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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

My Toughest Gear: MSR PocketRocket

Online gear tester Will Rochfort weighs in on his toughest piece of backpacking gear to date–and how it has impressed the ladies.

by: Will Rochfort

The author's beloved PocketRocket.
The author's beloved PocketRocket.

The Specs:
3 oz.

More Tough Stuff

BACKPACKER Editors' Toughest Gear
{Ed. Note: In the April 2010 issue the BACKPACKER editors weighed in on their toughest gear. We asked several of our online contributors to offer their winners as well.} Most of my gear has a half-life of less than twelve months. Whether it’s due to abuse, technology upgrades, or loans that never get returned, it’s rare that anything in my gear closet survives for an extended period of time. One notable exception is the MSR PocketRocket.

When I first started consistently backpacking in college ten years ago, one of my first purchases was this stove. Although I may have been able to survive on Pop-Tarts and GORP, I knew that if I had any intentions of getting my girlfriend at the time to join me in the wilderness I needed a stove that would outshine cafeteria freebies. I went to our local retail store and requested the toughest, lightest, most dependable and efficient stove a college budget could afford. They recommended the PocketRocket, and it has accompanied me on almost every trip since, Despite weighing only three ounces, this stove has endured a metric ton of pain. Whether it was rain in the Grand Canyon, summer heat in Joshua Tree, freezing cold in the Sierras, or driving wind in the San Bernardino Range, this burner served up hot meals with aplomb. Even after a gigantic bowl of tortilla soup unexpectedly overflowed and coated the burner, I just gave it a quick rinse, and it was as good as new.

Granted, the PocketRocket isn’t the dreamiest stove on the market, as it doesn’t have a piezo auto igniter or an integrated heat-efficient mug, and it has its faults. (See BACKPACKER’s comparison review.) But I know that when it comes to crunch time, there is hardly a more affordable option that will get your water boiling as efficiently as possible, time and time again. (Something my college roommate, and his girlfriend, learned the hard way with a homemade soda can stove.) By my conservative calculations, my stove has boiled at least four-hundred liters of water, and I have never had to replace a part or do any maintenance (other than shaking out the occasional dirt clump).

The ultimate measurement of success, of course, is whether or not the PocketRocket actually improved my culinary skills enough to impress the ladies. On a weekend trip up to Big Bear, I was rushing to finish preparation for a surprise chocolate-fondue-with-strawberries dessert at sunset (click here for a similar recipe) for my girlfriend. Unexpectedly, a northern wind gusted across the range and threatened to eliminate any hope of getting my double-boiled chocolate to melt, thus ruining my grandiose evening plans. Thanks to the included MSR Windclip shield that divides the burner in thirds to boost efficiency in breezy conditions, the PocketRocket was unfazed. Dessert appeared just as the sun was about to hit the horizon, and my culinary coup-de-grâce was complete.

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Reader Rating: -


Oct 03, 2010

This stove is awsome, it is like a blow torch and does well with the wind. It can boin water in just a minute or so. So easy to use a kid can do it.

dudley ward II
Sep 27, 2010

i think that a pocket rocket would make a fine stove but for anything over a liter i want more . i am going with a snow peak giga power because it looks more substantial and i want to use a big canister because i spend a lot of time out there . i traditionally like kerosene but i want to get into the market for a canister because of its' versatility ... i'll tell you what i'll get a pocket rocket too and if it holds up i'll email back in six months .

Aug 17, 2010

The PocketRocket was my first stove - I loved the portability and tiny size. Very cool.

But unfortunately I kicked it by accident one day and bent the pot holder and it got loose permanently.

RETURNED it and bought a MSR Superfly, which has never given me problems.

Now I own an Optimus NOVA and that is my go-to all time stove.

Sorry to disagree about the PocketRocket!

Aug 09, 2010

The design of it looks convenient, I bet it is a great ultralight backpacking stove. But it just seems to small to cook with larger pots. I use the Whisperlite Internationale, because I can use it in colder weather, with either white gas or kerosene. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good little stove, but it's just not as dependable as I need. The Pocket Rocket would be a great beginner's stove though.

Aug 03, 2010

I've had this stove for nearly a decade. I LOVE IT! I just bought a jetboil. It's a nice stove too (If all you want to do is boil water). If I'm doing more than boiling water, I find myself reaching for the PocketRocket. Best stove ever!

Jul 31, 2010

I've been rocking this rocket on every trip for about 10 years now and it's still going. It's light, tiny, cheap (only $30 back-in-the-day), doesn't hog fuel, and handles pretty big loads. I'm always amazed at how little fuel I use, one can of isopro will last for a dozen+ meals. I usually don't like the hassle of a fire for breakfast so this micro stove has been the ticket for quick hot meals before getting back on the trail. As in the article, this is one of those staple pieces of my equipment that automatically goes in the pack for anything more than a day hike.

mike cozzi
Jul 29, 2010

I have had the pocket rocket for two or three years. far!

Lynne aka foggy
Jul 27, 2010

as for the durability, I always use the case it came in, I imagine just throwing it in a backpack or ursack would reduce the durability drastically.

Lynne Moran aka foggy
Jul 27, 2010

My friend Marszit gave me a pocket rocket4-5 years ago, it is one of my favorite pieces of gear, and it is very fuel efficient, uses every last drop and then I can recycle the canisters. I have found the pocket rocket very durable, takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.

Kevin in Texas
Jul 27, 2010

We have used this stove for almost 3 yrs now and have never had a problem. It's so easy to use, my 12 yr old daughter can easily operate it to make morning coffee for Dear Old Dad while on the trail.

Jul 27, 2010

I think the Brunton Raptor is one of the most under-rated stove - bulletproof

Jason Helmandollar
Jul 26, 2010

Had my pocket rocket for about 2 1/2yrs and have not had the first problem with it, great stove.

Jul 26, 2010

sixgun- if it aint broke...

Jul 26, 2010

sixgun- if it aint broke...

Jul 25, 2010

Stove makes daddy proud. I've had this joker for 8 years and it still works fine. Never realized other peoples stuff broke. I like it cause it's so crazy small!!

Joe F
Jul 25, 2010

Lack of durability? We use them in the outing club, and they are ABUSED by college students year after year and we haven't had one problem with them yet. We've had pocket rockets for around 4 years now, and everything has been thrown at them including throw up, sea water, sand, and in one case vegetable oil.

Jul 25, 2010

Why hasen't MSR come out with any new stoves, the last new stove was aroun 3 to 4 years ago, come to think of it they are the slowest company for new stoves, just a thought.

Will Rochfort
Jul 22, 2010

Family Guy,

You bring up a good point I should have added: make sure to take the time to put the stove back in its case before tossing it in your pack. The pot holders have held up just fine for me, and I've put some larger-than-recommended pots on this stove for some of our group trips. - WMR

Jul 22, 2010

Interesting. As the lack of durability of the Pocket Rocket is one of its biggest criticisms. The pot holders are abysmal. They bend much too easily.

Jul 22, 2010

Close your parentheses in the last paragraph.


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