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