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!

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