MSR Reactor Review
I received an MSR Reactor for Christmas and finally got the chance to put it through a decent test. I took it on an overnight trip on the west side of Pikes Peak. We made camp at an elevation a bit over 11,000 feet. The temperature was around zero and winds were 10 to 15 miles per hour.
I set the stove up using a tail off of my snowshoes to keep the canister out of the snow.
At first the stove did fairly well. I started by melting snow to get 1 liter of water to a boil (Click the photo above to see short video of initial process). That took about 15 minutes. I then began the process again for a second liter of water and things slowed down dramatically. As is common with this fuel type the canister was getting too cold to allow the fuel to vaporize. It took me half an hour to get the second liter of water and I sped the process up by putting my hands on the canister to warm it up. This helps, but is extremely cold on your hands. As the fuel changes from liquid to gas in sucks so much heat from your hands it is easy to get frost bite.
The Reactor did not fair well in the cold conditions, but it did handle the altitude and the mild wind just fine. I have previously tested it in strong winds and found it to be mostly unaffected by wind. I did not expect this stove to do well in the cold due to its fuel type, but wanted to test it out just to see. Overall I'd say this is a good stove and does pose some competition with the Jetboil. Its advantages are the faster boil time. windproofness, and a lexan lid. It is larger. If you are a solo hiker this is bad, but I usually go with at least one other person so the size works well for two or three people. The Jetboil has advantages of an integrated cup, an insulated pot, lower price, and is lighter. The Jetboil also has a piezo igniter that the Reactor lacks. This is a nice feature, but in breezy or cold conditions does not work well.
The Reactor is a good 3-season stove system for small group use. However for winter, MSR's Whisperlite is still the way to go, and for individual use the Jetboil still wins.