The Alpha Set 2.2 from Sea to Summit is a basic, solid backpacking cook and eating set. Two pots (each with lid and clever handle), two deep plates, two insulated mugs, and one dish towel are the start to a complete, nearly-gourmet wilderness cooking set up. The whole package seals together, quietly, to tuck into your backpack. The handle system works to both hold hot pots steady and to lock the lids on for backpack carry. It works in both of these ways better than most. Our only wish, especially for more sophisticated backcountry cooking, is that the Alpha included a non-stick fry pan with a sealing lid. It is this feature that edges the Editors' Choice GSI Bugaboo ahead.
Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2 ReviewPrice: $90 List | $89.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Innovative handle, quiet carry
Cons: No frying pan, nesting the whole kit requires disassembling the cups
Bottom line: A “typical” backpacking cook set with important and appreciated refinements over some of the competitors, but still missing what some consider the essential frying pan.
Material: Hard-anodized Aluminum
Components: 1.2L pot, 2.7L pot, 2 strainer lids, 2 bowls, 2 insulated mugs, 1 pack towel
Manufacturer: Sea to Summit
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Camping Cookware of 2018
Our Analysis and Test Results
Sea to Summit has long made backpacking and camping accessories like stuff sacks. Their entry to the camp cookware market is well thought out and clever. It competes with the best of the best.
On our overall scoring matrix, which we have good reason to believe replicates the demands of "real world" camp cooking, the Sea to Summit Alpha comes out almost exactly in the middle of the products we tested. Since we only test the best of the best, one can pretty safely conclude that the Alpha is near the top of the heap.
This is a backpacking cook set. With such equipment, weight is paramount. And the first thing to suffer is cooking performance. Because of the physics of heat transfer, thinner (and therefore lighter) materials don't cook tricky foods as well. There is an inherent conflict between weight and cooking performance. For backpacking, the Sea to Summit Alpha strikes a great balance.
The aluminum construction conducts heat more evenly than steel or titanium. Sea to Summit chose to use anodized coating instead of non-stick coating. Anodizing, in general, is less effective than non-stick coatings but is more durable. We found that the Sea To Summit anodizing was more "non-stick" than other anodized products we have assessed. In our scrambled egg test, for instance, the Alpha performed well. The aluminum spread the heat of a focused camp burner and no eggs stuck to the coating. Sea to Summit claims that their anodizing is more robust than that on other brands. Our test period is long, but not long enough to have fully assessed this claim.
The anodized coating of the Best Buy G4Free 4 piece Cooking Set was more sticky than that on the Sea to Summit Alpha. Of course, the non-stick coating of the Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3 is even more forgiving of sticky cooking. The thick copper-cored steel bottom of the skillet on the Top Pick (for car camping) Stanley Adventure Series Base Camp spreads heat more effectively than the Alpha, while the Alpha is better in this regard than the titanium of the Snow Peak Multi Compact or the narrow bottom of the Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo.
Given all that is included with the Alpha (two pots each with their one lid and handle, two deep plates, two insulated mugs, and a dish towel), the Alpha is compact and quiet. The handle of the outermost post seals everything inside. The remaining contents nest such that plastic and textile alternates with metal parts. This makes for a virtually rattle-free setup.
The Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo, as the name suggests, is much more compact, but it includes fewer accessories and has more limited cooking options. The Alpha is best compared to the MSR Quick 2 System and the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle. All three of these include two pots, plates, and cups. Of these, the MSR Quick 2 is a little more compact, but the Alpha is quieter.
Aluminum construction is notoriously prone to denting. The Sea To Summit Alpha is no exception. Whether inside of your backpack with pointy things around, or while jostling around the campsite, you will dent these pots. This is an inherent compromise made for the light weight of the Alpha. It is no more prone to denting than its close competition. The anodized coating of the Alpha, in our testing, showed zero signs of wear. Anodizing will last longer than non-stick coatings.
We found no noticeable difference between the dent-resistance and anodizing integrity of the Alpha and the MSR Quick 2 System. The anodizing will definitely last longer than the coatings of the Editors' Choice GSI Bugaboo and Top Pick MSR Ceramic.
We weighed the cook sets in a couple of different ways. Of course, we weighed the entire set, as purchased. However, since the tested sets all include different features, we also weighed the pot, lid, and handle of the set's pot that is closest to 1.5 liters in capacity. The Alpha weighs 1.8 lbs overall, but when you strip it down to just the main pot, it is only .7 lbs.
The MSR Quick 2 includes a similar set of features and weighs one-tenth of a pound less. The GSI Pinnacle also includes similar features but weighs one-tenth of a pound more. Essentially, in comparing these otherwise similar cook sets, weight is a non-issue. They are all close to one another.
Ease of Use
The discerning characteristic of the Sea to Summit Alpha Set 2.2 is its handle system. The handles are secure, rigid, and easy to deploy. The handle of each pot serves double duty, and Sea to Summit does this very elegantly. The handle is secure in both modes. It locks into two positions. Hinged to the outside, it works as a cook pot handle, while hinged to the inside it locks the lid on, securing the entire package. Aside from this welcome attribute, there is very little to note about the ease of use of the Alpha. Our one minor gripe is that to nest entirely inside, the insulated mugs must be disassembled. Removing the insulating sleeves isn't a big deal, but it is something that all of our testers noted.
The bag that contains the GSI Pinnacle and Bugaboo sets is just as secure as the handle lock of the Alpha, but gives another feature for the GSI products. The handle lock closure of the MSR Quick 2 and Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set isn't as secure as that on the Alpha.
Sea to Summit includes all you might likely need for backpacking, short of a cutting board and eating utensils. Grab a spoon from your kitchen and use the backside of one of the plates for cutting carrots and you will be all set. This feature set (two pots, two bowls, two cups) seems to be fairly standard for backpacking cook sets. For more sophisticated cooking the only addition we would make is a non-stick frying pan with a tight-sealing lid.
The GSI cook sets include the frying pan and lid that we dig. It is the lidded frying pan of the GSI Bugaboo that edges it into our Editors' Choice position, ahead of the other component sets like the Sea to Summit Alpha and the MSR Quick 2 System.
For those that cook mainly pot-based meals and want a kitchen set that gets you most of the way to "complete", the Alpha could be just the ticket. The anodizing will last a long time, and the handle system is slick and appreciated.
At $90 list price, the Alpha Set 2.2 is right in the mix with the comparable kits. By choosing a simpler pot set like the Best Buy G4Free 4 piece Cooking Set and grabbing some accessories from your own kitchen, you can greatly exceed the value of the Sea to Summit, but you'll compromise on cooking performance and ease of use.
We dig this innovative addition to the market. With a couple careful enhancements (that handle system and the anodizing that behaves like a non-stick coating), Sea to Summit shakes up the field.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 2, 2018
Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...