Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2 Review
Cons: No frying pan, nesting the whole kit requires disassembling the cups
Manufacturer: Sea to Summit
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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.
This is a backpacking cook set, and 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 a 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.
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.
Aluminum construction is notoriously prone to denting, and 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 lightweight 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 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 pounds overall, but when you strip it down to just the main pot, it is only 0.7 pounds.
Ease of Use
The discerning characteristic of the 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 and 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.
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 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 Alpha Set 2.2 is right in the mix with the comparable kits. By choosing a simpler pot 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. Those that'll see the greatest value in this cook set are those that prefer pot-based cooking with just a few extra features.
We dig this innovative addition to the market. With a couple of careful enhancements (that handle system and the anodizing that behaves like a non-stick coating), Sea to Summit shakes up the field.
— Amber King & Jediah Porter