After a long day on the hill or trail there is nothing that compares to the sound a stove buzzing away and the smell of supper cooking. It is probably for this reason that most mountaineers and hikers have a deep emotional relationship with their stove. It is not just another piece of gear but is a friend. At least that’s the way I feel about my MSR DragonFly stove, which I’ve had for almost ten years now.
The truth is that if I hadn’t been given it I probably wouldn’t have bought it myself and would likely have gone for something lighter, like the MSR Whisperlite, or something a bit more robust such as the MSR XGK expedition stove. Because when one looks at the specs on the DragonFly it feels as if it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be fitting somewhere in the middle of the range with some of the features of a bigger expedition cooker but aimed more at the recreational backpacker.
But having used it in all kinds of conditions I couldn’t be happier. The reason is that some of the weight and design compromises that went into building the DragonFly give it quite precise control over the heat it puts out. Most liquid-fuelled stoves operate on two setting, afterburner or off. With this you can turn it right down to a simmer and back up to flamethrower. And that, my friends, makes it a joy to use.
Ease of use
- Like all liquid-fuel stoves you need to spend a bit of time figuring out how it works before going out into the field. Unlike canister stoves that involve turning a know and lighting, with a liquid stove you have to get first produce the heat and pressure that turns the liquid fuel (white gas, sometimes called benzine) into a gas that then burns.
- Compared with older model stoves this is a real joy to use once you know how. Preparation time is just a couple of seconds to get some fuel under the burner ready and then burning and then it takes about a minute to get up to operating temperature. The temperature control works really well and you can crank this up to the sound of a jet taking off or turn it right down to a gentle hiss.
- One of its great strengths is that its legs are really wide and stable so you can put on a big pot if melting snow, especially if used on uneven ground or rocks. This is unlike some of the more upright canister or older-style liquid-fuel stoves that wobble precariously. I’ve also found it fine at altitude. But if you have neighbors, this will keep them awake.
The whole stove folds up tight and packs down into a small bundle that can pack neatly inside the MSR pot set. The pump stows away neatly on top of the fuel bottle and fuel seems to last for ages. In efficiency tests it scores pretty well, I’ve always ended up over-calculating by far the amount of fuel I think I’ll need and come back with half of it. That’s better, I suppose, than being cold, hungry and thirsty because of too little fuel.
On the fuel front it comes with different jets so that it can burn just about any kind of liquid fuel you are likely find.
Reliability of the MSR DragonFly
I’ve found mine to be totally bomb proof. On longer trips I carry the little maintenance kit with spares, just in case, but have never had to open it or even to to remove the jets for cleaning. That said, I’ve always managed to find clean fuel. If you think you are likely to be burning dirty old fuel in Nepal or the Andes then I’d suggest going for the expedition stove and forgetting about the simmer settings on this one.
One complaint people have is with broken pumps. This is also not a problem I’ve had but several people complain of the plastic cracking on the older version. Newer ones seem better so replacing it may not be a bad idea.
The MSR DragonFly is a great stove that is a serious rival to gas canister stoves such as the MSR Pocket Rocket ones for ease of use and controllablity but is neither the lightest nor the most durable one in the MSR range. That makes it better suited to long backpacking trails than serious expeditions or alpine assaults.