MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Review: The Ultimate Backpacking Stove

When I was 19 years old, I bought my first backpacking stove – the MSR Pocket Rocket.

I was young, I wasn’t sure what I was doing, all I knew was I needed a great backpacking stove. So, I went with MSR.

And guess what…

10 years later, I’m still using the same MSR Pocket Rocket stove that I bought when I was 19!

10 years!

The stove has been along with me to more than 15 countries and countless adventures including a majority of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Now, ten years later my first Pocket Rocket stove is still going strong, working just as well now as the day that I bought it.

It’s a perfect stove. How can you improve on perfect?

Well, MSR has figured out a way. The new MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is out, and they have really stepped up their game. They’ve taken the best parts of the stove that has lasted me 10 years and improved on it in nearly every way. This is why the MSR Pocket Rocket is absolutely the best backpacking stove on the market. It’s durability, design, and overall price make it a no-brainer.

Having a reliable, simple backpacking stove along for the backpacking ride is a great addition to an already solid backpacking checklist. There a few things in life as satisfying as cooking a meal or having a hot coffee when you are out amongst the wilds of nature, and the MSR Pocket Rocket delivers that experience at a great price.

The Pocket Rocket 2 is the perfect instrument to cook epic camp/on the road feasts anywhere in the world. Plus, packing a stove allows you to save a ton of money over the course of a backpacking adventure.

I personally rarely travel without a stove. And of course, if you are intending on tackling multi-day hiking trips – a stove is essential.

For any backpacking trip longer than a few weeks, having a Pocket Rocket in your kit is as essential as your sleeping bag or tent.

This brutally honest Pocket Rocket 2 review offers up an in-depth look at why this stove is the only backpacking stove you’ll ever need. Learn about the new MSR Pocket Rocket features, camp cooking, competitor comparison, stove safety, and price. Explore how having a backpacking stove will save you money while traveling the world.

Quick Answer: Why The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Kicks Ass

Here are a few of the questions this Pocket Rocket 2 review will tackle:

  • What makes the Pocket Rocket 2 special?
  • How much does the Pocket Rocket 2 cost?
  • What are my other backpacking stove options?
  • Are backpacking stoves safe?
  • How to travel with a backpacking stove
  • How does having a stove equate to saving money?

MSR pocket rocket 2 review

 

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Features

I’ll start off by saying that MSR has totally crushed it with the new MSR Pocket Rocket 2 stove. The first generation Pocket Rocket was awesome indeed though there were a few minor drawbacks that I always felt could have used a bit of tweaking

Probably my biggest qualm with the original Pocket Rocket was that it was difficult to obtain the proper simmer whilst cooking. You really had to keep an eye out as not to burn your rice.

The Pocket Rocket 2 now features precision flame settings so you can go from simmer to torch with ease. They have also added a protective wind clip to shield the flame from gusts and other elements. This backpacking stove is so small, you hardly notice it in your pack.

When the time comes to do a little cooking or coffee making on the road, there is simply no better unit.

In addition to better flame control, the Pocket Rocket 2 is lighter and more efficient than ever before. Let’s take a look at a few of the highlights of the Pocket Rocket 2:

  • Ultralight: Weighs just 73 g (2.6 oz.)!!
  • Fast: Boils 1 liter of water in just 3.5 minutes.
  • Compact: Folding pot supports pack exceptionally small, fitting into an MSR Titan or Insulated Mug.
  • Strong: Robust pot supports offer excellent stability.
  • Wind-Resistant: WindClip wind protection and focused burner push a persistent, solid flame.
  • Includes: Ultralight, hard-shell carry case.

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pocket rocket 2 review

Control the cooking flame with precision. Photo: MSR Gear/ Lucas A. Holmes

 

How Much does the Pocket Rocket 2 Cost?

 

MSR Pocket Rocket 2: $44.95 USD

In the world of quality outdoor gear, some products can be quite elusive for some backpackers. The price tags on high-end items can be downright offensive and elitist. Who wants to spend $500 on a rain jacket?

The Pocket Rocket is perfect for what I have termed the “blue-collar backpacker”. For a minimal investment, you can own a solid piece of gear that you will be taking on adventures for many years to come.

There are many other backpacking stoves on the market that sell for double the price. There is simply no need to buy a fancier, more complicated stove. 99% of backpackers will never need to thaw ice for drinking water at 6,000 meters+. Nor will they be cooking in subzero temperatures.

If ever there was an appropriate time to say “man, that is one hell of a deal”, a Pocket Rocket 2 pick-up is just that moment indeed.

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pocket rocket 2 review

I always am sure to have a backpacking stove with me when hiking

 

Pocket Rocket 2 Competitor Comparison

There are many low-quality copycats out there. There are a few stoves out there worthy of their salt as well.

The Snowpeak LiteMax is probably the closest competitor to the Pocket Rocket.

Snowpeak Litemax Quick Facts: 

  • Weight: 1.9 Ounces
  • Average Boil time for 1 liter: 4 minutes 30 seconds — 5 minutes.
  • Ultralight: Yes
  • Case: Soft canvas pouch
  • Price: $59.95

The Snowpeak LiteMax is slightly lighter (by about 20 grams) and smaller than the Pocket Rocket 2. To produce a liter of boiling water, the Snowpeak is about one to two minutes slower. It might not seem like much, but over time it adds up and you end of using more fuel.

The general construction and design of the Pocket Rockets appears to be superior as well. The folding arms (the pot stand) of the Litmax reportedly come loose over time. The balance of the Pocket Rocket pot stand is more finely tuned to support the weight of whatever it is your cooking.

The Snowpeak also costs a little bit more. I get that $15 isn’t much of difference, but 15 bucks is 15 bucks.

It is also worth noting that the Pocket Rocket when operating is louder than the Litemax.

Here is my advice: If you are a long-distance hiker really counting ounces, the Snowpeak Litemax could be the right choice. I say that only from the perspective of weight. I can attest from experience that every single gram is counted when you are trekking hundreds or thousands of miles at a time.

As far as overall quality, efficiency, and price, the Pocket Rocket 2 wins the prize.

pocket rocket 2 review

Check out our in-depth post on even more awesome Stoves to Take Backpacking in 2019.

Cooking With the Pocket Rocket 2: Stove Safety 101

One must never forget that operating a backpacking stove can be a dangerous affair.

That said, cooking with a Pocket Rocket or any other stove need not be dangerous in the slightest. I have seen children age four or five safely operate a backpacking stove with confidence.

According to the warning labels, cooking inside of your tent is dangerous for several reasons. The obvious risk is setting your tent on fire with you inside. The second danger is highly debatable. Carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is true that hikers and mountaineers have died by using their stove inside a tent. I’ll just say that death by this cause is very rare. Almost always the persons involved were cooking in a completely sealed tent (no ventilation) at high -altitudes where oxygen is already scarce.

If you must cook inside your tent, ALWAYS keep several points of ventilation open. Be extremely careful and thoughtful about how and where you cook inside your tent. Don’t multi-task whilst cooking in your tent. Sit on your ass and concentrate. In the back of your mind remember the fact that if the stove falls over you could potentially meet a grisly end where your skin and the tent’s fabric becoming one.

Due to its solid design, simplicity, and stability, the Pocket Rocket 2 is super safe to use as long as you use a bit of common sense and follow a few of these backpacker stove safety tips…

Backpacker Stove Safety Tips

  • Always cook with proper ventilation.
  • Whilst you are cooking your food, other animals can smell it. Always hang your food away from your tent to avoid having bears or other unwanted visitors at night.
  • Always cook on a level surface.
  • Let your stove cool down before you pack it away.
  • Never leave your gas canister in the sun as they can explode.
  • If you must cook under the shelter of your tent, consider cooking in the vestibule area.
  • Be careful when lighting the stove, especially if you are wearing gloves.
  • Never cook or operate your stove in tall dry grass, leaves, or other flammable shit.
  • When possible, keep a little extra water handy for the worst-case scenario (IE possible forest fire created by the stove flame).

pocket rocket 2 review

 

How to Travel With a Pocket Rocket 2

The Pocket Rocket is small, compact, and can literally fit into your pocket. Finding a home for it in your backpack is easy. You CAN fly with a backpacking stove in checked-baggage, as long as there is no fuel present as well.

This leads to an important question: “Well if I can’t fly with fuel, how am I suppose to use my Pocket Rocket in the country I am going to?” Valid point. In my experience traveling with my Pocket Rocket, I obviously could never bring gas along as it is forbidden.

Don’t worry, MSR Pocket Rocket fuel isn’t brand-specific (though MSR has their own line called Isopro). Pocket Rocket gas is any old can of isobutane you can find.

I have NEVER had an issue with finding a gas canister that will work with my stove. Just about every major city in the world has some sort of a camping gear shop. All you need to do is google “camping shops in X city” and you should be sweet.

Sometimes, in hostels that accommodate many hikers, you can find barely used gas canisters in the free box, left by other hikers who could not travel with them. The free box is always worth a look anyway, so maybe you’ll get lucky. I have scored gas many times this way.

best stove for backpackers

 

Cook Your Own Food, Save Money: Tips For Backpackers

Traveling with a Pocket Rocket 2 is crucial if you want to save money and eat well on the road. Any seasoned backpacker will tell you they almost always travel with a backpacking stove.

If you love your independence and don’t want to rely on going to restaurants every single night, picking up a stove in a no-brainer.

Some hikers, long distance-hiker in particular, opt for a “no-cook” trek. This means that they never cook a hot meal or consume a hot drink (unless gifted) during their hiking trip. A no-cook strategy effectively eliminates the cost and weight of trekking with fuel, your stove, and the food in which you plan to cook. It is not without its benefits.

The obvious drawback: you end up eating salami, cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, bread, granola bars, and tuna for days on end. Food is important to me in my normal life and in my traveling/backpacking life. I have done it both ways (cooking vs no-cook) and I have to tell you, that a no-cook trek is not what I am about.

I love sitting down to a tasty, hot meal at the end of a long hiking or traveling day. Eating a delicious meal in a beautiful place with your mates or your lover as the sun goes down and the stars begin to show themselves is priceless. For me, it is the essence of why I spend time connecting to nature.

Having a meal or a much-needed coffee off the beaten track wouldn’t be possible without my backpacking stove.

Keep your own adventures cooking with an MSR Pocket Rocket 2. You won’t regret it.

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best stoves for backpackers Where ever your backpacking journey takes you, be sure to pack your MSR Pocket Rocket 2 stove.

What are your thoughts? Did this brutally honest review of the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 help you? Anything I didn’t answer? Let me know in the comments below – thanks, guys!

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2 Comments

  • Avatar Jay says:

    Hi Chris,

    great review and on the back of it I’ve just bought my first gas stove, the MSR pocket rocket 2 (always used a spirit burner before). It arrived last night and I took it out into the garden for its debut brew, I was very surprised by the speed to boil, and also how easy it is to adjust the heat once at boiling, but now I’m cooking with gas I have a question.

    What is the most efficient way to bring a pot to boil? I tried the gas at full open and the noise was tremendous, as was the heat, so I dropped it to about half way and it was still a fast boil. So in terms of boil to gas used, what is the most efficient burn rate, about halfway or 2/3rds? I’m trying to work out the gas flow rate that will give me the most brews out of one canister.

    I’ve pair it with an optimus clip on windshield and my alpkit mytipot (a fat 900ml pot) fits the set up perfectly.

    • Avatar Chris Lininger says:

      Hey Jay,

      I am stoked to hear you are enjoying your new MSR Pocket Rocket. I love mine too :).

      Right, in regards to your question: Honestly, I think going full open with the fuel is the way to go, but I don’t have statistics to back that up. In my experience though, the more heat you give a pot of water, the faster it will boil. Makes sense right? Certainly, you are using more gas to achieve that end, but if you open it 2/3rds the way, the water will simply take longer to boil, also using more fuel. I like my water boiled fast, and yes, noisy is normal! I’d say whatever works best for you as far as all-around user experience is the way to go. If the noise bothers you and you’re in no rush, go 2/3rds the way open. Though I do think in terms of fuel efficiency, it will end up being roughly the same in the end. A tip for not wasting fuel is to keep a close eye on your pot and shut it down the second it starts boiling. One can get easily distracted in conversation/beautiful mountain views or not even notice the water boiling if the lid is on. Hope that helped! Good luck my friend and happy adventuring!

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