MSR PocketRocket 2 stove
$50, 3 oz. (4 oz. with plastic case, included)
On three-season backpacking trips of two days to a week, with one or two companions—especially when you’re oriented toward cooking simple, one-pot meals—a single-burner canister stove offers efficiency and versatility in a very lightweight, compact, affordable, and durable package. On various trips, including an 80-mile, five-day backpacking trip with a friend in the North Cascades National Park Complex, and a three-day, 40-mile hike in Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness, the MSR Pocketrocket 2 demonstrated to me why it’s a leading choice in this category of ultralight stoves, on top of representing an improvement over its predecessor.
If your priorities are low weight and bulk, you can hardly do better than the Pocketrocket 2. At three ounces, its three pot-support arms fold up against the burner to create a collapsed unit that almost disappears inside a closed fist. But when deployed, the stove easily holds pots of two to 2.5 liters. MSR says the Pocketrocket 2—which, like many similar models, burns standard MSR IsoPro fuel and any other brand’s screw-top, isobutane canister fuel—boils a liter of water in 3.5 minutes, a metric undoubtedly measured with no wind at low elevations.
In the field, I found the stove, when mostly protected from wind on mornings around 40° F in the North Cascades and in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, boils a liter of cold, mountain lake or stream water in four to five minutes—as quickly as similar models. Also like other single-burner canister stoves, it has very precise flame control, enabling you to dial back the heat and avoid burning food to the pot when a meal requires a longer cooking time over low heat.
Assembling it is about as easy as backcountry cooking gets: Fold out the pot supporters, screw it onto a canister, and light it. One advantage of this type of stove is that its simplicity of design means there’s little to break, so they tend to last for many years. The Pocketrocket 2 lacks an auto-lighter, so you have to use an old-fashioned match or butane lighter; but I’ve seen stove auto-lighters that function well for years, and others that break within two or three seasons. Plus, like any canister stove that burns isobutane or butane-based fuel, freezing temperatures can cause condensation on the canister and diminish flame output. (Placing the canister in a pan of shallow water while cooking alleviates that problem.)
While self-contained cooking systems are popular with solo backpackers, MSR’s Pocketrocket 2 provides a more affordable burner that’s versatile, efficient, ultralight and compact, for two or three backpackers on weekend to weeklong trips, and will likely endure many years of use.
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NOTE: I reviewed gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.