Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jetboil vs. Whisperlite

For a very very long time, guides used MSR Whisperlites with near exclusivity. Why? Primarily because these stoves provided two large advantages:
  1. They're easy to fix in the field. No matter how gummed up the stove is, it's possible to get it to work.
  2. It's easy to check the level of fuel in the fuel bottle.

MSR Whisperlite

There are some disadvantages to a Whisperlite to:
  1. Eventually they need to be cleaned and worked on at nearly every meal.
  2. There are multiple parts that could potentially get lost.
  3. If they are not running properly they will burn a lot more fuel.
  4. Unless you have a platform for the Whisperlite, it will sink into the snow when it gets hot.
  5. It doesn't necessarily boil water quickly.
These disadvantages brought most guides to a point where they became quite interested in alternatives. The first real alternative to make waves was the Jetboil. I remember my first encounter with this product...suprisingly, I wasn't impressed.

It took me a little while to warm up to this new system. I really liked the way that the whole system could be packed into the mug-shaped pot. It seemed convinent. But initially I wasn't impressed by the lack of a windscreen, the need for canister fuel, or the need to keep the canister off the snow in order to make it work well.

Jetboil Personal Cooking System

It was working with a guide who used the Jetboil constantly that turned me. He would climb an ice route and hang it at the top of a pitch, throw some ice chips in there and then have tea before continuing to climb. He was easily able to carry the stove around while it cooked food or boiled water...and speaking of boiling water, it was really fast. He could cook in the tent (not the vestibule) with the door open to vent fumes. And the pot itself was designed to double as a mug.

I became a big fan of the Jetboil shortly thereafter. I haven't gone back to the MSR Whisperlite simply because I have far too many bad memories of trying to get my stove to work in the cold or, honestly, trying to get it to work at all.
MSR Reactor

In all fairness, MSR has come out with its own answer to the Jetboil. Though I haven't used one yet, the MSR Reactor is considered to be a comparable product. Some say it's better. But I'm a bit stubborn. It takes a lot to get me to change. I will probably have to see a guide do something cooler with the reactor than to simply hang it at the top of an ice pitch before I try it. I'll probably have to see it carry my pack or something.

Like I said, I'm a bit stubborn...

--Jason D. Martin


  1. Hey Jason, I really enjoy the blog - keep up the good work! I recently bought a Jetboil. I notice that the instructions say to always disconnect the fuel canister from the burner before storage, but it would be a lot more convenient to leave them attached and the pot is a strong enclosure - I don't see much chance of breakage/leakage. What do you do?

  2. Rich,

    Thanks for the kudos!

    I don't usually disconnect the Jetboil from the canister. However, I don't bring the Jetboil into my tent at night. I worry that it might leak while I'm asleep...

    Thanks again,


  3. Just my $0.02. I've been using the Whisperlite for about 14 years and I've never had a problem that wasn't readily solved. Summer, winter, spring, fall...snow/rain. The whisperlite has treated me well.

    I've used the Jetboil several of times over the past 3 years and it definitely has some strong points. Its light, clean and easy. But I've had more technical issues with it than the whisperlite. Replacing o-rings, cleaning jets, etc.

    I think both stoves have their pros and cons. Neither seems to be the full package. For light, quick, clean and easy go for the Jetboil...but when I;ve really want to know that my stoves is going to be bomber...I'm using the whisperlite.

  4. I really enjoy your blog. You have very informative information. I'm curios though, how hard is the jet boil to cook with? The shape seems to lend to soups and liquids, but what about something more solid? I ask, because I'm looking to buy and I live in Southern Chile where it rains almost everyday. I like the jetboil for the ease of cooking in the vestibule/tent without worrying about rain and so on. It's just not knowing about normal cooking and using other fuels that worry me. The Jet Fuel is almost none existent here. Only one store in Santiago sales it, and thats 14 hrs from here in Patagonia. What's your though?

  5. I'm not sure that I would purchase a Jetboil if you can't easily get fuel. That said, I do trust it more for cooking in a vestibule. It doesn't flair up as much.

    It is small. And the cooking that you do should be simple. A whisperlite is better for more complex meals.



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