- Nov 17, 2017 at 2:37 pm #3502610
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”>Been wanting a reactor for the last few years for melting snow in the winter/spring and considering pulling the trigger on one. I like the ability to use it in the alpine without having to worry about the wind and from what I read it’s supposed to be really fast for melting snow, which could mean carrying less water. What I’m not sure about is it’s performance in cold weather. I know performance won’t be as good in the teens and below, but I’m wondering if it’s still usable. Anyone have much experience with the reactor in winter?</p>
My other thought is that I’ll use my jetboil and rig it up with a moulder strip. My ideal setup would be a reactor with a moulder strip, which seems seems vaguely possible with some fenagling. Any thoughts on this?
I’ve gotten by with my jetboil in the winter, but it isnt the fastest for melting snow and def struggles in the wind.Nov 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm #3502618
Hi Serge. I’ve done quite a few tests with most of my stoves, to see how they did when the temperatures dropped below 15-20 degrees. The Reactor, while a superior burner in the wind, didn’t perform any better than the others below +15* F, and it used more fuel when melting snow. The ‘sort-of-regulated’ Jetboil Sol burner and pot actually did a bit better than the Reactor. Then came the Moulder Strip, and I’ve never looked back. I use a JB MiniMo with a BRS-3000T stove and a pot riser disk for melting snow for a single person, and this works great. I actually got a copper strip to ‘sort of’ work with the Reactor, but the pot had to sit on top of the strip which made it a bit unstable. Probably placing a hand warmer under the Reactor’s canister would solve everything down to near zero F. If you want to get into this stuff in greater detail, you could PM me (or heck, we could meet in the REI conference room or somewhere).Nov 17, 2017 at 3:40 pm #3502619
Brian BBPL Member
Here’s an example of someone using a Moulder Strip-type device with the Reactor:Nov 17, 2017 at 6:41 pm #3502646
Jenny ABPL Member
@jenniferaLocale: Front Range
I might recommend MSR’s WindBurner over the Reactor for the simple reason that if the internal overheating safety trips on the Reactor, you are up the proverbial (frozen!) creek. It might not happen, but if it does you’d better have a backup. The wind-resistance of the MSR stoves makes them a superior product in less-than-perfect conditions, IMHO.
I have used my Reactor for several years, mostly summer but most recently for three weeks this past September in wintery conditions in Yellowstone. One morning as the burner head was heating up, it just quit – no pot on top, no discernible reason for it to overheat, but no amount of tinkering would get it to relight. I have sent it in to MSR, but they are having difficulty getting the replacement part and cannot tell me when the unit can be repaired. In the meantime, my Jetboil is serving as the go-to stove even though it does not do as well with wind, have to create a wind block which can be a pain. I will say that on sub-freezing mornings with all of these stoves, I’ve been able to get decent boil times by placing the fuel canister in 1/2″ of water to trick it! They do use a bit more fuel in temps below freezing, but the Reactor performed OK on mornings that were 15-20 degrees (until it didn’t perform at all).
I will say up front that my Reactor is several years old, and I don’t expect MSR to cover it under warranty – good on them for even providing an RA#. If my current burner cannot be repaired or I get tired of waiting, I’ll probably spring for the WindBurner – same technology, but the shut-off mechanism can be reset by the user, unlike the Reactor. I think the wind-resistance and fast boil times of the MSR stoves make them a good choice as a winter canister stove.Nov 17, 2017 at 7:17 pm #3502662
Hi Jenny – it’s good to know that you’re still out there, and that you got to your YNP “happy place” again. I agree that the Reactor is a unique and (usually) dependable windy condition stove. But in my testing I found that it faltered significantly below +10* F. Nearly all canister stoves will at that temperature. You know that I’m a Moulder Strip fan boy, and the efficiency of the HX fins of the MiniMo makes for a very dependable winter stove. But yeah, Serge can make a Reactor work with the water bath technique, or with a hand warmer under the canister (or any of the other techniques that I summarized in my canister warming article). For me these days, if the temps drop below 0* F I’m bagging it and checking into a motel.Nov 19, 2017 at 6:57 am #3502873
Thanks for the responses <span class=”profile-data”>@zia-grill-guy and @jennifera. </span>
I ended up buying the reactor at $140 since thats probably the cheapest I’ll find one and I’m thinking I can probably get by in the coldest temps with a handwarmer or a warm water dish.
I would be curious to see your moulder setup and geek out about stoves, Gary. I’m thinking I’ll still try and rig a moulder strip for my jetboil and I’m also thinking about ways of lightening it up. Sending you a PM.Nov 19, 2017 at 1:09 pm #3502883
James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Serge, yeah, you can certainly do a moulder strip for the Jet Boils. I actually had two of them going one morning about 20F or so when I got an unexpected cold night. Hot water for cocoa, two hot water bottles for bed, and woke up around 0430 to make mocha. Course, I did put a little melt spot in some of the plastic.
Not much you can do to lighten a JetBoil Sol. I stripped off the valve handle, top for the pot, dropped the cup, stand, and other accoutrements. I suppose I could remove the igniter, wires and housing, but it will always be heavy.
I used a couple pieces of heavy duty roof flashing (aluminum,) one about an inch to inch and a quarter wide and the other about three quarters of an inch. After warming the canister slightly (~20sec) with a lighter, it ran fine. Note that the ends will melt but still transfer enough heat Wrap them around the canister with a hair tie. Quite light for a strip set-up.Nov 19, 2017 at 4:53 pm #3502900
Serge, PM back at ya. By the way, in case you missed it last spring, here’s a link to the article I wrote last winter about some various ways to warm up a fuel canister in muy frio winter conditions:Nov 19, 2017 at 8:04 pm #3502922
Serge, I think you will be pretty happy with your new Reactor. For melting snow, specially if several people, the Reactor is a melting machine in steroids. I normally use the water bath method to keep my gas canister above freezing. Never had a problem. If you trim a 3 cup ziploc bowl, you can get a pretty lightweigh bowl for the “water bath”. Only 10grams and fits nicely the small gas canisters (4oz).Nov 19, 2017 at 8:52 pm #3502939
And the bowl can be used to eat your dinner from later on.
CheersNov 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm #3502963
Thanks for the tip on the bowl @mariocaceres. That was actually the next thing I was wondering about was a UL bowl, since I don’t usually use one.
I’m thinking the rector will work well for most conditions. I find myself in Colorado. Besides, I’ve just plain wanted one for a long time and I found a pretty good deal. I am concerned about the overheating switch (not sure why they didn’t make it user resettable) but I’m thinking it’s probably a good idea to bring a little 1-2 oz canister stove backup anyway, esp on longer trips.Nov 19, 2017 at 11:35 pm #3502975
Serge, yes , you should not have any problems in Colorado. I have used mine up to 17K elevation in the Peruvian Andes. The key is to keep your canisters above freezing. I’m not aware of any overheating switch on the reactor, perhaps that is on the newer models?. I have had mine for over 7 years. A few tips when melting snow, that you may already know but here they are anyway: 1) Always have some water on the bottom of your pot before you start melting / adding snow. 2) Keep your canister inside your sleeping bag at night. So at least you can get it started. I normally start with a little bit of water (i.e 4 ounces or 1/2 a cup), this will get warm rather quickly, once warm part of that water goes into the bowl for the “water bath” and part of it remains on the pot, and then I start adding snow. If you are melting a lot of snow, you may need to replace the water on the “water bath” once in a while, as it will get colder and start to freeze on the edges of the gas canister. (as you probably know when you use your stove the canister temperature will drop).
Back to the ziploc bowls, it’s important to trim them if you want to save weight, by eliminating their lip (useless for this purpose) you drop the weight from 24gr to 10gr. You can find the 3 cup bowls in any supermarket store. Here a picture of the bowl before trimming the lip:Nov 20, 2017 at 12:26 am #3502995
Rick MBPL Member
Meh, shoulda bought a Caffin remote stove and not have worry or fiddle around with ways to keep the stove lit in winter. V1.0 has been one of my best gear investments.Nov 20, 2017 at 1:14 am #3503013
(V3 now selling.)
cheersDec 22, 2017 at 6:22 am #3508763
Just getting back to this thread. Thanks for the input everyone. I ended up purchasing a reactor 1.7L on sale for $140. Had a helpful meeting with Gary at the boulder REI who showed me some techniques and shared some spare moulder strips. Cool to get some in person beta from the BPL community.
I bought the reactor for its wind resistance and its fast snow melting capability for winter and spring trips trying to make quick miles in the alpine. This past weekend, my buddy and I skiied the 4 pass loop around the maroon bells. It was 40 miles and we only had 2 and a half days, so it was important that we could melt snow quickly. The reactor was perfect for this. Temps weren’t too cold. I think the coldest it got was high single digits. I used a reflector made of tinfoil based on Gary’s design. I’m sure there is a way to optimize it, but it did seem to mitigate the effects of the cold, if not as effective as a moulder strip.
I did test a moulder strip shaped for the reactor that Gary gave me. No problem with the fit, and I don’t think it introduced too much pot instability, but it did fry the copper. I may experiment with thicker copper, but I’m thinking the reactor stove is just a little too powerful for that, and I also worry about the canister overheating. So I’ll probably continue experimenting with the reflector idea.
So far, real happy with the reactor. Its a big step up from the jetboil I was using. The jetboil millijoule also caught my attention in REI for its inverted canister and ability to use a windscreen for only an oz and a half more than the reactor. Burner seems to be as powerful as the reactor, and I like the winder pot base. I wonder if the inverted canister would eleviate the need for any canister warming techniques? I’ll stick with the reactor for now and see what its limits are with the reflector.
Dec 22, 2017 at 7:10 am #3508769
- This reply was modified 7 months ago by Serge Giachetti.
I wonder if the inverted canister would alleviate the need for any canister warming techniques?
Under most ‘reasonable’ circumstances, yes.
Below -24 C you will need to warm the canister to get any gas out of it – with ANY stove.
CheersDec 22, 2017 at 2:02 pm #3508783
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
“but it did fry the copper”
what if you just keep using it with whatever copper is left. If some of the copper melted away at the end, no problem, you didn’t need that anyway.Dec 22, 2017 at 2:13 pm #3508784
Serge, my advice would be to find another way to warm the Reactor’s canister, and toss that copper strip I gave you. That’s what I was going to do, but I wanted to at least show you how a Moulder Strip could be done for the Reactor. With Jenny’s YNP experience, I wouldn’t want to do any tweaks at all with the Reactor.
Keep in mind that I was the guy that blew a Reactor 7-8 years ago, when I devised a metal ring with plenty of ventilation holes that could support an MSR Titan kettle. The idea was to ditch that gawd-awful heavy stock Reactor pot and replace it with something much lighter. My first few boils went just fine, and then I must have overheated the circuitry. Maybe the titanium pot reflected too much heat back to the burner? I took it back to REI as one of my rare returns, and I made the mistake of telling an employee what I’d done. When the MSR rep later came to the store to meet with the employees, the guy told the rep how it happened. I am now on Cascade Design’s bad-boy list, and I’m sure they cringe whenever they get a CS e-mail from me.
Jenny’s experience in YNP kind of scares me. She’s probably right about the WindBurner, with its ability to be reset. What I don’t like about it is that it’s a bit heavier than my 1.0 L Reactor, and it sits tall (maybe less stable?). But none of this matters, really, since I’m a die-hard lover of the Jetboil, combined with a BRS-3000T burner. This allows me to do some actual cooking with my EN-400 cup (which fits nicely on the bottom of a JB Sol pot). The cool thing is that the carbon fiber lids that Josh Leavitt makes/sells fit both the JB pot and the EN 400 cup.
So Serge, my advice would be for you to warm your Reactor’s canister in another way (not a Moulder strip) – water bath, IR reflector, or a hand warmer.
I’d also like to give Serge a shout-out. This guy is one fine man – polite, unassuming, intelligent, and an overall great guy. And he does some incredible trips with his buddy. He mentioned skiing the 4-Pass Loop, and when we visited he mentioned that they were considering an early spring outing to ski the Wind River high route. Pretty heavy stuff…Mar 2, 2018 at 6:39 pm #3521845
Scott BBPL Member
Hello everyone, first post. I’m excited to get to know the wonderful community here! I’ve been reading many of the threads about Moulder strips etc and other winter stove setups and testing. I’m interested in finding a way to make it work for the Reactor, primarily because of the windproof nature of the system. A couple weekends ago we were up in the Henry’s Fork area near King’s Peak, with gusty wind conditions and temps near 0 F. We were using an original MSR Whisperlite and a titanium 1.3 L pot. It worked fine, but was getting buffeted by the wind and we had to build a large wind wall to keep the MSR foil windscreen (and pot!) from blowing away. And it took a long time.
Gary @zia-grill-guy What were the dimensions of the HX strip for the Reactor that you gave to Serge? Was it a “standard” rectangular copper strip, 1″ x 0.020″? How far in from the edge of the burner did it go?
Serge @giachett What exactly constituted the “frying” of the strip? How was it oriented with the burner? i.e. where was the strip, if you are looking down on the burner and the valve is in the six o’clock position?Apr 11, 2018 at 1:09 am #3529900
Jenny ABPL Member
@jenniferaLocale: Front Range
Looks like Reactors are trickling back on the market after a several-month hiatus. Today I received my new/warrantied burner as a replacement for one that I’d returned 6 months ago when the overheating mechanism inexplicably tripped. Several months was a long time to wait, but this stove is just so great that is was worth the wait. Kudos to MSR’s customer service team, too. They communicated as knowledgeably as they could whenever I had a question. I’ll have a chance to test out the new burner next week, but I anticipate that it will be amazing.Apr 11, 2018 at 1:24 am #3529904
I anticipate that it will be amazing.
Will it still put out several hundred ppm of CO, like the last two versions?
CheersApr 11, 2018 at 1:47 pm #3529952
Scott, the Moulder Strip I made for my Reactor just went over the top edge of the burner head, maybe 1/4″. It made the pot a bit tipsy, but not too bad if one was careful. The reason I gave it to Serge was just to show him how it worked. After Jenny’s “near-fatal” YNP experience last fall, I didn’t want anything to do with messing with my Reactor (I also advised Serge to NOT use it either).
Jerry’s “Adams Reflector” made from several layers of heavy duty aluminum foil will work pretty well to warm a fuel canister, at least down to 0* F (I didn’t test it below that temperature. But in my mind nothing compares with a Moulder Strip combined with a neoprene canister cozy. We have learned that it will allow any stove to function down to -15* F, or even colder.
edit – Scott, I like to position the copper strip on the other side of the canister from the control valve, so that I won’t happen to burn my fingers when I’m adjusting the flame setting.Apr 11, 2018 at 3:32 pm #3529976
Paul SBPL Member
Will it still put out several hundred ppm of CO, like the last two versions?
For me, that would be a show-stopper.
I’ve been using the MSR Wind Pro 2 and so far, down to about 25 degrees F, it has been fine, as long as I warm up the canister before starting (Put in jacket for about 5-10 minutes)
Apr 11, 2018 at 6:26 pm #3530002
- This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Paul S.
I have used the Reactor for many years. Is my go to stove for winter / early spring outings where I need to melt snow (often for at least two hikers). I have always used it outside my tent though, which is not much of a problem as the stove is really “windproof”.
Roger, the first paragraph of your 2008 article reads “…the MSR Reactor stove was tested and found to emit well over 1,000 ppm of carbon monoxide (CO) at low power. This is a potentially deadly rate of CO emission.”.
Is this a problem only when running the stove at “low power”?. I normally do not use this stove for simmering or cooking, I run it at high power to melt snow.Apr 11, 2018 at 9:25 pm #3530040
Low power certainly seemed to be worse. The lower flow of gas pulled in less air which led to partial combustion, and the mesh over the flame meant the burning was quenched as well. It still emitted a LOT of CO even at high power.
A secondary problem is that the Reactor does not simmer very well anyhow. It was designed for high power and for use outdoors – preferably with a gentle breeze blowing the CO away from the user.
I cook dinner inside my tent. When it is storming outside, what else is there to do? So I would never use a Reactor when there are so many far safer stoves available.
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