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MSR Trail Mini Duo Review

This is a simple pot and basic accessories for ultralight backpacking; in this niche, it excels.
MSR Trail Mini Duo
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $50 List | $49.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Light, simple, just the right set of features
Cons:  Not suitable for sophisticated cooking
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Amber King & Jediah Porter  ⋅  Nov 27, 2019
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 13
  • Cooking Performance - 25% 3
  • Packability - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Weight - 15% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Features - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The MSR Trail Mini Duo is a cook set that excels in lightweight backpacking, especially when paired with an ultralight canister-top stove. Camp cookware, as a category, holds a wide range of products, and this one represents one extreme end of the spectrum. It is essentially just a simple pot with a carefully curated set of accessories that optimize your usage without unduly weighing you down. Confine your food choices to those that require no more than hot water for preparation, choose this pot set, choose the rest of your kit with similar attention to weight, and you can end up with a comfortable backpacking set up that easily weighs under ten pounds with very few comfort or usability compromises.


Compare to Similar Products

 
MSR Trail Mini Duo
This Product
MSR Trail Mini Duo
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $49.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$70.97 at AmazonCheck Price at Amazon
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$64.99 at Amazon
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$25.99 at Amazon
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Pros Light, simple, just the right set of featuresSturdy construction and efficiency-oriented heat exchanger ring, locking universal pot gripperEnvironmental and health-friendly ceramic construction, lightweight and versatile overall constructionDurable, excellent frying pan for discerning cooks, great lidGreat starter set, stable handles, some versatile pieces
Cons Not suitable for sophisticated cookingHeavy, especially for a kit that requires addition of other features, heat exchanger ring is a little messyFragile coating and pots dent easily, no features beyond two basic potsHeavy, no non-stick coatingSmall bowls, unnecessary accessories
Bottom Line This is a simple pot and basic accessories for ultralight backpacking; in this niche, it excels.A few attributes make this efficiency-oriented cook set an excellent foundation for the practical, hearty-cooking, enthusiastic user.For gourmet and health-conscious campers, this set will form the foundation of a kit that will prepare the best meals possible outside for 3-4 people.A car camping cook set, optimized for performance and compact carry, at a high weight.A budget, one stop shop for basic camping menus.
Rating Categories MSR Trail Mini Duo Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set Stanley Adventure Base Camp 11 Piece Camping Set
Cooking Performance (25%)
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9
10
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8
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9
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7
Packability (20%)
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8
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6
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7
10
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4
10
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7
Durability (15%)
10
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8
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6
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6
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10
10
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6
Weight (15%)
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9
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8
10
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9
Ease Of Use (15%)
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7
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5
Features (10%)
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7
Specs MSR Trail Mini Duo Primus PrimeTech... MSR Ceramic 2-Pot... Stanley Adventure... 11 Piece Camping Set
Measured Weight 0.7 lbs 1.6 lbs 1 lbs 4.8 lbs 1.8 lbs
Material Hard-anodized Aluminum Aluminum Hard-anodized Aluminum Stainless Steel. Pot and pan bottoms have additional layers. Hard-anodized Aluminum
Components 1.2L pot, 28 oz. bowl, lid, pot lifter, stuff sack 2 2.3L pots, 1 lid, pot tongs, padded/insulated storage bag 2L pot, 1.5L pot, strainer lid, 2 plates, 2 mugs, handle 3.5L pot, vented lid, 7" 3ply frying pan, cutting board, spatula with extending handle, serving spoon with extending handle, [4] 6in plates, [4] 22oz bowls, [4] sporks, dish drying rack, heat resistant trivet, locking bungee 1.9L pot, 6.5" frypan, lid, kettle, ladle, 2 bowls, spatula, scrubbing pad, hot pad
Avg Boil Time (mins) 4.02 3.12 3.58 4.12 3.5
3L Pot? (>2.4L) 0 0 0 1 0
2L Pot? (1.5-2.4L) 0 2 1 0 1
1L Pot? (.5-1.4L) 1 0 0 0 0
Frying Pan? 0 0 0 1 1
Frying Pan Lid? N/a N/a N/a No No
Packed Size (inches) 5 x 5.5 in 7.9 x 5.3 in 5.3 x 7.8 in 11 x 6 x 11 in 6.75 x 3.5 in
Weight of pot closest to 1.5L, with lid and handle 0.5lbs 0.9 lbs 0.5 lbs 1.9 lbs 0.6 lbs
Cooking Surfaces Hard anodized Non-stick Teflon like coating One (1.5L) non-stick pot, One (2.5L) uncoated pot Stainless-steel Non-stick Teflon coating on each piece

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Duo is nothing more than a tiny pot with just the right set of accessories for ultralight backpacking. This, plus a stove, spoon, and wide-mouth water bottle completes a fast and light kitchen. In the context of lightweight backpacking, a simple "just add water" meals are the easiest and lightest. The Trail Mini excels in packability, simplicity, and weight and suffers for cooking performance and in terms of versatility. This is, essentially, just a pot for boiling water, with a few carefully chosen accessories.

Performance Comparison


Light and fast travel requires light and fast food and kitchen supplies. The Trail Mini Duo is just what the doctor ordered. Here our lead test editor Jediah Porter bulks up his ultralight kitchen with a frying pan for night one steak time. Otherwise  his kit is uber light with the Trail Mini Duo.
Light and fast travel requires light and fast food and kitchen supplies. The Trail Mini Duo is just what the doctor ordered. Here our lead test editor Jediah Porter bulks up his ultralight kitchen with a frying pan for night one steak time. Otherwise, his kit is uber light with the Trail Mini Duo.

Cooking Performance


You don't choose the Trail Mini Duo for cooking performance.


The tall, narrow shape is better optimized for packing than it is for cooking. It heats water and boils pasta just fine, but try and simmer rice or fry an egg in there, and you are asking for trouble. The issue is that the narrow bottom and tall sides simultaneously focus on burner heat on the bottom and hinder effective stirring and scraping of the bottom. The good news is that the usage patterns of someone that might choose this sort of specialized equipment lean away from extensive cooking and towards simpler "just add water" meals. For these simpler meals, the Trail Mini is optimized.

The tall  narrow profile of the Trail Mini Duo is well suited to packing  but means the heat of your burner is further concentrated.
The tall, narrow profile of the Trail Mini Duo is well suited to packing, but means the heat of your burner is further concentrated.

Packability


Here the Trail Mini Duo excels. The dimensions are optimized to serve two people on a lightweight backpack trip, and the interior is sized to fit an eight-ounce fuel canister and a small stove.


In this configuration, your entire kitchen takes up not much more space than a night of freeze-dried food. This is our top choice for ultralight missions where you need a small pot that'll keep you healthy.

MSR gives thought to overall packability. Their Pocket Rocket 2 stove and an 8 ounce fuel canister fit right inside the Trail Mini Duo pot  along with the pot gripper and maybe a couple oatmeal packets.
MSR gives thought to overall packability. Their Pocket Rocket 2 stove and an 8 ounce fuel canister fit right inside the Trail Mini Duo pot, along with the pot gripper and maybe a couple oatmeal packets.

Durability


Anodized aluminum isn't necessarily the most durable construction, but it comes close. Stainless steel and titanium construction are both more durable than aluminum.


However, when you consider cooking performance, the minor durability compromise of aluminum is worth it. The pot will dent with great force, and the anodizing will scratch off with time. Be careful about the metal stuff you put inside the pot (basically, pad the fuel canister and stove with a piece of dishcloth), and don't worry about scratches on the outside.

Weight


We granted this our Top Pick award for its serviceability in lightweight backpacking. Weight is a big part of that consideration. For what is included, and the functionality of the components (not to mention the packability), the weight is great.


It can be stripped down to just under a half-pound. In its full configuration, it is 0.7 pounds. If you're seeking a pot that'll keep your carried weight down on the trail, this is one to consider. That said, because it doesn't boil water as fast as other designs, it does require more resources than others in the long run.

A mid-route bivouac high on Wyoming's Mount Moran. In this context  an ultralight cooking set up is paramount.
A mid-route bivouac high on Wyoming's Mount Moran. In this context, an ultralight cooking set up is paramount.

Ease of Use


The Trail Duo is a well-thought-out setup and includes what you need, and nothing more, for preparing food for two on an ultralight backpacking mission. When we select ultralight backpacking supplies, we immediately investigate how we can make it lighter. It is a testament to the ease of use of the MSR that we would leave little to nothing behind on even the rowdiest of ultralight missions. We especially appreciate the rubber ring around the top of the pot that allows for the gloveless and handle-less pouring of all but the hottest of pot-fulls.


It is for ease of use that the MSR edges ahead of other ultralight offerings. For ultralight food prep, there is no set that we have found that does better than the Trail Mini Duo. Of course, for more elaborate food preparation, the MSR will surely suffer. For more "standard" backpacking meal prep, we recommend other options with better overall performance and features.

That textured rubber ring allows you to  at least briefly  hold the Trail Mini Duo even when full of hot water. Here  of course  the contents are not yet hot.
That textured rubber ring allows you to, at least briefly, hold the Trail Mini Duo even when full of hot water. Here, of course, the contents are not yet hot.

Features


This cook set includes a basic but thorough set of features for backpacking food preparation. The set is built around a 1-liter pot (filled to the brim it holds 1.5L; effectively, the capacity is 1L) with a nice, plastic lid. The lid features a cut out for pliers gripping and a set of holes through which to strain your pasta water. Around the bottom of the pot, nests a 600ml Lexan plastic bowl. The pot can be moved, even when quite hot, with either the rubber ring (removable for ultralight use) around the pot rim or by using the included ridiculously light pot gripping pliers. The whole package slides into a mesh stuff sack.


For its intended purpose, no product we tested has a better set of features than the Trail Mini Duo. Of course, for more sophisticated camping, whether backpacking or car camping, you will want more features.

All the components of the Trail Mini Duo set. Just what you need  and nothing extra.
All the components of the Trail Mini Duo set. Just what you need, and nothing extra.
The Trail Mini Duo  packed up with stove and fuel inside  all inside its lightweight stuff sack. Note the plastic "bowl" nested around the bottom of the pot and inside the bag.
The Trail Mini Duo, packed up with stove and fuel inside, all inside its lightweight stuff sack. Note the plastic "bowl" nested around the bottom of the pot and inside the bag.

Value


Ultralight backpacking equipment is rather refreshing. In other sports (cycling, anyone?), the lighter your equipment gets, the more expensive it is. With backpacking, ultralight just means less material; less material is less expensive. The MSR isn't super cheap, but it isn't as expensive as you might expect, given the niche application. It is especially notable that it is half the cost of the next closest competitor. It's a high value if you want a high-quality container to make water while on the trail. It also fits a small stove right inside the pot, which we like.

Lead test editor Jediah Porter eats his evening's meal from a freeze-dried pouch high in Chile's Andes. A cook kit based on the Trail Mini Duo is optimized for preparing "just add water" style meals like this.
Lead test editor Jediah Porter eats his evening's meal from a freeze-dried pouch high in Chile's Andes. A cook kit based on the Trail Mini Duo is optimized for preparing "just add water" style meals like this.

Conclusion


Make no mistake; this is not "all-purpose" camp kitchen equipment. For lightweight backpacking and simple food preparation, consider the MSR Trail Mini Duo. For all other applications, something else will surely be better.

The MSR Trail Mini Duo is at home on backpacking trips like these in Iceland.
The MSR Trail Mini Duo is at home on backpacking trips like these in Iceland.


Amber King & Jediah Porter