Tuesday, September 29, 2009


My review of the MSR Pocket Rocket.
This review will be on the MSR Pocket Rocket ultralight backpacking stove. 

MSR (mountain safety research) has a pretty outstanding reputation as being a high quality provider of various camping and backpacking gear.  The pocket rocket stove is the most affordable and consequently most popular ultralight stove they offer.  Like anything else it has its pros and cons, but first I'll tell you what MSR claims right on the box.

Burn time: aprox. 60 min. / 8oz. canister
Boil time: 3.5 min. / 1 liter water
Water boiled per oz. fuel = 2 liters (8 oz. canister = 16 liters)

The pocket rocket has three serrated pot supports for stability, a wind resistant clip over the burner, and "glove friendly" flame control.  What they mean by glove friendly is that it can be operated while wearing gloves easily, not that you should wear gloves due to heat.  I have operated the pocket rocket on full blast several times and the flame control handle has never been hot enough to burn me.

The first thing I noticed about the pocket rocket was that it was actually pretty small.  I had been using a Coleman white gas hiking stove for a while and now I can't believe I used to lug that heavy thing around!  The pocket rocket weighs only 3oz. and fits in the palm of your hand!  It also comes with a hard plastic carrying case that could be useful.  The stove is actually small enough to fit inside my cookset, so that's where I leave it.

Another advantage to this stove is sheer heat.  This thing is really just a vertical blowtorch.  But not only does the pocket rocket produce a lot of flame when you need to boil water quickly, it will also adjust to a nice low flame to simmer.  I was really impressed with the range of adjustment. 

MSR claims that the stove will boil 1 liter of water in 3.5 minutes.  I had to put this one to the test.  I put 4 cups of cold tap water (slightly less than 1 liter) into the GSI Dualist cookset and timed how long it took to get to a rolling boil.  I came up with 3 minutes 34 seconds.  Not bad!  Considering it was cold water and I waited for a rolling boil, I'd say this stove performs every bit as well as MSR claims.

After going through a couple of fuel cannisters, I would say their estimate on fuel consumption is only close.  It seems to me that in a controlled environment like the one I demonstrated above, their figures are probably accurate.  However, on the trail is a different story.  The big factor here is wind.  The wind guard clip on the burner works to keep the stove lit, but does little in a constant wind to cook your food.  The easiest solution to this is simply to stack up some rocks upwind of your stove.  Even with this the fuel isn't really an issue for weekend trips or short section hikes.  I can get about 10-14 days of cooking done with one 8oz. canister.  If you are a little more frivolous with your fuel or if you are simmering anything for long periods of time, then look for that number to drop a little. 

There are two sizes of fuel cannisters that MSR sells.  They are 4 and 8 oz. respectively. The cannister design is a good one for most cases.  Of course there are a couple drawbacks.  The cannisters don't like to work when they are really cold.  A simple solution to this is just to keep a cannister in your jacket to warm it up or in your sleeping bag so it will be ready to go for breakfast.  The other drawback is that you are not supposed to use a windscreen with them for fear that they may over heat and explode.  Other than that, they are good to go and the MSR pocket rocket will even fit onto other manufactuers' fuel cannisters.

The last thing I would like to bring up is about the pot supports.  I have read others reviews of the stove and have heard mention that the pot supports are flimsy.  Not true.  They are actually very sturdy in my experience.  I don't think that they would hold a cast iron skillet or anything like that, but that's not what they are designed to hold.  If you are using a backpacker's cookset or mess kit you will have no problems with the pot supports.

In conclusion:
Pros:  Lightweight, sturdy, decent fuel consumption, cost, boils water really fast
Cons:  Wind gaurd doesn't do much, can not use a windscreen, cannisters do not like sub freezing temp.

All in all for 40 bucks I dont think you'll find a better stove than the MSR pocket rocket.

In my next post I will be reviewing the GSI dualist cookset!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Looking for a great way to spend a weekend with a friend or family member? S.C.U.B.A. diving may be the way to go! Have you ever wondered what it would be like? It's a whole lot better than sitting on your couch all weekend eating potato chips. I have been a certified diver for six years, and my wife recently received her qualification. There is nothing quite like being able to breathe 100 feet below the surface. If that sounds scary to you, don't worry. More people die bowling every year (heart attack, stroke.. i guess all that beer and cigarette smoke really is bad for you ) than die from scuba accidents. My dive instructor told me from day one that "There is no such thing as an underwater emergency". I believe what he really meant by that is this. As long as you keep your head about you, there is always a fail safe as long as you follow the rules.

If you like adventure (and my comments above didn't scare you away) then this sport may be for you! There are diving sites all over the world that offer unique experiences. You could dive ship wrecks, or coral reefs. You could be an underwater photographer or even a treasure hunter. Lets look at some of the basic gear so that you will be able to determine if you would like to get into this sport.

Scuba is an acronym for self contained underwater breathing apparatus. This apparatus is usually composed of the following parts and systems.

1. BCD or buoyancy compensating device: This allows you to inflate or deflate a bag inside the vest to make yourself buoyant in the water. I.E. Allows you to hover at any given depth without shooting up to the surface or sinking like a rock.

2. Tank and regulators + hoses: The most common tank for recreational diving seems to be either a steel or aluminum 80 cubic inch tank. It will hold up to 3,000 psi of glorious air. This should be enough to keep you underwater for at least an hour or so depending on your depth. Attached to the tank is a first stage regulator that converts the high pressure in the tank to a lower pressure that you can breath from or inflate your bcd. Hoses run from the first stage to your second stage/s and your bcd. The second stage is another regulator, but this one has a mouthpiece that you can breath from. Modern second stage regs. have a diaphragm that allows you to breath quite easily underwater. It makes it just as easy to breath underwater as it is on the surface. Also attached to the first stage is one more hose that goes to your gauge pod. Gauges can range from just depth and air pressure to full blown dive computers that calculate every aspect of a dive. For beginners a dive computer is really not needed.

3. Mask, fins, snorkel: These items are really up to personal preference. Some divers swear by their split fins, while I swear by my old scuba pro jet fins. It's really up to you to find what works best. The only thing in this arena that is imperative is that you have a mask with tempered glass. A mask that has a plastic or even untempered glass could crack or implode from the pressure of being so far under the surface.
This is in no way a complete gear list. In most places you'll most likely wear a wetsuit, hood, boots, gloves etc. There are also dry suits and other various equipment that many divers choose to take down such as underwater cameras and writing boards. A friend of mine and I even made an underwater deck of cards by weighting all plastic playing cards. The options are nearly endless.

In conclusion, scuba is a very fun and rewarding hobby that may take you to many interesting places.

Keep in mind that you should never dive without a buddy, and you should not dive unless you have completed a divers certification course. These courses are available at most dive centers. If you are land-locked fear not! There are many rock quarries across the country that have been converted to diving sanctuaries. I got certified in Ohio and made many of my early dives in a quarry. Remember, be safe and have fun. I'll see you on the bottom!