MSR Dragonfly

Published at 15:47 on 18 December 2021

Why blow a chunk of change on a brand-new camping stove when I already have a perfectly fine old Coleman stove? Two main reasons:

  1. I may want to do some short-distance backpacking or medium-distance bicycle camping, and the old Coleman is way too large and heavy to be practical for car camping.
  2. CSA certification. The Province of British Columbia can be very strict about its outdoor burn bans. Not any old camp stove is exempt; the strictest burn bans allow only stoves with modern safety certifications.

The second one is the real stickler. The chances are remote of there being any issues, but suppose the worst does happen and my old Coleman stove malfunctions and erupts in a ball of flame that ignites a wildfire. Once the authorities find I am in breach of their regulations, I am suddenly on the hook for the full costs of that fire. Just way too risky.

Although those old Coleman suitcase stoves have a time-tested safety record, a fifty year old stove is just not going to have a modern safety certification. Even if it could pass a modern inspection (and I believe it could) the cost of certifying it would be way beyond the means of an individual. Far cheaper and simpler to just buy a new stove.

Because I dislike the waste and poor cool-temperature performance of disposable canisters, that means a liquid-fuel stove. The Dragonfly is one of the few currently-manufactured (by a well-known, reputable manufacturer, with full safety certification) liquid-fuel stoves that can do more than just a quick boil; its burner is designed to simmer well.

Just did a test burn (if the stove doesn’t work, I want to find out in the garden outside, not in the backwoods). First impressions:

  1. The thing is loud. They are called roarer burners for a reason.
  2. It is significantly fiddlier than the old Coleman. Both require set-up and tear-down but the Dragonfly requires more of it; it is not as much all in one convenient unit. Part of this is just the price to pay for it being more compact and light-weight.
  3. Lighting process is different, but not appreciably more or less convenient than the Coleman one. No liquid-fuel stove lights as easily as a gas kitchen stove (and due to the more complex process of burning liquid fuel, none ever will).

Since it’s just a quick test burn, I don’t have as much to report on how well it simmers, but I’m not really worried about that, either. I did use a friend’s Dragonfly once about five years ago, and from what I remember it simmered just fine. Plus, it has a good reputation for being able to do this.

Why buy it now? Supply chains. Was going to buy one as a birthday present to myself last year, but they were unobtainable, and remained so for months. I would not be shocked to see a similar disruption as the next camping season approaches.

The short summary is that it’s not going to completely replace the old Coleman, but it will be nice to have.

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