A stove will very likely be one of your most important kitchen purchases. You might ask, “Why not just use a fire?” Well, there are several reasons. First of all, fires are not allowed in many backcountry sites—especially in national parks.
Second, the environmental impact is greater than you could ever imagine, and with the horrible wildfires occurring every year, it just doesn’t make sense to use fire when it can be so dangerous and unpredictable.
Think of the number of people now backpacking and multiply that with how much wood would be needed to cook meals and provide that campfire “ambiance.”
Don’t get me wrong, I know how enjoyable sitting around a cozy campfire can be. It’s just that wood is scarce in the southwest. People aren’t aware that much of the wood here appears to be dead but is actually just dormant at the time. They will chop down live trees without even knowing it!
A pet peeve of mine is to find a wonderful campsite in the wilderness and be surrounded by fire rings. Some are built right next to the other! Why? If you find a fire ring and feel you must have a fire, use the existing fire rings! Please don’t build another one.
If you do have to build a fire (of course, in an area that allows it), build a small one in an area cleared of all flammable material. Before you leave your campsite, be sure to return the site to as pristine a condition as possible.
Make sure the fire is DEAD OUT and mix the ashes with dirt and bury them. Make it look as if you never had a fire. There is something wonderful about getting somewhere and feeling you are the first one to see it. Allow someone else that same pleasure and leave the area pristine.
Stoves have come a long way since people first started recreational backpacking, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to operate them! In fact, many of the newer stoves are as easy as using your stove at home. I’ve listed below some of the most popular types of stoves along with their strengths and weaknesses.
For a complete run-down on the pros and cons of many of the stoves and fuels available to the backpacker, be sure to check out several of the review sites available, such as the Gear Review or Outdoor Review sites. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, has an excellent page on Portable Stoves that does an excellent job of explaining the different types of stoves and the fuels they use.
Perhaps the easiest and safest stoves to operate are those that use the butane/propane cartridges. If you are terrified of large flames and fear burning up your eyebrows, canister-style stoves are a wonderful choice. They are very safe and simple to use. These stoves can be lit without any priming or flame flare-up, something you have to be familiar with using the liquid-fuel stoves.
The fuels used in canister stoves are either butane or, more commonly, a combination of butane and propane. They are both easy to use, but if there is any chance you’ll be dealing with cold weather, go for the combination fuel.
Butane does not heat well in cold temperatures, so you’ll be burning a long time just to get a pot of water to boil. Add high altitude to the mix and you could be cooking forever! The addition of propane to the mix makes a much hotter and efficient cooking flame, although any of the canister-style stoves lose their efficiency as the fuel gets low.
MSR and Jetboil make some of the best in this category. They each have piezoelectric lighting mechanisms and are extremely easy to operate. Aside from the fact that they become inefficient as the fuel canister gets low, my main complaint with any of the stoves is that they are not refillable or easily recyclable.
- Very lightweight
- Fuel readily available for most brands in U.S.
- Extremely easy to operate
- Requires little to no maintenance
- Very dependable
- Adjustable flame down to a low simmer
- Quiet operation
- Non-refillable canister
- Cannot carry fuel—and more often lately even stoves—on airplanes
- Inefficient in cold temperatures or at high altitude
- Inefficient as fuel becomes low
- Difficult to gauge how much fuel to carry
- Very difficult to recycle canisters
- Difficult to find uses for partially canisters
- Ultralight (2.6 oz) and compact (2x2x3 in) folding canister stove for minimalist adventures, backpacking, hiking, trekking, camping, and global travel
- Boils one liter of water in just 3.5 minutes and flame easily adjusts from a simmer to a rolling boil for gourmet cooking in the outdoors
- Fueled by high-performance isobutane-propane fuel canister (not included); self-sealing threaded canister fuel is available in most countries
- Easy to setup and operate—no priming, preheating, or pressurizing is required; serrated pot-supports accommodate a wide range of pot sizes and...
- Lightweight protective case included; stove weighs 2.6 oz (4.2 oz with case), measures 4.8x4.8x3.6 inches open, collapses to 2x2x3 inches
- Optimized for efficiency, the Jetboil Flash boils water in a lightning-quick 100 seconds, making it the fastest Jetboil ever.
- Jetboil's 1-liter FluxRing cooking cup with insulating cozy makes boiling water—and keeping it warm—a breeze.
- Start heating instantly with the convenient, reliable pushbutton igniter, and verify that the water's ready with the thermochromatic color-change heat...
- Compatible Jetboil accessories, such as a coffee press, hanging kit, pot support, skillet, FluxRing cooking pot, and utensils make this a necessity...
- Includes fuel canister stabilizer; bottom cup doubles as a measuring cup and a bowl; easy to pack and carry at only 13.1 ounces. One-year limited...
- Product Type: OUTDOOR_RECREATION_PRODUCT
- Package quantity: 1
- No batteries required
- Country of Orgin: China
Liquid Fuel Models
Liquid fuel stoves are the workhorses of the stove world. The most common liquid fuel is white gas, but there are various models that will burn alcohol, methanol, kerosene, and/or gasoline.
Available nearly everywhere, white gas (also available commercially as Coleman® fuel) is clean-burning, hot and burns efficiently in cold temperatures and at high altitudes.
But there is a catch; they are trickier to use for the novice. A liquid fuel stove requires a little more finesse. To light it, one must first pump the stove to pressurize the fuel canister.
Once it is primed, you open the nozzle to release a small amount of fuel into a little bowl located below the burner. The fuel is then lit to bring up a good-sized flame (this is the part that freaks some people out) that warms the burner so it will light.
Once the burner is warmed but the flame is not quite out, you open up the burner valve to release the fuel which lights the burner. The flame at this point becomes a nice, even blue flame that looks just like the one on home stoves, although the flame cannot usually be brought low enough to simmer nicely. MSR excels in the manufacture of this type of stove.
- Very lightweight
- Fuel available nearly everywhere in the world
- Burns efficiently at high altitude and in cold temperatures
- Refillable canisters
- Can be kept burning efficiently even with low fuel by manual priming
- Requires priming
- Flame flare-ups to master
- Requires more maintenance
- Fuel must be filtered to keep from clogging stove
- Good idea to carry extra parts
- Not good at simmering, some better than others
- Sounds like a jet plane taking off!
- Cannot carry fuel—and more often lately even stoves—on airplanes
- Multi-Fuel-Burns white gas, kerosene and unleaded gasoline
- Light and Sturdy: Lightweight stainless steel legs offer excellent durability
- Compact: Folds small and fits inside most MSR pots.
- Field Maintainable: Self-cleaning Shaker Jet technology and new, one-piece leg assembly allow fast cleaning and maintenance in the field.
- Includes: Fuel pump, windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, instructions, and stuff sack. (Fuel bottle not included)/Made in Seattle, USA
- Durable, collapsible multi-fuel stove for camping, backpacking, and global travel provides precision flame control and stability for large cookware
- Boils one liter of water in just 3.5 minutes and dual-valve makes it easy to go from simmering to a rolling boil for gourmet cooking in the outdoors
- Burns a variety of fuels, including white gas, kerosene, unleaded auto fuel, diesel, and jet fuel
- Stable base handles pots and pans up to 10-inches in diameter; suspended burner cup increases efficiency and reduces heat lost to the ground
- Stove weighs 14 ounces, measures 10.5x7x4 inches open, collapses to 3.5x3.5x6.5 inches; manufacturer’s limited 3-year warranty; made in the USA
The stoves discussed so far are the most commonly used backcountry stoves, but they are not the only, or even necessarily the best, available stoves. As mentioned above, different types of stoves will appeal to different types of people or even different trips.
The stoves that I’m discussing in this category tend to be much less technical and usually lighter in weight. Some of them can even be homemade out of materials you already own.
On average, they do not bring your water to a boil as quickly, but their benefits and the inexpensive price tag can outweigh the disadvantages.
One stove which has a loyal following is the Esbit Pocket Stove. The stove uses “tablets” of solid fuel similar in substance to bar soap. They don’t require any special handling and can be shipped and checked with baggage when flying.
The stove itself is constructed simply with several pieces of metal riveted together, allowing the pot to be suspended over the burning tablet. One reviewer mentioned that while he uses a white gas stove as his primary source of cooking, he always carries two tablets for emergencies. Great idea!
- Simple and stable stove is constructed from durable, galvanized steel; Folds down to a small, compact size
- Includes 6 smokeless, Esbit 14 g solid fuel tablets; Each tablet burns approximately 12 minutes; One tablet boils 500 ml of water in about 8 minutes
- Two cooking positions suitable for cups, pots, and pans (not included)
- Dimensions-closed: 3.9 inches x 3 inches x 0.9 inches (9.8 x 7.7 x 2.3 cm); Weight, including solid fuel: 6.3 ounces (180 g)
- Made in Germany; 2-year manufacturer’s warranty
Last update on 2021-04-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API