Among portable camping stoves, the MSR Reactor is one of the top performers. This integrated stove includes an isobutane-propane burner and a 1.7-liter cooking pot; a fuel canister is sold separately, but the entire stove and canister can be packed into the included pot for portability. One of the main selling points of the MSR Reactor is its efficiency -- the stove uses a radiant burner and heat exchanger to boil water quickly, even in windy conditions. MSR claims the stove can boil a liter of water in less than three minutes, which is confirmed in numerous tests. Owners say the stove is easy to use, reliable and highly efficient. However, heat output is hard to control and it's difficult to simmer soups or sauces. The stove only works with the included pot, so cooking options are limited, especially for groups. Most reviewers acknowledge that this stove is best for one or two campers. Several reviewers are also frustrated that the 1.7-liter pot has a recommended maximum capacity of just 1 liter. If you need to cook for more people, we also found good reviews for the Jetboil Helios (*Est. $150), an inverted canister stove that comes with a 2- or 3-liter pot.
There's no shortage of reviews on the MSR Reactor, but most of the best tests were conducted in 2007, when the stove was first introduced. TGO (The Great Outdoors) magazine has the most comprehensive test of the MSR Reactor. Even though the test is two years old, most of the stoves are still on the market and their testing criteria are thoroughly explained. Each stove receives a rating and in-depth commentary. We also found good tests at Rock and Ice magazine, SNews and Backpacker magazine. User reviewers are helpful, especially at BackpackGearTest.org and Buzzillions.com.
Chris Townsend tests seven camping stoves, and the MSR Reactor is one of the few to earn a Recommended label. Townsend says the Reactor is easy to use and very efficient, although he wouldn't mind a lighter version.
Review: 2007's Hottest Contenders, Chris Townsend, Aug. 2007
The MSR Reactor gets four stars (out of five) in this review from Duane Raleigh at Rock and Ice magazine. Raleigh says the Reactor is "in most regards the best-performing canister stove yet." He boils a liter of water in less than three minutes, even in windy conditions.
Review: MSR Reactor, Duane Raleigh, Not Dated
The editors of SNews give the MSR Reactor an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of five. Their testing shows the stove is quiet and easy to light, although they note that it's hard to achieve a simmer since the heat output is so high.
Review: MSR Reactor Stove, Editors of SNews, Dec. 3, 2007
Just a handful of campers comment on the MSR Reactor at BackpackGearTest.org, and each review is incredibly detailed. All are happy with the Reactor, but they are also disappointed that the 1.7-liter pot has a 1-liter capacity.
Review: MSR Reactor Stove, Contributors to BackpackGearTest.org, As of Sept. 2009
In this video review, Kristin Hostetter at Backpacker explains why the MSR Reactor won an Editors' Choice award. Hostetter says the MSR Reactor is very quiet, even at full power.
Review: 2007 Editors' Choice Award Winners: MSR Reactor and Primus EtaPower Camp Stoves, Kristin Hostetter, April 2007
More than 100 owners give the MSR Reactor extremely positive ratings in reviews compiled by Buzzillions.com. Many reviewers rave about the fast boiling times, although some say they wish the stove were lighter.
Review: MSR Reactor Stove Reviews, Contributors to Buzzillions.com
7. Outside Magazine
Outside magazine includes the MSR Reactor in its 2008 buyer's guide, saying the stove is "incredibly fuel efficient." The review is very brief, and drawbacks are not noted.
Review: MSR Reactor, Sam Moulton, Summer 2008
Only about half a dozen owners review the MSR Reactor here, but they give it nearly perfect ratings. Reviewers are very happy with the stove's performance, especially in wind and rain.
Review: MSR Reactor Stove System, Contributors to Amazon.com