The headline here really is SPEED. The MSR Reactor camping stove was designed to melt snow and boil water rapidly, and it is ludicrously quick. It’s also the most wind-resistant ‘stove system’ I’ve ever used. Naturally there are limits, but in moderate gusts the unit didn’t flinch.
It feels like witchcraft, but there’s much impressive tech at work. 9000W is a lot of heat, and it’s distributed through a radiant burner unit that’s as wide as the integrated 1litre pot, which slots securely on top (thankfully, no fiddly twist lock), whilst the built-in heat exchanger distributes the heat.
Apparently, the system makes use of both convective heat and radiant light energy! With the pot on top, the burner is completely covered, making the unit almost wind ‘proof’ (far outperforming the brand’s Windburner stove in my experience). You don’t need a separate wind shield here – in fact, the brand specifically instructs not using one. Ingeniously, the air required for ignition is pulled in from the ports underneath the burner.
The MSR Reactor 1 litre unit is very stable – certainly not as prone to tipping as other canister-top designs. There’s a solid, all-metal handle that stays cool to the touch and folds away securely over a pot lid with a strainer and steam release.
The pressure regulator gives an even burn, and it was the only stove on test to beat its quoted boil times. Quoted burn times look very respectable, although I expect longer-term testing will challenge the 80-hour claim by some margin.
The MSR Reactor’s technology and performance are stellar, but this kind of stove is designed to boil water fast and pour. It won’t simmer, and it’s easy to burn food: much less convenient if you want to ‘cook’. Ten-minute rice requires two or three boil/rest cycles. For porridge oats or couscous: tip into boiled water, insulate and rest.
It’s a one-trick pony and it’s expensive, but if you have the budget the Reactor is nigh on perfect for short, sharp missions to the mountains, especially in winter.
This review was part of our guide to The best camping stoves