TBT Gear: MSR Simmerlite

My so-called professional career for the past twenty years has been in IT and Software.

This career is not an avocation by any stretch. But the job has given me a practical skillset that has paid my bills over the years.

One consistency over the years in this career is that we will release a product that does X, but the company promises the clients the product will actually do Y.  Many merry times occur as the various techies, software developers, and related people try to make this product do Y despite the design limitations.

And this pattern is not just in the software field.

Which brings us to the MSR Simmerlite.  A favorite white gas stove for many that should have done better (lighter, quieter, more compact, efficient, uses existing fuel containers) but failed quite possibly due to bad marketing and the changing landscape of stoves at that time.

MSR Simmerlite being tested pre-trip.

Hikin’ Jim has an excellent overview of the stove for more technical details.

The quick takeaway? The stove was lighter, quieter, and a touch more compact than the venerable MSR Whisperlite.  The Simmerlite weighs in at just over 8 ounces. The Whisperlite? A bit over 14 oz.   (Not counting the fuel bottles)

The Simmerlite runs on white gas only vs. kerosene or other fuel.  And some past reviews have complained about the pot supports (which I never found to be an issue from personal experience. As always, all depends.), but the MSR Simmerlite has proven to be a workhorse for winter camping in my use.

On my way, cool winter stove stand.

The problem?  THE SIMMERLITE DOES NOT SIMMER!  Look at the old Amazon or REI reviews. The number one complaint is that the stove did not simmer. As Hikin’ Jim alluded to, the stove engineers probably did not design it to simmer. Originally intended as a white gas stove that was lighter, quieter, and more compact than existing options.  But if you label something that simmers, it better well damn simmer.  And since it did not simmer easily, the consumers were PO’d.

So here we are many years after Simmerlite’s debut.  MSR no longer makes the stove. The “go-to” for most white gas stove users is still the very well made MSR Whisperlitge, and no word on a lighter white gas stove alternative has been muttered in quite some time.

Which brings us to another point I have not seen.

About the time the Simmerlite came out, canister stoves were gaining traction among the general backpacking public.  Any white gas stove users typically had their workhorse stoves for years.  Why get another one?

And the only reason I bought a Simmerlite is that someone gave me an REI gift card as a thank you gift.

In recent years, any new white gas stoves get designed to work with standard backpacking fuel canisters rather than getting lighter!

Most people don’t want to purchase white gas stoves unless they are performing winter backpacking or on large group trips.

Why invest money into designing and marketing white gas stoves when most people don’t purchase them. And older models work and sell well enough?


The MSR Simmerlite was an excellent little stove. One I make use of every winter, to the point where I no longer use my MSR Whisperlite.  MSR just marked the Simmerlite  wrongly. And came out at the wrong time.   Reminds me of another favorite stove I own that should have done better. But did not.

You may be able to find still the Simmerlite used. Or better yet, just get an MSR Whisperlite instead. The Whisperlite will last a long time and is a good investment if you require that type of stove.  Again, if it were not for the gift card, I’d still be using my circa 1997 MSR Whisperlite quite contently. When winter backpacking, what’s a few ounces when you are schlepping so much already? 😉

Disclosure: I purchased this stove with a REI gift card back when my beard did not have gray in it. 

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