For more than 20 years, Mountain Safety Research's (MSR) WhisperLite has been the gold standard in lightweight backpacking stoves. There have been lighter, more powerful stoves, but none has combined the versatility, durability and ease of use of the 11-ounce WhisperLite, which is one reason it's been one of the world's most popular models for so long. The old classic—still available for $80 and the model I've owned for a dozen years—is made of durable stainless steel and brass, comes apart easily for cleaning and burns any liquid gas you can think of—white gas, kerosene and even unleaded straight from your local gas pump. I've used it on dozens of backpacking and canoe trips, and it's never yet let me down (with no maintenance save for the occasional cleaning).
Now MSR has improved on its legendary camp stove, giving it a comprehensive overhaul for the 2012 season. In addition to the various liquid fuels that perform better in cold weather, the WhisperLite Universal now burns convenient, lightweight canister fuel for warm weather and international trips (where canister fuel is often more readily available). Switching between fuel types takes less than a minute, and requires just a few twists of an adapter. The stove also got lighter-weight components, new serrated steel supports for better holding large pots and pans, and re-engineered internals for easy maintenance. That's right, the best just got better. Pack this 11.5-ounce wunderkind for quick excursions and multi-day backcountry trips.