MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe vs Soto Windmaster
There are two stoves that currently reign in the canister stove market, the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe (PRD) and the Soto Windmaster. The stoves have similar designs so you can scarcely mention one in conversation without the other coming up. In online forums, the Windmaster is typically presented as the original with the PRD as a mere copy cat. After all, both of the stoves have a concave head design, something you don’t typically see in canister stoves. And both have micro-regulators and piezo ignitors. In this post I’ll take a closer look at the designs of the two and then put them to the test to see if one clearly comes out on top.
From the start, I’m just going to put it out there that the PRD is clearly not a copy of the Windmaster. While there may have been very similar design and marketing goals for these stoves, in the details they are entirely different. Was the PRD inspired by the Windmaster? Perhaps. I honestly don’t know the history of either stove, when they were designs or released initially. But there would not appear to be any infringing copying taking place here, just good competitive pressures between two very reputable brands.
Take a quick look at each stove side by side to see how differently they look:
Stem, valve, seal, pot support, piezo ignitor, are all different. Many stoves have the features in common with one or the other of these two stoves. Really, the only thing that appears to be creating the widely held belief that these stoves are copies is in the use of a concave burner head. And to be clear, while they are both concave, one is not a simple copy of the other. At least not in the usual sense of what that means, where you often see cheap import stoves from China, either from an OEM, white labeled by multiple brands, or literally copied from the design of another OEM. Let’s take a closer look.
Aside from the similar hole pattern (not unusual as stoves generally have similar sized holes for the jets and so a simple circle packing exercise will yield identical patterns), you can see the independent design details. The surface slope of the Windmaster is essentially flat whereas on the PRD it is curved (this is more noticeable even when looking at the side views above). And there are very different approaches to integrating the piezo ignitor. We won’t look too closely at the piezo, as it is certainly an OEM part, other than to point out that they are different. They are slightly different in size so I suspect they are from different OEMs and they are attached and integrated differently. I’ll mention observed performance differences later.
Both of these stoves do have micro pressure regulators. Most stoves do not have pressure regulators; this is a complex little bit of machinery and so only found on premium stoves, like each of these. The pressure regulator is a valve design that attempts to keep the flow of fuel constant, irrespective of the pressure within the fuel canister. The pressure of the fuel canister decreases as the canister gets cold or as the canister empties. As a result, standard stoves will not perform well in the winter conditions and suffer measurably as the fuel gets closer to empty in the canister.
Visually, the valves of each stove look quite a bit different. Internally, they are going to work very similarly as regulator designs are pretty well established. Below is a cut-away view, from Soto and MSR’s respective product description pages:
Obviously the MSR diagram isn’t an actual section cut of the PRD stove. But it does fairly closely align to the actual stove. The most obvious differences between them is the size. The MSR regulator is more compact. MSR has had regulators in stoves prior to the PRD (e.g. Windburner) and so perhaps has the experience and R&D from that stove allowing for some optimization. The PRD does also have a set screw, presumably to fine-tune the balance of the regulator. I have not been able to find any references online to the use of this screw, so perhaps it is intended to be set by the factory and perhaps with support of MSR for specific conditions or troubleshooting.
Below the regulator, you will also notice a difference in the connection to the canister. As with all canister stoves, the stove attaches to a Lindal valve on the canister. These valves are designed to be self-sealing (you don’t have to do anything other than unscrew the stove for the canister to “close”). When the stove is screwed on, a pin within the stove presses on the valve within the canister (pink) which releases the fuel. The gas enters a small hole in the pin serving the stove.
Of note, there are two sealing gaskets coming into play to make this connection airtight. The first is on the canister. Highlighted in yellow on the cross-section above, this gasket seals against the pin itself as it enters the canister. The second is on the stove. It’s a black o-ring that you can see in the second image, showing the fuel pin. Once the stove is fully screwed into place this gasket compresses on the top of the canister creating a second seal. What you end up with is something about like this:
Notice how the yellow gasket within the canister creates a seal against the fuel pin and the blue gasket of the stove creates a seal against the threaded component of the canister (note that the gaskets are actually black in real life). The Soto Windmaster then adds a third gasket that presses down on the lip of the canister. At first I thought this was a clever mechanism to minimize the small amount of gas that escapes when you screw a stove on or off. However, it does not seem to actually make a difference as far as I can tell. It would appear, then, to be an unnecessary feature and I have to wonder what problem Soto might have been try to solve for them to include the manufacturing expense of adding this element.
The final point of physical comparison to discuss is the pot stand support system. Here, these stoves could not be more different. The PRD has an integrated supports with three arms. Like most stoves, they are attached to the stove body and fold down for storage. The Windmaster, on the other hand, uses a removable pot support. It has options for either a four arm support or a three arm support.
There are pros and cons to each approach and my goal in this section has mostly been to just point how how different these stoves are, not necessarily to suggest that any one of the design features is better than the other. So, I will simply highlight here how the designs may affect usability and you can determine from there if you think it matters to how you think you will use the stove.
If you have ever sat on a chair, or used a table, on uneven ground you will appreciate that four legs are not necessarily superior. With four legs, if just one leg is not in contact with the ground, the chair will rock. A three legged stool, on the other hand, will always have three solid points of contact. The same is true for these stove designs. A slight variation in the height of the arms or a slight warp in the bottom of your stove will result in a pot that will rock a bit on the four armed pot support of the Windmaster. This isn’t theoretical, I did find this to be the case during my testing. However, the four arm support is wider so may better support a larger pot.
If you prefer the three arm support, you can purchase one separately for the Windmaster.
The grid scale in the photos above is 1cm but grid itself farther away than top of the stoves, so this isn’t an absolute measurement, just a relative measurement to compare the options. From the left you have the PRD at about 13cm (5.1″), then the Windmaster 3 leg at 11cm (4.3″), and the Windmaster 4-leg at nearly 15cm (5.9″).
So the Windmaster has some flexibility in terms of choosing 3 or 4 leg support. And the 3 leg support will result in an overall lower stove weight. The Soto stove alone, no arms, weighs 60.26 grams. The four arm support is 26.29g for a total of 86.55g (3.1 oz). The three arm support though is only 6.74g for a total of 67g (2.3 oz) for this combination. Compared to the Pocket Rocket Deluxe which comes in at 82.44 g (2.9 oz).
I’ll preface this by saying this is an initial impression test only. The environment was fairly controlled, but not perfectly. These tests were done outside, with slight but inconsistent breezes. This alone will introduce some random variability. I did use water straight from the tap for all of the tests. This is well water, at a temperature of about 63°, but I didn’t take temperature measurements each time and since ambient temperatures were about 69° the actual start temperature of the water might have been as much as a few degrees warmer depending on how fresh the water was when I poured it.
For these tests I used a Toaks 750 containing 2 cups of water. I opened the valve slightly to ignite, and then full open for the duration of the test. I used a temperature probe to alarm when the water reached 209°, which is the temperature at which I observed a full boil. Below are the results of three boil tests, showing time to reach boil and the amount of fuel used:
On both measures, amount of fuel used and the time to reach boil, the PRD performed just slightly better on average. For the PRD, the average boil time as 2:51 using 11.6 grams of fuel. The Windmaster average boil time was 2:55 using 12 grams of fuel.
I repeated these tests a couple of more times using another pot (part of another test to be published later) and confirmed similar results. The tests of the Soto yielded an average time to boil of 2:43 using 9.5g of fuel vs the PRD with an average time of 2:34 using 8.875g.
So, fairly consistently the PRD would just edge out the Soto Windmaster. I did also observe that as the canister approached empty the Soto Windmaster had sooner and more apparent drop in pressure than the PRD. I don’t have data to share on this point yet; this will require some further testing and analysis. I will ultimately also want to test both stoves in a more controlled environment (indoors), with zero wind, and with a regular and controlled wind.
So which stove do I recommend? Honestly, either of these stoves are going to be a great choice. They both perform well and similarly enough based on initial testing that I don’t think this is a significant factor. If I were going to give an edge to either one, it would be the PRD for a couple of very minor reasons. First, the PRD is slightly smaller and more packable. It nests well within the Toaks 750 pot. The Windmaster will fit with the legs removed, but barely and requires you to wedge it into place. The support legs will then rest on top of the stove just fine. I do, though, like to wrap a bandana around my canister to absorb condensation moisture from the canister and to prevent rattling. This makes the fit very tight with the Soto. And I find the removable pot support notion to be a little “fiddly” with potential for the legs to be misplaced. Finally, the legs of the PRD also feel more substantial. They measure about 1.16mm thick on the PRD while the 4 leg support of the Soto is 1.06mm thick and the 3 leg a mere .5mm thick. Again, these are minor considerations. You really can’t go wrong with either of these very good stoves.