What You Didn’t Know About MSR’s Iconic Fuel Bottles

MSR began designing fuel bottles in 1981, and engineered them as meticulously as the high-performance, now-legendary stoves they powered. Four decades later, not much has changed since those original designs, yet the bottles themselves have become true icons of outdoor adventure. As we celebrate MSR’s golden 50th anniversary this year, we’ve rekindled the look of one of our earliest bottles in our limited edition 50th Anniversary Retro Fuel Bottle, a functional throwback that honors 50 years of great adventures.

Now, dive into this timeline portrait of the MSR fuel bottle and see what makes it one of the most reliable on the market.

The Model 9 mountaineering stove was the first to feature a remote fuel source.

Remote-Fuel Revolution: Separating fuel source from the burner

In 1973, MSR ignited a revolution in mountaineering stove design and alpine travel. The legendary MSR Model 9 stove was the first-ever camp stove to separate the stove’s fuel source from its burner. This remote-fuel design came as a response to MSR’s finding that Acute Mountain Sickness was related to a climber’s dehydration—caused by the inability to melt snow fast enough on poorly performing stoves. Separating the fuel from the heat source improved the stove’s efficiency and performance at high altitudes. It also increased the user’s margin of safety, putting distance between pressurized fuel and flame.

At first, Sigg Fuel Bottles were sold in the Mountain Safety Research newsletter as the fuel-and-storage tanks for any MSR stove.

In 1981, MSR debuted their own fuel bottles.

Stronger By Design: MSR blueprints fuel bottles

But in 1981, MSR engineers decided they could fashion a better bottle and badge it with the MSR name. The MSR fuel bottle was impact-extruded from lightweight aluminum. An expensive process, impact-extrusion afforded a significantly stronger bottle, clean of any seams or welds. The bottles’ corners, shoulders and bottoms were thicker to resist bulging when pressurized, as well as leaking or cracking.

1990 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition, Fall 1989 — Photo by Qin Dahe

In addition, the bottles’ threads were machined directly into the neck. This design eliminated the potential issues that came with threaded inserts, which were standard on fuel storage bottles at the time. MSR engineers recognized that threaded inserts were vulnerable to spinning inside the neck, making it impossible to remove the pump or to create an airtight system for pressurization—both of which meant that hot meal just wasn’t going to happen when you needed it after a long climb.

Today, MSR fuel bottles are still designed with these attributes, along with an airtight seal that prevents air from degrading the fuel during long-term storage.

Fuel Bottles Key Features
1996 MSR catalog.

By 1990, MSR fuel bottles were painted their signature fire truck red, made iconic by millions of users, as well as expedition documentaries and even Hollywood movies. At our factory in Seattle, the bottles receive their labels and the child-resistant, push-and-twist safety cap. The cap, also designed in-house, undergoes a tough test by a third party to ensure that children cannot open it within a certain time frame, all while remaining easy for an adult to open and properly reseal.

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Screen-printing the labels onto MSR fuel bottles in Seattle.

Beyond Seattle, NASA has relied on MSR fuel bottles for use in global research. The space administration’s GPM-GMI (Global Precipitation Measurement Microwave Imager) program uses MSR fuel bottles to counterbalance their main reflector for deployment tests—an application MSR engineers surely didn’t anticipate 30 years ago.

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Photo courtesy of NASA’s GPM-GMI (Global Precipitation Measurement Microwave Imager) program.

So whether you’re relying on MSR’s extreme-condition XGK-EX stove—a direct descendant of that first Model 9 stove—or our classic WhisperLite backpacking stoves for backpacking, you can be sure your MSR fuel bottle was designed with safety and performance in mind to faithfully power you through your biggest adventures.

Join us in celebrating MSR’s 50th Anniversary with this limited edition throwback fuel bottle, printed with the retro graphics from one of our earliest fuel bottles.

 

50 years agCelebrating 50 years of unruly dreamerso, MSR began as one man’s quest to create better, safer, more reliable mountaineering equipment. Today, we’re still an intrepid team that believes in challenging convention to engineer greater solutions to real-world issues. Along the way, we’ve remained inspired by you—the world’s passionate and unruly dreamers. Join as we celebrate this milestone and 50 Years of Unruly Dreamers