The dragonfly is a top-shelf stove meant for some narrow applications that it does exceed at. I have owned my MSR Dragonfly for about 18 months now and I’ve used it on all kinds of trips: backpacking in the Wasatch, bike touring in northern Utah, canoeing the Green river, and car camping all over Utah and Colorado. I’m quite pleased with the stove but I have become aware of some serious shortcomings.
With a unique burner system and a highly variable burner control the MSR Dragonfly was designed and built for the backcountry gourmet. With a proper setup the stove can provide highly variable heat levels to allow simmering, boiling, and baking while using any of a wide variety of liquid fuels. The Dragonfly suffers from an inclination to burn food, higher weight, and a noise that sounds like a crop dusting plane flying over your campsite.
Features (from the MSR website)
- Unrivaled Flame Control: We pioneered the dual-valve design of the Dragonfly stove, enabling it to deliver precision, simmer-to-boil control.
- Extra Wide Pot Supports: Wide pot supports hold up to 10″ maximum diameter pots or fry pans for group cooking
- Multi-Fuel: Burns white gas, kerosene, unleaded auto fuel, diesel, and jet fuel.
- Compact: Folds to 1/3 of its working size and fits in a two-liter MSR pot for easy storage.
- Efficient: Suspended burner cup enables the stove to burn hot and strong while reducing heat lost to the ground
- Field Maintainable: Shaker Jet™ technology and smart engineering allow complete cleaning and maintenance in the field.
- Includes: Fuel pump, windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, instructions, and stuff sack. (Fuel bottle not included.)
- Pack Weight: 1 lb 2 oz
- Made In USA: Made in Cascade Designs Seattle Factories
I took the dragonfly most recently on a four-day canoeing trip down the Labarynth Canyon section of the Green River. It was my first time on a multi-day river trip and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried it. The Dragonfly performed admirably every morning to boil water in a flash and fry up hash browns and eggs. At camp each night the variable flame made simmering sauces and heating up meals simple. A few times we seriously burned food on despite frequent stirring and low heat. This was apparently from the stove’s tendency to focus heat on dime-sized points arranged in a circle around the burner cup [insert picture].
I am a confident backcountry chef with no qualms about bringing a bag of staples like flour, lentils, cheese, and spices to simply figure it out as I go. However, my cook group preferred the WhisperLite stove we had on hand for the reduced noise and better heat distribution. This was an option for them because their meals were simple enough to not require simmering, aka dirtbag meals.
At the end, no one but myself and the trip leader, an accomplished river runner, wanted to use the dragonfly. My conclusion is pretty simple: the dragonfly isn’t for everyone.
This stove gives control and pot stability unlike any other that we have tested. The flame can be adjusted from the size of a pilot light to a thundering fire that is hot enough to warp steel pans if left unattended. This wide range allows for a chef to make sauces that require simmering for a long time, as well as the ability to just boil water quickly for a quick breakfast. The boil times are a touch slower than the nearly ubiquitous Whisperlite by a matter of seconds. Best of all, when if paired with a heat diffuser the stove can do a marvelous job baking because pan rotation is so easy on such a stable platform.
The stove is also capable of burning just about any liquid fuel you’re likely to find in your travels: diesel fuel, jet fuel, kerosene, white gas, and good old unleaded gasoline. Very handy for disaster preparation as well as traveling in foreign countries.
Easily the worst part of this stove is the noise. It’s awful, it’s loud, it makes conversation hard even outside. If cooking under shelter you may need to use hand signals it gets so loud. The stove also concentrates its heat in a small circle and can easily burn food that is not stirred often. For a reference point: the heat is so focused on a small area that when we boiled a gallon of water the steel pan was permanently warped.
Another thing that’s really annoying is how short and stiff the fuel line is. The line is packed solid with some substance that presumably allows all those various fuels it can burn to pass through. The problem is that the fuel line is very stiff from that substance. This stiffness, combined with being so short, makes the fuel bottle tend to hug the burner in an annoying way.
The Dragonfly is a touch heavier, 4 oz, than a Whisperlite so backpackers may want to think about how much flame control they need on a trip before taking it on any multi-day routes. Also consider that you may want to bring a heat diffuser so the weight grows further. The stove is absolutely suited for places where weight is a lesser concern: river trips, bike touring, horse-packing, base camps, and big groups.
As of this writing the Dragonfly runs about $130. That is nearly double the cost of a basic backpacking stove. The benefits gained, heat control, are worth the cost for some few people. Most consumers, however, would be better served by a basic stove.
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