When you’re out camping, nothing beats a hot meal and perhaps some hot coffee, tea or cocoa. The problem: actually cooking up a mess that’s worth consuming.
If you’re car camping, no problem. Bring the most elaborate stove you can fit in your car or truck. And you can do a lot with a cookset and a campfire.
But if you’re backpacking, it’s a whole other problem. Weight and space become an issue, and campfire restrictions – or bans – are commonplace, particularly in wilderness areas.
There are a lot of camp stoves on the market that offer a good deal of versatility while providing economy of space and weight. Among the most compact is one that I’ve used frequently on camping and backpacking trips.
It weighs less than four ounces and fits in the palm of your hand.
OK, so the fuel tank is bigger than that, but you get the idea. I’m talking about MSR’s Pocket Rocket camp stove. Repeated use of this particular stove has given me pretty good insight on this product.
Like I said, it’s small. Really small. Even when packaged in its plastic case, the Pocket Rocket fits comfortably inside the side pocket of any backpack. Personally, I stow it inside my cook set along with smaller pans, utensils, a pan handle and a fuel can.
The Pocket Rocket is designed to screw into the top of MSR’s Isopro fuel can. The can itself is a one-use only product (a single can is good for several uses), so once it’s tapped out you’ll need to have another can ready to go. The cans cannot be refilled, which as I see it is the one weakness of this system. If there is a way to upgrade the Pocket Rocket’s fuel system to allow for a refueled can, that would be a serious improvement.
Just about everything else concerning the Pocket Rocket is a strength. It’s easy to light and burns fuel efficiently. A one-quart pan of water, uncovered, can be brought to a boil in about 10 minutes. The stove comes with a fold-away temperature control which is fine-tuned enough to go after a full-on boil or a slow simmer, so if you have a particular recipe that calls for different level of heat, you’re good to go.
I’ve found the fuel is also good at higher altitudes. Some fuels burn pretty rough once you get high, but I’ve used Isopro up to 11,500 feet and have noticed no appreciable differences in performance.
One thing to note: Since the stove’s base is the fuel can and most pans go wider than that, you need to make sure your setup is on a stable, level surface. Special care should be considered when you’re dealing with a full pot of water; a top-heavy set-up means that an accidental nudge will send the whole mess to the ground. Saying that, I’ve never had that happen.
What is very friendly about the Pocket Rocket is its price. MSR retails the stove at $39.95, and the 4-ounce Isopro fuel cans go for $4.95 apiece. That’s about as inexpensive as you can get for any camp stove, and half the price of some of the most popular products on the market today.
So to recap: The Pocket Rocket stove is compact, lightweight, durable and inexpensive. While your fuel options are limited, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better value for your next backpacking trip.
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