Camping Stove Comparison and Mini Review

MSR Pocket Rocket vs. Primus Eta Express

I was interested to see if there was a difference between my 2005 MSR Pocket Rocket and my 2009 Primus Eta Express. Both are solid, reliable lightweight camping stoves.

Because both are sold with their own pots, I decided to test each as its own “cooking system.”  You can watch my test and get my full thoughts about the two cooking systems in this YouTube video:

I attempted to make the testing as reasonably scientific as I could. I used the same fuel for each stove, and used 16 fluid ounces of 54 degree water in each pot. The water temperature was the subject of much consternation; in a backpacking scenario one is likely to be using water filtered from a mountain stream. That water would be much colder. On the other hand, plenty of people camp in warmer climes or use air-temperature water. In the end I felt that the cool tap water was a decent compromise.

The main variable that was hardest to reconcile was flame height. The flame on the Pocket Rocket is “loose” compared to the Eta Express, which shoots out a much more jet-like flame. Calibrating these two to be comparable was difficult — I did the best I could. Neither stove was “wide open,” and this could be viewed as an error in testing methodology.

I was not surprised by the results. The Primus stove boiled the water in about half the time of the MSR stove, 2:05 versus 3:40. I hypothesize that the gap would have been even larger if I had used 32 degree water. The pots probably make most of the difference; the heat exchanger on the bottom of the Primus pot is much more efficient; however, the much more directed flame of the Primus — it’s like a little afterburner — probably gave it an edge as well.