Cookers - MSR Whisperlite International / Trangia - gas and meths

Mike Buckley - May 2014

A comparison between an MSR Whisperlite International running on Aspen 4T and a Trangia 27 running on meths and on gas to compare how long it takes to boil 500 mils (1 pint) of cold tap water. Starting with each stove and, in the case of the MSR the pots, fully packed. The test includes including filling the burner on the meths fired Trangia and connecting the gas on the gas version. On the MSR the bottle is already connected as that's how I store it. Air temperature unknown, but normal Scottish summer evening. No wind to speak of.

Trangia - meths fired.

The small Trangia 27 is adequate for 1 person - the larger Trangia 25 is ideal for 2 people. The same test with a Trangia 25 (the larger version, so better comparison with the MSR pots) gave similar timing.

1 ltr of meths would provide me with enough fuel for about a week, based on cooking bacon for breakfast, boiling water for breakfast drinks and filling a 1.2 ltr flask for use during the day, and preparing the evening meal. A minor faff factor is generally having to refill the burner during the process of making dinner. Controllability is a bit hit and miss - the simmer ring is useful but it's either full bore or simmer. Some control can also be obtained by turning the cooker into or out of the wind.

Overall weights, with a virtually full fuel bottle, for the full setup including 2 pots, frypan, pot-grip and kettle:
Trangia 27 (small one, as shown): Cooker = 1100 gms + fuel = 1720 gms.
Trangia 25 (the larger version): Cooker = 1360 gms + fuel = 1980 gms.
Note that the latest versions (post 2006) use a thinner, lighter aluminium.
Time to a rolling boil = 9 mins 30 secs.

This particular Trangia was bought in 1974 - other than a replacement sealing ring in the burner cap, it's original although I had to cut the hole for the gas pipe as they didn't have that until 1988. For convenience, it now has a non-stick frypan and one other non-stick pan.
A decent flame. I buy Bartoline Methylated Spirits in 5 ltr containers (about £25) from a hardware store and find it burns very cleanly. Even with it, the pots will get sooty.

Trangia - gas fired.

The same Trangia, this time fitted with a gas burner conversion.
The canister is the largest one available, 450 gms net, 4 seasons mix, and it's virtually full, so the regulator is set at about 50% which is giving full power. Efficiency drops off as the cylinder empties, and more so in cold weather. Keeping it by the stove helps a bit. This would provide me with enough fuel for about a week. Very controllable from a gentle simmer to full bore.

Overall weights, with a virtually full gas canister, for the full setup including 2 pots, frypan, pot-grip and kettle:
Trangia 27 (small one, as shown): Cooker = 1100 gms + gas = 1720 gms.
Trangia 25 (the larger version): Cooker = 1360 gms + gas = 1980 gms.

Time to a rolling boil = 5 mins 5 seconds.

4 seasons propane, isobutane, butane mix. Cost around £7. Highlander do a cheaper version.
Very neat fitting. No sooty pots either.

Lid retains heat - the whole set up is stable and protected from the wind. Smaller gas canisters are available. This is 450 gms net.

Nice boil - the non-stick pots are well worth having as they make cleaning much easier if food has got burnt onto the pan - this is a standard one.

MSR - Aspen 4T (petrol) fired.

MSR Whisperlite International running on Aspen 4T - at about £17 for 5 ltrs this is much more economical than Coleman fuel at about £8 per ltr. It burns cleaner than ordinary unleaded petrol. I use meths to prime, but it can be primed on Aspen with less of the smoky mess associated with unleaded. I use it to fill a Zippo lighter, something which can't be done with unleaded!

As before, the timing started with taking things out of their bags, and in the case of the Whisperlite that included forming the windshield and also attaching the base to the burner.
The pots used are MSR hard anodised aluminium, which transfers heat evenly which in conjunction with the anti-stick pots, helps stop food getting burnt.

A 650 mil bottle of Aspen would provide me with enough fuel for about a week.

Overall weight, including full fuel bottle, burner, windshield, stove base and small bottle of meths to preheat = c 2100 gms. (The MSR pot set contains 2 pots, lids, frypan and pot-grip).

Time to a rolling boil = 4 mins 45 seconds.

Overall size is a bit more than the Trangia. I leave the bottle attached to the burner which stops grit getting into the pipe or the pump manifold.

Slightly higher faff factor to put together and light. It has to be said that lighting a multi-fuel burner is something that needs to be practiced. The windshield is essential, and the Trillium stove base really adds stability and stops the legs sinking on a soft surface.

MSR hard anodised aluminium, non-stick pots transfer heat really well. Sadly, they dont seem to offer these particular ones as of 2014. The MSR Quick 2 Pot Set would appear to be today's equivalent, although not cheap! A similar test using cheap Vango stainless steel pots showed a distinct ring of bubbles (hot spot) above the burner.

However, getting the Whisperlite to simmer is challenging as it's far less controllable than the gas Trangia. A diffuser helps.


Cost and fuel types
In terms of running cost, the MSR is the most economical and certainly using liquid fuel means you can start every trip with a full fuel bottle. I understand the MSR Dragonfly gives similar performance with a much more controllable regulator system. Having the multi-fuel option may be useful as you can burn unleaded petrol, Aspen, Coleman fuel, kerosene, diesel or "panel wipe" (make sure you get the naptha based version not the cellulose thinners-based variety. Apparently Tetrosyl is known to work ok). As noted, my preference is to use Aspen 4T.

There have been reports of MSR stoves being unreliable - mine was bought in 2000 and has been 100% reliable. It's had the various sealing rings in the pump replaced once, and been completely stripped down for maintenance at the same time. Most failures are down to operator error in my opinion. Keeping the bottle connected to the burner probably helps as it stops grit getting into the tube or pump manifold. I've never had any problems with the gas conversion on the Trangia although a friend reported the connector to the tube having corroded and failing.

Unleaded petrol contains various additives which may be responsible for clogging pressure stoves - certainly it killed a Coleman stove many years ago as there is no way of cleaning the generator tube if it clogs. Which it will. My MSR was however run on unleaded for many years without problems, before I discovered Aspen fuel. It's easy to field strip and clean and can be broken down to its component parts using the tool provided. I've never had to while on a trip. It has a "shaker jet" system which automatically cleans the fuel jet.

Pre-heating with unleaded is quite messy and leaves a lot of soot on the pan supports. With Aspen or Coleman fuel, far less so. With meths, there is almost no soot on the pan supports. Once running, the stove burns clean. I've never used the other options but I imagine kerosene or diesel would be very sooty.

Ease of lighting and use
The faff factor of having to pre-heat the MSR is a nuisance - lighting gas is much easier and won't flare as a pressure stove can if not properly pre-heated. The meths burner in the Trangia is easy to light, but does take a few minutes to come up to full efficiency. It needs to warm up so as to vaporise the fuel. Heat control is limited. Even with good fuel (and the quality varies), the pots will get sooty although some people claim that adding 10% water helps. I don't bother.

Getting suitable gas canisters can sometimes be challenging - especially on a long trip, in remote places. Messrs Warrender and Goss had problems finding gas canisters on their Tasmanian trip and unded up using a "woodgas" stove. Using a multifuel MSR gives more options. There is also an MSR burner called the Whisperlite Universal which will run on gas as well as liquid fuels but I've no experience of using it. MSR also offer a small, lightweight gas burner called the Windpro which is very effective.

The Trangia gas connector seems fine with Primus and Coleman canisters, and the competively prices Highlander cylinders are also fine. There are converters available to allow the use of the Campingaz puncture canisters, and the Campingaz CV series "clip-on" canisters - be wary of these, as noted in this discussion where a friend had a very nasty experience with one. That said, these converters may be useful to have to expand the range of usable canisters in places where getting the correct ones may be difficult.

A significant feature of the MSR is that you can use any pot size you like, unlike the Trangia. Using bricks for support and as a windshield, I've had a 5 ltr pot on mine. The downside is that pots can easily slip off the burner, something which won't happen with the Trangia.

This review of the Trangia system is also useful - the writer has done some long-distance cycle trips in remote parts of the world, and compare meths, gas and petrol burners. I note they seem to get 2 to 3 weeks on 1ltr of fuel! There is also a mention of the Optimus Nova+ as it’s possible to buy an attachment to allow you to fit it into the Trangia base. It seems that the newer versions of this burner are less than reliable.

Trangia also offer a multifuel burner which will run on white gasoline (Coleman, Aspen or naptha), petrol, kerosene and diesel. It costs an eye-watering £190.

Costs to buy
At time of writing, approx. costs to buy each of these options is:

Meths Trangia 25 (2 non-stick pots, kettle) + 1 ltr fuel bottle = c£90

Gas Trangia 25 (2 non-stick pots, kettle) = c£130

MSR +1 ltr fuel bottle + base + decent pot set = c£137

Trangia gas converters are around £50 on their own and are a direct replacement for the meths burner. It is easily retrofitted to any Trangia although you may have to cut the hole for the pipe fitting if you have an older version.

Relevant links.

MSR Website.

Trangia Website.

Aspen Website.

History of the Trangia.

Size comparisons below.

The bottle shown here is a 650 mil. Trangia 27 on the left, 25 on the right.

 MSR pan set and bag with burner and bottle. The blue cloths serve to protect the non-stick on the frying pan, as well as drying-up cloths.



The black bag on the left contains the MSR's burner, stove base, windshield, priming meths and fuel bottle - another 650 mil one. The bag marked MSR is the pan set.

Mike Buckley - May 2014.

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