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MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set Review

Super durable, basic two pot set; for basic camping pasta dinners and just-add-water breakfasts, this product excels and will serve for decades.
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Price:  $50 List | $49.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Sure can take a beating
Cons:  Poor heat conductor, uneven cooking, long boil time, no skillet included
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 23, 2017
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46
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 15
  • Cooking Performance - 25% 4
  • Packability - 20% 3
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5
  • Features - 10% 3

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a set of cookware that can take a beating and keep on ticking, the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set is an excellent option. This "classic" set is made of sturdy stainless steel, which is scratch resistant and durable. If you've been camping and backpacking for a while, you probably have a set of these pots in your gear bin, and they are most likely still in good shape! However, this set is not the best performer when it comes to cooking, especially when compared to some of the models made from hard anodized aluminum, like our Editors' Choice winner, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset, which comes with a Teflon non-stick coating.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Sure can take a beatingComprehensive, high end materialsSturdy construction and efficiency-oriented heat exchanger ring, locking universal pot gripperEnvironment and health-friendly ceramic construction, lightweight and versatile overall constructionDurable, excellent frying pan for discerning cooks, great lid
Cons Poor heat conductor, uneven cooking, long boil time, no skillet includedPot handle gets hot, heavyHeavy, especially for a kit that requires addition of other features, heat exchanger ring is a little messyFragile coating and pots dent easily, no features beyond two basic potsHeavy, no non-stick coating
Bottom Line Super durable, basic two pot set; for basic camping pasta dinners and just-add-water breakfasts, this product excels and will serve for decades.A comprehensive set of cookware for all sorts of camping scenarios.A few attributes make this efficiency-oriented cook set an excellent foundation for the practical, hearty-cooking, enthusiastic user.For gourmet, health and environment conscious campers, this set will form the foundation of a kit that will prepare the best meals possible outside for 3-4 people.A car camping cook set, optimized for performance and compact carry, at a high weight.
Rating Categories MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set GSI Pinnacle Camper Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set Stanley Adventure Base Camp
Cooking Performance (25%)
10
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4
10
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9
10
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9
10
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8
10
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9
Packability (20%)
10
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3
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5
10
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6
10
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10
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4
Durability (15%)
10
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8
10
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8
10
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6
10
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6
10
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10
Weight (15%)
10
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5
10
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7
10
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8
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8
10
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4
Ease Of Use (15%)
10
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5
10
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8
10
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9
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9
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6
Features (10%)
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10
Specs MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set GSI Pinnacle Camper Primus PrimeTech... MSR Ceramic 2-Pot... Stanley Adventure...
Measured Weight 1.3 lbs 3.7lbs 1.6lbs 1 lbs 4.8lbs
Material Stainless Steel Hard-anodized Aluminum w/Non-Stick Coating Aluminum Hard-anodized Aluminum Stainless Steel. Pot and pan bottoms have additional layers.
Components 2L pot, 1.5L pot, lid, pot grabber 2L pot, 8" frypan, strainer lid, 2 mugs, 2 bowls, handle 2 2.3L pots, 1 lid, pot tongs, padded/insulated storage bag 2L pot, 1.5L pot, strainer lid, 2 plates, 2 mugs, handle 3.5L pot, vented lid, 7" 3ply frying pan, cutting board, spatula with extending handle, serving spoon with extending handle, [4] 6in plates, [4] 22oz bowls, [4] sporks, dish drying rack, heat resistant trivet, locking bungee
Avg Boil Time (mins) 3:51 3:47 3:07 3:35 4:07
3L Pot? (>2.4L) 0 0 0 0 1
2L Pot? (1.5-2.4L) 2 1 2 1 0
1L Pot? (.5-1.4L) 0 0 0 0 0
Frying Pan? 1 1 0 0 1
Frying Pan Lid? No Yes N/a N/a No
Packed Size (inches) 8 x 4.4 in 8.5 x 4.6 in 7.9 x 5.3 in 5.3 x 7.8 in 11 x 6 x 11 in
Weight of pot closest to 1.5L, with lid and handle 0.8 lbs 1.0 lbs 0.9 lbs 0.5 lbs 1.9lbs
Cooking Surfaces Uncoated Pot and frypan both have non-stick Teflon coating Non-stick Teflon like coating One (1.5L) non-stick pot, One (2.5L) uncoated pot Stainless-steel

Our Analysis and Test Results

The MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set is the only stainless steel cookware we tested. The set as a whole weighs just a bit over a pound, and measures eight inches by a little over four inches when all packed together. It includes a 2-liter pot, a 1.5-liter pot, a lid that may also double as a plate, a pot grabber, and it neatly packs into its bag. There are other products far better suited to elaborate cooking, but there is nothing that will last longer.

Performance Comparison


This is a niche product. Overall, the score is nothing special; in fact, it is very much at the bottom of the heap. As always, our scoring matrix considers how the vast majority of users cook and eat while camping. That doesn't mean that everyone fits that same description. For those that cook simply, don't sweat the weight of their gear, and want something that won't complain about years and years and thousands of meals, the MSR Alpine 2 is a great choice and a worthy value.

The workhorse MSR Alpine Cookset in action. For years of use  in all environments  in preparing simple camp meals  the Alpine Cookset is great.
The workhorse MSR Alpine Cookset in action. For years of use, in all environments, in preparing simple camp meals, the Alpine Cookset is great.

Cooking Performance


We performed two objective tests to determine our scores in this category, plus anecdotal evidence from "real-time" use. In establishing the time to boil two cups of water and how well it cooked a scrambled egg, mixed with information from cooking countless meals in the wild, we generated a score that approximates cooking performance. Given our introduction, you won't be surprised to learn that this set earns only a 4 out of 10 for this category.

This cookware was difficult to prepare bacon in due to the uneven conductivity of heat.
Because stainless steel is a poor heat conductor  this cookware even burns bacon easily.

Along with the ultralight Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset, Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo and Best Buy G4Free 4 Piece this set has the worst performance while scrambling an egg.

This stainless steel pot takes a long time to boil water  so if you're looking for quick meals in the backcountry you'll want a different set of cookware.
This stainless steel pot takes a long time to boil water, so if you're looking for quick meals in the backcountry you'll want a different set of cookware.

Stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat, and it is rather apparent when cooking an egg to see the hot spot created while on a narrow camp stove burner. For more information about cooking materials, check out our Buying Advice. The Top Pick for car camping Stanley Adventure Series set has the same stainless steel surfaces of the MSR Alpine, but the Stanley pot and pan include laminated bottoms (the frying pan, at least, likely consists of a copper layer for heat dispersion) that significantly improves overall cooking performance.

Not only is this cookware slow to boil  but it also conducts heat unevenly as you can see with this scrambled egg mixture.
The results of our scrambled egg test. Hot spots are created that easily burn eggs  which sticks to the uncoated stainless steel. However  since stainless steel is scratch resistant  you can use steel wool during cleaning.

Packability


This set's packed measurements are fairly close to the Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set. Because of the durable steel construction, you can stuff this set full of any items you like without concern of scratching!

Both sets of the MSR cookware we tested have similar packable dimensions and vary by half a pound in weight. This stainless steel set (left) is lighter than the hard anodized aluminum set (right).
Both sets of the MSR cookware we tested have similar packable dimensions and vary by half a pound in weight. This stainless steel set (left) is lighter than the hard anodized aluminum set (right).

Durability


Although the stainless steel pots scored low in cooking performance, it is among the most rugged sets we tested. One great thing about cooking with stainless steel is that it is extremely scratch resistant, so you don't have to second guess yourself when grabbing the steel wool during cleaning. Our reviewers needed to do this after the scrambled egg test. Even if you do manage to scratch the steel, performance will not change. The surface is the same as what's "underneath". Scrape and scrub away. Steel wool, sand - whatever you choose to scrub with won't affect the performance. The stainless steel cook surfaces of the MSR Alpine set are very similar in durability to those of the Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series cook set.

Stainless steel is durable and scratch resistant  so this cookware is ideal for anyone who is rather hard on their pots and pans.
Stainless steel is durable and scratch resistant, so this cookware is ideal for anyone who is rather hard on their pots and pans.

Unlike the Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset and the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Cookset and others, this set does not have a non-stick coating applied to its components, so you also don't have to worry about which utensils to use during cooking. Also, stainless steel is a solid metal and can be an ideal addition to your camping kitchen if you're looking for something that can take some good beatings.

Weight


Overall this set weighs in at 1.3 pounds, which is lighter than our Editors' Choice winner, the GSI Pinnacle Camper, but not quite as light as our Top Pick for Backpacking, the G4Free 4-Piece Set, or the Titanium set from Snow Peak. However, the overall weight just tells part of the story. For instance, the GSI sets have far more features included than the MSR Alpine. Also, the Top Pick Snow Peak Titanium kit is much much lighter overall. To more closely compare "apples to apples", for 2018 we added a column to our matrix that measures the weight of each kit's main pot, lid, and gripper handle.

By this measure, when normalized for volume, the Alpine 2 Pot Set weighs more than all but the Optimus Terra HE and the Stanley Adventure Series. If you'll be carrying just one pot, lid, and handle for a simple cooking mission, the Alpine 2 is quite heavy. Even when compared to the Optimus, which seems heavier by the above measure, the Alpine 2 suffers. The Optimus, with heat-spreading aluminum construction and a finned heat exchanger, offers more efficient performance. You can carry less fuel and/or a lighter stove. Holistically, even the heavy Optimus could be part of a lighter cooking system. In short, the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set is not a lightweight choice. The other stainless set, the Stanley Adventure Series, is also very heavy. However, the Stanley is clearly optimized for (and marketed to) car camping, and weight is less of a concern in this environment.

Ease of Use


Although the weight and packable size of this set are roughly comparable to many of the models we tested, these pots scored lower than average in this category because of its limited versatility. This set does not include a true skillet (the lid can be pressed into such service, but it doesn't work that well), which our reviewers definitely missed while car camping but some found unimportant while backpacking. Like the Optimus Terra HE Cookset, this cookware comes with a pliers-style pot grabber, instead of an attachable handle. We prefer handles that are a little more securely attached to the pot.

Our reviewers found this problematic while cooking with both pots at the same time; the system is a little less secure than an attached handle (like the one included in the MSR Quick 2 System). The best handle is that that comes with the Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3. This is a universal-fit, pliers style handle that locks onto the edge of the pot. Also, the MSR Alpine lid is not outfitted with straining holes, which makes draining water difficult.

These pot grabbers are pretty secure  but require that you actively grip the hand while you are using them. Plus  it is difficult to multi-task during cooking with only a single pot grabber per set.
These pot grabbers are pretty secure, but require that you actively grip the hand while you are using them. Plus, it is difficult to multi-task during cooking with only a single pot grabber per set.

Features


There are essentially no extra features to speak of with the MSR Alpine set. You get two simple pots and a universal fit lid. For truly comprehensive cooking and dining, you will need to add a frying pan, cutlery, bowls, cups, and a cutting board. No kit we tested is truly comprehensive, but many add at least some of these features. Notably, the Editors' Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper has two pots and lids, a frying pan, and four cups and four bowls. There are fewer things you will need to add to your camping kitchen kit.

Best Applications


This set excels in durability, but it doesn't cook nearly as well as either Editors' Choice winners, or even our Best Buy winner, the Winterial 11-Piece Set. It is well behind the cooking performance of the otherwise similar, sibling MSR Ceramic 2-Pot set. Therefore, it works best as a workhorse set you can expect to beat the tar out of. The Alpine 2 Pot Set is a great option for guide services and outfitting operations, in which you're cooking simple meals on numerous types of excursions.

Value


This set does have a high value, especially when you examine price vs. overall score and the price per year of service. Since stainless steel pots are going to take a beating and keep on ticking, this set should last a long time.

Conclusion


If you're in the market for a camping cookware set that could potentially last a lifetime and aren't looking to cook gourmet meals in the backcountry, then this is a great set to consider. However, if you are contemplating a set geared more around car camping with a group of people and easy clean up is important to you, then the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset is a better choice.


Jediah Porter