Camp Cooking – Round 2 : Stove Maintenance

I’ve been bad.  Really bad.  I’ve neglected my camp stove for far too long.  The MSR DragonFly has been my go-to camp stove for almost two decades.  It’s a workhorse.  It’s never let me down.  It’s been my tried and true camping buddy and has been 100% reliable.  That said, it’s age has started to show. It’s no fault of the stove’s.  I’ve just been a bad owner and have totally neglected it.

This thing needs some TLC…
… and a bath.

When I ordered my MSR WindBurner I also ordered an Expedition Service Kit for my DragonFly.  While I do anticipate using the WindBurner for most of my heating/cooking needs, it will be nice having the DragonFly in good working order.  Read on for the service rebuild…

Part 1: Stove Maintenance

Let’s be honest.  You’re not going to read the instructions.  Don’t worry, neither did I.  Also, while we’re honest, this writeup (as good as I think it is) still doesn’t cover everything.  Most like, if you haven’t done it yet, you’r going to do exactly what I did – Watch a YouTube video.  It’s just what we do these days.  I’ll save you the trouble, here’s the link to the official MSRGear youtube video: MSR Stoves: DragonFly Maintenance.

But, while you’re here, here’s my walk through of the process.

MSR gear isn’t cheap.  Not super expensive either, but it’s well built and lasts a lifetime.
When I save I’ve had this stove for almost 20 years, I’m serious.
I bought it when I was working in the higher education field.
I saw it as an investment and used the “buy once; cry once; buy it for life” philosophy.

Unlike other brands that just make throwaway products, MSR makes quality products that are serviceable.
They offer two kits for each of their stoves: the basic maintenance kit and the expedition service kit.
I opted for the ESK because it has all the parts for a full overhaul of both the stove and the pump.
I honestly should have bought two.

Everything you need for field service & repair including tools.
Oh, and those pesky instruction things.  Just set those aside and watch the YouTube video.

As you can see, my stove was a little dirty.
As such, I skipped photos in a few steps because my hands got super greasy and sooty.
As I said… watch the YouTube video.

The only part of the overhaul I was unable to perform was replacing the stove’s jet.
Mine was – IS – still stuck in there damn good and tight.
I tried penitrating oil…
I tried massive torque on a large screwdriver…
I even tried heat.  All to no avail.
Let this be a lesson: be proactive.
Do your maintenance early and often. Not once every other decade.

Part 2: Pump Maintenance

While I let the stove jet soak in penetrating oil, I moved onto the pump. Like the stove it had never been properly maintained over the years.  It leaked and didn’t hold pressure when pumped.  This led to a weak flame as well as a major fire-hazard when cooking.  As with the stove, don’t bother with the instructions… blah blah blah… watch the YouTube video: MSR Stoves: Stove Pump Maintenance.

Everything you need for the pump rebuild comes in the stove Expedition Service Kit.

The tools you need for disassembly come in the kit which is real nice.
And yes, that safety-pin is in fact a tool.

New vs. Old
Yes, long overdue. This is the main plunger seal for the pump.
No wonder it wouldn’t make or hold pressure.

Found the leak…
Main seal between the pump and bottle was junk.
It was dry-rotted and not only leaked pressure but also leaked fuel.
Not a good idea to cook with a liquid fuel stove when it leaks.

The nice thing about the ESK is that it comes with an extra seal for the spare fuel canister cap.
Good thing because this one was missing parts.
Found this leak the hard way.

Good as new!

All the leftover junk parts.


In short, I should have done this years ago.  Basically you get what you pay for, which is why I like MSR Gear.  Quality stoves that last as long as you’re willing to take care of them.  I promise not to wait another 20 years before I maintain the stove.  I’m sure I will eventually pick up another ESK for my DragonFly which will give me everything I need to repeat this process or, at the very least, give me the spares I need to deal with problems right when they happen.

Even with the old jet still stuck in the stove she’s working better than ever.
Still not “good as new” but I hear rumors MSR has a professional rebuild service.
Basically mail in your stove and it comes back good-as-new.
Might have to look into that after this season.


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