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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.

45 Comments on How to buy a camping stove

  1. 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!

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

    MSR Dragonfly

  8. My favorate is hexamine solid fule tablets

  9. 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.

  10. 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,

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

    MSR Dragonfly all the way !!!

  12. 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.

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

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

  15. what is a good stove

  16. 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.

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

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

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

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

  23. 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

  24. 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

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

    jetboils work really really good and they are compact

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