Guy Gear

Backpacking stoves buying guide




backpackstove-200x148.jpgThere’s just something about firing up that camp stove after a long day on the trail. Warm food raises the spirits of your troop and gives you the energy to get up the next day and do it all over again.

“I’ve spent my fair share of time on the trail eating energy bars and bagels,” says Penn Burris, vice president of Backpacker’s Pantry. “But when you’ve backpacked 15 or 20 miles, sitting down to eat something cold that’s not very tasty is really a drag.”

Besides being a former mountain guide and owner of several outdoors gear shops, Burris now spends most of his time at the company finding ways to come up with tastier camp food. He knows tons about cooking with backpacking stoves — and after reading this, you will, too.

THE LOWDOWN

There are two main types of backpacking stoves. Liquid-fuel stoves use a liquid fuel such as white gas or kerosene to cook your food. The stove attaches to a fuel bottle with a small hose and requires you to manually pump it to create fuel pressure. They burn hot and are very reliable, but they also require regular cleaning and maintenance.

Canister or cartridge stoves are small burners that screw on top of butane fuel canisters. The fuel is a pressurized gas, so it’s always ready to burn. A lot of models come with a built-in igniter. Though they are not as reliable in cold conditions, “canister stoves are super easy to use and the best bet for Scouts who are new to backpacking stoves,” Burris says.

PRICE: Expect to spend about $40 for a good canister stove. Liquid-fuel stoves start around $70.

FUEL: You’ll also have to pay for the fuel. Butane gas canisters cost about $3 each. That can add up, because they can’t be refilled and reused. You’ll also have to pack them out of the wilderness when they’re empty. That means on a weeklong trip, they’ll be dead weight clanking around in your backpack. Liquid-fuel stoves run on refillable fuel bottles.

“For $8, you can buy a gallon of white gas that will last you for several seasons,” Burris says. It’s a little messy to refill, but they are cheaper in the long run — and better for the environment because there’s less waste.

CLEANING: Liquid-fuel stoves need to be cleaned regularly. Burris says over time carbon builds up in the stove’s port and prevents it from burning properly. The cleaning isn’t difficult, but it must be done.

“With a canister stove you don’t have the cleaning problem,” he says, “but if something fails, you are less likely to be able to get it repaired.”

WEIGHT VS. DURABILITY: You’ll see some ultra-light backpacking stoves at outdoors stores, but unless you’re experienced with stoves, Burris recommends steering clear of those.

“They’re really just stripped down versions of canister stoves built for adventure racers or ultra-light backpackers,” he says. “The problem is they are more expensive, and because the parts are so lightweight they’re not as durable.”

For your first stove, Burris recommends sticking with a standard canister stove because any extra weight will be more than made up for by its reliability and durability.

COOKING SMART

Stoves help make camp cooking quick and easy, but you have to use them properly. For a complete guide to stove safety, see Chapter 10, “Cooking,” of “The Boy Scout Handbook.” (BSA Supply No. 33105, http://www.scoutstuff.org, 1-800-323-0732)

Comments about “Backpacking stoves buying guide”

  1. Smitty says:

    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. Wes says:

    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. Sly Fox says:

    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. nateman says:

    exbit cube stoves are the best

  5. SargeBSA says:

    Brunton Builds the best there cheap and last a long time

  6. GEAR MAN says:

    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. Old timer says:

    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. monkeyman says:

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

  9. lemon head says:

    MSR SIMMER LITE is the best stove you can find

  10. GEAR MAN says:

    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.

    • seascout291 says:

      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?

    • Sly Fox says:

      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.

  11. monkeymann says:

    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. bobby says:

    i need a stove

  13. ps-fsb says:

    msr reactor is the way to go

  14. get up and go says:

    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. Alexker1 says:

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

  16. GEAR MAN says:

    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 says:

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

      • BS_Sammamish says:

        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. GEAR MAN says:

    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 says:

    Do you have any suggestions on stoves.

  19. kidsdogfish says:

    ilove it

  20. Canoedad says:

    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. maverik says:

    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. gerg927 says:

    I like soda can alcohol stoves better

  23. msr says:

    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. littlewill says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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

  28. Bob says:

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

  29. drake says:

    i have a msr pocketrocket and its pretty cool

  30. boblua says:

    they have a good price for a stove like that.

  31. e-doc says:

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

  32. Bryce says:

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

  33. duff says:

    jet boil is the way to go

  34. D says:

    I usecoleman multi fuel,itsgreat! and only 50$

  35. Pinhoti Pablo says:

    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. sdboyscout says:

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

  37. Bob the T-Rex says:

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

  38. Papa Smurf says:

    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. Photodog says:

    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. Anonymous says:

    cool

  41. halo 3 lover says:

    but jetboils are better

  42. halo 3 lover says:

    smart iam also a big back packer

  43. scout28 says:

    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 says:

    Thank-this stuff is very good.

    People should buy stuff from this place

  45. bob says:

    the sell very good stoves

  46. 7313 says:

    i like my jetboil!

  47. smjim says:

    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 says:

    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. scoutdude says:

    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. Cowboy says:

    Thanks–this is stuff I need to know!

Write a comment about “Backpacking stoves buying guide”

Nickname:

Type your comment: