MSR Titan Mini Cookset SPOTLITE REVIEW

A reasonably minimal titanium cookset - very light, works well, but not very low cost. Take just one pot?

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by Roger Caffin | 2006-12-19 03:00:00-07

MSR Titan Mini Cookset SPOTLITE REVIEW

Overview

One might wonder how much can be said about a set of cooking pots, even ones made of titanium. Indeed, the MSR Titan Mini Cookset has very few features to talk about, at least on the surface. But that is part of their virtue: they have no frills at all and their design seems to be focused entirely on function - and minimum weight.

There are two pots in the set: a 1 litre pot at 81 grams (2.86 oz) and a 1.5 litre pot at 115 grams (4.06 oz). There is a tight-fitting lid (58 grams, 2.05 oz) for the 1.5 litre pot as well. The lid is deep enough that you could use it as a flat plate or shallow bowl. The pots have no brackets, lugs or handles but MSR provides a small lightweight pot lifter with the set which grips the rolled rim of these pots very securely.

The large pot comes with a lid with a red plastic coated pop-up handle, but there is no lid for the small pot. I have been using a light foil lid for the small pot quite successfully. This weighs about 9 grams (0.3 oz). I imagine I could even use a bit of aluminium cooking foil at negligible weight, but I have not tried that yet.

MSR Titan Mini Cookset REVIEW - 1 MSR Titan 1.5 L pot cooking dinner on a river bank, inside a Backpacking Light Ti foil windshield.

Field Testing

The only really good test of a pot is how well it cooks dinner. Sure, the light weight is an important factor in deciding whether to include such a pot in your gear list, but if the pot is hard to use in the field the weight won't save it. I was concerned about the ease of use because there I had read stories about how the very thin-walled titanium pots burn the dinner. So during my testing I have cooked many dinners in these pots, under both temperate lowland conditions and up in the Australian Alps in the snow.

I found that I could burn food in one of these very thin-walled MSR Titan Cookset pots a little more easily than in a thicker-walled Teflon-lined aluminium pot such as the GSI Bugaboo pot or the GSI HAE pot. Well, that seems eminently reasonable after all. But to actually burn the dinner I had to break a couple of my standard rules of cooking. I was able to do it by boiling a mix of instant soup and rice without stirring, and this is just asking for trouble! Just bringing a stew (rice, meat and vegetables) to the boil, without any cornflour thickening, proved to be quite safe. In my experience, it's the gelatinous goo created by the cornflour found in instant soups and 'stew flavourings' that causes the burning problem - at least for my style of cooking. Instead I bring the main ingredients of the stew to the boil, then turn the stove off, mix in the instant soup or other flavourings, stir briefly, put the lid back on to keep the steam in and let the whole lot cook without further heat. Doing it this way I have never burnt the dinner.

On the one occasion when I managed to get the dinner to start to stick and burn, I did not let the mess go too far. I certainly did not take it to the 'layer of char' stage! Yes, this was actually deliberate, for the purpose of this Review. I was able to scrape the brown goo off the bottom of the titanium pot with just a Lexan spoon, and no marks were left behind. Clearly, the surface of the MSR Titan Mini Cookset pots is fairly non-porous. Not as non-stick as a Teflon-style coating maybe, but still pretty good.

I do not try to fry foods at high temperature when walking. That way lies all sorts of cleaning problems. I limit my cooking to the temperature of boiling water and avoid using significant quantities of fats, and this has meant that I am able to rinse these MSR Titan Cookset pots clean with a little hot water. This means I use less water for washing up (an advantage at dry camps), I need less fuel to heat the washing up water, and it takes less time as well.

The pot lifter (or MSR LiteLifter) supplied is small and neat, although it would be nice if MSR could remove the sharp points on the gripping section. However, they have not caused any real problems for me, and the aluminium is softer than the titanium so they can't damage the pots. The red insulated handles work very well, and the lifter holds both sizes of pot quite firmly for stirring the dinner or ladling it out. Interestingly, while you can't buy the pots individually, you can buy the LiteLifter by itself. However, I don't always need the lifter as the titanium walls have a low thermal mass and are poor conductors of heat. I can often pick the pot up by the rim in my bare hands, without getting burnt. Yeah, it can be hot for just a moment. Maybe there are some advantages to the low conductivity?

MSR Titan Mini Cookset REVIEW - 1 MSR Titan 1.5 L pot cooking dinner in the snow, with foil lid, inside a Trail Designs Vari-Vent windshield.

I normally don't take both pots with me. The 1 litre pot is adequate for dinner for two (my wife and myself), but I have to be just a little bit careful stirring the dinner in it. The 1.5 litre pot is always big enough, and I often favour it despite the extra 34 grams (1.2 oz). The lid for the big pot does have a neat handle arrangement: you can make the handle stay upright by sliding it into a notch in the tab anchoring it. That way the red plastic cover on the wire handle does not get hot when the lid is over boiling water. This is cute - but the lid is still too heavy. I don't take the lid: somehow it just seems to me that 58 grams (2.08 oz) can be better used elsewhere. Instead I take a light circular bit of 0.013 millimetre (0.5 thou) aluminium foil weighing just 10 grams (0.35 oz), and this works very well. I keep the foil lid in place by leaving the MSR LiteLifter on top of it - that way I know where the LiteLifter is as well!

MSR says the titanium lid can also be used as a plate. I tried this once - only. Titanium may be a poor conductor of heat, but when it is that thin the heat travels through well enough. I nearly burnt my fingers trying to hold it with my dinner in it. Combine that problem with the very shallow 20 mm (3/4 in) depth and it was just not realistic.

One consideration which may affect some potential customers is the cost - and the fact that you have to buy the whole Cookset in one go. Well, the price is much higher than for one of the GSI aluminium cooksets mentioned (and even higher than for an AntiGravityGear aluminium pot), and I question whether most walkers really want two pots. A single pot might prove to be more attractive for many. Whether the cost is justified for you however is something only you can decide.

Specifications

ManufacturerMSR
Year/Model2006 – Titan Mini Cookset
MaterialTitanium (pot lifter is aluminium)
Handles Plastic insulated for safety
Contents of set* 1.5 litre pot, 115 g (4.06 oz)
* 1 litre pot, 81 g (2.86 oz)
* Lid for 1.5 L pot (can be used as a plate), 58 g (2.05 oz)
* Small pot lifter, 29 g (1.02 oz) (also available separately at US$14.95)
* Carry bag
MSRPUS$89.95

What’s Good

  • The MSR Titan Cookset pots are very light for their volumes, and have a simple design
  • The rather neat little MSR LiteLifter pot lifter, which is pretty light too
  • They don't burn very easily, despite some claims
  • The low porosity of the titanium surface, so they clean fairly easily

What’s Not So Good

  • They are not cheap!
  • The lid is rather heavy for what it offers

Recommendations for Improvement

  • A much lighter lid
  • Remove the spikes from the pot lifter
  • Reduce the cost if possible - maybe allow single-pot sales

Citation

"MSR Titan Mini Cookset SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/msr_titan_pots_spotlite_review.html, 2006-12-19 03:00:00-07.

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