Most helpful positive review
173 of 178 people found the following review helpful
A lightweight, compact, powerful, excellent value stove (and more useful than a jetboil!)
on June 9, 2011
I'm a gear freak. I own 3 Whisperlites (2 I got cheap), a Jetboil (gift) and a Pocket Rocket (from REI around 2005 I think). I have several other odd stoves too. While they all had their place their niche use has been squeezed out by the excellent Pocket Rocket.
I've always been a fan of MSR Whisperlite stoves and have used them for 20 years. About 5 years ago I considered a canister type stove as white gas stoves have the downside of the fuel smell and the extra time to pump and warm/prime the stove. I wanted a more convenient lightweight stove I could use on day hikes, fishing/hunting trips and to make a quick cuppa on chilly rock climbing days. After some research, I found the MSR Pocket Rocket was the lightest and most powerful stove of it's type. It was also less than $35 so cheaper than it's competition. It was easily the best at that time, and might still be.
I have used mine almost every weekend for years, in every season, on day trips and on several multi day trips and now always take it as an emergency stove with a titanium pot, when I venture into the wild, even in winter. Together with a lightweight pole-less 2 man bothy shelter I have all the gear I need to survive a night out in relative comfort at the weight of about a liter of water. When it's that cold I keep the canister in a warm jacket pocket but it has boiled water successfully at 12,000 feet in February, in Colorado. The speed of deployment and fast boil times even in harsh environments mean my Whisperlite gets little use these days.
There are low star reviews of it being unstable. I have never found this to be the case with the larger canister. There are 2 canister diameter sizes, the small one (jetboil size) is going to be unstable with a large full pot on anything but a picnic table, but I typically only use the small canister with a small titanium pot or enamel cup. I have the old MSR Alpine Cook set and both large and medium pots work well with the larger canister.
The complaints about the heat being too central is somewhat correct. It is a very powerful stove with a small head so the heat is central and will create a hot spot, that will burn your food if you're not careful. However if you're boiling water this is an advantage and why it's boil times are so fast. If you then add your dehydrated meal to the pot you must turn the stove down. The stove will simmer on a very low heat (something Whisperlites are poor at) and if I do burn my food, it's generally my fault.
A fuel saving tip (discovered as the solution to Whisperlites simmering issues) is to boil the water, add the dehydrated food, stir, heat again, stir again and turn off the stove. Place somewhere safe and wrap it in something warm (jacket, sleeping bag etc) and leave it for an extra 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. It'll cook no problem, you might want to add a burst of heat if necessary. I usually get to my camp spot, get out my stove, get the food cooking, wrap the pot and then start setting up my tent. By the time that's done my food is ready.
The isopropane canisters are resealable so you can switch them out easily. I'll save the canisters with only enough gas left for one or two boils, for day trips like rock climbing/fishing. Two midsized canisters will last a 4 day backpacking trip for me. For multi day trips I would recommend 2 canisters in case one leaks. While that never happened to me, I guess it's possible, and there are stories of back packs blowing up from leaking canisters (I should check snopes or mythbusters on the truth to that!).
The trade off of weight does mean you have to be careful with it. It's not very rugged and I have bent the pot legs a number of times, they do bend right back though. I keep mine in the hard plastic container it came with, which will just fit a small bic lighter in as well. It's a wiggle but it does fit if you slide both in at the same time.
After many years of extensive use and as a standby "just in case", it still functions like new. I highly recommend this stove and if I lost mine I would replace it with another identical one without hesitation. Mine does not have a piezo ignition built in and that would be a welcome feature addition. I always have a fire steel lighter with me as a back up to the stowed bic lighter, and because it's a smart, lightweight thing to carry in the wild.
A titanium pot, and pocket rocket is lighter than a Jetboil. I own one of them too and hardly ever use it. A Jetboil requires you to use their pot while a Pocket Rocket does not. I paid $15 on CraigsList for a titanium pot but frequently just use an over sized dollar store enamel mug, so comparing cost to a $100 jetboil, the Pocket Rocket wins again (by about $50!). It's only a few bucks more than the cheapo walmart stoves and will outperform them considerably.
The only time the MSR Whisperlite is my "go to" now is multi day high mountain cold weather trips where keeping the canister warm may not be possible. While I bought the Pocket Rocket to fill a niche on day trips it has expanded to become my go to stove in almost every other situation. The pros far outweigh the cons of this stove and it is definitely a 5 star rated piece of kit.