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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.

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

  1. Our troop uses MSR whisper lite as do most boy scout troops I Know. Each patrol gets one.

  2. I have a jetboil that I have had for four years that has always worked even after I let Some of my scouts use it. 😌. It’s been knocked over and dropped, even had a scout pack everything into the cup backwards and upside down. I took it out and it still worked.

  3. Msr camp stoves are great and affordable.

  4. I have used my brass, Optimus Svea backpacking stove. It will boil 1L water at 10k’ in 6-7 min. I used it in the 70’s in my youth Scouting days.. Still using it a couple of times a month after 20 years as an adult leader. The roar is A good sound to hear in the morning.. Coffee will be ready shortly !.. only question I have is what is a ‘yearly cleaning kit’ ?

  5. One thing to remember is that butane cartridges can freeze. When weather gets cold enough put a cartridge in your sleeping bag when you go to sleep to keep it from freezing. That way you’ll won’t have to make a fire in the a.m. to thaw the slush in the cartridge enough to get pressure to run the stove for hot coffee or chocolate.

  6. Ok. I tried to comment earlier but it doesn’t seem to have shown up. That’s OK because I was in error.
    BSA policy prohibits the use of home made stoves in regards to chemical stove, this includes solid fuels. But, the policy does NOT address or specify homemade store in regards to biofuel (wood). A homemade wood burning stove may be frowned upon by some Scouters, but it is not banned. Building a homemade wood burning or woodgas stove is a valuable skill.

  7. Woodburing or soild are allowed, even homemade.

  8. I have purchased and tried the Solo Stove, which burns small sticks or denatured alcohol (take it in a metal container like the Coleman fuel for the Whisper Lites). I have not taken it camping yet, but it looks like a good alternative and uses dead sticks/branches from the area. (I have 2 Whisper Lite stoves and love them.) The Solo Stove boils water quickly (backpacking meals), and can be adjusted down by a slower feeding of the fuel. I am surprised that no one has mentioned it.

  9. I do not like how close i have to get my hands to the stove to pump the container of fuel! Are there extenders? But other than that, these are great stoves!

  10. We like the Pocket Rocket; simple and light to carry. It’s truly a stove made for us.

  11. Trail Master // May 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm // Reply

    Stick with white gas stoves, they are superior to canister types. MSR make the toughest; I prefer the Dragonfly.

  12. me myself and I // November 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm // Reply

    I made a small wood stove out of a large peanut can with air holes on the bottom and coper wire for a handle. Best part about it is you can burn any non toxic substance in it, so you don’t need to bring fuel if it hasn’t rained in a wile.

    • Refer to the BSA Chemical Fuels policy and the guide to safe scouting…
      HOMEMADE STOVES ARE NOT ALLOWED!

      • Pylades211 // December 2, 2014 at 2:56 pm //

        Actually the BSA policy is only with regards to homemade stoves that use chemical fuels. Homemade wood stoves are not prohibited because they don’t use chemical fuels.

      • Crashdog5280 // May 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm //

        My dad made a stove out of a pop can. Super cool!

  13. jetboil all the way its also a good stove

    • Off-trail-Monkey // July 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm // Reply

      Jet boil is not a stove, it’s a water boiler. Try cooking pancakes on it, or a steak, or a fish filet. Enough said.

      • Anonymous // December 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm //

        You can remove the canister from the base with a simple twist and viola’ you have a back back stove. I recommend using a frying pan to cook your food on.

  14. i love the Esbit pocket stove. it is a boss for under 15 dollars.

    • Where did you get a cool stove like that?!! I need one very badly, now that I heard about them!!!

    • Just remember that the fuel tabs don’t have real long burn times and they don’t simmer.
      There is an ultralight titanium stove for the esbit tabs that I think weighs under an ounce.
      I bought one of the regular ones for an emergency kit. If all you have to do is boil water they work just fine.

  15. Stove Expert // August 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm // Reply

    MSR Dragonfly

  16. My favorate is hexamine solid fule tablets

  17. NOLA Backpacker // July 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm // Reply

    ps. – everyone should learn how to make a “pop-can” stove. It came in handy in a pinch…

    • Off-Trail-Monkey // November 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm // Reply

      But please remember to never use one on a scout outing. They’re not allowed in scouts according to the “Guide to Safe Scouting” as is any home-made liquid burning stove. Also do not use alchohol, auto gas, jet fuel or tiki torch fuel as a stove/fire burning source either. If you do you’re subject to disipline and not covered by the BSA insurance. The can stoves have been known to break down and cause injury.

      • BUT, homemade woodburning stoves ARE allowed

      • Weird dude // March 29, 2015 at 2:01 am //

        When has a can stove cause more of an injury than a wood fire or normal stove if anything its safer than other stoves because there is no pressurized liquids that can explode

      • There was an adult leader from my former (now defunct) troop who found out the problems with can stoves the hard way. It is not safer than a campfire or normal stove. He wound up catching his legs on fire and couldn’t smother it. Stop, drop, and role did nothing (and to add insult to injury, it was in a cow pasture and he rolled through some cow pies). Only when all of the fumes were burned up did the fire go out.

  18. NOLA Backpacker // July 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm // Reply

    After 10 years as a survival instructor, international traveler and spending a lot of time with a pack on my back I have used many types of stoves. I highly recommend liquid fuel stoves over canister stoves except in very specific situation. I currently use a Primus stove and it is nearly indestructible. This stove burns “anything”, liquid fuels and canister fuel. It is completely field serviceable as well with a small tool that is included. These stoves tend to be on the expensive side but will outlast anything else out there.
    Keep on Trekking,

  19. Knife overlord // July 3, 2012 at 8:43 pm // Reply

    MSR Dragonfly all the way !!!

  20. 007 dragonfly // January 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm // Reply

    I have been camping for 14 years and I recommend the whisperlite international. it burns most of your liquid fuels and diesal plus auto fuel.

  21. i like using home made alcohol stoves from pop cans but sterno works in a pinch.

  22. pop can stove, there cheap and great. run’em off anything

  23. what is a good stove

  24. After 22 years of scouting and trying many stove types (13), 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 including Jet Boil (2 different models)and the Optimus Crux and feel it’s like throwing money away because of the cost vs use time. Secondly, they both froze up during the klondike derby leaving us in a pinch; thus making them useless in Minnesota 4 months every year and on our high alttitude adventure in Montana last year.

    For base camp camping in the warmer months, the boys do occasionally use propaine and butain stoves that they own because they are simple and room is not a major factor, we simply do not suggest them as a primary stove if you are going to own only one stove. As I suugest to eveyone, try several stoves out before buying one.

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

  25. Can anyone recommend a stove that I could use for the pacific northwest?

  26. the schnauzer // November 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm // Reply

    i have a primus classic trail and it is EPIC. plus its 25 bucks. Its great and you can find it at rei.

  27. captain crunch // November 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm // Reply

    i agree with dfxscghyjv;ik jetboils work great. i have a camo personal cooking system.i went backpacking with 10 people from my troop for 3 days and boiled water to cook and clean with for almost every meal and used only about half a canister of fuel. i also bring it with when i play paintball to cook inbetween battles. if u get one u will need a stablizer.

  28. My Coleman Peak 1 micro stove works really good.

  29. I like the MSR Whisperlite which is the picture on top of this article.

  30. I prefer hexamine stoves as they cost only $1 and really light and compact.

  31. boyscout21 // July 27, 2011 at 7:02 pm // Reply

    back packing stoves are really good and the white gas is ten at gander mt and bass pro and at dick sporting goods

  32. I love this article, ive been searching all over the web for how much money to buy white gas for and this article gave me the straight on answer that i needed

  33. dfxscghyjv;lk"'' // June 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm // Reply

    jetboils work really really good and they are compact

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