The Pocket Rocket 2 is a complete design of the long standing classic ultralight stove by MSR. They’re re engineered the original to be even lighter, smaller, and more stable than ever. How can one of the best stoves on the market be improved? My review.
Starting with the basics, the Pocket Rocket 2 is a small, foldable backpacking stove that connects to most self-sealing isobutane fuel canisters. The toothed support arms are designed to accommodate a wide range of pot sizes, from small cups to kettles. The arms rotate down and fold onto the core of the stove, collapsing down small enough to fit in an open fist. The burner sits in the middle of the arms and is capable of both simmering and boiling with a quick twist of the control valve. It’s constructed primarily from high grade steel, except for a small rubber gasket to prevent leaking. The stove weighs 2.6 oz, includes a hard carry case (4.2 oz combined), and retails for $44.95.
What I liked
Performance wise, the Pocket Rocket 2 is as powerful as ever. On literally frosty spring mornings, I’ve been able to bring water to it’s boiling point in about 3.5 to 4 minutes, depending on the starting temperature of the water and the conditions around me. The small burner concentrates it’s burn into a tight jet of heat that quickly, consistently, and very efficiently, brings water to a rolling boil with no trouble. Even in windy conditions it not only holds it’s flame, but still manages to function at a fairly low simmer without a wind shield being necessary. Adjusting the flame is simple, with a gentle twist of the flame controller that allows for fine tuning the output, and turning it off as easy as closing the valve entirely. Lighting the stove is easy too, with a bright spark from a striker, match or lighter. I’ve found that the stove works quite well into the low 30’s, always producing a steady flame and enough heat to cook with. I haven’t had a chance to test it far below freezing yet, but I’ll update when it’s an option. Overall, It’s a very solid performer.
One quibble I had with the original Pocket Rocket (and the Micro Rocket, which this also seems to have replaced) was pot stability. The tiny, angled arms were just never that wide, and the teeth were small and really didn’t do much to lock the pot in place. Thankfully, this has been addressed with the PR2. The arms are wider, the teeth are larger, and the arms lock firmly in place. This makes a notable difference in stability. The teeth bite against the edges of cooking pots, helping to keep them from slipping around. Also, the wider arms now cover a much larger area, reducing the risk of a boiling cup of water tipping over while being stirred or bumped. Even on slightly tilted and uneven ground, I was able to feel sure and safe with my simmering meal, without worrying that it would just end up dumped out onto the dirt.
At only 2.6 oz with a packed size of roughly 3″ x 1.7″, the Pocket Rocket is small and light enough to be justifiable on any length trip. It’s so small that it can be stuffed into practically any compartment or pocket. I’ve found that I can drop it into my cook pot, along with my fuel canister and striker with enough room to slip in a packet of hot cocoa to keep things from jiggling around. Being just 2.6 oz, it’s not exactly going to slow me down on the climbs either.
As far as durability goes, the Pocket Rocket 2 is rock solid. Aside from a rubber gasket, It’s built entirely out of steel and shows no signs of strain under weight. The arms are stout and easily handle heavy pots and pans filled to the brim with water. The stove has survived being stepped on, left in the rain, shoved into all manner of backpacks, and drug around for miles with and without the carrying case with no issue or signs of wear and tear. It’s certainly built to last, and if my older MSR stoves are any indication, it’s going to be survive for many, many years.
What I didn’t like
My one complaint comes down to the flame controller. It works great while cooking, but I’ve found that, to pack it up into it’s travel case, I have to un-tighten the valve a bit to fold it down onto the body (rotated counter clockwise 45 degrees so that the bars slide down over the thread of the body). This normally wouldn’t be a problem. However, several times I’ve forgotten to tighten it back up after unpacking it, before screwing on a fuel canister. The result is a nice jet of fuel escaping spraying out before I could figure out what was going on. It’s startling and could potentially be dangerous if the user isn’t aware of what’s going on around them (think campfire). I’ve found it more convenient to not use the carry case, and simple fold it down with the valve locked and in a slight sideways position, stuffing it inside a cloth case instead. With A little mindfulness (I should be checking that the valve is closed first anyway). it’s not an issue, but it’s something that I feel would be better addressed mechanically.
While it can simmer, the functionality is still mostly restricted to boiling water for reconstituting dehydrated meals or cooking soups and other wet food. If paired with a thin skillet, you’ll risk warping it from the heat and the concentrated jet directed at the center will likely burn anything like pancakes or eggs while leaving the edges uncooked. The target here is simple, lightweight cooking with dried meals and that’s just about where it’s usefulness stops. Still, that opens a lot of doors for a lot of tasty meals, and this truly is the target of the stove anyway.
It’s hard to improve on a product that’s already one of the best backpacking stoves available. The original Pocket Rocket is incredibly reliable, durable, and easy to use. It’s good to see that the Pocket Rocket 2 not only continues these traditions, but builds on the already solid foundation by improving the stove in practically every way. It’s more stable, more compact, weighs a tad bit less, and still provides all the functionality of it’s earlier brother. Aside from my minor complaint about the default position of the valve when collapsed, it leaves little complain about. I love how easy it is to set up and get cooking, and it brings water to a boil in minutes all while using very little fuel. It’s reliability in windy conditions is also greatly appreciated. In the end, it’s an exceptional stove that is sure to provide hundreds, if not thousands of hot meals at a fraction of the weight of other stoves.
The Highest of Recommendations
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I want to extend a huge thanks to MSR for their continued support and for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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