The MSR Trail Mini Duo is a cook set that excels for lightweight backpacking, especially when paired with an ultralight canister-top stove. Camp cookware, as a category, holds a wide range of products. This one represents one extreme end of the spectrum. It is essentially just a simple pot, with a carefully curated set of accessories that optimize your usage without unduly weighing you down. Confine your food choices to those that require no more than hot water for preparation, choose this pot set, choose the rest of your kit with similar attention to weight, and you can end up with a comfortable backpacking set up that easily weighs under ten pounds with very few comfort or usability compromises. Of course, we must note that hardcore lightweight packers will have lighter options than the Trail Mini Duo. The thing is, even if you cut the weight in half, you are only saving a few ounces, and you lose a great deal of functionality. The MSR sits in a sweet spot.
MSR Trail Mini Duo ReviewPrice: $50 List | $49.95 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Light, simple, just the right set of features
Cons: Not suitable for sophisticated cooking
Bottom line: This is a simple pot and basic accessories for ultralight backpacking; in this niche, it excels.
Material: Hard-anodized Aluminum
Components: 1.2L pot, 28 oz. bowl, lid, pot lifter, stuff sack
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This 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, simple "just add water" meals are the easiest and lightest. In that case, and provided you are choosing to use a component stove, the MSR Trail Mini Duo pairs well with the Editors' Choice Pocket Rocket 2 Backpacking Stove. If you use an integrated canister stove, like the Top Pick Jetboil MiniMo, the Trail Mini Duo is unnecessary, as the Trail Mini Duo does all you need it to do.
Overall, 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 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.
Almost all of the other equipment we tested performs better in this metric than the MSR Trail Mini Duo. The Editors' Choice GSI Bugaboo Camper has deep and broad, thick-bottomed pots and an excellent non-stick coated frying pan with a tight-fitting lid. For steaming rice and browning a steak, respectively, the pot and frying pan of the Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series blows this MSR out of the water. A closer compromise, for the discerning backpacking chef, is the other Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set. The Ceramic set is constructed in a lightweight fashion, but is overall bigger and is lined with largely inert ceramic non-stick coating for healthy and non-stick food preparation.
Here the MSR 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.
The Trail Mini Duo is, overall, slightly larger than the close competitor SnowPeak Titanium Multi Compact. However, the carefully tuned interior dimensions of the MSR, as well as the perfectly nesting bowl means that, when one assembles matching kitchen setups with each of these pot sets (adding a fuel canister and stove), the MSR is smaller. The end result, since everyone needs to carry fuel and stove as well, is that the MSR is more compact and more portable.
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.
The full stainless steel construction of the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set will last a lifetime but is much heavier. Similarly, the car camping optimized Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series set is just as robust as the kit you use in your home kitchen. Like any lightweight backpacking equipment, durability isn't perfect with the MSR Trail Mini. Pack and use carefully, though, and this will last as long as its weight and technology are relevant.
We granted this our Top Pick award for its serviceability in lightweight backpacking. Weight is a big part of that consideration, obviously. 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 .7 lbs.
Interestingly, this isn't the lightest pot set we tested. Generally, for ultralight backpacking lighter is better. However, the Trail Mini Duo edges out the even lighter Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact. What gives? Well, we considered other factors as well. Mainly, the Trail Mini Duo is more packable and easier to use than the Snow Peak, at just a tiny weight penalty. That extra few grams results in greater functionality that smoothes your travels. Additionally, the highly conductive aluminum construction of the MSR (in both theory and the anecdotal experience of our test team) saves fuel over the titanium construction from Snow Peak. This difference is minuscule, in our experience. However, over a long enough trip and with prudent management and packing of your fuel allotment, you can get the grams back, and then some, with the MSR.
Ease of Use
This is a well-thought-out setup. The set includes exactly 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 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. The otherwise close competitor Snow Peak Titanium includes no useful accessories, the lids are tougher to remove, and the swinging handles are trickier to grab and hold than the removable plier style handle of the MSR. The Snow Peak, it is true, includes two metal pots. In some instances, of course, having two stove-ready vessels (the MSR has an aluminum pot and a plastic bowl) could be beneficial. However, for the cooking style that ultralight packers employ, two metal pots are not at all necessary. If you are preparing meals that require two pots, there are many choices better than the Snow Peak. For ultralight food prep, there is no set that we have found that does better than the MSR Trail Mini Duo. Of course, for more elaborate food preparation the MSR will surely suffer. For more "standard" backpacking meal prep we recommend our Editors Choice winners. Both the integrated set of the GSI Bugaboo Camper and the excellent pots of the Primus PrimeTech form the foundation of a full-function backpacking kitchen or even a lightweight car camping set up.
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. At a budget, and looking for a full-featured pot and kitchen set, we recommend the Best Buy Winterial 11 piece Camping Cookware Set. If car camping is your jam, but space is of the essence, our Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series Base Camp cook set has nearly all you need. These two top picks couldn't be more different. The Stanley weighs almost five pounds, while the MSR weighs less than one. The Stanley, though, includes features that more closely replicate your home kitchen set up than any other camp cookware set we have ever tested.
The narrow application of this cook set is its primary appeal. Ultralight backpacking is a challenge, and this set is a sort of "one-stop shopping" opportunity. In this application, provided you prefer using a component stove, there is nothing better than the MSR Trail Mini Duo.
Ultralight backpacking equipment is rather refreshing. In other sports (cycling, anyone?) the lighter your equipment gets, the more expensive it gets. With backpacking, ultralight really 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. We don't consider cost in the granting of our Top Pick awards. The MSR edges out the Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact on its performance, and function attributes. It is just a bonus that it is also half the cost.
Make no mistake, this is not "all purpose" camp kitchen equipment. For lightweight backpacking and simple food preparation, consider the MSR Trial Mini Duo. For all other applications, something else will surely be better.
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Most recent review: July 2, 2018
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