It was somewhere in rural France that I first put the MSR Dragonfly multi-fuel stove to the test. I soaked the wick with fuel and set a match to it — whereupon a huge fireball erupted into my face. I resolved to read the manual before trying a second time.
After having operated the Dragonfly for five more years with no further eyebrow-singeing incidents, I’ve found it an extremely adaptable stove for long and meandering journeys of months on end, in conditions from ‑30°C to +50°C.
Primarily this is because of its well-known simmering capabilities; the main quality upon which the Dragonfly is sold. It can’t pump out as much heat as MSR’s other models at full whack, but you get a lot more flame adjustability in place. So if your camping routine involves more than simply incinerating instant noodles, and you’d actually like some enjoyment and creativity from the cooking process (duck a la roadkill anyone?), the Dragonfly is probably your stove.
The Dragonfly burns just about any liquid fuel you’re likely to come across on your global travels. Kerosene, if you can get it, results in fewer dirty deposits, and white gas (Coleman gas) is supposed to be the holy grail of fuels, although it’s difficult to find, not least because it seems to have as many names as it does vendors.
If you’re using diesel or low-grade petrol, you’ll have to spend some time on maintenance to keep the performance up. This is part and parcel of using multi-fuel stoves with this kind of fuel. Prevention is better than cure here. On long tours, bring the expedition service kit for long-term spare parts and maintenance, as the seals will become brittle — the pump’s fuel-line connector O‑ring was the first to go for me.
Don’t use diesel below zero, as it contains water. Hopefully it’s obvious why! Unleaded petrol is much more practical in the extreme cold, such as I encountered in the Scandinavian Arctic one winter.
It’s worth mentioning that priming time will also affect soot deposits. As you grow adept at judging how much fuel is needed for priming, given the fuel type, air temperature and wind strength, you’ll begin to reduce the amount of soot your stove accumulates.
The stove is supplied with 2 fuel jets — one for diesel, and one for everything else. The diesel jet is not installed by default, and while fitting it is a doddle, one must remember to do this, or else the stove will still work but quickly become caked in black soot from the improper burning of the diesel oil. I have always chosen unleaded petrol for its shorter priming time, increased cleanliness over diesel, and widespread availability.
The stove’s construction is up to MSR’s usual high standard of indestructibility. After half a decade of use, it certainly looks used, but there are no points available for aesthetics here. What matters is function, and in this regard the stove still performs as well as it did when I first fired it up in France and burnt off much of my facial hair.
The folding windshield and the base, both made of quite flimsy metal, wore out after a couple of years of being repeatedly folded and unfolded. This is part and parcel of the portable setup, and these parts should be treated as semi-consumables, for which replacements will be inevitable.
The Dragonfly comes highly recommended if you want to cook on a long journey. It’s ultra-reliable, simple to maintain and can be depended upon to give you a controlled flame on demand. If you just want to eat, however, the Whisperlite or XKG might be a simpler option.
Full specifications are on MSR’s product page.