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Gear talk: the MSR Pocket Rocket 2

Brewing up on MSR Pocket Rocket 2 while waiting for the tide to drop before crossing the estuary. South West Coast Path
Brewing up on MSR Pocket Rocket 2 while waiting for the tide to drop before wading the estuary. South West Coast Path

The Pocket Rocket 2 is one of MSR’s most popular stoves, extremely suited to controlled simmering and rapid boiling of water while backpacking. It draws on the most successful design elements of two earlier products and has won both plaudits and fans.

Founded in 1969, Mountain Safety Research (MSR) produced their first stove, the remote burner ‘Model 9’ for backpacking and mountaineering in 1973. Further models of remote and canister top stoves followed, some of these manufactured for them by Kovea. The original Pocket Rocket canister top gas stove was released in 2000 and quickly became a favourite with backpackers. Three Points of the Compass held off for many years from buying the original Pocket Rocket. Not due to any particular aversion, it was just indecison as to whether to buy the 71g MSR Micro Rocket instead. In the interim, MSR took the best features of each of their canister top stoves, combined them, and released the Pocket Rocket 2.

Original MSR Model 9 stove (then called the 'MSR Stove') from April 1973 MSR Newsletter. Image: MSR
Original Moutain Safety Research Model 9 stove (then called the ‘MSR Stove’) from April 1973 MSR Newsletter. Image: MSR

The Micro Rocket was discontinued in January 2017 though by then I had already purchased my Pocket Rocket 2. It has subsequently done over 600 boils across some 3000 trail miles including a five month 2000 mile hike across mainland Britain in 2018. Parts got a little rusty and the WindClip kept falling off, so, espying a display model on sale in Cotswold Outdoor, I snapped that up as a replacement stove there and then. Unfortunately that impulse buy almost coincided with my switching to the Soto Windmaster for reasons covered below and that second MSR Pocket Rocket 2 purchase has subsequently been used no more than twenty times.

Careful cooking inside the Duplex , Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath Trail
Careful cooking with Pocket Rocket 2 inside ZPacks Duplex , Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath Trail

The first generation Pocket Rocket weighed 85g. MSR did well to not only integrate some of the desirable features of their smaller Micro Rocket, such as it’s rotating and folding pot supports, but also drop the weight still further to 74g with the Pocket Rocket 2 (MSR advertise it as 73g but let’s not quibble). It is small enough to fit in the palm of my hand.

The Korean manufactured stove comes with a handy little rigid plastic holder with flip top lid, sized just right for the stove that provides great protection from knocks etc while in transit. However this holder alone weighs an additional 31g and reduces the practicality of packing the stove inside many pots or pans. I either wrapped the stove in a small cloth, Lightload towel etc. or more usually inside a little home-made 1g tyvek baggie.

Pocket Rocket 2 (and lighter) were showing the miles after almost 3000 miles on trail
Pocket Rocket 2 (and home-made baggie). Showing a little wear after almost 3000 miles on trail
A true weight
Pocket Rocket 2 with plastic flip-top container
Pocket Rocket 2 with plastic flip-top container
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 will fit in the palm of a hand

This is quite a small stove when folded measuring 77mm in height and around 46mm maximum width across the folded supports. When set-up for use, radius from the centre of the burner head to the far extent of a single pot support is 60mm. I have used my favoured Evernew 900ml wide pan with this stove extensively and it has always been stable though it helps to ensure that a level platform is used as the pot supports are angled, not flat, and the pot/pan invariably only rests on the tips of the supports. The serrations on the top edge of the supports offering little practical use. There is no gas regulator in this stove, nor piezo. These clicker igniters can frequently be troublesome add-on with stoves, often eventually failing, especially those reliant on a thin wire. All a piezo is doing then is adding needless weight. The stove lights easily with either lighter or ferrocerium striker. MSR specify a 60 minute burn time from a 227g/8oz gas canister. That is on full bore. I prefer to turn my stoves down just a little so that things are not so frantic. The stove, like its forerunner, is well named, it has a loud roar when on high. Quite disconcerting if attempting to stealthily wild-camp.

Unfolding pot supports on Pocket Rocket 2
Unfolding the pot supports on the Pocket Rocket 2. Twist out and swing up
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 with pot supports unfolded
The rotating and folding pot support arms on the Pocket Rocket 2 were an innovation first incorporated by MSR in their earlier Micro Rocket stove. Bringing the three supports into operation is a simple task

MSR incorporated a useful WindClip on the Pocket Rocket 2. This is a mini three armed windshield attached to the burner head. Even if the wind extinguishes one or two sides, the other side, protected from the wind, will usually stay lit and reignite the other sides when the breeze lessens. I have found this very effective in use and it works as it should. However it does nothing to prevent the flame drifting sideways in the wind. There is a 25mm gap between burner head and pot bottom which is quite a gap for a flame to be affected by sideways breezes. I usually propped my pack on its side to provide a lee, or used it, carefully inside my shelter vestibule. Obviously the advice is always not to use a stove inside a tent. But in northern Scotland with a million midges descending of an evening. Many is the time I have stood this stove on my sitpad or pan lid and carefully used it inside. There are no unexpected flare ups from the burner or anything like that with the Pocket Rocket 2 and I have never being concerned.

Three-armed WindClip on burner head of MSR Pocket Rocket 2
Three-armed WindClip on burner head of MSR Pocket Rocket 2
Pocket Rocket 2 being used inside shelter, Ardnamurchan, Lochaber, Scotland
Pocket Rocket 2 in use inside shelter, Ardnamurchan, Lochaber, Scotland

While not the most frugal of gas stoves it isn’t the worst either. I will not give boil times or weigh canisters to determine fuel usage per x ml. here, as such measures are largely irrelevant. There are many factors that affect boil times- temperature, elevation, wind speed and water temperature amongst others. What is more important to my mind is reliability. In the UK, primarily in three-season use, my original Pocket Rocket 2 has NEVER failed me over in excess of three thousand miles of trail. That speaks for itself.

Pocket Rocket 2 with Toaks 750ml pot
Pocket Rocket 2 with Toaks 750ml pot

There is a large wire valve control that rotates and adjusts evenly across it’s action and I can operate this easily with gloved hands. The flame spread of a stove can be important when considering which pot or pan to use with it. A wide flame head does not suit a narrow pot where heat is wasted up the side and can overly heat handles. It is less important when marrying a narrow flame head with a wide pot, though heat will be more centrally directed with that. The flame head on the Pocket Rocket 2 is quite narrow so suits narrow pots well, though I have used it for thousands of miles with no problems with my wide Evernew 900ml pan, that is largely down to the excellent simmer control on this stove and the reason I selected it for a particularly long multi-month hike where I anticipated the need to cook over a controlled flame as well as simply boiling water.

There is no brass insert to the aluminium valve block. It has been suggested that relying on simply threaded aluminium for attaching to canisters would result in excessive wear over time. That may be the case but the threads in my example have not noticeably worn. My only long-term failure with the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 has been the WindClip coming adrift. While this is not a vital function for the stove, it is a good feature. Once loose, it is an easily lost item and I got a bit fed up with trying to hunt it down around my shelter and was always a little worried that it would either disappear into the undergrowth or it would pierce the bathtub floor if I unintentionally sat or knelt on it.

The WindClip is a small item and easily lost if it becomes detached from the burner head of the Pocket Rocket 2

I am unsure if the burner head distorted or the WindClip expanded but the gap that originally wasn’t there is all too apparent

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is small enough to fit inside most pots. It is swamped in the bottom of this 750ml Toaks
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is small enough to fit inside most pots. It is swamped in the bottom of this 750ml Toaks

MSR have since released the 83g Pocket Rocket Deluxe in 2018. This added both pressure regulator and piezo igniter. A more important feature perhaps, was the widened burner head with protective lip surround. This provided greater protection from wind than the WindClip. Three Points of the Compass was tempted to purchase this as an upgrade but decided to go with the Soto Windmaster instead. The Soto offering is very similar to the Deluxe in also having pressure regulator and improved piezo igniter, but has removable pot supports and by opting for the three prong option, this decreases the weight of the Windmaster to 67g. The main stove body of the Soto is also a smaller offering than the MSR Deluxe when collapsed. Both effectively share the same design of burner head and you can see the common origins. My Soto Windmaster is also considerably quieter than the MSR Pocket Rocket 2.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 with MSR Titan pot- a good fit
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 with 850ml MSR Titan Kettle- a good combination 

My reasons for switching from the Pocket Rocket 2 were the added efficiency with low gas pressures and coping with breezier conditions that other stoves could offer. My main reason for going with the Soto Windmaster and not the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe was while both have a similar wide and protected burner head, the Soto has much less of a gap between burner head and pot when in use, with subsequently greater protection to the flame from the wind.

Soto Windmaster and MSR Pocket Rocket 2
Soto Windmaster and MSR Pocket Rocket 2
Soto Windmaster with detached TriFlex pot support and MSR Pocket Rocket 2
67g Soto Windmaster with detached TriFlex pot support and 74g MSR Pocket Rocket 2

The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is still a great, simple, lightweight and reliable stove, but Three Points of the Compass feels that it has now been left behind a little in stove design.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2
MSR Pocket Rocket 2
MSR Pocket Rocket 2
MSR Pocket Rocket 2

Three Points of the Compass has looked at other gear from my pack and gear locker here. For stove aficionados, these include my Soto Windmaster, primarily used for three-season backpacking, the excellent remote canister Kovea Spider during colder months, and the diminutive BRS 3000-T for whenever I want a truly lightweight canister top stove.

On a cold and miserable day, a brew and hot food lift morale. An efficient and reliable stove then proves to be vital. The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is such a stove
On a cold and miserable day, a brew and hot food lift morale. An efficient and reliable stove then proves to be vital. The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is such a stove

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