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Hands-on Gear Review
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Review
Bottom line: This small, light, easy to use stove can actually simmer and is perfect for backpacking.
Winning our coveted Editors' Choice award, this is our favorite stove for backpacking. The Pocket Rocket 2 is a design culmination of the MSR MicroRocket and the original Pocket Rocket. Its very low weight and small size add little to your pack, while the excellent simmering ability means that you can fry up a quick quesadilla as an appetizer after a long day on the trail. The PocketRocket 2's respectable boil time won't have you waiting for a hot drink to get your day going in the morning. We think this stove is a great choice for backpackers who want to keep it light but still have the option to cook a real meal.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
If you're searching for a stove to take on your next backpacking adventure, the latest iteration of this fan-favorite is a great choice, and it's our Editor's Choice award winner. It's lightweight and simmers well, two things that make any backpacker happy. The clever way the pot supports fold and rotate, first tried by MSR in the MicroRocket, mean that the PocketRocket 2 can fit in most any backpacking pot, often with room to spare.
The PocketRocket 2's consistently good, and often excellent performance in every category gave it the best overall score in our test.
This is the PocketRocket 2's weakest category, and by weak we mean its performance is just average. It still beats the two other small canister stoves in the test but is no match for the fuel-sipping integrated canister stoves. It does compare favorably to the MSR Whisperlite and beat the other liquid fuel stoves.
The biggest weakness for any small canister stove is the wind. This burner is fairly efficient when it's calm; it used 0.5 oz of fuel to boil a liter of water in just under 5 minutes. However, it performed poorly in our 8-10mph wind test, when it burned 1 oz of fuel in 30 minutes and did not boil the water.
Our testers are not put off by this. For the times when we are camping above treeline, we're always able to construct some sort of windbreak with natural materials, or we bring the stove into the tent vestibule. An aftermarket windscreen is also an option, but readers should be aware that MSR disapproves of this and there is some danger that the canister could become dangerously hot.
The PocketRocket 2 slayed the competition in this category. The nearest stove is the Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0 which weighs in at 1.1 oz more. Every other stove weighed twice as much or more. For the weight of one MSR Dragonfly (14.1 oz) you could carry five of these little stoves! Or you could carry one PocketRocket 2, a 4 oz fuel can (which weigh about 7.4 oz), and extra chocolate.
The folding and swiveling pot supports are a great improvement over the original PocketRocket. It would be reasonable to put it in your pocket. This stove is compact and light enough that one of our testers brought it along as a backup to his MSR Reactor on an extended spring ski tour in the High Sierra.
This metric also belonged to the PocketRocket 2, though the two other small canister stoves in the test, the Primus Classic Trail and the Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0, were close behind. The control valve wire has slightly more turning resistance than the other stoves in the review, particularly on the lower end. This gave it great control and responsiveness when simmering.
Cooking oatmeal in a pot in a classic challenge for any backpacking stove. We upped the ante by making the pot titanium, which does not distribute the heat as well as aluminum, and can lead to burned spots. With only a reasonable amount of stirring this stove cooked our oatmeal with no burning.
This stove's only weakness in the simmering department is the small burner head. All of the small canister and liquid fuel stoves have this issue to some degree (with the notable exception of the Classic Trail), and it's really only a problem when simmering with pots larger than 6 inches in diameter.
Here again, the PocketRocket 2 did well but was hampered by the wind. In our no-wind boil time test, we brought 1 liter of water to a rolling boil in 4 minutes and 41 seconds. This bested the other small canister stoves and even rocketed past the more fuel efficient Reactor and Jetboil Flash.
In our 8 - 10 mph the flame did not blow out, because of MSR's WindClip windshield, but this stove was not able to boil water. After 30 minutes, the best our testers got were small bubbles on the bottom of the pot. This is a standard performance for any small canister stove. Backpackers who don't want to have to deal with poor wind performance should consider the heavier Reactor and Windburner, or the more complicated Whisperlite.
Ease Of Use
The PocketRocket 2 was reasonably easy to use. The GigaPower barely came out ahead in this category because of its piezoelectric lighter, which freed us from digging around for a lighter at dinner time. In other respects, it did well.
The pot supports were larger than the GigaPower's, though not as big as those on the twice as heavy Classic Trail. The control valve wire was easy to use, even with a gloved hand. The only small part hat needs to be managed is the svelte plastic case that comes with the burner, and we often left this at home.
The PocketRocket 2 is slightly taller than the other small canister stoves, raising its center of gravity and making it slightly less stable. This is magnified by the fact that the pot support arms are a bit more flexible than the other stoves. However, our testing crew will happily take a bit more care when cooking in exchange for weight savings.
Our testing team like the PocketRocket 2 best for backpacking trips with smaller groups (4 or less) when there is a mix of above and below treeline campsites. Smaller groups mean smaller pots, and smaller pots are more stable on this stove. Any small canister stove is vulnerable to the wind, and we don't want to deal with cooking in the wind for every meal. When paired with a small pot this stove is great for fast and light weekend trips for two. If you are an alpine or big wall climber, we recommend the Jetboil MiniMo or MSR Windburner because they are more fuel efficient. If environmentally harmful fuel canisters and tiny stoves aren't your thing, we recommend the stable, versatile, and durable MSR Whisperlite. This liquid fuel stove will last you a lifetime.
At only $45 this stove is on the verge of winning our Best Buy award, we think it's a fantastic value. It's only $5 more than the original PocketRocket but it's lighter, smaller, and boils faster. Time for an upgrade?
If our testing team could only have one backpacking stove, it would be the PocketRocket 2. It has its weak points, namely stability and performance in the wind. A little bit of care on the part of the user can significantly mitigate these. We find that its cons are more than made up for by its light weight, small size, simmering ability, and good boil time. This stove quickly lets us make that thing we want most after a long day on our feet, real food.
— Jessica Haist & Ian McEleney
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