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When it comes to backpacking stoves, there are a ridiculous amount of options out there, from super light to super heavy. As a lightweight backpacker, I’m after the lightest stove I can find, but I still want an on/off switch. Paul and I aren’t elaborate backcountry cooks but we do a lot more than just boil water so a proper simmer is important.
When we first purchased it, the Snow Peak LiteMax was the lightest backpacking stove available (that we could find anyway). These days you can find lighter and cheaper options, but the durability of the LiteMax was definitely impressive. It survived not only the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, but made it all the way to Yellowstone on the Continental Divide Trail before I screwed it into a canister incorrectly and crossed the threads. That’s nearly 7,000 miles of use! I would have gotten another Snow Peak, but we were in Yellowstone and the only stove available there was the MSR Pocket Rocket 2, a very popular stove among long distance backpackers. This stove accompanied us for the remaining thousand miles or so of the CDT. Here is a quick rundown comparison of the two stoves and how they performed:
At 1.9 ounces, the LiteMax is significantly lighter than the 2.6 ounce Pocket Rocket. In addition, the LiteMax folds up smaller and more compact than the Pocket Rocket.
The Pocket Rocket did boil water noticeably faster under normal conditions. It was a different story in the wind though. We really don’t use a windscreen for cooking. If it is particularly windy I’ll use my foil lid or build a small rock wall to shield the stove from the wind, but that’s it. The Pocket Rocket definitely performed worse in the wind than the LiteMax.
Although the Pocket Rocket boiled water faster, it was difficult to simmer without burning the bottom of the pan. The LiteMax adjusts the flame much more gradually and is more effective at simmering.
The Pocket Rocket has longer prongs that fold out, rather than spinning out like the LiteMax. This feature adds more stability to the stove, and the prongs are less likely to move around than they are on the LiteMax. The difference is minor but noticeable. Also, every once in awhile I’d notice the tiny screws starting to get loose on the LiteMax, which impacted stability slightly. I’d just tighten them with the prongs of my spork.
Both of these stoves are great for backpacking, and I’d recommend either one. The ultralighter in me prefers the Snow Peak LiteMax, because it is ⅔ of an ounce lighter for only $15 extra. Plus, it works great, it’s stable enough, packs down smaller, and simmers more easily. But if you’d prefer a faster boiling time and friendlier cost and don’t mind that it’s a little heavier, the Pocket Rocket is a really sturdy lightweight stove that will work reliably and last a long time.