How do I use a WhisperLite Stove?

The MSR WhisperLite stove is an excellent portable stove that many experienced campers use while on trips. While the stove can be difficult to use at times, the advantages are that it can use any number of fuel types, and that the fuel canister is refillable, saving a lot of money in the long run when compared with the large propane stoves, or the portable screw-on stoves.

Assembling and starting a WhisperLite takes a bit of practice, a lot of patience, and a vague understanding of thermodynamics. Let’s start with assembly.

Your WhisperLite packs away in 4 pieces.

  • Fuel canister
  • Base/stove/coil/supply tube
  • Pump mechanism
  • Shield (not shown in picture)
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The first thing to do is to take the cap off of your fuel canister, and check to see if there is enough fuel. It’s always a good idea to top it off it is getting low, because it’s fairly difficult and inconvenient to disassemble and re-fuel once its started. Do not fill all the way to the top. Leave a couple of centimeters of space.

With the cap off, insert the pump mechanism into the fuel canister and screw shut. Be careful not to get fuel on your hand, as you’ll be dealing with a lot of fire in the near future.

Next, take the base and unfold the legs. This is fairly straightforward, and the end result should leave the base able to stand on its own 3 feet.

Now, take the supply tube that comes off of the base, and insert it into the pump mechanism. You’ll see a place to push this in on a side component of the pump, across from the fuel release valve. Make sure to push this all of the way in. Some models come with a metal clasp to lock this in place, which we recommend using.

Once the fuel canister, pump mechanism, and the base are connected, it is time to light it up! This is where it can get tricky.

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What we are trying to do is to heat the coil so that the fuel can travel down the supply hose and vaporise along the way to the stove. There are a few steps involved to make this happen.

Step 1: The first thing to do is to give the fuel canister a few pumps. This will pressurize the system, and you should see the wick at the bottom of the base get wet. This is important, so keep pumping until you see this happen. You can keep the fuel release valve closed for now

Step 2: Light the wick at the bottom of the stove. The whole thing should catch fire. Relax. This is how the coil heats up. Just make sure the fuel canister is not too close to the flames, and that the fuel release valve is shut during this time.

Step 3: Open the fuel release valve. You should hear a hissing sound. If you don’t hear a hissing sound, you should try going back and repeating step 2. If the coil is not fully heated, the gas will not vaporize and you will not hear the hissing sound.

Step 4: Once you hear that hissing sound, light the stove from the top. The gas should catch, and you should see a ring of small and intense flames. If you are still getting large flames, turn off the fuel release valve, wait until the flames burn out completely, and then try the fuel release valve again, listening for the hissing sound.

Step 5: Once the stove is lit, surround it with the shield to keep the flame safe.

If all goes well, you should have a fully functioning stove. However, since there are so many parts and so many steps, there are a number of possibilities for something to go wrong. The most common we’ve seen is that people try lighting the stove before the coil is fully heated. Remember to listen for the hissing sound. Remember also to keep the device clean, as debris and sand can cause problems, especially for the pump mechanism.

The WhisperLite takes a bit of practice, but by following these steps, you will eventually get the hang of it. Remember to be safe, and always read and follow the instructions that come with your stove.