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How to Buy a Camping Stove For Your Next Adventure

In the backcountry, a lightweight backpacking stove is a convenience most of the time, an irritation sometimes (when it doesn’t work as it should) and, in certain circumstances, a critical piece of gear that can help get you through a challenging situation (such as when you must melt snow or heat stream water to stave off hypothermia).

It isn’t always essential, but when you want or need a camping stove, you want it to perform reliably.

The world of camping stoves has seen major evolution since your dad’s time, giving you more choices but also requiring a little pre-purchase research. In this buying guide, Gear Guy dishes on all you need to know to get the camping stove for your adventures.

3 BACKPACKING STOVE CATEGORIES

Backpacking stoves fall into one of three basic categories, according to the type of fuel they burn:

MSR PocketRocket 2

MSR PocketRocket 2 ($45, msrgear.com): For performance, simplicity, price and low weight, it’s hard to beat the PocketRocket. Screw it onto a canister, fold out the pot-support arms, turn it on and you’re cooking. A liter of water boils in a blazing-fast 3 1/2 minutes, and the flame control won’t burn your noodles. It’ll pack inside any pot and last for years. 2.6 oz.

CANISTER STOVES run on an isobutane-propane fuel blend in pressurized canisters. These stoves are compact, lightweight, reliable, durable and easiest to operate. They have good flame control, and some are inexpensive. Their designs range from integrated systems — where the pot and stove assemble as a single unit (like a Jetboil) — to separate, tiny backpacking stoves weighing just a few ounces that screw onto fuel canisters made by a variety of brands.

While ideal for three-season backpacking or camping, their flaw is diminished performance in strong wind and sub-freezing temperatures.

MSR Whisperlite

MSR Whisperlite ($90, msrgear.com): A generation after its introduction, the Whisperlite remains a solid and affordable choice among liquid-fuel stoves. Burning white gas, it has a self-cleaning jet (below the burner, where the fuel gets vaporized) and provides a wide, stable platform for large pots. It’ll boil a liter of water in 4 minutes and works in wind and cold. Flame control is limited. 11.5 oz.

LIQUID-FUEL STOVES like the MSR Whisperlite run on white gas and sometimes other liquid fuels like kerosene. They consist of a separate stove and fuel bottle that must be assembled. Users pressurize the fuel bottle by pumping and then prime the stove before lighting. These are heavier and bulkier than canister stoves, and they require occasional maintenance. They excel in sub-freezing temperatures and high altitudes.

Esbit Titanium Stove

Esbit Titanium Stove ($18, industrialrev.com): You can’t get much simpler, cheaper or lighter than the Esbit Titanium Stove. The three folding legs double as pot supports, opening around a tiny tray that holds a solid fuel tablet (purchased separately). Unfold, light a fuel tablet and you have a slow cooker. It pairs well with the 750ml Esbit Titanium Pot ($70) or any pot of similar size. 0.4 oz.

“ALTERNATIVE-FUEL STOVES” is a catch-all term for otherwise dissimilar models that do not fall into either of the above categories. This includes camping stoves that burn small sticks of wood you collect (such as the Solo Stove Lite), denatured alcohol or solid fuel tablets (like the Esbit Titanium Stove), purchased separately. While alcohol and tablet stoves are popular with thru-hikers for their low weight and simplicity, they are much slower to boil water and cook food than the above types. The same is true of wood stoves, and dry wood isn’t always easy to find.

The BSA does not recommend alcohol-fueled camping stoves — although they are not banned — because clear liquid alcohol is tough to see and could pose a safety problem to those unaccustomed with proper handling. Read more about BSA chemical fuels and equipment safety guidelines.

HOW TO CHOOSE A CAMPING STOVE

Canister stoves are widely popular and considered the most convenient for backpacking trips. Liquid-fuel stoves are often the choice of winter campers and mountaineers. And many thru-hikers prefer pocket-style stoves that take up little space in their already-stuffed packs.

Consider how you will use your camping stove, talk with your buddies to get their recommendations and check out a few of our favorites, shown on this page.

MORE RECOMMENDED CAMPING STOVES

Optimus Crux Lite Solo Cook System

Optimus Crux Lite Solo Cook System ($60, optimusstoves.com): The Crux Lite pairing offers a complete backcountry cooking system (for one hiker) weighing less than 10 ounces and all at a great price. Using screw-on isobutane fuel canisters, the tiny stove can boil a liter of water in 3 minutes. The entire system, including a 0.6-liter pot and lid/fry pan with folding arms and a 100-gram fuel cartridge, nests together and packs inside an included stuff sack.

Solo Stove Lite

Solo Stove Lite ($70, solostove.com): For a long hike where sticks are plentiful (and dry), the Solo Stove Lite burns pretty efficiently for a wood stove. Its air intake holes at the bottom and vent holes at the top pump oxygen to the flames, producing good heat but little smoke. It’s light and compact, and there is basically nothing to break or fall. 9 oz.

Camp Chef Everest

Camp Chef Everest ($125, campchef.com): This portable two-burner tabletop stove creates a campsite mini-kitchen suitable for large groups, delivering top performance at a competitive price. Its propane burners provide excellent flame control. It folds up into a sturdy case with two solid latches. 12lbs.

Jetboil MiniMo and Sumo

Jetboil MiniMo ($135, jetboil.com) and Sumo ($140, scoutstuff.org): Jetboil changed the game when it introduced integrated stove-and-cookpot systems. The MiniMo is sized for solo use, with a 1-liter pot/cup, while the Sumo can cook meals for three or four with a 1.8-liter pot/cup capacity. They both have push-button igniters and good flame control, and boil water in 4 1/2 minutes. Both stoves are designed to break down and store the entire system inside the pot. 14.6 oz. (MiniMo), 1 lb. (Sumo)

As with any flame, burning stoves consume oxygen. They also give off carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can kill. Always cook in a well-ventilated place — not inside a completely closed tent or snow cave.

61 Comments on How to Buy a Camping Stove For Your Next Adventure

  1. Try esbit solid fuel stove. It is light and boils water quick. Runs on fuel tabs. Tabs cost about 6 for 12tabs. Stove only costs 10 dollars

  2. I have a snow peak giga power stove and I love it. It boils water in three minutes and is so light and compact you could fit it in your pocket. For an extra ten dollars it even comes with its own lighter.

  3. After 21 years of scouting and trying many stove types, the MSR Dragon fly is tops on my list. Unlike many others, it is fully flame controlable from a jet engine to a minimal simmer thus saving fuel. It also has several features other stoves don’t: a self cleaning fuel line (Simply shake the unit and its clean), variable fuel bottle sizes, multi fuel options, and can fold up for compactness. A 21 oz bottle of white gas lasted 6 of us 5 days in the BWCA.
    If cost is an important element, we start our new scouts out with the coleman peak stove (Silver model w/ self-contained fuel tank). It’s not as fuel efficiant but is tough as nails and only costs us about $35.00 each at the local camping store.

    We have tried several butain type stoves too and feel it’s like throwing money away because of the cost vs use time. Secondly, they tend to freeze up in the cold, making them useless in Minnesota 4 months every year and on high alttitude adventures.

    As I always suggest, try several stoves and then decide what’s best for you.

  4. exbit cube stoves are the best

  5. Brunton Builds the best there cheap and last a long time

  6. the original jetboil stove is pretty packable and very lightweight but nowhere near worth its retail price. Sure it’s a good stove, but it is way too breakable and literally impossible to fix! I would never pay $100 for a stove that I can’t depend on. If your looking for a similar canister stove, but for much cheaper and much more reliable, try the MSR Superfly. It is much smaller, only 5 ounces heavier, and it is compatible with other canister fuels, not just Isopro fuel. Plus it won’t break down, and if it does, it is easy to fix.

  7. I have had the MSR WhisperLite stove since the mid 80’s. It has been the mainstay for many a long trips into the deep woods. Reliable, easy to use, lite and burns multi-fuel… This is the stove to last you a lifetime!!!

  8. MSR pocket rocket is very lightweight and good but can not boil large amounts of water

  9. MSR SIMMER LITE is the best stove you can find

  10. If you’re really concerned about your pack’s weight, and are backpacking with a smaller group, alcohol stoves are great. You don’t have to buy one either. You can just make on at home, out of a soup or soda can.

    • Even if you don’t make one yourself, alcohol stoves have it over the other types for a number of reasons, even though they may take longer to bring water to a boil. And … re: what littelwill and BS_Sammamish had to say: how safe do you think white gas is?! And … never heard that alcohol stoves were banned by BSA – never had one blow up – what did you do?

    • Too bad alchohol stoves are banned form scouting. They require burning unapproved fuel according to the guid to safe scouting.
      I’m surprised you would even promote such a stove on a BSA site (Hopefully) since you know the rules of scouting.

      • They are banned because you little to no control over the fuel and fumes. My former troop had an adult leader who found this out the hard way.

  11. monkeymann // August 6, 2010 at 6:37 pm // Reply

    I have a colemann dual fuel 533.my dad says he got it just under twenty years ago in Switzerland. it has the build of a canister stove but is refuleable and must be pumped up. it burns white gas or priemum unleaded gasoline. it works great!!!!

  12. i need a stove

  13. msr reactor is the way to go

  14. get up and go // April 3, 2010 at 3:03 pm // Reply

    Campers, here’s a tip that will make gear shopping allot easer!
    Go for the Ozark Trail, and Colman brands; if of course it’s around
    the size of say a canteen, or backpacking stove, and other things
    of that size. Your small items should be Swiss Army, Light my Fire,
    or Husky brand. Big items should be Eureka, Iron Trail, or Ozark-
    Trail brand.

  15. I wonder what would happen if you used an oxygen blowtorch to cook…
    >:-D >:-) :-0

  16. MSR isn’t the only good stove company out there, Brunton and Snow Peak also make good stoves. They may not be the most reasonable prices (Brunton) but they still work well. I honestly don’t think Snow Peak should make stoves, they should stick to cooking gear.

    I’m just saying

    • Led Zeppelin fan // April 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm // Reply

      Jet Boil is good also i have one and it works well you can get them from Eastern Mountain Sports

      • BS_Sammamish // October 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm //

        JetBoil and MSR Reactor are great if all that you want is boiling water. If you want something that can simmer or cook slower, you need something else.

  17. I have used the MSR Whisperlite and the Superfly on lots of backpacking trips. Both are great for packing, but don’t buy a liquid fuel stove unless you are a serious packer and know what your doing! Canister stoves are great, but they aren’t very reliable in cold weather camping. I have a Whisperlite because I backpack all the time and I need something reliable. Not because I want a big fancy stove. Know what your buying, and if you decide on a stove, research online and at your local sporting goods stores before you buy to find the lowest price.

  18. fireless in kansas // February 5, 2010 at 4:44 pm // Reply

    Do you have any suggestions on stoves.

  19. ilove it

  20. Alcohol stoves: great for 1-3 people, cheap, easy to make, reliable, nothing to brake. Used super cat on 2 week solo canoe trip with no problems.
    White Gas: Prefered in winter. At -25 F the pump works well, 2 burner coleman is the “workhorse of the north”
    Canister stoves: for the lazy and the water boilers, little canotrol and left with a canister to dispose of, simple propane 1 burner works fine.
    Wood stoves: buy or make from cans, great to use but have a fuel stove for worse conditions where you are tired or injured.
    Baking: use stove with a simer feature. Steam baking like at Ntier is the easyest and safest method. I have made pizza on a pot can stove.
    Last word: Whatever stove you choose work it, play with it and figure out it’s special feel. It will become your friend. Hot drinks for everyone.

  21. personally. i prefer gas stoves.they are easier to light and don’t take time to prime.liquid stoves are good for base camp but i have found it hard to keep a small pot to actually stay on the stand.I would also like to recemend that you should make a tea light stove. take the cup (metal cup on bottom) and put alcohol in it. it is small and is dirt cheap.

  22. I like soda can alcohol stoves better

  23. the msr dragonfly stove is in my opinion the best stove ever it will burn anthing that is ligther than kerosene including unleaded gas deisel jetfuel cleaning flued high proof alcoholwhite gas and a lot of others it is also very adjustable you can get a heat disperser thing and actuly bake cinaman rolls biscuts and so on it works awsome in cold weather and high elavations and weighs only 2.5 onces more than the wisperlight internationl and yet has a wider base and a more adujstable flame its awsome

  24. Last night at my scout meeting we made self stoves .do not use methenol for these because one of them blew up on me!

  25. MountainCamper259 // July 7, 2009 at 2:19 pm // Reply

    Instead of pressurized fuel stoves, are backpacking stoves which use sterno fuel (usually used by buffet caterers to keep cooked food warm) any good for cooking food on backpacking campouts?

  26. Michief Angel // June 23, 2009 at 11:37 pm // Reply

    Hey this is a great article but can you tell me specificaly great stoves to buy if it is my first one? I make soda can stoes all the time and I use them but now I think that I need a real backpacking stove…help?

  27. WhichBurner // June 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm // Reply

    I’ve read some really great articles about multifuel stoves and their applications, and this is up there,great stuff!

  28. There’s a reason why liquid fuel was used over 50 years ago and still is today.

  29. i have a msr pocketrocket and its pretty cool

  30. they have a good price for a stove like that.

  31. If temp about 30 or less I use a Whisperlite. Used down to -10. To me white gas is the only way.

  32. The best stove is the snow peak gigi power. It is about $50. it works really good.

  33. jet boil is the way to go

  34. I usecoleman multi fuel,itsgreat! and only 50$

  35. Pinhoti Pablo // September 26, 2008 at 4:56 pm // Reply

    I have been using the whisperlite international by MSR for some time now with no problems. A yearly maintenance, (rebuild, o-rings, etc.) and an occassional cleaning and i am good to go. The shaker jet system is great system to have if the stove’s jet should clog in the field. A simple shake and your back up and running.

    Doesn’t simmer well but if you are only boiling water it is excellent and very fast. You can use a deflector shield, (thin pan to deflect direct heat) and simmer very well with the whisperlite.

    I have heard complaints about soot and smoke at initial ignition. I carry a small bottle of denatured alcohol for my backup/penny stove. I use a little bit of the alcohol on the wick/fuel pan to prime and preheat the stove instead of regular fuel. Once preheated just turn on the regular fuel and no smoke or soot. This seams to work well with everything but diesel.

    Constructed well out of sturdy materials which makes it worth the little bit of extra weight. well worth the money

  36. The MSR Reactor (photo at top) is great. cheap, light, and effective.

  37. Bob the T-Rex // August 22, 2008 at 12:51 pm // Reply

    I got a stove that runs on little chemical tablets for $15

  38. I’ve been using the “cat stove” for 7 years now and haven’t found anything better. It is a cat food can with denatured alcohol. Nothing under pressure. I’ve burnt up Whisperlite, Coleman, and butane and several accidents with them because of the pressured fuel. I don’t care for them. The “cat stove” is a great project for the scouts and it only take about 30 minutes to make the stove, stand and windscreen for less than a $1.00.

  39. I hve a Wisperlite stove which works grea,t except on BSA property.

    Tried to use one at camp and got my head handed to me.

    So check with your Council before brining one to a BSA Camp.

    :o)

  40. cool

  41. halo 3 lover // April 18, 2008 at 9:39 pm // Reply

    but jetboils are better

  42. halo 3 lover // April 18, 2008 at 9:37 pm // Reply

    smart iam also a big back packer

  43. butane bottles can be used as rockets, while white gas or kerosene can’t. butane is better for having fun but your stuff might burn up.

  44. scout65261 // March 23, 2008 at 6:39 pm // Reply

    Thank-this stuff is very good.

    People should buy stuff from this place

  45. the sell very good stoves

  46. i like my jetboil!

  47. Scout1139….I would leave it at home. Not familiar with the oven you are talking about, but in backpacking weight is a big deal. You will do much better with something like the Outback Oven as this sits on your backpacking stove. This allows you to bake when you want to and still use the stove as a stove. Plus the pans of the oven double as a fry pan for cooking those fresh caught fish. One less thing to maintain on the trail.

  48. Scout 1139 // March 5, 2008 at 8:11 pm // Reply

    I bought a brand-new bac-pac oven today for 20 dollars it runs on butane and i haven’t used it yet how and what should i clean? and how often please I NEED an answer I’ve never used one before.

  49. Backpacking stoves are great for backpacking but when operating out of basecamp a two or three burner stove is much easier to cook on and it is very reliable.

  50. Thanks–this is stuff I need to know!

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