I like MSR XGK EX Multi-Fuel stoves for the same reason military types prefer certain weapons over others – they can be dragged through the mud, stepped on, abused and still reliably fire. There are lighter, more fuel efficient stoves out there, but the XGK is a proven snow melting blowtorch, especially at higher altitudes. The downsides are that it is quite noisy and can be hard to simmer with, but losing your hearing is an advantage when you have children and there are a few tricks to using the XGK which can great expand its repertoire.
To get a lower flame, control it through tank pressure. First, crack the pump/bottle connection enough to completely drain any tank pressure, and then start with only 3-5 pumps instead of the usual 15. The number of pumps/pressure will vary with how much fuel is in the tank, but the idea is to get it to just barely ooze out. The flame is very slow to react with low tank pressure, so give it some time to adjust and tweak around with the flame control knob at the same time. With practice, the flame intensity can be cut in half or less. When it starts to die, leave the fuel knob at the same setting and give the tank a pump or two, and then wait – it should come back to a nice simmer.
Another way to reduce the heat is to fold the aluminum wind screen into a tube and then place the frying pan on top of that. This elevates the pan a good 4-5” off of the flame and keeps the direct heat off of the bottom. There is a certain degree of risk involved with this as is the tube collapses, the frying pan gets dumped in your lap. To create the tube, bend one end into a tab facing one direction, then the other end in the other direction, then crush them together. These things are quite durable and can many such foldings. If the fit is too tight between the windscreen and the pan, it can choke off oxygen to the flame. If this happens, try adding some little venting dimples to the windscreen around the top edge.
Food Thawing & Warming
When paired with a Pot Parka, snow melting duties can be doubled up with food thawing or even heating capacities. Just place the items to be thawed/warmed on top of the lid and cover with the parka. Ten minutes later, voila! Spoonable peanut butter or artisan steamed Jimmy Dean breakfast biscuits.
Glove and Boot Liner Dryer
The Pot Parka not only increases your fuel economy, but it can also provide a nice directed blast of warm air to help dry out your boot liners or soggy gloves. The trick with this is to take the liners/gloves off before the water in the pot begins to boil and steam.
XGK Achilles Heel
If the XGK were to have a weakness, it would be stripping the threads on the fuel adjustment valve on the pump. These are brass threads going into plastic, and if you reef on them too hard, they’ll strip. Remember: righty tighty, lefty loosey. With a repair kit, almost anything can be fixed on an XGK, but stripping the threads is a fatal wound and not field repairable as far as I know. You can tell if your fuel valve is stripped as it just keeps turning and fuel shoots out of it. In fairness to the XGK, this same pump/valve is used on a variety of MSR stoves, so it is a common problem.