MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set Review
Cons: Fragile coating and pots dent easily, no features beyond two basic pots
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Our Analysis and Test Results
MSR takes state of the art ceramic coatings, only recently receiving extensive use in regular kitchens, and adapts the technology for backcountry use. This form, including the smart lids, clever handle, and overall construction that creates a contained package without a separate carry bag, augments the excellent materials. The result is an award-winning product that is tailor-made for the discerning, health-conscious backcountry chef.
It is for its cooking performance that the Ceramic 2-Pot Set truly stands out. In fact, we had to add an entirely new consideration to our evaluation. This set boils water quickly (3 min 35 sec) and cooks evenly. Even the stickiest of food doesn't get burned on, and the performance lasts after many uses. We are impressed by its overall performance. Plus, we like it more than Teflon.
For decades now, camping cookware has been made with inert steel, titanium, and anodized aluminum, or aluminum coated with hazardous-but-easy-to-cook-with Teflon and Teflon-like materials. For lightweight camp cooking, one was forced to choose between poor cooking performance or the debatable dangers of the coatings. A few years back, ceramic coatings came to kitchen cookware, with the performance that replicates Teflon.
It took a while, and there are still very few options available, but ceramic has now made its way to camping cookware. The MSR products are the best we have found, and the 2-Pot Set we evaluated is the best way to start your own health-conscious, gourmet-eating, camping kitchen. It is not as comprehensive as some, but these work-horse components form an excellent foundation. Sauces, stir-fries, pasta, grains, and even meats cook well. While our test didn't allow for extensive baking, our lead test editor, mountain guide, and backcountry cinnamon roll connoisseur, vouch for the competence of these pots for that sort of task.
MSR makes innovative gear in a variety of categories. Their equipment is reliable and clever, without being overdone in any way. Their hallmark is gimmick-less performance. The packability of the Ceramic 2-Pot Set exemplifies this. The two included pots pack securely, quietly, and contained without using a bag, which is a nice plus.
For the most part, packability is a function of size. You can easily fit a mini-stove, lighter, and other items inside the voluminous pots. We were also able to fit a small sponge and other essential items we needed to use. Like other sets, you can parse down the size to make it more packable inside a backpack or in your kitchen kit, and we're happy with its ability to nest other items inside.
The main durability issue with backcountry cookware is the integrity of the non-stick coating, if it has one. Uniquely equipped with a ceramic non-stick coating, the MSR Ceramic is in a class of its own. While our testing this time around was not extensive enough to truly compare long-term durability, we have enough experience with this and similar products to make an assessment.
A ceramic coating lasts about the same amount of time and uses as a Teflon or Teflon-style coating. In the case of the Teflon coating, however, the chips may present concerns. Once it is damaged, it chips even faster. Ceramic will scratch and wear off, too, but doesn't present the same challenges that Teflon does when heated to a high temperature. We've deduced that the MSR Ceramic pot sets won't necessarily last longer than the Teflon coated products, but that they remain more usable through the deterioration.
In this way, we score the Ceramic 2-Pot Set higher in durability than the Teflon coated products but lower than the bare metal and anodized products. Regarding other durability variables, the MSR does fine. The metal isn't the thickest, nor is it the thinnest. It is vulnerable to warping and denting, but careful packing will manage that. The hardware is reliable and simple enough that it will last at least as long as the coating will.
The MSR Ceramic pots are squarely on the low end when it comes to weight. In any human-powered camping situation, weight matters a great deal. In the best comparison we could think of (comparing the main pot, lid, and gripper of all the sets, and then normalizing for volume), the Ceramic 2-Pot Set from MSR is quite light. Feel free to use it when you're trying to slim down on the pounds that you carry.
Ease of Use
This is a simple collection of basic cookware; there is little to "figure out" and even less to fail.
Every piece is smooth, inside and out, and therefore easily cleaned to the best of your camping abilities. The one compromise that MSR has made, to cut some weight and create their proprietary packing closure system, is to use a proprietary pot handle instead of a universal pliers-style gripper.
In most ways, this is a serviceable trade-off, but some will certainly notice the limited compatibility of the MSR handle. It's also fairly easy to wipe out and clean after use.
Very few features are included with the Ceramic 2-Pot Set. This is a set of high-end cookware to form the skeleton of a carefully curated camping kitchen. For those attracted to this set of equipment, the process of selecting the accompanying features, individually, will likely be a pleasure of its own.
These are not inexpensive pots. However, their value does not dramatically stand out from the others we tested. It compares to some of our top performers, and those that will find the most value in it are those that don't like Teflon but want a similar level of overall performance.
This is a food connoisseur's set of camping pots. They are lightweight and easy to use. If you take care of your nutrition as well as with the aesthetic side of camping food, the health and performance of the MSR Ceramic set will serve you well.
— Amber King & Jediah Porter