If you are thinking about doing any back country snowshoeing, a good stove is a must have. Starting fires are always fun, but in snow, ice, or during a storm, a fire just won’t cut it. Also, there is a good chance that you will be in locations without easily accessible wood. So I got the MSR XGK EX stove, which is a well designed backpacking stove.
When I started thinking about what I need out of a backpacking stove, I started building a list of what I need out of my outdoor stove. I came up with the following requirements.
The stove must Be:
- Able to use multiple liquid fuels including gasoline, diesel, or kerosene
- Rugged and able to be dropped and still function perfectly
- Small enough to easily fit in a backpack
- Simple to operate
- Able to operate in multiple conditions such as in the snow, wind, or rain
Let me go through my requirements. First, liquid fuel stoves are more expensive than a simple portable propane stove, however, they do offer a few advantages. They are lighter and the fuel offers more energy per pound compared to propane. Also, you never know when you are 100 miles from the nearest sporting good store and you forgot to get propane or specialty burner fuel.
My next two requirements are all about backpacking. I don’t want to drop my stove and be stuck without heating equipment. My experience in the back country is that I should always plan for the worst. Having a rugged stove that doesn’t break is an absolute requirement. The MSR XGK EX does have rugged construction. When the stove is packed up, all the sensitive components are protected by the feet folded in and the outer metal casing. To break it, it would require a specific rock blow, or someone specifically attempting to break the stove.
The fourth requirement comes from using old stoves. If you have used them, you know how they an have the really interesting starting processes like “light a paper towel and put it under the fuel tank to pre-heat the fuel.” I don’t know about you, but an open flame under a tank full of a highly flammable liquid makes me a little nervous. I wanted a stove with a simple starting procedure. The procedure for the MSR XGK EX is simple, and easy to understand. It doesn’t require preheating the tank. It does burn with a large yellow flame for a few minutes before the flame turns blue and cooking can be started. However, that is normal for all liquid fuel stoves. It doesn’t seem overly scary.
The last requirement, functional in all weather conditions, is a survival requirement for me. I don’t know what type of conditions I will be in. I could be caught in a snow storm, thunderstorm, or be stuck above the tree line. The MSR XGK EX comes with a wind shield, so I feel confident that it will function in most weather conditions.
So, the MSR XGK EX meets all of my requirements for a portable backpacking stove. But what is like to use? It is simple and easy to use. It does burn hot and it took me approximately 5 minutes to boil about one quart of water. I don’t have any real complaints about using it every day.
There are a few things that could be an issue. The MSR XGK EX is quite loud when running. It sounds like a jet engine when it is running. Not a big deal for me, as I am not looking to be overly quiet in the woods. I don’t think this is an issue unless you feel like cooking while hunting. Another issue is the valve doesn’t seem to have a ‘middle’ position. The flame is either full on or off. It is quite difficult to find the simmer position.
The truth is, these are minor issues for an otherwise awesome backpacking stove. I am looking forward to taking it on multiple summer and many snowshoeing adventures.
You can get the stove at backcountry.com.