As anyone who has done a Brecon course will tell you the time given for personal admin including the cooking of scoff can just about be counted in minutes and never hours so any bit of kit that says it can boil water in a split second deserves a 2nd look. The MSR REACTOR STOVE falls into this category in a big way, so when I was given the chance to test one I jumped at the chance.
The stove I received was sent to me from Germany so they delivery time was quite long at nearly 2 weeks which would be something to consider if you need the thing in a hurry. Upon opening the box I was shocked when I pulled out a book of instructions thicker than a copy of War & Peace however I soon realised that that the manufacturers had catered for just about every language going. I did have a quick look at the instructions in case there was anything special that needed doing but I soon realised that it was a very simple to use item. The stove comes in 3 main parts (not including the gas bottle) the stove itself, cooking pot and lid, you do also get a small cloth to protect the inside of the put when storing the stove. I will now talk about each part in a bit more detail, the main part of the REACTOR STOVE is the cooker head itself, unlike most cookers the MSR one will only work with products designed for this stove (this is all to do with the overall workings of the cooker) Even if you wanted to stick say your metal mug on top you couldnt as the cooker head is in a mesh dome shape, this is the bit that gets heated red hot to allow you cook with it. The flame adjuster is quite big to allow you to operate it wearing gloves, although this allows you to adjust the heat given off I soon realised the only 2 settings were off and full afterburner!!! It attaches to a normal screw head gas bottle as per any other stove and according to MSR it is self regulating to allow you to get the most out of even a near empty gas bottle. As there is no flame as such this system works very well in high winds as there is no flame to be blown out and all the heat is transferred directly to the pot.
The pot is made from a strong alloy of sorts and from what I can tell it would take a fair amount of punishment, it is advertised as being 1.7ltr but Id say you would never get more that 1.5 litre of water in it. It has 3 measure markings on the inside (0.5,1.0 and 1.5 litre) to allow you to use only the water you need instead of boiling a load and having it go to waste, you can fit 2 boil in the bags in at once and 3 at a squeeze. On the underneath of the pot is a recess to allow the pot to fit snugly on top of the cooker, in this recess are a number of fins to allow the maximum transfer of heat from the cooker through the pot. The pot comes with a spring loaded handle which locks out when cooking and also keeps the lid in place when in transit, it locks down on the lid by using a wire strand with the handle clips down on to. The is a small join in the pot about 2 thirds of the way down which could cause a hygiene issue if you were to be cooking food loose in the pot as the residue could easily get stuck in the lip/joint. You also get a see through plastic lid to allow the cooker to boil water quicker and being see through it allows you to see in the pot without having to remove the lid. The lid itself has a small rubber handle in the middle which has to uses, the first is the most obvious which is to allow you to handle the lid easily when cooking but the 2nd is most ingenious. When I first packed all the bits in away in the pot I was a bit disappointed when I thought the gas bottle would be bouncing around inside as it was a very loose fit so I wondered how to pad the thing out, however when I put the lid on I was amazed to see that the rubber handle on the lid extends through to allow it to fit snug over the screw thread of the bottle thus holding it secure in the pot with no moving around whatsoever. The stove and the pot combined weigh in at 480g and 805g once you factor in the gas bottle which is good for a system of this size (a jetboil is 425g without gas and is a lot smaller)
When all fitted together to cook with the REACTOR STOVE sits about 1 and half times the height of an issue black water bottle and does feel pretty stable although it would have been nice to lock the pot onto to stove in some way to allow you to pick the whole system up as one and move it if the need ever arises. To light the stove you have to remove the pot first, there is no naked flame as such with the stove as it is a reactor, you know its lit because you can hear the afterburner sound and after a couple of seconds the top glows red hot and kicks out some serious heat. A nice but albeit gimmicky touch is the fact that once glowing red hot the top of the stove has the MSR symbol on it which is invisible when not lit. To test the boiling times I placed 0.5ltrs of water in the pot which MSR reckon should be boiled in around a minute and a half with a full gas canister, so with the stop watch running I began the test. Sure enough in just under a minute and a half the water was boiling away nicely and according to MSR they reckon that it will do it in this time with even a near empty gas canister due to the built in regulator. When packing away the stove my first thought was that maybe the cloth that was supplied was a heatproof one to allow you to handle the cooker top when hot it wasnt!!!! It took around 90 secs for the REACTOR to cool enough for me to handle it and pack away, something to bear in mind if you are packing away in a hurry as it does get VERY hot.
For the Military user this system does have some very good points, the biggest being the time it takes to boil water and its performance in poor weather conditions namely wind. The fact that it is super efficient will allow more time between changing canisters as you not only have minimal wastage but because of the built in regulator you can get every last drop of gas from a canister.However as with anything it does have a few down sides to, this is not a small system and it wont fit in a PLCutilityty pouch so it would live in either a daysack or Bergen so you might find yourself carrying 2 stoves. The fact that only the supplied pot can be used with it also causes a few issues with sustainability if the pot or stove breaks you could be left in the lurch. The biggest down side is the price; £100 is a hell of a lot of money for a stove even one as good as this one.
Overall this is an excellent piece of kit with many uses in the military environment especially I feel for people working out of vehicles where size isnt an issue, I would hesitate in recommending this to people I know who are on the lookout for a new stove, 9/10.