Camping stoves are a necessity for all backcountry enthusiasts, and the number of specialty stoves released in the last few years prove this. We can all agree, whether you are ultra-light fast-packing or weekend car camping, there’s nothing like a warm meal at the end of the day.
Although all stoves will eventually get you the same result, each contains variations that make an actual difference when you start cooking. MSR is well-known for their altitude-ready kits, while Jetboil has been the go-to brand for many a seasoned backpacker.
In order to parse through the myriad features, specs, and accessories, we’ve created a straight forward comparison of three capable setups from trusted outdoor brands.
MSR Windburner - Jetboil Stash - Jetboil Flash
The main difference between these three is their intended environment. The Jetboil Stash is, as its name implies, a packable backpacking stove for a single backpacker or patient pair, while the Flash offers faster timing and a more secure fit for a little more weight. The MSR Windburner is the go-to for alpine excursions, with weight and boil-time trade-offs that could tip the scale towards the Jetboil stoves. While all of these stoves are incredible options for your adventures, there are key reasons why you should consider one over the others.
The Jetboil Stash easily tops the others for this category. Weight a mere 7.1 oz, it actually matches the 7 oz of the 100 gram fuel canister that conveniently fits into the aluminum cooking pot. The Jetboil Flash comes in at 13.1 oz, while the MSR Windburner weighs a slightly heavier 15.5 oz. While weight might seem like an easy deal-breaker, let’s take a closer look at what you get per ounce.
The Jetboil Flash rules the charts with its boil time, an impressive 100 seconds (per 0.5 L), while the Stash clocks 2.5 minutes and the Windburner at 2.25 minutes. Even if speed is your ultimate metric, it's important to remember that given wind or other potentially disruptive weather, both the Stash and Flash will have decreased boil times, while the Windburner will remain similar (and still faster than the Stash).
The reason behind the Flash’s impressive boil time is due to the fact that it harnesses twice the power of the Stash, which in turn means it uses slightly more fuel. The Stash also holds its value for fuel efficiency, emptying a 100 gram fuel canister after 12 liters of boiled water, while the same amount of fuel for the Flash is cooked (pun intended) after 10 liters, and the Windburner at 8.2 liters.
When you’re squishing all your provisions into one backpack, size does matter. The Stash, as implied by the name, is quite the compact package, measuring 5.1" x 4.4”, it packs significantly smaller in height than the Flash, although quite slim at 7.1" x 4.1”, or Windburner at 8.3” x 4.5”. Each carries its accessories within the cooking pot, including a 100 gram fuel canister, stand, and lighter (fuel and lighter not included with purchase).
While the Stash is light, small, and fuel efficient, it does lack, comparatively, in capacity. It maxes out at 27 fl oz, while the Flash can hold 32 fl oz, and the Windburner can take up to 33.8 fl oz. This might not tip the scale if you’re traveling solo, but when it comes to boiling water for multiple people, or multiple warm bedside water bottles, that extra five or six ounces represents an entire additional serving, which is a difference you might actually notice.
The last item standing between you and a warm meal should be your stove, so it’s also important to consider the ease of operation. The Stash setup involves opening each of the stove's prongs, attaching to the fuel, and lighting via match, lighter, or whatever primal option you decide. The pot sits atop the prongs, nestled onto a groove in each prong.
This can make the setup a bit precarious on uneven cooking surfaces, and it becomes quite apparent that the pot is not connected to the heating element if you accidentally bump it, or pour anything of mass into the pot. In windy or wet conditions, igniting the stove is less reliable with a lighter.
This feature is shared with the Windburner. The Windburner’s radiant burner, however, is quite efficient, and tolerates wind with ease once lit. It’s slightly difficult, however, to tell if the burner is actually lit while in the daylight, given its light blue color as the only indicator. The cooking pot locks in multiple positions to the element, making attachment considerably easier when compared to the Stash and it also features insulation that keeps your hands away from the flame and a hot pot.
The Flash is more similar to the Windburner in setup, although it only locks onto the heating element in one orientation, so accuracy is essential during assembly. The Windburner also has an ignition sparker, so no lighter is necessary, although it’s worth having a lighter as a backup option, and you should really be carrying one in the backcountry anyway.
Whatever your budget, stoves are not an item to skimp on. The Stash comes in at $134.95, the Flash at $119.95, and the Windburner at $189.95. Since the difference is only $25, and a stove should last for decades, we think that getting the one that best suits your needs is more important than choosing the least expensive option.
There is no apparent winner within the three, simply different specialties, made obvious within the weight, efficiency, and usage categories. For plenty of people, the Jetboil Flash rises to the occasion, with its quick boil time and built-in sparker, making it ideal for fair-weather, shorter distance travelers. The Windburner excels in terms of dependability, ease of use, and capacity, making it the best choice for use in remote alpine environments. For those seeking a sleek, smaller, and light option, the Stash shines brightly among the rest, especially if you’re looking to cook meals in the pot rather than just boiling water. Stove technology has sped up to those who need it most, and both Jetboil and MSR have put their best on the line for anyone looking for a hot cup of joe to start the day off right or end the night with a quick and easy dehydrated meal.