Classic Camp Stoves: MSR XGK

It went from my sub-zero freezer to full burn in just a few minutes. It’s one of the best stoves out there for frosty temps.

AP4V5158

The XGK is a variation of the first MSR stove, the Model 9. It is unclear what happened to models one through eight, I can only surmise they were dismal failures. The Model 9 was the first camp stove to separate the fuel tank from the burner, allowing for a massive increase in heat output. The XGK was not designed for sauteing an omelette; it was and is for melting snow into water quickly and in copious amounts. It was also designed to burn a variety of combustibles, from kerosene to unleaded automobile fuel.

I tested a vintage XGK. If you're interested in the new stove, vintage doesn't matter since the stove's guts are almost identical to the new model: indeed, that type of burner hasn't changed substantially in a century.

The XGK requires priming, which is easy, since the tank is pressurized. Just open the valve a bit and let some fuel flow out of the orifice onto the priming pad and light it up. After the flame burns down a little, open the valve and the stove will roar into life.

And roar it does. Of the stoves tested, this one was the loudest by a huge margin: 69 decibels, measured at 12 inches from the burner. That is loud enough to prevent me from hearing my wife calling me from across the shop. The average vacuum cleaner is about 70 decibels, so you get the idea.

Okay, so if the XGK has the adjustability of a blowtorch and sounds like a space shuttle taking off, why would you buy this stove? Because it always works. Always, even in extreme temperatures.

To confirm my experience with this stove, I tested this hypothesis by placing the XGK assembly with the pump and fuel bottle in my chest freezer (after obtaining permission from my thoughtful and understanding spouse). I let it sit for an hour at ten degrees below zero, figuring that would be enough to simulate winter conditions. I took it straight to the shop, primed it and touched off the fluid.

Within a minute I had a roaring stove. It was as if it had never been in the freezer at all. In short, the XGK is now going into the emergency kit in the back of my truck.

Decibels: 69
Fuel: White gas, unleaded gas, kerosene, methanol, unicorn tears…
Time to Boil: 3:51
Oatmeal Index: Cajun (everything's blackened, mon cher ami).

—Return to home page: 6 Classic Campstoves Reviewed

Coleman 502

They last forever with proper care.


MSR WindPro

The Windpro is a go-to for backcountry chefs because because of its exceptional flame control and pot stability.


Optimus Crux with Elektra Cookset

Simplicity and extremely effective, this is a very nice stove and an exceptional value.


Svea 123

Indestructible: if I dropped it off a 50-foot cliff, the Svea would light right up.


MSR Reactor

It has the fastest boil time in the bunch, saving fuel on an extended trip.


Kelly Kettle

Fueled by twigs, grasses, and driftwood, the Kelly Kettle made something out of nothing.


Emberlit Original Stove

It slides together easily, and the workmanship is excellent.