Does anyone have experience on which burns the cleanest, and would work best with the MSR?

  • Kerosene
  • Unleaded Gasoline / White Gas
  • Alcohol ( isoprpyl, ethanol, methanol )
  • others? Naptha?

I am preparing to go on a bicycle trip with an MSR Universal Whisperlite, the multi fuel stove.

I had a really terrible experience with kerosene, and Coleman fuel is expensive, and bulky.

I was considering E85, since its 85% ethanol I thought that maybe it would burn cleaner. Thoughts?



I have had good luck with standard premium gas.

The start/priming technique is the secret.

  • add a squirt of 70%+ rubbing alcohol to the bottom wick bowl [ the rubbing alcohol has a sootless burn, leaving the outside of the stove clean ]
  • ignite the alcohol and let it burn completely off to heat prime the stove
  • turn on and ignite the gas
  • the gas should be coming out as a vapor and the stove should turn jet blue right away
  • alcohol based sootless start ftw

4 Answers 4


In my experience Coleman Fuel burns the cleanest out of everything that I've tried, it is unfortunately the most expensive and hard to find (relative to gasoline or diesel).

Unleaded - Cheap and widely available, burns well but a little sooty.

Diesel - Slightly less cheap (in UK/Europe) works very well. Use with wider jet. More sooty than unleaded.

I also recommend that you get hold of the MSR maintenance/spares kit for any extended journey, it's saved my bacon a few times, literally. :-)

Is avoiding a bit of soot worth the effort and bulk of carrying both fuel and alcohol, personally I think not.


Kerosene, white gas (Coleman fuel) and unleaded should all work.

However you need to change the nozzle/jet where the fuel comes out depending on the fuel used.

I believe (though I'm not entirely sure) there are different diameter holes for different fuels - presumably due to different viscosity.

This MSR FAQ has some useful information, particularly the question: Where do I get fuels in foreign countries and what other types of fuel can I use?

I've always used standard unleaded with MSRs and never had any problem.

Note MSRs will not run on alcohol (its in the FAQ).

  • Thanks for the tip on the nozzle diameters. Does unleaded gasoline leave soot? Even if the aluminium from the MSR bottle is dissolved in alcohol wouldn't it burn hotter? isopropylalcoholmsds.net/… and What about: youtube.com/watch?v=xoRf_9fz86g
    – jmunsch
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 11:21
  • Also I am willing to change the o-rings more often.
    – jmunsch
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 11:28
  • @jmunsch Apparently the issue with alcohol is that you don't don't get the right mix of fuel and air. See etrike.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/msr-whisperlight-alcohol-mod for more info and possible fix. E85 isn't pure alcohol so it might be OK. In the video I think they said they had to use a modified jet, although I didn't listen that closely.
    – nivag
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 12:21
  • @jmunsch also I'd be nervous about pressurizing a fuel bottle with alcohol in as the alcohol can pit the aluminum.
    – nivag
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 12:24
  • 2
    From what I remember yes. Soot is mainly from priming where fuel doesn't burn cleanly. Apparently you can use alcohol for priming to reduce soot.
    – nivag
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 12:56

I have burned E-85 fuel in a Whisperlite stove in a pinch, but you have to use a different lighting technique. You start with zero pressure in the fuel bottle, pre-heat the stove, give the pump one or two strokes, open the valve, and light the burner. Give the pump one or two more strokes to adjust the flame if necessary. Too much pressure will extinguish the flame.


The best burning, and also healthiest fuel I am aware of is alkylate based petrol, which is sold for (4 stroke) lawnmowers and similar. From personal experience alcohol may dissolve o-rings, allthough it was no MSR burner. Apart from the inconvenience and need for spare parts, this may create leakage and therefore a serious health and also environmental risk.

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