The new MSR Reactor integrated cooking system has a unique radiant burner that combines with an enclosing heat exchanger to provide maximum efficiency and heat transfer to the cooking pot. The hard anodized aluminum pot is 1.7 liters, which makes it suitable for group cooking. Note the radiant glow of the burner head.
The new Reactor Stove is MSR’s answer to the Jetboil Group Cooking System. It was first announced at the Outdoor Retailer Summer 2004 trade show, and after several delays, it will finally arrive in an outdoor store near you in February 2007.
According to an MSR representative “It took longer because inventing ‘light plutonium’ was a bigger challenge than we expected. But we succeeded in finding a way to remove the deadly gamma rays, leaving only clean infra-red radiation to do the cooking. The Reactor will run for 24,000 years (one half-life) on a single gram of light plutonium 239, so you never need to worry about how much fuel to bring.”
Seriously, the Reactor runs on canister fuel. Its integrated cook pot is 1.7 liters and stove weight is 21 ounces, compared to 1.5 liters and 19 ounces for the Jetboil Group Cooking System. According to MSR claims, the Reactor will boil 1 liter of water in 3 minutes, will boil 2.8 liters from 1 ounce of fuel, and will boil 22 liters of water from a single 8 ounce canister of fuel. Jetboil claims a 4 minute boil time for the GCS (although in BPL testing it has slower boil times).
Our initial reaction is the stove should be the most sophisticated and efficient integrated canister stove to date, but it is also the heaviest integrated canister stove. Only time and testing will tell if its efficiency will justify the weight.
What is unique about the Reactor is its integrated heat exchanger that completely encloses a radiant burner, so it generates maximum heat output and transfers it by both convection and radiation to the cook pot. The burner is claimed to use 100% primary air entering through ports on the side, allowing it to be completely enclosed at the top and making it virtually impervious to wind. The pot lid is Lexan plastic.
Where does the efficiency comes from?
- The burner head has a special metal foam that heats up and glows for radiant heat transfer (see lead picture). The bottom of the pot is dark to absorb the radiant energy.
- The metal foam also slows convective air flow which increases convective heat transfer to the pot. Slow air flow allows more time for heat transfer.
- Tight areas around the pots heat exchange fins create a pressure drop that fine tunes air flow (slower) for optimal heat transfer.
- Because the pot and burner head are essentially a sealed air path (allowing no external air to enter except from the two mixer tube intakes), the stove’s efficiency is unimpaired by strong winds. Most canister stoves get about 40% of their air at the burner head and thus can’t have a sealed air system like the Reactor.
- The pressure regulation in the burner head also maintains optimal burn rate and thus optimal efficiency over the life of the canister (no matter what the fill level).
- All of the above means that the Reactor will have optimal efficiency over a broad range of flame settings, canister fill levels, temperatures, and wind. Most canister stoves will loose efficiency if any of these are suboptimal.
Bottom side of the Reactor’s burner. It has an internal pressure regulator that maintains a constant 12.5 psi for consistent flame output for the life of the canister. Most canister stoves burn much faster on the initial few liters boiled and then heat slower and slower as canister pressure falls. These un-regulated stoves also boil much slower in cold weather when canister pressure also falls. In both cases the Reactor should have consistent boil times. MSR claims a boil time of 3 minutes for the first liter and 3.5 minutes for the last few liters or if the temperature drops below 35 degrees.
The Reactor Stove introduces some new technologies and raises the bar for integrated canister cooking systems. But it’s heavy at 21 ounces. Interestingly, the burner weights only 6 ounces, so the pot and heat exchanger assembly weigh a huge 15 ounces! The Reactor definitely needs some lightening up and the pot and heat exchanger (and Lexan lid) are the obvious choices. MSR plans to eventually produce a lighter version, as well as smaller and bigger capacity versions.
MSR claims the Reactor will be the fastest-boiling, most fuel-efficient windproof cooking system available. We just LOVE claims like that because it challenges us “gear technologists” a to check it out! Believe me, when our Cooking Systems Editor Dr. Roger Caffin gets his hands on the Reactor, he will have a LOT to say about it in his review.
As we mentioned earlier, another manufacturer is introducing an integrated stove; stay tuned for our report on another “hot” product that was quietly developing while our attention was focused on MSR.
Specifications and Features
- Manufacturer: MSR (http://msrcorp.com/)
- Product: Reactor Stove (available February 2007)
- Type: Integrated cooking system
- Fuel: Canister fuel only
- What’s Included: Burner base, pot and lid, handle
- Weight: 21 oz (595 g)
- Features: Heat exchanger attached to bottom of cook pot completely encloses a radiant burner, internal regulator equalizes fuel pressure, piezo-electric ignition
- MSRP: $150
- Boil 1 liter of water in 3 minutes (full canister)
- Boil 1 liter of water in 3.5 min (end of canister life)
- Boil 2.8 liters from 1 ounce of fuel
- Boil 22 liters of water from a single 8 ounce canister of fuel.