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The MSR Reactor and the Jetboil Personal Cooking System

Ultra-efficient Cooking Systems

Jetboil in hanging mode

Jetboil Personal Cooking System:  15.1 ounces (1 liter pot)
I've used the Jetboil stove system for several years, and it has become one of my favorite stoves.  It's very lightweight.  The stove kit, with the pot (including my hanging modifications) weighs only 15.1 ounces.   It is very efficient, and is perfect for heating water.  There are now all sorts of pots available for the Jetboil which allow for frying, etc. but I have only ever used the standard tower pot, because when I'm going light, I typically am only boiling water. 
I have learned a couple of tricks that help make the Jetboil work better.  In cold weather, I heat up a small amount of water first, then pour the hot water into the cup-shaped cover that protects the heat exchanger.  This cover is a little bit wider than the fuel canister, so you can set the fuel canister into the hot water and keep it warm for the rest of your cooking tasks. 
The other trick is converting the Jetboil into a hanging stove.  Jetboil now sells a hanging stove kit, but this kit really is not necessary.  Because the stove is connected to the pot, all that is required is to drill 3 small holes in the upper lip of the pot and suspend it from 3 wires. 
The limitations of the Jetboil are primarily wind and heat output.  The Jetboil is quite sensitive to wind, and windy conditions will reduce the efficiency of the stove quite a bit.  In addition, the Jetboil is not the best stove for lots of snow melting.  While it's probably better than most other cartridge stoves for snow melting purposes, it doesn't have the heat output of white gas stoves (or the Reactor) and melting snow can take a while.  Also, the piezo push-button lighting feature quit working after the first couple of times I used the stove, so I light it with a lighter now.   

In cold weather, hot water in the cup that comes with the stove keeps the fuel canister warm

Simiple hanging system is made by poking 3 holes in the cup, then swaging in some wires.

MSR Reactor System:  20.1 Ounces (1.7 liter pot)
The Reactor is kind of like a Jetboil on steroids.  This stove's claim to fame is its impressive heat output.  The Reactor is the only cartridge stove I've used that puts out enough heat to melt large amounts of snow efficiently.  The cartridge needs to be kept warm, or performance will drop off significantly, so this is a consideration in cold weather. 
As with the Jetboil, the easiest way of doing this that I've found is to put a little warm water in a bowl, and use this warm water to keep the canister warm.  The best bowl I've found is the Snowpeak titanium bowl.  It weighs less than 2 ounces, and fits the large size butane canister perfectly.  

After lots of winter trips, the Reactor is now my hands-down first choice for snow camping and climbing where snow melting is on the agenda.
Another impressive feature of this stove is its resistance to wind.  Even in a very stiff breeze, the stove's performance does not seem to be affected very much.  This makes the stove extra user friendly for windy bivi sites. 
A trick to make this stove even more user friendly, is to turn it into a hanging stove.  I experimented with a number of different options with limited success, until I discovered that the Jetboil hanging stove kit works perfectly with the Reactor.  It is very stable, and the wires help to support the pot in high winds or against accidental bumps and knocks which might otherwise lead to spills.   
However, just because you can hang it, doesn't mean that you should use the Reactor to cook in your tent.  The Reactor puts off significantly more carbon monoxide than other stoves, particularly on medium or low heat.  I would not feel safe using this stove in my tent.  Luckily, it has enough wind resistance that use outside would be a viable option in anything other than hurricane force winds. 

Reactor and Jetboil Hanging Kit


After a lot of use of both the Jetboil and the Reactor, I find myself more impressed by the Reactor.  Its heat output is simply awesome.  It doesn't simmer, and it is not really very good at doing anything except boiling water or melting snow.  The Reactor is not my choice for a summer backpacking stove. (I tend to use the Caldera Cone Ti-Tri reviewed under the alcohol stove section for summer backpacking.)  However, for trips in cold weather where all I am doing is melting snow, there's nothing I've found that is better.  
The Jetboil is a good choice for for solo trips, or lightweight forays in country where I won't need to melt snow for water.  However, for backpacking, I find myself using the Caldera Cone Ti-Tri instead of the Jetboil, and for summer climbing, where snow melting is not necessary, my discovery of the Ortik Heat-It (reviewed on its own page) may displace the Jetboil in that realm as well.     

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