Author Topic: MSR Dragonfly stove  (Read 4257 times)

MSR Dragonfly stove
« on: February 06, 2015, 08:07:36 pm »
I bought this a few years back, wondering if the option of temperature control would improve my rather poor camp cooking skills. So far it's been very useful for backcountry travel, especially on longer trips and in cold weather. MSR markets this stove as being useful for groups, expeditions and "institutional and guide service settings". My own impression is that it would be great for a group of cyclists traveling together, but a solo cycle tourist (or even a pair of cycle tourists) might find that it takes up a little too much space in the panniers and adds a little too much weight.

First, the good news:

1. The temperature control really works, and it is possible to control cooking temperature very easily and accurately. Flame control is just about as accurate as with a gas cartridge stove.

2. The priming and startup process is quite easy, as liquid fuel stoves go. After the main valve is opened, the temperature control valve can be used to control the amount of priming fuel reaching the burner very accurately. If one didn't release enough priming fuel to start with, it's very easy to add a tiny bit more while the priming flame is still burning. Re-lighting a warm/hot stove is easy, too. In short, the stove can be up and running quickly and easily, without the embarrassing fireball effect that is so easy to achieve with many liquid fuel stoves.

3. Fuel efficiency is much better than with my Whisperlite or my MSR X-GK. My Dragonfly seems to burn about 2/3 to 3/4 as much fuel as either of those stoves. This is especially nice because MSR sells 3 different size fuel bottles (the fuel bottle is also the fuel tank on this stove), so the reduced fuel consumption leads to a lighter, less bulky cooking system. This is very nice on longer trips and with a group of people, but for solo overnight trips this stove is still on the heavy/bulky side. The windscreen that comes with this stove is excellent, and maintains fuel efficiency in high winds and cold weather.

4. The stove is quite low to the ground, and therefore very stable. The pot supports are also very sturdy, and large enough to support a decent sized pot. Keeping the stove low to the ground also makes it easy to shield the stove from wind. Add the Trillium base and it would take a distinct effort to spill the dinner while cooking.

5. The stove is quite well made and reliable, and easy to maintain. The Shaker Jet cleaning needle cleans the fuel jet in the course of normal handling, and the stove is designed to be overhauled in the field. MSR sells spare pumps, as well as maintenance/repair kits.

Now the bad news:

1. This thing is LOUD. Get it going in a campground and everyone will know that you are cooking dinner. Light it off in the backcountry and you will drive away any wildlife in the near (and not so near) vicinity. Turning down the temperature reduces the noise, but for the most part a quiet conversation while cooking dinner is not really an option with this stove.

2. Not only is this stove rather expensive (especially compared to alcohol and gas cartridge stoves), it is still necessary to buy a fuel bottle in order to use it. The fuel bottle serves as the fuel tank, and is sold separately. The good news is that the fuel bottles come in 3 sizes, giving the option of a smaller bottle for a shorter trip, or a larger bottle for a longer trip.

3. Coleman fuel (aka white gas), which is what this stove really runs best on, can be quite hard to find and quite expensive outside the US. The stove will run on kerosene/paraffin or on unleaded auto fuel. However, paraffin/kerosene smells bad and requires a separate primer fuel, while the MSR product literature warns that using auto fuel will shorten the life of the stove. It's nice to have these two options, but neither is as user friendly as Coleman fuel.

4. The nut holding the flame control lever on has an annoying habit of working loose in normal use. I finger tighten the one on my stove every time I use it, before I light the stove.

For someone cycle touring in the UK or Europe, this stove would be a bit silly, especially in warm weather. A gas cartridge or alcohol stove would be cheaper, easier to find fuel for, and simpler to use.

For a group cycle touring in the US and doing a lot of their own cooking, this stove makes a lot more sense. Coleman fuel is easy to find and ridiculously cheap in this country, and this stove is about the best of the liquid fuel stoves I've used.

For someone touring in remote parts of the world and/or in more extreme weather conditions, this stove would be an excellent choice. Paraffin/kerosene and unleaded auto fuel can be found in plenty of places where Coleman fuel and gas cartridges just don't exist. This stove is reliable and efficient, the flame is well protected from wind (with the windscreen), and it's very stable.

Re: MSR Dragonfly stove
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2015, 09:01:17 pm »
Aspen 4stroke fuel is a very good option, much cheaper than Coleman fuel.
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Re: MSR Dragonfly stove
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2015, 06:11:02 pm »
Agreed. Am currently cycle touring in Patagonia and most cyclists have msr petrol stoves because the fuel is easy to obtain: rock up to a petrol station and put half a litre in the bottle and you have enough fuel to last for ages. In Europe it is impossible to buy petrol in such small quantities, so meths is my favorite there. In Chile the screw-on gas cartridges are easy (and half the price of the UK) to buy, meths not so. And you can cook in the tent with gas, which is an advantage in Patagonia. BTW, in Europe you can buy from hardware shops the gas canisters designed for blowtorches, they have the screw-on fitting, and although thin and tall and thus less stable, you can use them, and hold the pot while the water boils.
As an afterthought, I know msr say using car fuel is not good, but it takes to block the pipes on my Whisperlite and the jet is easily unclogged with the pricker thing they give you.
Besides, it wouldn't be audacious if success were guaranteed.

Re: MSR Dragonfly stove
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2015, 08:58:25 pm »
I've used one of these since I took up backpacking again - I use paraffin - much cheaper and burns just as cleanly, without the risk of blowing yourself to smithereens.

However last summer I took my daughter cycle camping using GERMAN paraffin (Brennstoff or whatever it's called) - and it kept clogging up, the way unleaded petrol does.

I once tried it on diesel also (at home) and that was far worse, a non-starter.

Interesting comment about the fuel efficiency - I used to have a Whisperlite, I still take about a litre per week of fuel but despite making more tea than heretofore always seem to have plenty left.
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Re: MSR Dragonfly stove
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2015, 09:34:00 pm »
 I use  white spirit - works just fine, cleaner than paraffin, easy to get hold of  a litre or so.

Re: MSR Dragonfly stove
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2015, 09:48:17 pm »

Interesting comment about the fuel efficiency - I used to have a Whisperlite, I still take about a litre per week of fuel but despite making more tea than heretofore always seem to have plenty left.

I think part of the improvement in fuel efficiency comes from having the flame control. I can get the pot boiling, then turn down the flame to where it just keeps things simmering, instead of having it run full blast all the time. I was able to fiddle with the control on my Whisperlite and my X-GK for a semblance of temperature control, but I always felt like I was reducing the efficiency of the stove when I did so. Also, the Dragonfly warms up faster than the Whisperlite when it's first being started.