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How to buy a camping stove

stove-feature

Whether you’re on a weeklong backpacking trip or a car-camping weekend, nothing beats a bowl of warm dinner around the campfire.

There are lots of different ways to cook your grub, from a Dutch oven to a super-packable camp stove for quickly boiling water for your packaged meal.

Here is some expert advice for picking a good stove that fits your needs, along with Gear Guy’s recommendations for seven great camping stoves.

Jetboil Flash Lite

JETBOIL FLASH LITE ($100, jetboil.com): This 11-ounce Jetboil canister stove is known for its ability to boil water super quickly. Count on about 2 minutes to boil water for instant soup or a trail meal, all of which can be mixed inside the included .8-liter cup.

THE LOWDOWN

There are two main types of backpacking stoves. Liquid-fuel stoves use a liquid fuel such as white gas or propane 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.

Optimus Crux

OPTIMUS CRUX ($50, optimusstoves.com): At just under 3 ounces, the Crux is one of the smallest and lightest canister stoves here, but it can still boil 1 liter of water in about 3 minutes.

PRICE

Expect to spend at least $40 for a good canister stove. Liquid-fuel stoves start around $70.

Snow Peak Bipod Stove

SNOW PEAK BIPOD STOVE ($90, snowpeak.com): At about 8 ounces, this compact canister stove has a wide support arm for cooking with larger pots and pans.

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. 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.

Esbit Original Pocket Stove

ESBIT ORIGINAL POCKET STOVE ($12-$20, industrialrev.com): One of the simplest stoves here, just place a fuel tablet in the stove and light it, and it’ll boil a pint of water in about 8 minutes. Includes six to 12 fuel tablets.

CLEANING

Liquid-fuel stoves need to be cleaned regularly. 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, but if something fails, you are less likely to be able to get it repaired.

MSR Pocketrocket

MSR POCKETROCKET ($40, cascadedesigns.com): One of the most popular canister stoves, this one weighs about 3 ounces, is affordable and, most of all, is super-reliable on the trail.

WEIGHT VS. DURABILITY

You’ll see some ultra-light backpacking stoves at outdoors stores, but unless you’re experienced with stoves, you should steer clear of those. The problem is they are more expensive, and because the parts are so lightweight they’re not as durable.

For your first stove, it’s best to stick with a standard canister stove because any extra weight will be more than made up for by its reliability and durability.

Coleman Micro Backpack Stove

COLEMAN MICRO BACKPACK STOVE ($60, coleman.com): Weighing in at 6.7 ounces and just over 1 pound total with a full propane canister, the Coleman boils 1 liter of water in about 3.25 minutes with a 60-minute total burn time.

COOKING SMART

Stoves help make camp cooking quick and easy, but you have to use them properly. For a complete guide to stove safety, check out your Boy Scout Handbook or Fieldbook.

Barocook Flameless Cooking System Transparent Cafe

BAROCOOK FLAMELESS COOKING SYSTEM TRANSPARENT CAFÉ ($29, barocook.net): The Barocook uses a heating pad (included) that’s activated by water to quickly heat your water or food to about 208 degrees within 15 minutes. It comes with a 13-ounce mug.

34 Comments on How to buy a camping stove

  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.

  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?

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