Nearly all of the gear we rent and sell - including stoves - at our retail store in Tempe and to our customers around the country has been tested on actual hiking or backpacking trips by the LowerGear owner and/or staff. For anything we haven't taken out ourselves, we consider user reviews and evaluations in outdoors magazines and relevant credible web sites before adding it to our offerings.
To help you make the best camping and backpacking gear choices for your next trip, feel free to give us a call for our recommendations. If you prefer to do your own research, read the product descriptions on each item, check out our selection of videos and informational pages, and read other user's reviews and descriptions of the backpacking and camping gear we carry.
Below are user reviews on some of the stoves we offer for sale or rent. If we didn't find a review on the exact item we carry, we include one on a similar product that will give you a close feel on what to expect. We scavenged these reviews from other sites out on the big world web, so we don't really know the folks that did the write-ups. But, it never hurts to hear a second or third point of view. If it just gets confusing, you can always give us a call for clarification.
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
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.
MSR's Pocket Rocket is a great little cooker. Best for going light and fast. Perfect as a shared stove among two people, and even better for simple boiling or melting snow for drinking water. I would suggest this stove for use with a maximum pot capacity of two liters, more than this and it becomes a little unstable.
If your menu is simple and you live on instant meals that require only boiling water this is the stove for you. Because this is a stove designed for the minimalist, it is tiny and has a very concentrated hot spot, so if you are a backcountry gourmet and want to cook pancakes and eggs you might be better off with a stove that has a larger flame spread. Again, great for boiling water and melting snow, but not for actual cooking.
MSR Reactor Stove System
I've boiled water in 15 mph winds outside with this stove with zero issues. It boils water insanely fast and does so with minimal fuel. An 8oz fuel canister will boil more than enough water for a couple over a weekend. The only downside is that it produces a lot of carbon monoxide and is quite dangerous to use even in a tent vestibule, so if there is inclement weather, you will still be required to boil your water outside the tent. Don't try to cook with this stove, it will burn your food so fast even stirring won't help.
This stove is great for 2-3 campers. It's probably too much of a stove for just one person.
Lastly, this stove is very heavy for an ultra light setup. It packs well, an 8oz. canister fits perfectly on top of the burner for storage, and the lid had a nook to lock in the fuel canister so there is no rattling while you're hiking with your pack. Watch out for the pot handle though, it snaps pretty hard and can get your finger if you're not careful.
MSR's Reactor is a dream. Living in Oregon we can have all 4 seasons in 1 day several times a year, and this stove is amazing in all of them. First off carbon monoxide warnings are all over this unit due to the heating elements size which is up to 5 times larger than almost every stove on the market, so the CM output is about 3 times more. Complete windproof design, lower part of the pot is basically sealed with the heat element & the gases are redirected out vents on the lower sides of the pot, its very nice to the eye. 1 liter boil time for me with cold water was around 2 & a half minutes in about 15 mph winds. The unit itself is entirely contained within the pot, and once placed into the pot correctly, the unit is contained & stabilized due to a locking plug in the pots lid that attaches to the top of the propane can which eliminates rattling & loose parts. This setup is about $60 more than most other units but is by far well worth double that, the time it saves you alone is priceless. Side by side to a JetBoil in the same conditions the JetBoil went out over half a dozen times with 6 minutes longer boil time. I would recommend this stove to anybody, camping, hiking or extreme climbing. Also it comes with a small cleaning pad that is pretty thick & instruction books in 8 different languages.
MSR Titanium Kettle
The MSR Titan kettle is exactly the right size for a double-size freeze-dried meal, a couple of packs of ramen, a Lipton's meal, or enough hot water to make a single meal and have a hot beverage. There's an indentation on the bottom that keeps it stable on a cat food or soda can alcohol stove. The lid fits snugly so it doesn't fall off and it might even save you from losing your dinner if you knock it over. It will hold the stove and a windscreen when packing it up, plus your lighter and a spoon. The spout is very handy and the handles fold against the body. It's lightweight, too.
There are three drawbacks: the high price, it's hard to clean when making meals with creamy sauces as they tend to stick, and the handles get hot so you have to either let them cool or use a bandana.
Overall it's probably the best little backpacking pot there is if you can spare the bucks.
The Titan Kettle is nearly perfect. It's lightweight, packs very nicely, and is sized to hold enough water for two meals or one meal and a cup of coffee. I was also able to pack my Simmerlite stove inside the kettle which was very convenient. The lid fits snug and the fold-away handles worked just fine (although, the handles will get hot depending on how you position the kettle and/or the flame intensity). My only wish for improvement would be volume indicators on the inside of the kettle.
Coleman 2-Burner Stove
This review is based on a very limited use of this product, as it is new and the need for using it is not great. The stove is nicely designed and easy to set up. The gas feed tube screws onto the gas cylinder and then into the right side of the stove. Because of the design, only the squat 16.4 oz. tanks are usable, though it may be possible to obtain an adapter and hose to run the stove from refillable tanks. The proper disposable tank will not fit into the stove cabinet for travel, so fuel cylinders must be carried separately. This may be a problem for those who need maximum compactness. The throw-away cylinders may be undesireable for those who are carrying their equipment into remote regions that have no trash pickup service.
The stove lights easily with a match or other device and it meets my needs for heat output. The stove was purchased to allow flexibility during the time that our kitchen is remodeled. It was also bought as a backup cooking device, should we have an electrical outage. So far, so good. Amazon was good to its word on shipping and product description.
We have this, but with a larger family, it is really slow going. Doing a LOT of food on a campout with lots of kids and hungry people -- you'll be cooking for a long time. Go for an item with higher BTU's that you can just crank up and get it done.... With a couple of people, okay to use, but it does take time to even just heat water. Plan for heat it up dishes that don't need cooking time.
Mountain House Food
I am staffing a fire lookout in the Oregon wilderness this fire season. It is my first time as a fire lookout (I'm a retired airline pilot). Although I do all the cooking back home on the East coast (in a dynamite gourmet kitchen), the scratch cooking and cleanup were wearing me down in the cramped confines of the lookout (15 X 15, no grid power, haul water for cooking and cleaning up 60 steps, etc).
Then I discovered Mountain House Pro-Pak single-serving freeze dried entrees. I also buy the 2-serving packages, and have the leftovers for breakfast or lunch (the USFS provides me with a propane stove and refrigerator). Last night I fixed a Mountain House Rice & Chicken entree and steamed some fresh broccoli as a side dish. It was wonderful. Cleanup was much easier than when I cook a full meal (even a one-dish meal).
Tonight I am having a Mountain House Beef Teriyaki with Rice entree and a spinach salad. I'll fix meals from scratch again from time to time .. maybe. But I love my Mountain House. Not only does the product make life as a forest fire lookout much more simple .. but it is a darn good hot meal.
Too bad Jack Kerouac didn't have Mountain House freeze dried foods when he did his lookout gig on Desolation Peak in the 1950s.
So, I was the scoutmaster of a troop of 80+ boys and am an avid outdoorsman. Got a bunch of them scouts to do backpacking. Now I'm leading small groups of beginner through advanced backpackers out on trips. I remember freeze-dried meals from the 70's. Ugh! I've tried a number of different brands including Mtn House, Backpacker's Pantry, Harmony House, Mary Jane, and Natural High. Some good, some not quite so good. I've not had a bad Mountain House yet, and the Pro Paks are the best. Lots of food tightly vacuum-wrapped in rugged pouches you can eat out of. I've done a bit along the AT and most thru-hikers bring rice and homemade mixes because they can pack it light - and because it is cheap. The Pro Paks aren't really cheap, though you can find good buys out there (much closer to $5/pack in bulk) if you look.
I'm unsure what the problem was with the one low rating that's posted. I have consistently gotten good meals out of these and I've tried most of the varieties (all but the Chili Mac) and I have probably made fifty or more meals out of them. Those thru-hikers love it when I have an extra one to share after a few days on the trail (I typically take at least one extra meal for every four days).
Mountain House Pro-Pak Freeze-Dried Food Pouches are an easy, convenient, and tasty option for hiking, camping, backpacking, or as part of a food storage program. Preparation is very easy and only requires boiling water. Once the water is boiled carefully add the contents to the pouch, mix thoroughly, close the seal, wait 8-9 minutes and done. Your meal will be very hot so you may want to let it cool down for a couple of minutes before eating.
The freeze dried pouches are small and easy to transport when hiking or backpacking. When boiling water I typically use either a MSR Pocket Rocket Stove or an Esbit Pocket Stove to heat the water in a Snow Peak Titanium Single Wall Cup 600 One Color, One Size. Typically, each pouch will require that you boil 14 ounces of water so it is important that you consider this factor and carry enough water if you do not have a water source available. It is important to use exactly the recommended amount of water. If you use too little water your food will be crunchy. If you use too much water your food will be soggy. Also, once you add the water to the pouch be sure to mix it very well before sealing the bag. I have used: Chicken Teriyaki with Rice, Rice & Chicken, Beef Stew, and Chili Mac with Beef. All of them taste great and are very filling. Each pouch has a good amount of calories to keep you going.
+ No mess
+ Easy to make
+ Easy to transport
-If you do not have a water source available you will need to carry enough water to boil
-High sodium content
-The pouch and contents will be very hot so caution should be used with young children
Even with the cons these freeze dried meals are a solid 5 for me. They taste great and there is nothing like a tasty warm meal after a long hike in cold weather.
I highly recommend Mountain House Pro-Pak Freeze-Dried Food Pouches. They are an integral part of my gear and I use them regularly when hiking, camping, and backpacking.
For more information, see our full line of cooking gear for sale or rent.