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How to buy a camping stove

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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.

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