GEAR SHOP: Roundup

Light and Easy
Backcountry Cooking

Whether you’re a backcountry gourmet or a fast feeder, a reliable stove and cookset is essential for PCT hiking. At least, it is is if you want to enjoy more than peanut butter and trail bars. Here are five of our favorite lightweight stove and cooking sets, with options for everyone from the ounce-counter to those who may like to indulge a little more in backcountry dining.  

1. MSR PocketRocket 2 Mini Stove Kit

When it comes to compact size, light weight and superior efficiency, the PocketRocket 2 Mini Stove Kit provides huge bang for your buck. With this complete system, you get the PocketRocket 2 stove (an updated version of the classic—and awesome—PocketRocket), a 0.75-liter pot with strainer lid, a 16-ounce bowl, a pot grip and a stuff sack. The entire kit weighs just 9.8 ounces and is about half the size of a 1-liter water bottle. It’s everything you need for quick cooking in the backcountry thanks to its amazingly quick boil time. You can even nest your compact fuel can inside for maximum storage and packing efficiency. We especially like the versatility and stability of the wide pot support, which is capable of accommodating the included pot, a larger pan or our Mini Espresso pot (see below).

PROS: Tiny size, light weight.
CONS: Not really suitable for complex meal cooking; ideal mostly for boiling water, cooking soups.

SIZE: 4 x 5 in.   •   WEIGHT: 9.8 oz.   •   FUEL: IsoPro   •   BOIL TIME (0.5L): 1.8 mins.   •   PRICE: $80 

2. Jetboil MiniMo

If you want to do more than just boil water for your backcountry meals, the MiniMo grants the versatility you’re looking for in a complete cooking system. The large stove burner features a specially designed regulator for pinpoint flame control, which allows for everything from high boils to medium sautés to low simmers—especially good for cooking rice, pastas and soups. Firing it up is as easy as clicking the integrated igniter button. And you don’t have to worry about precariously balancing the 1-liter pot on the burner, as it securely attaches with a simple twist. Packing it up couldn’t be easier: just nest the burner and fuel can together, drop them both right in the pot, then snap on the sippy/strainer lid. The system also includes a convenient bowl/cup that snaps on the bottom. Ideal for solo and duo hikers.

PROS: Great versatility for a variety of cooking preferences.
CONS: Heavier and bulkier than comparable systems.

SIZE: 5 x 6 in.   •   WEIGHT: 17.7 oz.   •   FUEL: IsoPro   •   BOIL TIME (0.5L): 2.3 mins.   •   PRICE: $135 

3. Primus Lite+

The Lite+ stove kit was specifically designed with the lightweight soloist in mind, who just needs to boil water for meal packs and coffee. It features a heavy-duty burner with integrated piezo lighter, and a 0.6-liter anodized aluminum pot that locks securely on top with a sturdy twist. The sippy lid of the pot doubles as an 8-ounce cup (a nice bonus), and the webbing pot handle flips over the lid to lock up the system, or be used to suspend it (using the included hanger). An interesting added feature on this unit are three little screw-posts on a handle attachment that can be screwed into the burner plate for cooking with other, larger pots—a cool versatility option, be we found it to be a little unstable in that mode.

PROS: Compact, self-contained design.
CONS: Fuel can support doesn’t fit inside when packing with fuel can.

SIZE: 4 x 6 in.   •   WEIGHT: 13.4 oz.   •   FUEL: IsoPro   •   BOIL TIME (0.5L): 2.7 mins.   •   PRICE: $115 

4. Sea to Summit Alpha Cook System 1.1  

If you already have a dependable stove and just need a lightweight cookset for preparing and eating your dinner, the Alpha 1.1 kit has everything you need: pot, lid, bowl and cup with sippy lid. Constructed of hard-anodized alloy material, the pot is not the lightest option available (that’s usually titanium), but it’s still pretty light—and much less of a hit to your wallet. Large enough to boil a full liter of water, it’s a great size for doing everything from quick boils for packaged meals, to simmering soups, making skillet biscuits, or whipping up scrambled eggs. The equally lightweight bowl and mug are BPA-free and nest inside the pot—with room to spare for stashing your micro stove in there, too. The 1.1 set is ideal for solo hikers, while the 2.1 set is good for duo cooking and dining.

PROS: Compact size makes it easy to fit anywhere in your pack.
CONS: Flip-lock handle on the pot can be tricky.

ALPHA 1.1    •   SIZE: 3.8 x 6.5 in.   •   WEIGHT: 12.2 oz.   •   POT SIZE: 1.2 L   •   PRICE: $45
ALPHA 2.1   •   SIZE: 4.7 x 6.5 in.   •   WEIGHT: 18.4 oz.   •   POT SIZE: 1.9 L   •   PRICE: $65

5. GSI Mini Espresso Set

When instant coffee just won’t cut it, the Mini Espresso Set is just what you need for a perfect cup in the backcountry. Constructed of durable Glacier Stainless steel and neatly contained in its own compact travel case, this tiny espresso maker brews up the perfect double shot in just minutes. And you don’t have to worry about it getting cold, as the set includes an insulated, double-wall cup so you can sip at your leisure while watching the sunrise. And consisting of just four compact parts, cleanup and packing is a breeze. This is definitely a glamping accessory and you may scoff at its extravagance and added pack weight, but if you don’t mind a few extra ounces for a little added luxury in camp (like we do!) then this just might be the treat you’re looking for.

PROS: So much better than instant coffee.
CONS: Packing espresso adds more to pack weight; may make camp companions jealous.

SIZE: 3.6 x 6 in.   •   WEIGHT: 11 oz.   •   SERVING SIZE: 2.5 fl. oz.   •   PRICE: $40 
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