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.
MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Sure can take a beating
Cons: Poor heat conductor, uneven cooking, long boil time, no skillet included
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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