The MSR (Mountain Safety Research) Pocket Rocket backpacking stove retails for a very affordable $39.95, but is it worth it?
The manufacturer claims it weighs just over 3 oz., and it will boil a liter of water in less than 4 min. As you can see, mine weighs in at 4-1/2 oz. (but that includes a magnesium fire starter that I use to ignite the stove.) Remember, this weight does not include the weight of the fuel canister which is of course required or a small pot or mug which is used to hold the water during heating. Although the stove itself is very lightweight, I think one needs to keep in mind there will be extra weight due to the necessity of a pot, pan or mug and also the fuel.
I measured the compact plastic protective container to be a mere 4-3/8″ in length. The plastic protective container encloses the stove during travel and helps prevent it from snagging on items in your pack. The bright red MSR signature color of the container helps makes it much easier to locate the small stove when it’s in your pack.
The container is just large enough to hold the stove when the pot supports are folded in. The pot supports are adjustable and when opened all the way and provide a fairly stable base for a large 2.5 liter pot or, when opened just a bit, work well for a 12-16 oz camp mug. There is just enough additional room in the plastic case to fit my magnesium fire starter tool into it. I have found the fire starter to be the easiest way to ignite the stove once it is attached to the fuel cannister and the gas is turned on.
As far as time to boil water, the stove is very efficient and it does boil water quickly, but I have not been able to reproduce the 4 minute results the manufacturer claims for 1 liter of water. I have found it to be closer to 5 min. +/-, which is still very good in my opinion.
One of the biggest complaints that people cite is that the stove is unstable. If they are talking about the stove tipping onto it’s side, I have not found this to be true. What I have found is that when I use my large 2.5 L pot on this stove, it does very easily slide or spin. I feel this is mainly due to the large smooth bottom surface of the MSR pot and a significant amount of liquid contents within the pot itself. The serrated pot supports do little to keep the pot from wanting to slide or spin, but as I use smaller pots or even a single walled camp mug, this sliding action tends to diminish.
I have used the MSR Pocket Rocket on many occasions in differing weather and temperatures and have been extremely pleased with its’ results. I have used it on several overnight snowshoe trips in below freezing temperatures and had no issues with the valve freezing up. Although I cannot say it is my absolute favorite way to quickly boil water, when it comes to the modest price tag and the extremely compact nature of the stove, I would have to say that you’d be very hard pressed to find a more durable, more efficient or more reliable backpacking stove within the $35-50 price range.
Disclosure: I own this product and purchased it using my own funds.