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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Cook Sets > MSR Reactor 2.5 pot > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

MSR Reactor 2.5 Pot
By Raymond Estrella

June 29, 2014


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 53
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 213 lb (96.60 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research, Inc. (MSR) Box of pot. No, not weed...
Web site:
Product: Reactor 2.5 Pot
Year manufactured: 2011/12
MSRP: $99.95 US
Weight listed: 13.8 oz (391 g)
Actual weight: 14.2 oz (404 g)
Listed capacity: 2.5 L (85 fl oz)
Capacity full to rim: 2.5 L (85 fl oz)
Size listed: 7.3 x 5.5 in (18.54 x 13.97 cm)
Size verified accurate

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The MSR Reactor 2.5 Pot is a great addition to the company's original Reactor Stove System with it's relatively small 1 L pot. While the 2.5 is mainly made to use for groups my only use, besides one camping trip with the kids, was to melt snow and boil water in the dead of winter. Well, guess what? It works. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

The MSR Reactor 2.5 Pot (hereafter referred to as the 2.5 or the pot) is a pretty cool piece of cookware workmanship. It really has a lot going on with it. I suppose that justifies the expensive price point. (Actually it seems inexpensive when I look at what all is going on here.)

Pot collage, no mary jane pics here

The pot is made of hard anodized aluminum and weighs 10.3 oz (292 g). It has a rolled edge at the top, and when looking inside I can see that the sidewall steps in at the bottom. This step corresponds with the shroud that is seen on the lower third of the outside of the pot.

That is the side of the heat exchanger. When I flip the pot upside down I see what makes the Reactor 2.5 Pot work with the Reactor Stove. (The only stove that it is made to work with.) The actual bottom of the pot may be seen inside of the heat exchanger. 12 U-shaped aluminum fins have been welded to the ring of the heat exchanger, and they press down against the bottom of the pot. (In the picture it looks like there are 24 fins stuck to the bottom, but the welds may been seen inside the groove.)Needs a 2-cup mark for Ray MSR

The circular groove fits the top of the Reactor Stove's burner ring. Notice that there are three holes in the bottom of the heat exchanger, meant to drain liquid so boil-overs or rain water don't collect inside and boil away.

Back to the outside of the heat exchanger shroud we see that there are 28 rhombus-shaped vent holes. These allow the captured heat to escape after it has added as much heat as MSR figured it was safe to do to the side of the cooking area.

The idea behind this is that my regular backpacking stoves waste a lot of heat as the flame goes straight up and clobbers the bottom of my pan. It then spread out and sometimes over the side of my pot and flies off to add to global warming and let mosquitoes know where I am. (Oh boy. It IS dinner time…) The bottom of the 2.5 first traps a lot of the heat in the chamber that it has, keeping it in contact with the pots bottom longer. Then it lets that heat flow to the sides and up, making it stay in contact with the pot longer. It's like having a wider pot since it lets the heat work on a greater surface area.

There are three markings inside the 2.5 Pot that I was very happy to see. They are at 1, 1.5, and 2 L (34, 51, and 68 fl oz). Since most of my freeze-dried meals use 2 cups (473 ml) of water I added my own mark under theirs, as may be seen in the picture to the right.

The 2.5 Pot has a pretty cool collapsible handle that MSR calls the Talon handle. Two talons (hooks) snap onto a nylon rod and as the handle makes contact with the pot a spring steel clip locks into place. To release the handle again the red plastic button is pushed allowing the Talon to swing back upwards. The 1.38 oz (39 g) handle may be detached. But better yet it can fold over the top of the pot and hold the lid in place.

The 2.58 oz (73 g) lid is made of clear plastic (I think) and has a lot going on for itself too. In the center is a flexible plastic lift knob that sticks up an inch (25 cm) which allows the lid to be safely removed from a hot pot. At one spot on the outer edge of the lid are two raised bumps. These bumps align with a steel clip on the top of the pot. When placed at just that spot the handle will lock onto the lift knob keeping the lid in place for packing. On another spot of the outer lid edge (90° from the handle when the lid is in the raised bumps) is a collection of nine 4 mm (0.16 in) holes. These are made to drain pasta. Directly opposite them is a single hole on the edge of the lid. I'm guessing that is to pour a controlled stream of hot water for instant coffee, tea or cocoa.

Field Locations

Lake Kabetogama campsite

All backpacking use of the MSR Reactor 2.5 Pot took place in the State of Minnesota (MN) in the dead of winter. (Something that runs about 5 months here…;-) The first winter I got it in time to take on a long road trip that saw one night of camping at Lake Bemidji State Park, three days sled-packing in Voyageurs National Park center section out of Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center (the picture above is on Cutover Island from this section), and three days sled-packing in the northern section of the Park out of Rainy Lake Visitor Center. Low temps during the course of the trips ranged from -1 F to 30 F (-18 to -1 C). The spike in temps came in the middle when a weird warm snow storm hit.

Since then I have used it on all of my winter trips. The next winter I took the 2.5 Pot on eight backpacking trips. Five were on the Red River on private property north of Halstad, MN, one was on the North Country Trail by the Anoway River in Chippewa National Forest, one on the North Country Trail in Paul Bunyan State Forest, and the last in Smoky Hills State Forest where I camped near the Shell River. These trips were cold with lows averaging around -5 F (-21 C). The trip on the Anoway River saw -22 F (-30 C) in the middle of the day, the coldest I have ever been hiking in. (I've slept at lower temps.) Here is a picture of my camp site on the North Country Trail.

Anaway NCT campsite

It got even colder this past winter and I only went on four backpacking trips because of unsafe conditions and road closures. These trips went from a high of 0 F to a low of -27 F (-18 to -33 C).


I have been into winter backpacking for over a decade now. To me the biggest "chore" of winter hiking is getting drinking water. The only way really is to melt snow and/or ice. Once melted it then needs to be boiled or treated/filtered to make it safe to drink. This can consume a lot of time. It also takes a lot of fuel.

I have always used an MSR steel pot with one of their waffle-chamber Heat Exchangers attached to it so as to try to save fuel and speed the process up as much as possible. But I used the steel pot with either my MSR XGK MK stove, or a Coleman winter canister stove. I'd never found a good Lindahl valved stove that would work well in winter temps. Then I read about the Reactor. I knew people were using it in winter but that the pot was so small as to not make it worthwhile. Then the 2.5 pot came out and I decided to give it a try.

Melt melt melt

I will go into detail about the way it worked with the stove in another review of the Reactor Stove itself. But to cut to the chase the 2.5 works very well as a snow melting/boiling vessel. Before the backpacking trips I spent a lot of time testing the system at Lake Bemidji State Park. The picture above is from that frigid morning of testing. (I think the Park Ranger thought I was nuts.) With the Reactor Stove I have averaged getting an almost full pot of melt (say 2.3 L or 78 fl oz) boiling for a couple of minutes (safe enough for me…) in 25.5 minutes and using 1.4 oz (39.7 g) of fuel to do so. That is the average, I had some take as few as 24 minutes and some 28 minutes. The most fuel I ever saw used was 1.5 oz (42.5 g) and that was only once.

One weird thing that I saw happen during testing (and every time I used it since) is some strange condensation thing (I think). While doing the very first melt and boil as it got to the boiling stage I suddenly noticed water running down the side of my fuel canister and into/onto the insulated base I made for the fuel to sit on. I was freaking that I somehow cracked the pot and lifted it up to see water coming from one of the tiny holes in the heat exchanger. I have no idea how anything can be building up inside but somehow while I am still adding frozen material there is not enough heat there to vaporize whatever moisture is building. I don't get it. It doesn't hurt anything though so I stopped worrying about it. (It does make my canister freeze to my base though. Hrmph…)

Based on that testing I was confident that I could get by with just taking one full canister for my following two 3-day trips. The pot (and stove) worked well on those trips and all since. Like in this picture taken at what is supposed to be a Fisherman's Campsite at Cranberry Bay, way out in Rainey Lake. There was no picnic table! How dare they? (I'm getting spoiled using all these great spots in winter.) Oh well I was able to use the fire-ring's grate as a work surface.

Cranberry Bay on Rainey

One thing that is nice is the speed in which water boils in the big pan. At "normal" temperatures I checked it out for those readers that would like this for group use. One liter (33.8 fl oz) of 65° water started getting bubbles right over the burner at 22 seconds! It was at a full rolling boil in 2:45 and used 10 g (0.35 oz) of fuel. Since I use 2 cups (0.47 L) of water for my meals I did a controlled test of that amount (non-winter) too. Full boil at 1:33 and 6 g (0.21 oz) of fuel used.

I am pretty happy to have found the Reactor and the 2.5 stove. It is nice to have a canister stove option again sine my old brand decided to stop production of their style. This one is definitely a keeper. I leave with a shot of a well-deserved cup of hot cider being drunken on an island in Lake Kabetogama.

Cutover Island, cider timeNeeds a 2-cup

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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