Radiant Burner Stoves: The Ultimate in All-Weather Performance and Efficiency

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MSR engineered the Reactor to be the fastest, most efficient stove system ever made. It is also the only stove to offer that level of performance in the extreme weather conditions encountered by alpinists and mountaineers. Achieving such a high performance standard required a stove that goes beyond the conventions of camp stove burner technology. Based on decades of research and more than five years of development, the MSR engineering team built the Reactor around a unique radiant burner head. The Reactor is the first climbing and backpacking stove to truly harness the benefits of a radiant burner. Radiant burners allow canister fuel stoves to achieve high-performance, excellent efficiency and great weather resistance.

What is a radiant burner?

Radiant burners use a porous material to mix fuel and house the flame. The resulting burner produces both convective and radiant heat. These burners can be made from a variety of porous materials, including wire mesh and ceramics. The Reactor uses a porous disc made of an alloy called Fecralloy to create a burner that is lighter and more durable than those made of other materials.

The process used to create this material is complex and requires precise manufacturing control. Open-cell foam is impregnated with a slurry of Fecralloy alloy and the conglomerate is allowed to solidify. The material is then baked at a temperature that causes the open-cell foam to dissolve. What remains is a rigid alloy structure that looks much like open-cell foam. This material is cut into discs that become Reactor burners.

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How does it work?

When the Reactor is operating, gas travels from the canister, through a pressure regulator, to two jets that inject the fuel into a cavity under the porous disc. Here, the fuel mixes with air and flows through the pores in the disc. Ignition occurs in the upper level and at the surface of the disc. The flame spreads evenly over the disc, creating broad, consistent heating. Flame temperatures reach 3600 degrees Fahrenheit and the protective mesh above the disc reaches 1600 F.

The Reactor requires a heat exchanger to effectively harness the power of the radiant burner; this heat exchanger is built into all Reactor cookware. The large surface area of the heat exchanger allows efficient transfer of both convective heat and radiant light energy from the burner.

What is radiant light energy?

Conventional stoves produce convective heat – in other words hot air. Radiant burners also produce radiant light energy. This energy transfer occurs without a change in air temperature, making it feel much like warmth from the sun on a cold winter day. Although convection is responsible for the majority of the Reactor’s heat output, radiant energy plays a significant role in the stove’s performance.

What is the performance advantage?

The biggest performance advantage comes from the control and management of airflow. The Reactor’s burner operates on 100% primary air, pulling all the air it needs through ports on either side of the flame control knob. All air and fuel mixing occurs inside the stove, allowing the flame to be completely enclosed and protected from wind with the integrated heat exchanger. This construction makes the Reactor’s radiant burner far more resistant to wind than a conventional burner. Combined with the broad, evenly dispersed flame, it also makes the Reactor difficult to blow out, even when the pot is removed.

The Reactor is the only radiant burner stove on the outdoor market and it is the only outdoor stove in the world that runs on 100% primary air. This unique technology gives the Reactor a real advantage in weather resistance, power and efficiency.

Happy boiling!

reactor lifestyle


9 Responses

  1. Rob Sheneman January 8, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    I love my Reactor. Have the original pot and the 1.7L. We use it regularly for cooking and melting snow. Nothing boils faster! One note on the photo – in my experience the stove benefits from having a stove board or a stand under it in the snow. We also keep the canisters in our sleeping bags overnight to stay warm.

  2. Chuck Bruffey February 5, 2014 at 12:15 am

    I have used my Reactor now for four summers and it works flawlessly. I use it mostly with a 2.5L pot as we group cook for 3 to 6 guys. The ability to boil lots of water very fast is one of the best features but I have also managed to simmer soups. It is very frugal with fuel and will literally use an entire can of fuel to the last drop long after most stoves shut off. The pots are easy to clean and I love that the fuel and stove nest inside the stove. Now if only MSR can figure out how to make a fry pan work on this stove…

  3. Adam November 24, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Does it hurt the stove to place the pot in place before the radiant burner begins to glow? It seems as though the flame is vulnerable to the wind until the pot is covering it, fuel is being consumed without helping to heat the water, and the boil times are being skewed by not including the time to prime.

    • admin November 25, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Adam, No it does not. In fact, if you put the pot on immediately after lighting the stove, the burner will get to that nice red color more quickly. Just make sure you don’t put an empty pot on the burner when it’s running because you will likely melt the pot. Always have something in the pot to absorb the heat energy of the burner. Thanks for asking


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