MSR Pocket Rocket stove

Tested by Coy Starnes.

Supplied by Cascade Designs, Inc for testing purposes

MSR Pocket Rocket stove

MSR Pocket Rocket

The Pocket Rocket from MSR (a Cascade Designs subsidiary) is not a Japanese motorcycle…however, it is an excellent backpacking stove.  It is said to be the world’s most popular canister stove and I don’t doubt it.  In fact, I bought one myself about 15 years ago and used it several years.  It was the stove I used on a four day hike in the Smokey’s  with my son as well as many other shorter hikes with him and by myself.  I then went on a homemade alcohol stove kick and the Pocket Rocket came up missing.  Did I give it away or did it get stolen?  I did gave away some gear but can’t remember giving the stove away.  Or maybe it is just packed away with some of my other gear.  I just wish I knew. But that is another story.

In looking at the 2010 rendition of the Pocket Rocket I don’t think much if anything has changed.  However, this is a good thing IMHO.   It still comes in the same small red plastic triangular storage case. It still has the same three fold out legs for pot supports.  It still uses the canister as the base. It still needs to be lit with a match or lighter.  And last but not least, the price is still reasonable.  I don’t remember what I paid for mine way back then but I think it was around $30.  The MSRP for the Pocket Rocket is now $39.95 but by watching for sales you can usually score one for less.

The manufacture provides the following information for the Pocket Rocket

  • Ultralight, Ultra-Compact: Weighs just 3 oz. (85 g), with palm-sized dimensions: 4 x 2 x 2 in. (10.2 x 5. x 5.1 cm).
  • Simple Operation: No need for priming, pressurizing, or maintenance.
  • High Heat Output: Boils 1 liter of water in under 3.5 minutes.
  • Full Flame Control: Glove-friendly controls allow precise flame adjustment, from a simmer to a boil.
  • Flame Protection: Tri-sectional Windclip wind shield protects flame and boosts efficiency.

Some might consider the lack of  piezoelectric ignition to be a shortfall, and to be honest, they are handy.  However it is certainly not a biggie on my list of stove requirements, mainly because I never go backpacking without at least 2 butane lighters.   In fact, I seldom go for a day hike without one.

But before carrying it out in the field I wanted to get a baseline on the stoves performance.  I chose a cool morning and let the stove and fuel canister sit outside 2 hours before starting the test.  I should also note that I have not had a chance to pick up an  MSR fuel canister yet so I am using a 250 gram Coleman canister for now.   It was 18 F when I put the stove out on my deck at 7 AM but had warmed to 26 F by 9 AM when I began the test.  I simply filled my Ti Kettle with 2 cups of tap water which was 45 F .  The stove says it will boil 2 cups in 3 minutes and 30 seconds.  I had the stove on medium high output as wide open seemed like it produced too big of a flame for the Ti Kettle. At 3:30 I had to remove the lid to check the water.  It was just starting to form bubbles on the bottom of the pot but was not at a rolling boil yet. I left the lid off and continued to watch the pot.  It was boiling hard at 4:11 so not quite 3:30.  However, I’m sure the standard test for boiling water is in more summer like conditions.  In looking at my pictures I also noticed I did not have the Ti Kettle centered on the burner very well.  That probably cost me a few seconds.  I’m also sure that a wider pot would have boiled faster since I could have opened the burner up to wide open.  Bottom line, I’m satisfied with the results I got.


almost boiling AT 3:30

I’ll close with a mention of my cooking kit and how the Pocket Rocket will be integrated.  When hiking solo I usually carry my  MSR Ti Kettle.   My cooking usually consist of boiling water for coffee, cocoa, instant oatmeal and common re-hydrated backpacking meals.  In other words, pretty much tailor made meals for this kind of cook kit.  I should note that the Pocket Rocket will not fit inside the Ti Kettle when stored in its protective case but I can fit a 100 gram or even a 250 gram fuel canister inside.  Therefore, I will keep my fuel canister in the cook pot and carry the Pocket Rocket in its protective case separately.  I would just carry the Pocket Rocket inside the cook pot without the case but carrying the fuel canister is a more efficient use of space.   And forget carrying it sans the case in my pack since the tips of the pot support legs would poke a hole in a pack in short order.

Stay tuned for future testing to see how the Pocket Rocket performs.

Pocket Rocker Update: July 26, 2011

cooking breakfast

author cooking breakfast

First of all, let me apologize for being so late with this update.  I used the Pocket Rocket on two short overnight trips back in early spring, then got busy with gardening etc and before I knew it, it was too hot to really enjoy hiking. I thought I might get a chance to do some hiking in the mountains where it is slightly cooler but every time I planned something, a family emergency or something would prevent my going.  When I finally got a chance to go on an extended camping trip it was not a backpacking trip, but at this point anything would be better then nothing.

Back to my early spring overnighters.  I only used the stove for breakfast each time and cooked the same type meal (instant cocoa and instant oatmeal). I first boiled some water for my instant cocoa and then some more for my instant oatmeal.  I used my two piece MSR Titanium cook set which contains a 1 L and 1.5 L pot as well as the MSR Ti Kettle.  On both occasions I used the Ti Kettle for my cocoa and the 1 L pot for my oatmeal.  I was camping down in the holler near the creek and was able to find a good flat rock for my cooking.  However, I do remember having to be careful not to knock the whole stove over when stirring my oatmeal as it cooked.  I also scorched the very center of my Ti cook pot each time. I was able to clean the pot well enough before packing up but did come home and do a better job.

Then in mid July I went to southern Mississippi for a three day canoe trip on Black Creek in the Desoto National Forest.   Since it was such a long drive for me and another member of the party (Brain), we drove down the day before and camped out at a nearby campground before meeting at the canoe rental service the next morning.  We ate supper on the road but I used the Pocket Rocket the next morning to heat water to make coffee for both of us and then to cook my own oatmeal.  The pocket rocket was again up to the job, but as before, I did scorch the very center of my Ti cook pot even though I had the burner set on low and was stirring my oatmeal almost constantly.  This is really not a problem specific to the Pocket Rocket for I have had the same exact results with other small backpacking stoves including my homemade alcohol stoves.  And in retrospect, I think I will stop cooking my oatmeal over heat.  Since it is instant I think I can get by with just boiling the water and adding the oatmeal after turning the stove off.

breakfast of coffee and oatmeal

breakfast of coffee and oatmeal

scourched pan

scorched pan

Unfortunately, I did not use it again on the entire trip since we cooked every meal over a fire.  I say unfortunately, but only from the standpoint of testing the stove.  Once on the river we had steaks each night and bacon and eggs for breakfast each morning. We did not have lunch other than just snacking throughout each day.   The truly sad part is that I doubt I’ll ever be satisfied with my usual trail meals again.

I’ll sum this up by saying that as far as gas canister stoves go, the Pocket Rocket is a great little stove and a true bargain.  I’ve seen other stoves that cost a lot more, but they really don’t do a lot more than the Pocket Rocket.  Sure, piezo ignition is nice, but how hard is it to light a stove with a match or Bic lighter.  I certainly did not find it to be any disadvantage. Titanium pot support arms may save an ounce if that much.  In other words, the 3 oz Pocket Rocket is not fancy, but it does exactly what a backpacking stove should do.  The only downside would be camping in extreme cold when a liquid fueled stove does have an advantage, but at a pretty stiff weight penalty.

MSR Pocket Rocket Final Update: December 10, 2011

I kept thinking I would get a chance to do an extended backpacking trip before finalizing this review but life conspired against me. As such, I will just go with what I have.  I took the Pocket Rocket on an overnight trip in mid October.  The weather was just about perfect. I got a late start (after dark) so packed some left over pizza for late night snacks.   I used the Pocket Rocket to cook my oatmeal the following morning.  I remembered promising myself that I would not use heat after getting the water to a boil so I turned the stove off just a few seconds after adding the oatmeal (2 single packets) to my water.  I then let it set a couple of minutes and it tasted just as done as what I had cooked previously (see picture above). However, I can finally say I did not leave a burn mark on the bottom of my Ti Kettle. I was at a dry campsite so I did not even pack up my cook pot after eating.  Instead I hiked with cook pot in hand until I reached a creek and did a semi wash, then put it in my pack.  Once home I did a thorough cleaning of my cooking gear.
My last use was on a day hike on a cold afternoon in late November.  I wanted to see how well the Pocket Rocket worked when out on a day hike, or more precisely, how would the gear I needed fit in my day pack.  Fortunately, everything fit easily into my Geigerrig 1200 pack and I had plenty of water in the hydration bladder to make all the hot cocoa I wanted.  My fuel canister fits neatly in the Ti Kettle and I carried a Styrofoam cup with the Pocket Rocket placed inside it.  The stove case keeps the stove well protected and also kept it from damaging the cup.  however, it filled the inside of the cup enough to keep it from getting squashed inside my pack. I had my fuel canister inside the Ti kettle.  Anyways, the results was that I could easily pack what I needed and it only took a few minutes to stop and make myself a hot cup of cocoa. And because I just boiled water, there was no cleanup afterward.  I did rinse my cup with a little cold water before putting it back in my pack.I could have just as easily skipped carrying the cup and used my Ti Kettle but I liked not having to wash it afterward.
I have little doubt that MSR’s claim that this is the most popular stove in the world is accurate.  I used one myself for quite a few years early on in my hiking career and saw several other hikers using one.  I have fond memories of hiking with my son when using the Pocket Rocket.  As a matter of fact, I can’t find it and this has bugged me for several years.  It does have a few downsides, but for the most part it is a winner.  One would be pot stability.  You do need to be careful with this stove.  It need a good flat surface and even then I have to be careful when adding my food to the water and when stirring it. However, it is pretty idiot proof.  It packs to almost nothing. The flame is easy to adjust. It shines at cooking for one or two.  I have no problem recommending this stove!

About the Author

I am from northeast Alabama where I spend a lot of my time divided among several hobbies that include  backpacking and dayhiking, canoeing and kayaking, and just getting out enjoying nature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *