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How To Use MSR Backpacking Stove


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Britta Embry



Welcome to the world of backpacking, where adventure and the great outdoors meld into an unforgettable experience. One essential tool that every backpacker needs is a reliable and efficient stove for cooking meals on the trail. One popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts is the MSR backpacking stove.


The MSR backpacking stove is a compact and lightweight cooking device that runs on various types of fuel, such as white gas, kerosene, or even canister gas. Designed specifically for backpackers, the MSR stove is known for its durability, ease of use, and high-performance capabilities. Whether you are planning a weekend camping trip or embarking on a multi-day backpacking adventure, having a reliable stove can make all the difference when it comes to mealtime.


In this article, we will walk you through the process of using an MSR backpacking stove. From choosing the right stove for your needs to setting it up, preparing the fuel, igniting the stove, adjusting the flame, cooking with it, and ensuring safety, we will cover all the essential aspects of using this versatile piece of gear. By the end of this article, you will feel confident in your ability to utilize the MSR backpacking stove to its fullest potential.


So, whether you are a seasoned backpacker or a beginner just starting to explore the world of outdoor cooking, let’s dive in and discover how to make the most of your MSR backpacking stove.


Choosing the Right MSR Backpacking Stove

When it comes to selecting the perfect MSR backpacking stove for your outdoor adventures, there are a few key factors to consider. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Size and Weight: Backpacking is all about keeping things lightweight and compact. Look for an MSR stove that is portable and easily fits into your backpack without adding excessive weight.
  • Fuel Type: MSR backpacking stoves can run on various types of fuel, including white gas, kerosene, and canister gas. Consider the availability of fuel options at your intended destination and choose a stove that matches your preferences.
  • BTU Output: The BTU (British Thermal Unit) output of a stove determines its cooking power. Consider the types of meals you plan to prepare and opt for a stove with an appropriate BTU output to meet your cooking needs.
  • Boil Time: A fast-boiling stove can save you valuable time and fuel on the trail. Look for an MSR stove with a quick boil time to ensure efficient cooking.
  • Durability: Backpacking can be tough on gear, so it’s crucial to choose an MSR stove that is built to withstand the rigors of the outdoors. Look for stoves made from durable materials that can withstand rough handling and various weather conditions.

Additionally, consider factors such as price, ease of use, and any additional features that may enhance your backpacking experience, such as wind resistance or the ability to simmer. Take the time to research and read reviews to find a stove that ticks all of your boxes.


Once you have identified the MSR stove that meets your criteria, you’ll be one step closer to enjoying hot and delicious meals on your outdoor adventures. In the next section, we will explore how to set up your MSR backpacking stove.


Setting Up the Stove

Before you can start cooking with your MSR backpacking stove, you’ll need to set it up properly. Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up your stove:

  1. Find a Level Surface: Look for a flat and stable surface to set up your stove. Avoid placing it on uneven or sloping terrain to prevent accidents.
  2. Remove the Stove from its Case: Take your MSR backpacking stove out of its case and unfold any legs or arms that it may have. Ensure that all parts are in good working condition and not damaged.
  3. Attach the Fuel Source: Depending on the type of MSR stove you have, you’ll need to connect the appropriate fuel source. For liquid fuel stoves, fill the fuel bottle with the desired fuel and attach it securely to the stove. For canister stoves, simply screw the fuel canister onto the stove.
  4. Check for Leaks: If you’re using a liquid fuel stove, it’s crucial to check for any fuel leaks. Apply a small amount of soapy water around the fuel connections and watch for bubbles. If bubbles appear, tighten the connections or replace any faulty parts.
  5. Prime the Stove: For liquid fuel stoves, priming is necessary to preheat the fuel line and generate vapor for ignition. Follow the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer to prime your stove properly.
  6. Position the Windscreen: If the weather is windy, it’s advisable to use a windscreen to protect the flame from gusts of wind. Position the windscreen around the stove, leaving enough space for proper air circulation.
  7. Ensure Proper Ventilation: Adequate airflow is essential for optimum stove performance. Make sure there is enough space around the stove to allow for proper ventilation, especially when using canister stoves.
  8. Check for Stability: Give the stove a gentle shake to ensure that it is securely positioned and won’t tip over during use. Adjust the legs or arms if necessary to achieve stability.

By following these steps, you can set up your MSR backpacking stove safely and efficiently. Once the stove is set up, it’s time to prepare the fuel for cooking. In the next section, we will explore how to do this effectively.


Preparing the Fuel

Before you can ignite your MSR backpacking stove, you need to ensure that the fuel is prepared and ready for use. The fuel type you choose will determine the preparation process. Here’s a general guide to preparing different types of fuel:

  1. Liquid Fuel: If you’re using liquid fuel such as white gas or kerosene, make sure the fuel bottle is filled and securely attached to the stove. Take care not to overfill the bottle to avoid spillage during use. It’s also a good idea to carry extra fuel in a separate container in case you run out.
  2. Canister Fuel: If you’re using canister fuel, ensure that the canister is screwed onto the stove securely. Before attaching the canister, check the valve to make sure it’s in the off position. It’s recommended to have a partially used canister rather than a full one for weight savings, unless you anticipate needing a large amount of fuel.
  3. Other Fuel Types: MSR backpacking stoves can also run on alternative fuel sources such as diesel, unleaded gasoline, or even alcohol. Depending on the specific fuel, you may need to carry it in a separate container and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and preparation.

Regardless of the fuel type, it’s important to store and transport it safely. Keep the fuel away from open flames and in a secure container to prevent leaks or spills. Additionally, make sure to follow any local regulations or restrictions regarding fuel usage in the area you’ll be backpacking in.


Once the fuel is prepared and ready, you’re one step closer to igniting your MSR backpacking stove. In the next section, we will explore the process of igniting the stove and getting that flame going.


Igniting the Stove

Now that you have set up your MSR backpacking stove and prepared the fuel, it’s time to ignite the stove and get the cooking flame going. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to safely ignite your MSR stove:

  1. Ensure Safety: Before igniting the stove, ensure that the surrounding area is clear of any flammable materials. Keep a safe distance from tents, dry vegetation, and other potentially hazardous objects.
  2. Locate the Ignition Source: Depending on the model of your MSR stove, you will have different ignition options. Some stoves come with a built-in ignition system, while others require the use of a lighter or matches.
  3. Ignite With Built-in Ignition: If your MSR stove has a built-in ignition, locate the ignition switch or button. Press or turn the switch to generate a spark that will ignite the fuel. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use of the ignition system.
  4. Ignite with Lighter or Matches: If your MSR stove does not have a built-in ignition, you will need a lighter or matches to ignite the fuel. Carefully light the lighter or matches and bring the flame close to the burner or fuel source while slowly opening the fuel valve to allow the fuel to flow. The flame should catch and ignite the fuel.
  5. Monitor the Flame: Once the stove is ignited, monitor the flame to ensure it is blue and steady. A yellow or flickering flame indicates improper combustion and may require adjustment or cleaning.
  6. Allow the Stove to Warm Up: Give the stove a few minutes to warm up and stabilize. This will ensure consistent flame performance and efficient cooking.

Remember to exercise caution when igniting the stove and handling any ignition sources. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines to ensure safe and successful ignition.


Now that your MSR backpacking stove is up and running, it’s time to adjust the flame for optimal cooking. In the next section, we will explore how to adjust the flame to meet your cooking needs.


Adjusting the Flame

Having the ability to adjust the flame on your MSR backpacking stove is crucial for achieving precise control over your cooking temperatures. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to adjust the flame on your stove:

  1. Locate the Flame Control: Depending on the model of your MSR stove, you will find a flame control valve or dial. This control is typically located near the fuel source or on the burner itself.
  2. Turn the Valve: To adjust the flame, turn the valve or dial in the appropriate direction. Typically, turning the valve clockwise will decrease the flame size, while turning it counterclockwise will increase the flame size.
  3. Observe the Flame: As you adjust the flame, observe the changes in its size and intensity. A smaller flame will produce less heat, while a larger flame will generate more heat.
  4. Find the Desired Setting: Adjust the flame to your desired setting based on your cooking needs. For simmering or gentle heat, reduce the flame to a low setting. For boiling water or high-heat cooking, increase the flame to a higher setting.
  5. Monitor and Fine-tune: While cooking, keep an eye on the flame and make any necessary adjustments. If you notice uneven heating or charring of the food, you may need to adjust the flame to achieve more even heat distribution.

It’s important to note that the performance of the flame may be affected by factors such as altitude, wind, and fuel type. Adjustments may be necessary to compensate for these variables. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer for your particular MSR stove model.


With the ability to adjust the flame, you now have precise control over your cooking temperatures. In the next section, we will dive into the art of cooking with your MSR backpacking stove.


Cooking with the Stove

Now that your MSR backpacking stove is set up, fueled, ignited, and the flame is adjusted, it’s time to start cooking delicious meals on the trail. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your cooking experience:

  • Meal Planning: Plan your meals in advance and consider the cooking time and fuel efficiency. Opt for lightweight, easy-to-cook meals that require minimal preparation and cooking time. Dehydrated meals, instant noodles, and one-pot recipes are great options for backpacking.
  • Use a Windshield: If you’re in a windy environment, use a windscreen to protect the flame from gusts. This will help maintain consistent heat and prevent unnecessary fuel consumption.
  • Optimize Fuel Efficiency: To maximize fuel efficiency, use a lid or cover while cooking to trap heat and reduce cooking time. This will save both fuel and cooking time, allowing you to conserve resources on the trail.
  • Timed Cooking: Keep an eye on cooking times and set a timer if necessary. Overcooking can result in wasted fuel and lower food quality. Follow the recommended cooking times for the ingredients you’re using.
  • Cooking Utensils: Use lightweight, compact cooking utensils such as a collapsible pot, lightweight pan, and a foldable spatula or spoon. These utensils will be easy to pack and won’t take up much space in your backpack.
  • Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles while cooking in the outdoors. Properly dispose of any food waste and clean up after yourself. Use biodegradable soap and dispose of dishwater at least 200 feet away from water sources.

Remember to always practice caution while cooking over an open flame. Wear protective gloves if necessary and be mindful of hot surfaces. Additionally, be aware of any fire regulations or restrictions in the area you are backpacking in and follow them accordingly.


Cooking with the MSR backpacking stove can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Experiment with different recipes, try new flavors, and savor the satisfaction of creating a delicious hot meal in the wilderness.


In the next section, we will discuss some important safety tips to keep in mind while using the MSR backpacking stove.


Safety Tips for Using the MSR Backpacking Stove

Using the MSR backpacking stove safely is of utmost importance to ensure a successful and worry-free outdoor cooking experience. Here are some key safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose a Safe Location: Always set up your stove in a well-ventilated area away from flammable materials such as tents, dry grass, and overhanging tree branches. Ensure that the surface is stable and level to prevent accidental tipping.
  • Read the Instructions: Familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for your specific MSR stove model. Take the time to understand its features, operations, and any safety precautions.
  • Monitor the Stove: Never leave your stove unattended while it is in use. Keep a close eye on the flame and food being cooked to prevent accidents and ensure proper heat control.
  • Handle Hot Surfaces with Care: The stove and its components can become extremely hot during and after use. Always use protective gloves or utensils to handle hot surfaces and avoid burns.
  • Be Mindful of Wind: If you’re cooking in a windy environment, use a windscreen to protect the flame. However, make sure the windscreen doesn’t cause excessive heat buildup or pose a fire hazard.
  • Keep a Fire Extinguisher or Water Source Nearby: It’s important to have a fire extinguisher or a water source readily available in case of an emergency. Be prepared to quickly control or extinguish any flames that get out of control.
  • Allow Stove and Fuel to Cool: After using the stove, allow it to cool down completely before handling or packing it away. Similarly, ensure that the fuel canister or bottle is cool and securely capped before storing it.
  • Properly Dispose of Fuel Canisters: If you’re using canister fuel, check local regulations for proper disposal methods. Many recycling centers accept empty fuel canisters, but it’s important to verify the appropriate disposal options in your area.
  • Practice Leave No Trace: Always respect the environment and practice Leave No Trace principles while using your MSR stove. Pack out any food waste, properly dispose of leftover fuel, and leave your cooking area clean and free of any debris.

By following these safety tips, you can enjoy a safe and worry-free cooking experience with your MSR backpacking stove. Remember, safety should always be a priority in the outdoors, and a little caution can go a long way.


After a satisfying meal, it’s important to clean and maintain your stove properly. In the next section, we will explore how to clean and maintain your MSR backpacking stove for long-lasting performance.


Cleaning and Maintenance

Proper cleaning and maintenance of your MSR backpacking stove are essential to ensure its longevity and optimal performance. Here are some tips to help you keep your stove in top condition:

  • Clean After Each Use: After each use, allow the stove to cool down, then clean off any food residue or soot. Use a mild detergent or biodegradable soap and a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub the stove’s components.
  • Pay Attention to Burner Ports: Keep the burner ports clean and clear of any debris or blockages that may affect the flow of fuel. Use a needle or a small tool provided by the manufacturer to clean out any clogs or buildup.
  • Inspect O-Rings and Seals: Regularly inspect the O-rings and seals on your stove for signs of wear or damage. These rubber components are important for maintaining proper fuel flow and preventing leaks. Replace any damaged O-rings or seals as needed.
  • Check and Tighten Connections: Periodically check all connections, including fuel canister attachments and fuel line connections, to ensure they are tight and secure. Loose connections can lead to fuel leakage or inefficient stove performance.
  • Store Stove in a Dry Place: After cleaning, ensure that the stove is completely dry before storing it. Moisture can cause corrosion or damage to the stove’s components. Store it in a dry place free from extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • Maintain the Pump: If you’re using a liquid fuel stove, regularly maintain and lubricate the pump mechanism according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will ensure smooth operation and extend the life of the pump.
  • Perform Regular Maintenance: Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your MSR stove. This may include tasks such as replacing fuel filters, lubricating moving parts, or inspecting and replacing worn components.

By incorporating regular cleaning and maintenance into your stove care routine, you can enjoy reliable and efficient performance from your MSR backpacking stove throughout its lifespan.


Now that you have learned about cleaning and maintenance, you are equipped with the knowledge to keep your stove in excellent condition. In the final section, let’s summarize all the key points discussed in this article.



Using an MSR backpacking stove is a game-changer when it comes to cooking delicious meals in the great outdoors. By choosing the right stove, setting it up properly, preparing the fuel, igniting the flame, adjusting the heat, cooking safely, and maintaining the stove, you can enjoy a seamless cooking experience on the trail.


When selecting an MSR backpacking stove, consider factors such as size, weight, fuel type, BTU output, and durability. Choose a stove that fits your specific needs and preferences.


Setting up the stove involves finding a level surface, attaching the fuel source, checking for leaks, priming the stove (if required), and ensuring adequate ventilation. Safety should always be a priority during the setup process.


Preparing the fuel requires filling the fuel bottle or attaching the canister securely. Ensure you have the appropriate fuel for your stove and follow guidelines for safe storage and transportation.


Igniting the stove involves using the built-in igniter, a lighter, or matches to light the flame. Monitor the flame and allow the stove to warm up before cooking.


Adjusting the flame gives you control over the cooking temperature. Turn the flame control valve or dial to increase or decrease the flame size according to your cooking needs.


Cooking with an MSR backpacking stove involves proper meal planning, using a windscreen for windy conditions, optimizing fuel efficiency, and timing your cooking. Choose lightweight cooking utensils and practice Leave No Trace principles.


Safe usage of the MSR backpacking stove involves choosing a safe location, reading the instructions, monitoring the stove, handling hot surfaces cautiously, and having the necessary firefighting tools on hand.


Cleaning and maintaining the stove involves regular cleaning, inspecting O-rings and seals, checking and tightening connections, storing the stove correctly, and performing recommended maintenance tasks.


By following these tips and guidelines, you can have a safe, enjoyable, and delicious cooking experience with your MSR backpacking stove. So, get out there, explore nature, and savor the joys of outdoor cooking with your trusty stove by your side.