The MSR Pocket Rocket Stove is an institution of the backpacking community.
I’ve owned an original Pocket Rocket since 2008.
It still works like new, even after 12 years of consistent (to heavy) use.
In 2019 I was curious to try the latest and greatest thing, and purchased the Pocket Rocket 2.
Here’s my thoughts on the Pocket Rocket 2 and its shiny new companion, the “Deluxe.”
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Backpacking Stove Review
I think the Pocket Rocket 2 is one of best backpacking stoves available today. It’s simple, lightweight, versatile, compact, and effective.
vs the Original Pocket Rocket
I was happy with the original Pocket Rocket, but the Pocket Rocket 2 has a couple of significant advantages over the original. The first is in weight. The original Pocket Rocket weighed 3.1 ounces, whereas the Pocket Rocket 2 weighs 2.6 ounces.
Additionally, the Pocket Rocket 2 is more compact than the original, so it takes up less space in your backpack.
Short of going with a denatured alcohol stove, the Pocket Rocket 2’s weight of 2.6 ounces is tough to beat, especially in cold weather.
Most canister stoves are marketed as full systems (such as Jetboil) with included pots, so the opportunity to couple the MSR with a simple titanium pot creates a system that’s ultralight but effective.
Here I use the term “ultralight” loosely. A true ultralight backpacker probably would not carry a stove at all, opting rather to eat cold dog food or something.
Fuel Can Accountability
For backpackers that are truly focused on trimming some weight, it’s important to note the weight of the fuel canister itself. This factor often goes unnoticed. A canister stove is useless without its fuel can, so the can’s empty weight should be accounted for as part of the overall system.
A 4 ounce MSR fuel can (3.9 technically) has a gross weight of 7.4 ounces, so the empty canister weighs 3.5 ounces. The larger 8 ounce MSR canister has a gross weight of 13.1 ounces, so the larger version weighs 5.1 ounces… empty! Many other brands of compatible IsoPro canister fuel are available (such as LiCamp, Coleman, GigaPower, Optimus, JetBoil, etc.), and we can safely assume the weight of these canisters is or similar or identical.
Regardless of the added fuel canister weight, I still feel that it’s worth it to carry such a stove. The only way I know of to go lighter is to use an alternative fuel like denatured alcohol, Esbit tabs, or wood. In addition to being less simple and efficient, these methods are often banned in the American West during fire season.
Best Pot for the Pocket Rocket 2
In my experience, the best pot to couple with the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is made of titanium, particularly those produced by SnowPeak and TOAKS. I like this 1.35 liter pot that I’ve been using since 2019. It has a wider base than most titanium pots on the market today. A wider base provides more stability, especially for meals that require some simmering (I don’t understand the trend in developing taller, skinnier pots).
If you’re a solo backpacker just looking wanting to boil water for a freeze dried meal, you can save even more weight by going with a smaller pot like this one, with a capacity of just 19.4 ounces (just enough to boil 2 cups).
In the past I used a large stainless steel pot for more years than I’d like to admit, but I definitely miss its size and girth. It helped me cook giant meals to account for a (formerly) faster metabolism. I’ll still occasionally use it for car camping, or when I’m cooking for two.
You don’t necessarily need to couple the Pocket Rocket with a premium titanium pot. Any old cheap aluminum pot will do, or you can just keep things simple and use the MSR pot that comes as part of the Deluxe kit. If you want to use a 2 liter pot as I did in my younger days, I’m sure you could find one made made of aluminum to save some weight.
Fixing a Loose Arm
Be careful, however, with using especially heavy pots. Once on a camping trip I did so (without a better alternative on hand) and the weight loosened up one of the stove’s arms.
If an arm gets loose it can easily be fixed with an appropriate Allen wrench, but this failure is something to keep in mind. The loose arm should function just fine in an upright position until you can get your hands on the appropriate tool.
Can You Use a Windscreen?
You should never use a dedicated, fully enclosed windscreen with a canister stove like the Pocket Rocket 2. The real danger here is that it can cause the canister to overheat, and even explode in extreme cases (yes, I’ve heard of it happening).
If you decide this is bollocks and choose to use a windscreen anyway, the rule of thumb is to constantly monitor the status of the fuel can. If the canister becomes hot to the touch, it’s in danger of exploding.
The best windscreens for the Pocket Rocket 2 are generally homemade. Try using heavy duty foil or modifying a disposable baking pan. Just be careful!
In over a decade of using the original Pocket Rocket and its successor, I’ve never used a dedicated windscreen. Yes, this increases fuel consumption and decreases overall efficiency, but that’s okay. When compared with the alternatives, the stove still performs okay in a stiff wind.
On the windiest of days, I’ve always used random items as distanced windscreens. For example, my body can shield at least 25 percent of the wind. Laying my backpack on its side nearby can block a bit more. Stack some rocks or cook next to a big log – you get the idea.
When using your gear to block the wind, just be mindful that nothing gets too close or is in risk of falling over and getting burned!
You don’t need to exclusively purchase MSR fuel cans for the Pocket Rocket. Virtually any Iso Butane / Propane fuel mix with a screw top will work great. As stated above, some comparable brands are LiCamp, JetBoil, SnowPeak, Sterno, Coleman, Optimus, GigaPower, and so on. If the fuel can looks to be sized and shaped like the MSR cans, I’d wager that it’s going to be compatible.
How long does it last?
Too many variables come in to play to determine exactly how long a canister will last.
With that said, in the field I generally use about 1 ounce of IsoPro fuel per day. This accounts for boiling 2 cups of water each evening, and about 1.5 cups every morning for coffee. Therefore an 8 ounce canister can last me over a week, whereas a 4 ounce can of fuel is reliable for 4 days.
The REI sales page states that an 8 ounce canister has a burn time (at maximum flame) of 60 minutes for the Pocket Rocket 2, as well as the Pocket Rocket Deluxe.
Stove Instructions: How to Use the Pocket Rocket 2
Here’s 6 steps for cooking with the Pocket Rocket.
1) Choose Your Kitchen
The first step is to locate where you’re going to cook and eat. The canister stove should be placed directly on the ground, so the first thing I look for is a level place to set down the can. Soft surfaces are more ideal than hard ones, as you can spin the bottom rim of the can partially in to the dirt to level it.
Clear the area of combustible debris. You don’t have to get carried away with this, just be reasonable.
Be mindful of choosing a place where you can sit comfortably. I find that sitting on the ground or on a low flat rock works best. Elevated seats in designated campsites may look more comfortable at first, but remember you’ll then be cooking down near your ankles.
Stoves an can easily damage a wooden picnic table. Even at established sites with metal picnic benches, rangers will often ask that you place the stove on the ground to avoid burn injuries.
2) Gather Your Tools
If you’re like me, the opportunity to sit down for an extended period to cook and eat is a cherished reward at the end of the day. Once I sit down in front of my stove, I ideally should not have to get up off my butt until the last bite of my meal is in my belly.
So plan ahead. Make sure you have your pot, stove, water, food bag, lighter, spoon, and bandana or gloves at hand. I often forget to have a bandana at the ready, which you’ll essentially be using as an oven mitt.
3) Set it Up
Unfold the arms of the stove, and turn the regulator clockwise to see that it is closed. If in doubt, you’ll see an icon on the head of the regulator (shown in photo).
Minus is closed, Plus is open.
Next, you’ll screw the threads from the bottom of the stove in to the top of the fuel can. Hold one piece in each hand to do this quickly and decisively. I tend to spin the wide bottom of the fuel can in to the stove, rather than spinning the Pocket Rocket itself.
If you turn it too slow, you’re bound to get excess leakage. As you do this it’s best to keep everything in an upright position, but you’re always going to have a small hiss of leakage, regardless of your best efforts.
4) Test the Balance
Before I light the stove, I first like to make sure it’s balanced. So I fill the pot with the amount of water I need, and place it on the cold stove. Sometimes the canister is not as level on the ground as I’d thought, so I make some adjustments to level it out, ensuring that the pot will be stable when I stir my food.
I also spin the can to position the regulator dial so its easily accessible on the right side of the stove (If you’re left handed, do the opposite).
5) How to Light the Stove
You’ll simply use a disposable Bic lighter to light the MSR Pocket Rocket 2. With the pot removed from the stove, twist the regulator valve open (toward you if it’s on the right side) ever so gently until you hear a slight hiss. Then you just flick the lighter on, as its flame is positioned over the stove. A gentle blue flame should flare up, and you’re good to go!
Obviously you’ll want to pull your hand away as soon as the blue flame comes up, but you stand little chance of burning yourself if the valve is only partially opened.
6) Cook (And Simmer) Your Dinner
Once the stove is lit, it’s time to place your pot back on the stove. Spin the valve toward you to engage all the stove’s power (if you’re mid conversation, warn your companions that it will be a bit noisy).
In order make the Pocket Rocket 2 simmer, you’ll close the regulator valve as far as you possibly can, without completely putting out the flame. This is a little easier said than done. It’s best to do this visually – in my experience, relying on the stove’s hissing sound will leave you at a temperature that’s more than a simmer. A true simmer is almost inaudible.
The trouble is that it’s generally inconvenient to do a visual confirmation. You either have to remove the pot from the stove, or you have to get your head way down low to see underneath the pot.
On a windy day, you’ll have to regularly check to see that your simmer hasn’t blown out.
Before removing the stove from the fuel canister, remember to ensure that the valve is closed.
Also be sure to let the stove cool down before folding the arms – don’t burn your little fingers!
When Fuel is Low
When your fuel can is almost empty, it has only a fraction of the boiling power that it once did. The length of time it takes to cook increases exponentially as the fuel gets lower, so you’re stuck with a frustrating simmer until the fuel can is empty.
This takes some extra time but it’s necessary, as the canister should not be discarded until it’s completely empty.
How to Clean the Stove
We all make mistakes, and sometimes your food may boil over and dirty the stove. The best way to clean the Pocket Rocket is to dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe it over the stove’s surfaces. Before doing so, you’ll (of course) want to have the stove detached from the fuel source. You may want to use a Q-tip dampened in rubbing alcohol to hit the smaller crevices.
If you’re concerned about debris that may have leaked in to the stove itself, the heat and pressurized gas involved in regular cooking should work this out over time. Some folks would recommend using an air compressor if this doesn’t work, but personally if it’s that bad, I’d just replace the stove – just another excuse to do some research and go buy the latest and greatest thing 🙂
How to Fold it Up
In case you’re having trouble folding the stove to fit it back in to its case, here’s a short video I made that shows you how:
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 vs the Deluxe – Key Differences
The Pocket Rocket Deluxe has two key advantages over the basic model in this review, with some disadvantages as well.
First, the Deluxe includes a self-ignition function – basically a small Peizo lighter that’s built in to the stove. In theory this could save you the extra ounce of carrying a Bic lighter, but I’d end up carrying one anyway. Some hikers report that the Peizo lighter isn’t very reliable.
A minor, overlooked advantage of a built-in lighter is the simple convenience. I mentioned above that it can sometimes be difficult to simmer the Pocket Rocket 2 on a windy day, as you risk blowing out the flame. Should this occur, the Deluxe model makes it easier to reignite the stove.
The Deluxe stove is also more wind resistant than the original model. It has a wider burner head (for a broader, more distributed heat base), with a curved lip that helps keep wind from affecting the base of the flame. The design should also enable a more effective simmer. Rather than the ignition feature, this design improvement is the main factor that would sway me to spring for the Deluxe version.
The added features come with some minor disadvantages. Namely, they make the Deluxe version slighter larger and heavier than the Pocket Rocket 2. The difference only amounts to 0.3 ounces and a half inch of its dimensions, but there you have it.
There’s also the difference in cost. The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 goes for about $45, whereas the Pocket Rocket Deluxe sells for about $70.
|Pocket Rocket 2||Pocket Rocket Deluxe|
|Weight||2.6 ounces||2.9 ounces|
|Dimensions||3.1 x 1.7 x 1.3 inches||3.3 x 2.2 x 1.8 inches|
|Average Boil Time||3 minutes 30 seconds||3 minutes 8 seconds|
A review of these stoves wouldn’t be complete without touching upon some of their alternatives. I do not have personal experience in owning these other stoves, but have seen some of them in action on the trails.
I’m sticking to canister stoves here, as opposed to backpacking stoves that run off of a different fuel such as white gas, denatured alcohol, etc.
MSR Pocket Rocket vs Jetboil
Jetboil stove systems are probably the most popular cooking method seen on the trails, second to MSR. The main difference in a Jetboil is that the entire stove kit is sold as a single piece, as opposed to the Pocket Rocket where you can mix and match your preferred pot.
The advantage of Jetboil is its added efficiency. With a Jetboil system you will boil faster, use less fuel, and scoff at the challenge of a little wind. This may sound as though it’s overall better, but the system’s downfall is its weight – a Pocket Rocket coupled with a titanium pot blows the Jetboil away in this regard. I’d classify the Pocket Rocket as an ultralight gear item, whereas the Jetboil is not.
Personally I like the versatility of choosing my pot. It’s very nice to to have the option to cook up a big batch of some comfort food (like mac and cheese or plain old spaghetti), especially when you need a boost in morale on an extended thru hike. Integrated stove kits are oriented to simply boil 2 cups of water.
MSR has its own integrated system to compete with Jetboil, called the MSR Windburner.
Soto, Snow Peak, Optimus, & more
At the end of the day, the MSR Pocket Pocket is successful because of its simple, effective, and durable design.
Such a simple design can of course be mimicked, so now there’s numerous competitors in the mix that are presumably just as effective. These include the following:
Soto Amicus – 2.9 ounces – $45 price includes cookset
Soto Windmaster – 2.3 ounces – $65
Snow Peak LiteMax – 1.9 ounces – $60
Optimus Crux – 2.9 ounces – $50
Finally if you’re just getting starting with backpacking, you should probably indulge in my newfound fascination in cheap gear. After all, you might night even like backpacking, so why invest in a premium stove. Amazon has no shortage of alternatives by unheard of brands such as Extremus and Odoland.