MSR Trail Mini Duo Review
Cons: Not suitable for sophisticated cooking
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Duo is nothing more than a tiny pot with just the right set of accessories for ultralight backpacking. This, plus a stove, spoon, and wide-mouth water bottle completes a fast and light kitchen. In the context of lightweight backpacking, a simple "just add water" meals are the easiest and lightest. The Trail Mini excels in packability, simplicity, and weight and suffers for cooking performance and in terms of versatility. This is, essentially, just a pot for boiling water, with a few carefully chosen accessories.
You don't choose the Trail Mini Duo for cooking performance.
The tall, narrow shape is better optimized for packing than it is for cooking. It heats water and boils pasta just fine, but try and simmer rice or fry an egg in there, and you are asking for trouble. The issue is that the narrow bottom and tall sides simultaneously focus on burner heat on the bottom and hinder effective stirring and scraping of the bottom. The good news is that the usage patterns of someone that might choose this sort of specialized equipment lean away from extensive cooking and towards simpler "just add water" meals. For these simpler meals, the Trail Mini is optimized.
Here the Trail Mini Duo excels. The dimensions are optimized to serve two people on a lightweight backpack trip, and the interior is sized to fit an eight-ounce fuel canister and a small stove.
In this configuration, your entire kitchen takes up not much more space than a night of freeze-dried food. This is our top choice for ultralight missions where you need a small pot that'll keep you healthy.
Anodized aluminum isn't necessarily the most durable construction, but it comes close. Stainless steel and titanium construction are both more durable than aluminum.
However, when you consider cooking performance, the minor durability compromise of aluminum is worth it. The pot will dent with great force, and the anodizing will scratch off with time. Be careful about the metal stuff you put inside the pot (basically, pad the fuel canister and stove with a piece of dishcloth), and don't worry about scratches on the outside.
We granted this our Top Pick award for its serviceability in lightweight backpacking. Weight is a big part of that consideration. For what is included, and the functionality of the components (not to mention the packability), the weight is great.
It can be stripped down to just under a half-pound. In its full configuration, it is 0.7 pounds. If you're seeking a pot that'll keep your carried weight down on the trail, this is one to consider. That said, because it doesn't boil water as fast as other designs, it does require more resources than others in the long run.
Ease of Use
The Trail Duo is a well-thought-out setup and includes what you need, and nothing more, for preparing food for two on an ultralight backpacking mission. When we select ultralight backpacking supplies, we immediately investigate how we can make it lighter. It is a testament to the ease of use of the MSR that we would leave little to nothing behind on even the rowdiest of ultralight missions. We especially appreciate the rubber ring around the top of the pot that allows for the gloveless and handle-less pouring of all but the hottest of pot-fulls.
It is for ease of use that the MSR edges ahead of other ultralight offerings. For ultralight food prep, there is no set that we have found that does better than the Trail Mini Duo. Of course, for more elaborate food preparation, the MSR will surely suffer. For more "standard" backpacking meal prep, we recommend other options with better overall performance and features.
This cook set includes a basic but thorough set of features for backpacking food preparation. The set is built around a 1-liter pot (filled to the brim it holds 1.5L; effectively, the capacity is 1L) with a nice, plastic lid. The lid features a cut out for pliers gripping and a set of holes through which to strain your pasta water. Around the bottom of the pot, nests a 600ml Lexan plastic bowl. The pot can be moved, even when quite hot, with either the rubber ring (removable for ultralight use) around the pot rim or by using the included ridiculously light pot gripping pliers. The whole package slides into a mesh stuff sack.
For its intended purpose, no product we tested has a better set of features than the Trail Mini Duo. Of course, for more sophisticated camping, whether backpacking or car camping, you will want more features.
Ultralight backpacking equipment is rather refreshing. In other sports (cycling, anyone?), the lighter your equipment gets, the more expensive it is. With backpacking, ultralight just means less material; less material is less expensive. The MSR isn't super cheap, but it isn't as expensive as you might expect, given the niche application. It is especially notable that it is half the cost of the next closest competitor. It's a high value if you want a high-quality container to make water while on the trail. It also fits a small stove right inside the pot, which we like.
Make no mistake; this is not "all-purpose" camp kitchen equipment. For lightweight backpacking and simple food preparation, consider the MSR Trail Mini Duo. For all other applications, something else will surely be better.
— Amber King & Jediah Porter