by Dave Anderson
January 6, 2014
Coffee and noodles handled with ease. Don’t forget a lighter though. Or a spark.
Rinsing out the slightly glutinous slime that was last night’s meal, albeit one made to a standard well below that accepted at home, in a lake whose waters probably teem with stomach-rotting beasties in order to make the most important drink of the new day – this may not be living the dream, but it’s not half bad.
Coffee and noodles, the duality of any bivvy or lightweight camping trip. I’m sure you can cook other things on a stove in the outdoors but really anything else is just posturing – an affectation towards some normality. A normality you should be leaving behind and forgetting about if you’ve packed a lightweight camp stove.
You’d think, therefore, that any stove would do in the great escape from everyday living. After all, cooking some budget noodles and a pot of brown liquid is a fairly easy task even for the most lacking of chefs and cheapest of stoves; but that, again, would be missing the point. A good stove is like having a good knife, tent or sleeping bag; an essential piece of kit that you know won’t let you down when you need it but also a piece of equipment you take huge amounts of pleasure from. It might look similar to other, inferior, products but it’s distinguished by detail and materials. A piece of equipment that has had a lot of time expended on its design to make it lighter, more reliable, and impart some tactile pleasure to the user is the kind of thing that gets me excited. This MSR Reactor is one of those pieces of equipment.
MSR makes claims about boiling water faster than the competition, using less fuel and such like but in reality all you need to know is that it’s rapid in getting stuff cooked, the hard anodised aluminium pot makes whatever level of cleanliness you’re happy with easy to achieve and it’s all light enough to not be a chore to carry. The large surface area of the stove means heat transfer to the pot is efficient and also that the pot is well supported for vigorous stirring.
It’s not all al dente noodles though. The lack of an ignitor built into the stove means you’ll have to pack a separate lighter to get things going, which is a bit irksome as chances are you’ll forget it and be stuck gnawing at a block of Lidl’s finest freeze-dried carbohydrate. This is the kind of thing that can make or break a good stove, as forgetting one small thing renders it useless. MSR claims that incorporating a piezo ignitor would have reduced reliability, on which it wasn’t prepared to compromise. On the bright side it does mean that us non-smokers have a reason to buy a Zippo lighter and practise flicking it open and lighting it in one swift motion. The coffee making kit, sold separately, is a nice touch and a nod to the fact that MSR knows how its product will be used but the seal on the plunger is very tight, making for awkwardly juddery plunging, so make sure you do that when the pot is off the stove and the lid is on. This bodes well for the plunger’s longevity, though.
Overall: Coffee and noodles handled with ease. Don’t forget a lighter though. Or a spark.