Review: MSR PocketRocket 2 Backpacking Stove

Backpacking Stove
MSR PocketRocket 2 stove
$60, 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.

MSR Pocketrocket 2 backpacking stove.
MSR Pocketrocket 2 backpacking stove.

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.

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MSR Pocketrocket 2 with canister.
MSR Pocketrocket 2 in its case, with canister.

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.

—Michael Lanza


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Leave a Comment

5 thoughts on “Review: MSR PocketRocket 2 Backpacking Stove”

  1. i already have the OG pocketrocket, and it’s weak point for me is definitely balancing a pot on the tiny supports. i was just curious, thanks!

    • Hi Grace, yes, some design differences that aren’t immediately obvious but do improve performance. The folding pot supports on the PocketRocket 2 accommodate a slightly wider pot than the older model, while also folding up a little more compactly. MSR says the new model is also lighter, but that’s in fractions of an ounce. If you’re deciding between a greatly discounted price on the older model versus the new one at full price, and trying to save money, the old one may be all you need.

  2. Including a pot (like the MSR Titan Kettle), in which both the stove and the canister can fit, this system is a bit smaller and lighter than a small Jetboil … but only just barely. My husband & I have been debating the relative merits of each. Under what circumstances would you prefer to take the Pocket Rocket + Titan Kettle + windscreen, vs. a Jetboil, and why? What are the trade-offs?

    • Good question, Erika, and one I think about often because (when I’m not testing a specific stove), I’m choosing between a Jetboil system or something like the Pocketrocket 2 and an MSR Big Titan Kettle (which I review in this story:

      Of course, the personal (smaller) Jetboil stoves hold a liter of water, so it’s slower cooking for two; you have to jump up to Jetboil’s Sumo or Joule for capacity for two or three people, and then you’re getting into greater expense than a Pocketrocket 2 and a Big Titan Kettle. Plus, the Jetboil boils water great, but the Pocketrocket 2 has the edge at simmering. Lastly, I think it’s a bit of personal preference and what and how you tend to cook in the backcountry.

      I hope that’s helpful. Feel free to send questions.