very easy to light but creates quite the flame and a bit of soot at the beginning until the liquid fuel vaporizes and the stove heats up. You would have to watch what you are doing if you attempted to use it in the vestibule of your tent. When it gets going it is VERY loud. Fuel consumption is excellent with naphthalene and I would never run out of the 890 mL bottle over a 4-7 day trip. Works great but it's like cooking on a jet engine.

Second one is the MSR Whisperlite. My wife gave me this for a Christmas present about 6-7 years ago. I am not sure what it costs but it is probably comparable to the Primus in 1995 dollars. The Whisperlite can also burn a variety of fuels. First thing I noticed out of the box is that the pump/fuel regulator is plastic unlike the metal and aluminum Primus. The MSR is more difficult to light than the Primus, usually taking several attempts and it also makes a decent fireball on initial start up. The MSR is VERY quiet when compared to the MSR. I guess that's where the Whisperlite name comes in. It is appreciated if you are cooking a few things over time. The MSR comes with a metal heat reflector. The MSR is otherwise very similar to the Primus in size, weight, the way it folds and the bag it comes in. I also found the MSR has a bit better temperature control where you could kind of reduce the flame to a more "medium" heat whereas the Primus seemed to be full bore or nothing. No big deal when boiling water but h

Primus Pros: Durable all metal construction. Easy to light.

Primus Cons: A bit sooty when lighting at first and the sound is loud when it's going.

MSR Pros: Very quiet. Comes with a metal heat reflector that also blocks wind. Seems to have slightly better temperature control.

MSR Cons: Plastic bits make it more delicate. More difficult and finnicky to light.

When I open the cabinet to grab a stove for a trip I tend to go for the Primus. When I looked at the Primus website today it kind of seems like their latest version of this stove also has plastic bits on it, hard to tell. If that is the case and I was buying a new stove today I would likely choose the Whisperlite.

My question for anyone who has a vari-fuel backpacking stove like this is... have you ever actually tried burning an alternate fuel like kerosene and if so, does it cause a taste on your food? I know that some travelers use these stoves in a lot more remote locations than me where white gas is not readily available.
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